Aw Shite!

Jeff Barr
Thu, 17 Jan 2002 16:58:10 -0800 (PST)

You are young. When I sold Osborne stuff it was
only books ("An Introduction to Microcomputers",

I used to sell Altairs, IMSAIs, and Sol-20s in 1975
at the Retail Computer Store in Seattle (I was
in High School at the time). My entire summer's
earnings bought me 4KB of static RAM (that's KB,
not MB or GB).

We did have some celebrity visitors, including
Bill Gates, Gary Kildall (CP/M and PL/M), and
Bill Atkinson (Mac QuickDraw). Atkinson was working
at the "U-Dub", (University of Washington), doing
some kind of image processing using the IMSAIs
that I sold him.

Several of the store's employees went on to
fame and/or fortune:

Tim Paterson - MS-DOS. He was the store's hardware
technician. Not a software guy as far as I could
tell, during the time he was at the store. Later
he was just up the hall from me at Microsoft. Tim
is now retired and a grandfather.

Mike Courtney - Microsoft Basic and MS-DOS. He worked
very strange hours, fueled by a very large cup of
coffee. Famous for handing out the "Kick-Ass Seal of
Approval" when impressed by a technical feat. Mike would
work until his body gave out and he would fall asleep
in his chair. We would carefully roll him into a spare
office until he awoke. I have not been able to find

Bob Wallace - Microsoft Pascal. Bob was in charge of
ordering books for the store. He also built a way-cool
portable computer (predating the Osborne which spawned
this thread by several years). Bob was into community
and shared information long before it was in vogue.
Bob wrote an amazing text preprocessor for Altair
Basic which added structured control constructs and
long variable names. Bob now runs a book store devoted
to information about psychedelic drugs.

Me - Being all of 15, I did a lot of random things.
I wrote lots of little demos on the Sol-20, and wrote
a nifty auto-boot routine for the Northstar disk
(the first 5.25" disk drive). I was good at entering
in the octal boot sequence for Altair Basic using
the console switches. I think it starts "063", "307".
I am still working on the fame and fortune part. I
also got to unpack the books (and read them as I
did so). I once received a phone call from a guy
named "Steve" who asked me why we did not sell
the Apple I. It could have been Jobs or Wozniak.

I was lucky enough to get to fly to San Francisco for
the First West Coast Computer Faire (1976?) and
met Ted Nelson. Amazingly enough my parents let me
go by myself with little more than a plane ticket
and a hotel reservation.

I once met Paul Terrell, founder of the Byte Shop.

Ah, the memories.


> Old enough?  I used to sell Osbornes (Byte Shop of Berkeley/Track
> Computer Center -- summer job 1979 and assorted fill-in periods).
> Ken