The TPC of Yore     A Short History: Part 1
Compiled and edited by David Bernat from material by Alan (The Rabbi) DuBoff, with input from David Parry, Sigi Rindler, Louise Bremner, and Jim Tittsler
The Apple II came out in '78, and it was the computer that would put meaning into "personal computer". Prior to the Apple, the CP/M computers (which were still around moving into the '80s) were never able to penetrate the "personal" space.
At the same time, Japan wasn't the mega-child of the world economy yet, but they had paved the road during the '70s, when IMO, "made in Japan" was actually accepted. Before the '70s, "made in Japan" was not something that most people wanted to buy in the US.
When the IBM PC came out in '81, many of the financial people knew that the world was going to change and adapt to this technology, specifically in the way of "business". IBM's ads were good too, IMO, the old Charlie Chaplin ads, the public loved it. The founders of the TPC were kinda comprised of finance whiz types and technical types. The club started shortly after the IBM PC came out.
It was not just the TPC founders, but the majority of the early members, who were responsible for the club being the success that it was and continuing on to this day. Most of the members were fairly well to do folks who were living in Japan and working for large corporations, living in luxurious conditions compared to me, and were really established. Many of them knew each other because they belonged to the American Club, Foreign Correspondents Club, or other prestigious clubs where foreigners would hang out in Japan.
Gordon Nebecker was the first president. Gordon always wore a three-piece suit, was a finance whiz for one of the large banks. I can't remember if he worked for Security Pacific or not; the Captain definitely did (and I did for 5 years in Los Angeles, really where I honed my computer skills). The first meeting was held in Gordon's living room, prior to me joining the TPC.
Stephen Campbell, a.k.a. the Captain. Can't ever say too many good things about the Captain. Got his nickname from me because when I would go to his house, his computer had all kinds of drives hanging out of it, printer cables, etc...it was like the Starship Enterprise...you expected Apple II computers to be like that with ribbon cables hanging out, but the Captain used an IBM. He loved to tinker with hardware, and me too! He had one of the first hard disks that I saw, it was a 5 meg 5.25" full height drive that cost US $2000 back then. He loved PC Write, that was his favorite word processor which was shareware as I recall. Great program, and many people used it to program and do word processing (but Wordstar was the standard of course). This man was the real catalyst behind the TPC, and if the Captain wouldn't have stepped up to the plate and run the club, it could have not made it. I don't know anyone that didn't like this man, and he was like my own father to me when I lived in Japan. He bought me a book by Stephen Levy, The Hackers to show me that I was actually "one of them". He lived in the Homat President, across from the Hotel Okura, not a shabby place to live I might add...with a live-in cook/housekeeper from Thailand. Great family (since divorced though, new girlfriend a couple years ago and moving to Florida last we spoke).
I'm not sure who the other original founders were, but I think there was a guy named Bob Greene. Bob worked for Intel, and he was a good friend of the Captain. I talked to Bob on the phone a couple times, once when I moved back to the States, and another when I moved to Silicon Valley (Bob used to live in Milpitas).
I was the first sysop, and ran the BBS for about 2 years at least, in the closet of my apartment in Nishi- Shinjuku. I sold a lot of modems, some Taiwanese modems (1200 or 2400 baud), but I didn't bring in very many as the quality was never very good. I sold mostly Hayes and US Robotics. Most everyone used Epson CP/30 acoustic couplers, and upgraded to Hayes 1200s when the price point was good enough.
Wick Smith, I think was originally a freelance writer and then got a job with J. Walter Thompson in advertising and his career blossomed from there. J. Walter Thompson did the IBM advertising in Japan, and Wick got me my job with IBM APG, where I worked the Business Shows in Harumi, Osaka, etc, which would turn into a long relationship in various facets of my career. Wick was a definite part of the glue that held the club together. Wick was the first newsletter editor, but wasn't at the "living room meeting", and Wick and the Captain would heckle each other about that. Great guy who contributed a lot of his time to doing newsletters for quite a number of years. I heard that Wick later moved to NY after a transfer to Hong Kong. The Captain told me that I believe.
Stuart Luppescu could have been the first librarian. Many people owe Stuart a great deal, because he was the one who was responsible for making floppies of public domain, freeware, shareware, whatever they called it...I like to think of it as freely available software (that name changes over time, it seems). I'm sure he would remember me. I was always promoting for people to download the software online and get modems, the future was apparent, and I can not give enough credit to Stuart, that's a lousy and unforgiving job. [Jim Tittsler: Stuart Luppescu is an occasional contributor on the Tokyo Linux Users Group mailing list.]
Woody Hodgson is still doing executive recruiting in Japan or at least was until a year or so ago. He's a great guy, he wasn't involved in the TPC as much in those days, but would always be around for some of the big meetings. Woody did hang out at the TWICS meetings that met on some Saturday of the month. Wonderful person, tried to place me in some jobs but it never panned out.
Patrick Hochner was very active in the early days, but quit by 1990. Me and my wife had dinner with Patrick and his wife at their house in Tachikawa once when I visited Japan, could have been around '92 or so. He was planning on trying to cash out of Japan and head back to France and buy a castle (so he said). I hope he got some cash out of there before the economy collapsed. Great guy, like most others in the TPC. [Louise Bremner: He's now working in California (did he say he was living in Los Angeles, or was I confused?), but comes back to Tokyo regularly. I saw him several weeks ago--even have pictures of him playing Go (another shock, for those who know he stopped playing years ago...).] [Patrick Hochner moved out of translation into software contracts. He was handling Apogee and 3D Realms games and some other products.]
Burt Bloom, freelance writer and good friend of Wick Smith. Both Wick and Burt had Apricot computers that they used Word Perfect on. Later they would switch to IBM computers, but they would run Word Perfect on them as well. The Apricot computers were very cool, one of the first black computers that I had seen (Kaypro computers were black also, I had a Kaypro laptop...still do somewhere).
Don Hooton, worked for IBM...the old IBM. Great guy that used Lotus 123 a lot, and previously programmed in assembler on the mainframe, but since dropped that and didn't want to program at all anymore, but loved to use his computer. Certainly belonged to the American Club, because he treated me to lunch there on several occasions. Was almost retired when I left.
Dick Talley, worked for Hughes Aircraft on some type of secret project that he could never talk about. Lived at the Homat over in Roppongi (I think the Imperial). Really nice wife, who had a grand piano in their living room. She used to cook me escargot and would have it if I went over to help Dick out with his computer. They also took me over to the Officer's Club to eat on some occasions, which was pretty fancy...
Stovey Brown and another guy named Doug at IBM APG. I used to love and go over to the glass/plastic pool that Bob Dylan did a music video at during the '80s, it was located at a hotel close to the APG building. These guys gave me the first copy of RBBS, the original software the TPC ran on, and could have been what it was running when I gave it to Maynard. I switched over to a commercial BBS package called PC Board, but I don't think that was until after I got back to the States.
Pablo Muller of the Spanish Tourist Office was an early member, didn't attend too much, but was good friends of the Captain (the Captain spoke Spanish fluently from growing up in South America, where his father was a fairly successful business man). Pablo bought a lot of software for his kids from me, and other American software. Great guy, had at least one beautiful villa in Spain, where I remember a picture in his office at the embassy.
Don Hill, a.k.a. Fuji. worked for Kellog (not corn flakes, but oil) and was from Texas. Kept in touch for a long time, has 3 wonderful kids and his family stayed with us in L.A. for several days. Showed me a program written in BASICA that got me to want to program. Was a tremendous help to me, and I used to drive down to Yokohama to hack on the computer with him, copy software, etc...I think between me and Don, we had just about every program written for the PC back then... Fuji attended the TPC the same night that I did, me and him were the new kids on the block. Fuji was a great help and tremendous inspiration to me. Got his nickname because of a goatee he grew which looked like Mt. Fuji, but inverted.
Brent, from the Tokyo Union Church. Great guy who was kind enough to work out a decent deal for the TPC to hold their meetings at a reasonable fee (space is very limited in Japan). I used to help Brent with his computer all the time, he had an original IBM PC. He used Microsoft Word. The one thing about the Church was that while my handle was the Rabbi, I'm not really religious...but musicians always know that you can always find a piano inside a church...sometimes I would go over and play the piano downstairs, and usually always before a TPC meeting, since I was going over there anyway...I always liked to help him out with his computer as he never minded me playing his piano.
Jim Swanner, still in Japan because I exchanged some mail with him not too long ago. Jim was working for the American Technology Group, where the President was Bill Gould. Bill was responsible for the IBM 5550 computer, a huge Japanese word processor that was actually very popular in Japan. Everyone called it the go-go machine. Once I was house sitting at Jim's place and used one of his computers to start a BBS. He didn't get back until a couple weeks later. So I posted a message that the BBS was being taken down...(I didn't always think things out well back then. Jim was pretty pi$$ed at me because he kept getting modems calling his phone for weeks after that, some at odd hours of the night. Jim was one of the first guys to help me understand writing code, and how to finally understand that, "if you copy commercial software, you are a f#@$in' thief". It took me a long time to understand that, but I finally did...after I wrote a lot of software myself...odd how open source is coming around now, ain't it? We always had free software, but never as much as there is now with open source...just the times changing. I worked with both Jim and Bill at ATG, where I learned how to setup and configure the first "network" I had worked with. It was a 3Com server using Ethernet...Jim was a great help to me.
Tac Sugiyama, worked at Sony. Didn't show up at many meetings, but did come from time to time. I didn't know it at the time, but Tac went to school with Morita's son in England. He was very educated and spoke great English. I've been told by close friends of my wife (both who worked at Sony, and husband still working for Sony) that Tac was always very close with the Morita family, had actually taught Morita how to ski, and was famous in Japan for doing some type of hiking navigation game they play. Great guy, first met him at the original Sabatiniís gathering after the TPC meetings, and drove him home to Atsugi. That would later bring a small payback as Tac showed me the Sony building in Shinagawa where I would first use video teleconferencing between Shinagawa and Atsugi, as well as seeing other interesting software that Sony was working on. Our friend's (Keiko and Keisuke Omori) worked in Shinagawa during that period, but not with Tac.
Rick Rettig, was involved with several companies of his own, promoted MCI Mail heavily. He came to TPC after me, but Rick did several presentations for the TPC, got me some work, and was an all around good guy, IMO.
Roger Boisvert, actually came to a meeting before he got his longtime job at McKinsey. He's a great guy, and we used to hang out in the evenings a lot. I can remember Roger thanking me endlessly as I dropped him off at Shinjuku eki to get the last train home...and he would always tell me, "You just don't even know how much this means to me". Roger is the perfect example of starting at the very bottom, applying yourself to your work, learning it well, and being successful. He is one of the few foreigners that I know who was able to endure and really pull something out of Japan. Was one of the few who was able to hold his marriage together after so much time in Japan.
One of my early C programs I wrote was for Roger Boisvert when he worked at McKinsey. It was a simple program that parsed out ASCII data that was downloaded from MCI Mail. It worked and Roger liked it. In payment for it, he shipped me out a Toshiba word processor that looked like a laptop typewriter, and it worked well. My wife did use it some before we got Win95J going several years later. Roger was still buying US Robotics 9600 baud modems from me after I moved back to the US as well it seems. I was working at Security Pacific when I wrote that program for him. I was already coding in C on OS/2 by then, and wrote a program in C that received stock quote data over a satellite, that was the program I considered to be my first C "real program" that was used in a production system. That also led into the first great system I worked on, and was featured on the cover of Business Week magazine running on a large 62" Barco monitor screen behind John Singleton, the CEO of Security Pacific Automation Co. I knew at that point I had turned myself into an actual programmer, rather than just a hacker.
When I met Roger, he was trying to learn computers to get a job with them. I don't even think he was working. Soon after he started to hone his skills a bit, he landed a job at McKinsey...truth be it that I never really knew what McKinsey did, just that they were a big company that helped people with finance to save money. That is until Security Pacific hired McKinsey to help them...and I watched my department go from 14 to 5 overnight...ah, so that is how McKinsey helps people save money...it clicked...<g> My boss claimed it was my system that saved the jobs of us 5 that were left...(that didn't help the feelings of the other 9 that got their pink slips though). When I left the bank one Friday, the next Monday Bank of America merged/bought SecPac. Everyone thought I knew something as I wrote the system the executives used, but I didn't, it was just coincidence...and time for me to move on...
However, Roger was able to see the market changing and formed GOL when the time was right, before the market was flooded with ISPs. Maybe it was luck, maybe not, but something in Roger told him to do it, so he should get credit for it. It wasn't like he learned how to use computers in a week, and formed GOL the following week...it's been almost 20 years.
Next Month: David Parry, Sigi Rindler and others. More wild times, too.
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