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Dead medium: Dead Personal Computers and Typewriters: Some Recommended Books
From: Stefan Jones
Source(s): Stan Veit's History of the Personal Computer: From Altair to IBM, A History of the PC Revolution

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 Jones

From: 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

>on typewriters.

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!).

Darryl Rehr