The Computer History Museum released today never-before-seen video of the first public showing of the Apple Macintosh computer as part of its Boston Computer Society Video Series. For the past few months the Museum has undertaken an initiative to preserve, edit and make available some of the most groundbreaking General Meetings of The Boston Computer Society (BCS) from 1981 – 1990. The BCS was the world’s largest personal computer user organization, with more than 32,000 members in all 50 US states and 57 countries.
BCS General Meetings were unique in the history of personal computing. Each month, the meetings featured an industry luminary unveiling a major new product or new research. Unlike industry conferences, the BCS provided a forum for direct dialog between industry leaders and end-users. The meetings were followed closely by the national news media; which came to see the meetings as a key early barometer of end-user response to new products and ideas. A poor showing at the BCS could doom a product to market failure; a major success could help spur user adoption.
“For nearly two decades The Boston Computer Society made history with its standing-room-only conferences and its dazzling array of speakers,” said John Hollar, the Museum’s President and CEO. “While those speakers and their subjects were certainly famous at the time, today they are legendary. We’re delighted to work with the BCS founders to recover this rich archive, bring it back to life, preserve it for the future and present it to the world.”
“The 1980s were an extraordinary time in the history of personal computers,” said BCS founder and former president Jonathan Rotenberg. “Anyone with a powerful idea and steady determination could change the world—and did. We’re delighted that people today will be able to experience and enjoy the these historic events unfold just as BCS members did 30 years ago.”
The meetings included more than a dozen world premiers of new products and dozens of appearances by industry icons. The Computer History Museum collection of BCS meetings will include:
Steve Jobs introduces the Macintosh. For the very first public showing of the Macintosh, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and the leaders of the Macintosh design team came to Boston on January 30, 1984 to put on a spectacular show for 1,200 BCS members. This is one of the highest quality videos available of Steve Jobs talking about the Macintosh and his vision for it. It includes demonstrations and in-depth dialog between Steve, the Macintosh team, and BCS members.
To watch the first public showing of the Macintosh video see The Very First ‘Stevenote’, BCS founder and former president Jonathan Rotenberg.
Nolan Bushnell introduces Androbot. The legendary founder of Atari presented Androbot, the first consumer-oriented robot designed to provide domestic help in the home.
Coleco CEO introduces Adam. Coleco—one of the leading video game console makers of the day—came to introduce its major new entry into the personal computer industry, the Adam. The system was not well received by BCS members, which led to unflattering press coverage. Coleco subsequently withdrew the product.
Hewlett Packard introduces the HP 150. In 1983, Hewlett Packard introduced to the BCS the first touch-screen personal computer, the HP 150. Although the product was not very successful and the feature was dropped in later HP personal computers, touch has now become a standard user interface, showing how ideas that do not work well initially can eventually become wildly successful.
Radio Shack senior executives Jon Shirley and John Roach discuss the TRS-80 Model IV (a small all-in-one computer) and the Model 100. The Model 100, announced just a month before this presentation, was the ultra-portable of its day and was used for years by journalists, including the sports and broadcast press, earning a spot in the Newseum in Washington, DC. It eventually sold over 6 million units. It was also the last commercial computer with code written by Bill Gates. Just a few months after this meeting, Jon Shirley became the president of Microsoft, a company he helped guide until 2008.
To learn more about the BCS Video Series Project visit:
See "Exclusive: Watch Steve Jobs’ First Demonstration of the Mac for the Public, Unseen Since 1984," by TIME’s editor at large Harry McCracken.
See “The Mac turns 30 and because we preserved the history you will be able to relive it,” by the co-inventor of VisiCalc and BCS Board Member Dan Bricklin.
The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California is a nonprofit organization with a four-decade history as the world’s leading institution exploring the history of computing and its ongoing impact on society. The Museum is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of computer history and is home to the largest international collection of computing artifacts in the world, encompassing computer hardware, software, documentation, ephemera, photographs and moving images.
The Museum brings computer history to life through large-scale exhibits, an acclaimed speaker series, a dynamic website, docent-led tours and an award-winning education program. The Museum’s signature exhibition is “Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing,” described by USA Today as “the [Silicon] Valley’s answer to the Smithsonian.” Other current exhibits include “Charles Babbage's Difference Engine No. 2,” and “Going Places: The History of Google Maps with Street View.”
The Boston Computer Society was a unique grassroots phenomenon that became the world's largest personal computer user organization. Started in February 1977, the BCS grew to more than 32,000 members in all 50 United States and 57 countries. It had a passionate volunteer ethic that encouraged members to get involved and organize new services for fellow personal computer users. At its peak, the Society had over 850 active volunteers who produced 40+ special-interest newsletters, 100+ meetings & workshops each month, and staffed 120+ telephone help lines. The BCS created and launched more than 60 user and special-interest groups, including the world's largest Apple Macintosh and IBM PC user groups. The BCS's monthly General Meeting hosted the first public showing of many groundbreaking new products, including Lotus 1-2-3 and the Apple Macintosh.
At these meetings, users could engage with personal computing's most influential thought leaders, including: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Dan Bricklin, Mitch Kapor, Ray Kurzweil, Seymour Papert, Ben Rosen, Esther Dyson, and Clive Sinclair. The Society disbanded in September 1996, leaving behind an extraordinary legacy of friendships and learning; new ideas, careers, and companies launched; thrilling memories of moments in technology history that happened at BCS meetings; relationships formed; and even a few BCS children.