If you were a student in Professor Fred Turner’s recent communications class, you’ve already seen a few issues of newsletters of early computing clubs online. If not, check out these publications documenting the doings of early computer clubs of the 1970’s centered in Menlo Park, available for the first time in digital form.
The People’s Computer Company, or PCC early proponent launched its first issue with the bold statement “Computers are mostly used against people instead of for people; used to control people instead of to free them; Time to change all that - we need a... Peoples Computer Company." The club focused on publishing code, mostly for games, that readers could then input into their own computers. The users could then tinker and learn from the freely given and non-copyrighted code. PCC was among the first contributors to what we call today network neutrality – a particular topic of interest in the current day.
The Homebrew Computer Club began meeting in a garage in Menlo park in 1975, begun by Gorden French and Fred Moore who were interested in having a forum where people could get together and work on making computers more accessible to the public. Most members were hobbyists with backgrounds in electronic engineering or computer programming; notable members include founders of different microcomputer companies - Steve Wozniak (who credits the first meeting as the inspiration for designing the Apple I), Harry Garland, and Roger Melen among others. A fictionalized version of the Homebrew Computer Club was featured in the 1999 television movie Pirates of Silicon Valley describing the club’s role in creating the first personal computers.
Check out these issues for yourself!
People’s Computer Company
Homebrew Computer Club