Frank Fiorentino (President 1989)
When I was discharged from the US Navy in 1970, as an electronic technician, I joined Singer Business Machines (Div. of Singer Co.). SBC made mini-computers. Remember the expression "mini-computer?" Minicomputers were quite large. The disk drives were the size of a washing machine. As a result of being both a service technician and programmer for the System Ten by SBC, I became interested in computing. That was the minicomputer and mainframe era.
By 1985, I had been involved with minis and mainframes for 15 years and started my own business. The microcomputer was a natural investment for me when I became self-employed. My first computer was a Compaq portable computer. The Compaq weighed about 35 pounds, and it was the size of a suitcase. It had a built-in monitor (black and white), a "big" 10-megabyte hard disk and a floppy drive. That was the DOS operating system days. Selling microcomputer software demanded that I had a machine that I could bring with me for demonstrations of the product. Carrying the Compaq was like going to the gym. After taking it into NYC for a demo, I had enough exercise for a week. It was a full workout!
Joining BCUG was an amazing experience. Everyone at the “club” was sincere and dedicated to microcomputers. All were ahead of their time as early adopters of PCs. I enjoyed being an “experienced” user and became president of the club in 1989. After a few months of being the only presenter at each meeting, I started to recruit presenters from the many software/hardware companies that sold PC products and services. I believe I started the process of getting industry professionals to help the members become informed about PC software and hardware. Some of these presenters also brought their LCD overhead projection units. The flat LCD overhead projection unit was a blessing. I can remember bringing my Compaq portable and a monitor with me to the meeting in order to have everyone see the presentation on a monitor screen.
Thanks to the support of Fred Kagel, the previous president, Ruth and Cass Lewart and a few other loyal members, we kept the club going.
Right now, I am still self-employed, selling Computerized Maintenance Management Software and developing websites. Visit www.wsinetpro.com. Oops, not to forget, I don’t make many meetings anymore. Three years ago I moved to Maui, Hawaii. Come visit anytime, you’ll be glad you did.
Aloha, Frank Fiorentino
BCUG 25Anniversary -
Clay Adams (Charter Member)
I am Clay Adams of Sea Girt. I believe I, and my friend Earl Bach of Mantoloking and Bill Porter from Lavolette were three of the charter members way back in 1978 when we bought our first Radio Shack computers. Do you remember then, how we wondered how anyone could ever need 15K of memory? Earl died three years ago and I am now 94 but still a computer addict. I have two desktops and two laptops all of which connect through a wireless router and I run just about my whole world through my computer.
I remember well those early days when there were only about 15 of us who met
primarily to swap information and learn how to do something we were having
trouble with, from another member of the group. I remember the
struggle to learn "Basic" so we could write programs to do what we
wanted our computers to do because software was almost non-existent.
I remember installing a solenoid activated kit that would punch the various keys
in an IBM mechanical typewriter and was the first available computer printer.
Then came the cast iron "Centronics" printer. I also
remember going to a Radio Shack computer forum in Cherry Hill and showing them a
12 foot paper printout of a program I was working on to keep track of an
investment portfolio, because I was having trouble getting one section of the
program to work. The Radio Shack guys were so impressed with such a unique
program they asked if they could list it in their sparse software booklet.
I also remember one of the guys at Bug-80 (whose name I have forgotten) who came
to the meetings carrying a
The only thing I regret about those days was that I was stupid enough and did
not have the brains to realize that every computer that would ever be
built in the future would have to have an "operating system" to work
-- and that a little two bit outfit out west, by the name of Microsoft, had sole
control over the universally used operating system called MS-DOS which they were
shrewed enough not to sell, but
I doubt if I will be able to make y our 25th anniversary meeting, but it's great to know that that tiny group of us were among the very first to see the light at the beginning of a gigantic tunnel.
With best regards,
Your comment about the kids not coming to meetings is very telling. Most of the kids now, who spend a lot of time at their computers have evolved into "nerds" who look down on us as old fogies who only know how to use the Web to get the weather.
I haven't seen or talked with Bill Porter for years. and I do not have his
Sandy Rand (President 1999-2001
I joined BCUG in 1992. I had just bought my first computer in November of 1991. My first jobs in the club were Advertising Manager and Hardware Coordinator. Then I was asked to take care of writing to vendors for software for review or for our auction. This was a fun job as it included being the auctioneer. This job turned into what we now call the VP, Vendor Relations. The idea was that vendors would be more responsive if the request came from an officer. I built a database listing as many vendors as I could find, learned how to do mail merge and started sending 50 letters a month asking for software donations. We started receiving so much that the UPS driver was at my house at least 3 times a week. The monthly auction used to take in an average of $300 a month. In later years, this started to dry up as the Internet became so popular that vendors could just post a trial version on their web site. I became president of BCUG in 1999 and served for 3 years. There were many accomplishments during that time, but John Corbett, Ruth Lewart, Fred Burg, Andrea Tarr, Fred Kagel and many others were really the people who made it happen.
John Corbett (President 1994-1998)
One of the most unique aspects of my tenure was the increase in the number "Workshops," previously referred to as SIGs, or Special Interest Groups. When I took over the helm from Stu Haber on January 1, 1994, there were six SIGs, when I left the presidency 5 years later, there were 12 SIGs. Today there are 17 "Workshops." The only SIG that never received official recognition, but was the most popular BCUG SIG ever established turned out to be "The Liquid SIG." This SIG met immediately after the Accounting SIG, and consisted of popping into a local watering hole for some snacks and a few beers while we solved the problems of the world!
Closer ties were established between BCUG and the administration of Brookdale College. A letter sent to Brookdale College to offer our assistance in establishing Brookdale College on the Internet, resulted in our being contacted by Clinton Crocker, the Finance Chair on the Board of Trustees of Brookdale College, no less! With Clint greasing the skids, things really began to change for BCUG. We now had a Brookdale College board member in our club and doors began to open for BCUG at the College. We were given phone numbers and personnel to contact for setting up room scheduling. We met several times with the school’s administration and department heads. We were also given access to the High Tech High School for our meetings. Today our relationship with the college is solid.
The total assets of the club on 1/1/96 were $6,600, and when I left the presidency on 12/31/98, club assets were $13,600 --- an increase of 106% for that period.
I had a wonderful group of officers and directors during my tenure. Each of them did their job, and did it well. I was lucky that these individuals hung in there for my entire five years.
Ruth Lewart (President 1990-1992)Cass was co-president the first year. We won a contested (yes, contested) election! When two newcomers announced they were seeking the presidency, John Cammarata, who contributed in so many ways to BCUG in those years, quickly recruited Cass and me, both long time members, to run against the "unknowns." We had about 56 members at the time, so as I was about to retire, thought it would be a manageable job. Cass also agreed. By the time I stepped down, we had well over 300 members, and I wasn’t so sure about it being a manageable job.
Shirley Estelle, one of our two "newbie" opponents, came on the Board, and lobbied for a regular, monthly newsletter. Fred Kagel, president previously, had long put out an informative newsletter, but not on a regular schedule. Shirley won. I think the monthly newsletter contributed a lot to the surge in membership. She became the editor. The early editions looked quite amateur, as dot matrix printers were what we all used. Shirley, to my horror, used cut and paste to insert all the clips that she had assembled, but the software to insert graphics hardly existed, and decent scanners weren’t affordable, so she had little choice. But the 10-page newspaper came out regularly, in advance of the monthly meetings. We had a logo contest some time later, and the winning entry was a text-only entry by Sally Zegarelli, presumably done in a DOS version of WordPerfect (that’s an insiders joke, as Sally didn’t believe in graphics or Windows.) I don’t recall the time frame, but Margot Sinnott (still a member today) contributed a picture of a bee – a rather crude bee had been a mascot already in the TRS-80 days, when the Club was named BUG80. George Somers, a founder and first president of BUG80 had designed it. Shirley asked me to connect the new bee (Margot’s) with a chip. Without benefit of Photoshop, the bee and chip (which I scanned) became the pair that adorn our newsletter today. The bee flourished, while Sally’s logo disappeared from the Masthead.
We had no workshops then, in spite of Shirley’s urging – probably I didn’t pursue the idea aggressively enough. But to compensate, we had terrific attendance at General Meetings. There are about 125 seats in NAS 100 (later we moved to the Forums), and sometimes almost all were filled. More times than I care to recall, the presenters didn’t show. The members didn’t seem to mind. Our meetings went on until at least 11 PM! The format was very similar to ours today. The auction was a big deal, because we had plenty of software coming in all the time – you only had to ask. Our display equipment was primitive, but nobody ever complained about keystoning or a fuzzy image – we were lucky if we got an image that didn’t swallow some colors. And we had an auctioneer extrordinaire, Stu Haber, who could have auctioned off the Brooklyn Bridge. We were accused of not being social enough, but our members eschewed dinners, sweatshirts/teeshirts with logos, and almost anything that would make us look like a cohesive group. John Cammarata proposed we have name tags, but I ended up with the job of producing and "managing" them. We had a huge canvas sheet, to which the name tags, in alphabetical order, were pinned. When a member entered the room, he got his or her name tag. At the end of the evening, the tags were dumped into a box. I then took these home, spread the canvas over a bed, and reattached all the name tags in alphabetical order. I don’t know if the effort was cost effective, but members liked the name tags, so I kept it up.
We started participating at the Computer Shows during this period. And we had our first flea market, chaired by Al Brown, at a Ken Gordon Show. He donated two tables. A lot of members staffed the tables – we were very busy, lots of customers. All of us had a ball. We also turned a nice profit. We sold old Apple computers that we thought wouldn’t move. But customers were hungry for everything computer-related in those days, so we moved lots of merchandise.
What were members interested in? A late 1993 survey, analyzed by Irv Leveson, showed WordPerfect just edging out Word; Excel just edging out Lotus and Quattro Pro; PC Tools just beating Norton. Members wanted more Random Access and additional meetings; both a videotape and CD-ROM library; and the BBS wasn’t used.
(Possibly more as I recall other trends)
Some of the members I’ve mentioned, and who contributed so much to BCUG, are, sadly no longer with us. But if you scan the membership list there are many that date back at least to the time I served, and will remember (or probably improve on) my memories.