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BMUG Lab in UCB Eshleman Hall

358 words

4K on disk

March 1986

BMUG Lab in UCB Eshleman Hall

The Spring 1986 BMUG Newsletter showcases a plan to build a computer lab in Eshleman Hall, the Student Union on the UC Berkeley campus. I’ll reproduce the layout of the lab below, because I think it’s an interesting snapshot of what people thought a lab of Macs should look like at this early point in the computer’s development.

Some things to note:

1) This is a network-centric facility. Two UNIX machines with Ethernet, and a Kinetics AppleTalk Bridge, showed the importance of connecting the Mac’s own LocalTalk technology to the campus backbone. The author of the article, BMUG co-founder Reese Jones, would go on to start Farallon Networking at least in part on the strength of BMUG’s own PhoneNet technology, which replaced Apple’s expensive proprietary cables with cheap phone cabling.

2) There’s a BMUG Reference Library. Presumably this would contain the user group’s own newsletters, along with product manuals and third-party books. If you had a question about how to do something on a computer in 1986, you usually looked it up in a book.

3) Not only would books be stored in the computer lab, but they’d be produced there, too. BMUG specifies that the forthcoming lab will serve as a “resource center for document preparation.” By 1986, Aldus PageMaker had been out for a year, and Desktop Publishing was driving the Mac’s success. A networked Apple LaserWriter Plus (price: $7,000) was shared among all the computers in the lab, offering users output that would have been prohibitively expensive otherwise.

4) Centram’s TOPS (also a Berkeley company) was the file- and printer-sharing solution — because AppleShare didn’t exist yet. TOPS would be a great topic to cover in a future article — it was sort of like Personal File Sharing, and ran on both the Mac and PC (with a LocalTalk ISA card, as Reese’s Eshleman Hall layout specifies).

I’m not sure if this computer lab was ever built — Eshleman did host the Open Computer Facility for a number of years, but I don’t know if the BMUG lab grew into that. The building itself is slated to be demolished in the next few years.

BMUG and MacRecorder

246 words

2K on disk

September 1985

BMUG and MacRecorder

Audio Recording Hardware

We take recording audio on personal computers for granted nowadays. Without audio-in, we wouldn’t be able to use Skype, record a video for YouTube, or sing along with GarageBand. But before audio became a standard feature of the personal computer, there was a group of volunteers in Berkeley, California who figured out how to get sound into their Macs.

A graduate student in Math, Michael P. Lamoureux, is credited with the original design of the digitizer hardware. Plans were published in the Fall 1985 BMUG Newsletter, enabling anyone handy with basic electronics to construct the device. The box plugged into the serial port on the back of the Macintosh.

The first comprehensive coverage I can find about building MacRecorder is from the Fall 1985 BMUG Newsletter — but it’s possible the Spring issue of that year, or the 1984 Newsletter (only distributed on floppy disk) have earlier plans. The Fall 1985 Newsletter actually includes three articles about MacRecorder, including the source code of a basic program to receive digitized audio from the device:

Farallon, a company that productized several BMUG inventions (including PhoneNET adapters), released a commercial version of the product in early 1988. MacWeek showed a preview in December 1987:

Intriguingly the article mentions “SoundTrack, a sophisticated sound editor.” This is undoubtably SoundEdit, the famous software written by Steve Capps in 1986. Farallon was perhaps considering renaming it to differentiate their version, but it shipped (as near as I can tell) as SoundEdit, not SoundTrack.

HyperDrive

62 words

1K on disk

January 1985

HyperDrive

Internal Hard Disk

Content to come. In the meantime, Wikipedia says “The product was unusual because the Macintosh did not have any internal interface for hard disks. It was attached directly to the CPU, and ran about seven times faster than Apple’s “Hard Disk 20″, an external hard disk that attached to the floppy disk port.”

Ad from September 1986:

Ad from October 1986:

MacVision

195 words

2K on disk

November 1984

MacVision

Digitizer

Koala MacVision was a $400 combination hardware/software interface to digitize still frames from a video camera or VCR. The MacVision box plugged into either the Printer or Modem port. Data streamed in somewhat slowly: small frames took about six seconds to appear, whereas a full-screen image took 22 seconds. Obviously, one needed either a still subject or a device with good freeze-frame capabilities, such as a VideoDisc player.

Software authored by Bill Atkinson, and probably contained an early implementation of the “Atkinson Dithering” which would reappear in the software for Thunderscan. Curiously, the About Box for early versions credited Apple Computer — it’s possible that some of Atkinson’s work on dithering algorithms was done while he was still full-time at Apple:

Initially the software shipped as a Desk Accessory, so that it was available from other programs. Version 2.0 and above were standalone applications.

BMUG Fall 1985 Choice Product

“It’s fast and it can digitize 3D images from a video camera or videotape. Its resolution isn’t quite as good as the Thunderscan.”

Driver

Link to versions 1.4, 2.0 and 3.0 from the Mac Driver Museum.

Manual

Scan of the v3.0 manual, circa 1990.