by Stan Veit
Published by WorldComm, 65 Macedonia Road, Alexander, NC
28701 ISBN 1-56664-023-7 $19.95
Reviewed by Stefan Jones
For many years, Stan Veit edited the original incarnation
of *The Computer Shopper*, a newsprint computer hobbyist
want-ad monthly that was the last place die-hard Atari,
Commodore, Osborne and Apple II users could find sources
of hardware and software.
The classified ad section of this tome was worth the
cover price alone, but it also had articles for the major
dying computer standards, and Veit's own history column.
While *The Computer Shopper* is now a professionally
managed, hernia-inducing monthly dedicated to the PC
market, Veit's columns are now available in book form.
The chapters of *Stan Veit's History of the Personal
Computer* show their origin as magazine columns. The same
incidents (e.g., the first months of Stan's Computer Mart
store in midtown Manhattan) are described again and
again, albeit from slightly different perspectives. This
isn't a problem if you read the chapters one at a time and
don't expect a consistent narrative.
Each chapter covers Veit's dealings with a particular
company: Altair (the folks who arguably started it all),
Sphere, IMSAI, and so on. Most of the systems and
companies that Veit surveys are long dead; victims of the
Apple II with its reliable disk drives and built-in video,
or of IBM and its CP/M-squishing Personal Computer. Some
of the firms passed on gracefully; others were frauds and
The most entertaining chapter is the tale of the
early days of Apple. Veit rubbed elbows with the two
Steves when they were still ragged, long haired hackers;
he relates how his mother-in-law made Steve Jobs take off
his jeans at a crucial early trade show so she could sew
up the rents and tears. Veit also mentions the time that
Jobs offered him a chance to buy a significant chunk of
the nascent computer giant for $10,000. Had he not had the
money tied up in his store, Veit probably would have taken
him up on the deal and today would be worth billions . . .
Another highlight: The time that a computer graphics
display == the Cromemco "Dazzler" == placed in the store
window caused a late-night traffic jam on 5th Avenue.
Drivers were so amazed that they stopped and stared . . .
and stared... until police rousted Veit's landlord from
bed to turn off the monitor.
Veit doesn't neglect the experiences of his
customers. The feats of soldering and switch-flipping the
early computer hobbyists had to perform to get a working
computer are explained in exquisite detail, making one
damn appreciative for BIOS chips and floppy drives. The
tales of vaporware BASIC, dirty tricks, memory boards that
periodically blanked and some systems that just plain
didn't work are almost enough to make one grateful for IBM
and Microsoft. The computerists of the mid seventies were
a different breed, and true pioneers.
Stefan JonesFrom: Darryl_Rehr@lamg.com Darryl Rehr
Re: Dead Media Working Note 11.2: Pnmeumatic Typewriters
>While bumming around my local remainders shop I came
>across a fascinating book: "Century of the Typewriter",
>by Wilfred A. Beeching (Director, British Typewriter
>Museum). It's an edited re-release of an earlier edition
>(1972) which was considered one of the definitive texts
While Wilf Beeching is an admirable old gent, his book is
not considered "definitive" by typewriter collectors. It
has a lot of good stuff such as serial number lists, and a
multitude of photos (many from the massive collection at
the Milwaukee Public Museum), but it is frought with
Much more "definitive" is "The Writing Machine," by
Michael Adler, written in 1973. Adler is about to release
a revised edition.
My own book on typewriters ("Antique Typewriters and
Office Collectibles") should be on the street next spring.
It will feature 100% color photos (many from the Milwaukee
Public Museum collection).
Is the typewriter dead? Hmmm, I suppose so. But as you
compose your next computer message, be aware that the
QWERTY keyboard under your fingertips was there at the
birth of the typewriter industry. QWERTY has been with us
since 1872 (next year is the 125th anniversary!).