The TPC of Yore     A Short History: Part 2
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
Last month we covered the pre-Internet history of the TPC, and now we continue with members at the dawn of the Internet.
Jeff Canaday, can't remember where he works and how long he was in the TPC, but I ran into him recently on a Porsche mailing list. Jeff owns a '92/'93 Porsche RS America that he tracks in Japan. He bought an old wheel printer from me when I left Japan. He is still in Japan, living in Yokohama I think.
David Parry, maybe his memory isn't too good these days (heck, mine ain't getting any better I'll tell you that!;-), but he was there pretty darn early. Was peddlin' some type of software called Relay Gold before I left, a comm program that connected to British Telecom or something like that.
[David Parry: A sideline that failed expensively. I lived from translation and editing work after my three-year stint at a Japanese software company (1982-5). The computer support work I did in the 1990's for CRC and Procom provided some great technical experience and memorable moments, but financially it was the wrong way to go. I tried a number of ventures in the computer field and talked with people such as Rick Rettig. I remember the people you mention; Wick and Burt the copywriters, And Mitchell Reed. I probably met him at the FCCJ, which I visited a bit while I was at the software house still. Don Hooton from IBM, Pablo Muller from the Spanish Embassy, who was also friendly with Federico Sancho, the newsletter publisher before me who set up a great Ventura Publisher template. I knew various of the Computerland/Catena crowd, including Tim Reece and the Chang sisters. You could of course devote a whole chapter to Maynard Hogg, the world's most acerbic sysop. Or his Polish successor, Martin Bruczkowski (spelling only very approximate in the absence of his meishi!). I don't have many memories of riotous parties from that era, but then I was not involved so much at the time that the Rabbi was around. That came later, when I was working on the newsletter.]
[Jim Tittsler: Martin Bruczkowski lived in Singapore the past 7(?) years, and recently moved back to Poland.]
[Sigi Rindler: David worked one time with Procom which was run by a guy called Ed Daszkiewicz. He ran the first *gaijin computer store* with real premium prices on everything. I never forget the 40,000 Yen I had to pay for having a German letter appear as such on the screen on my Sanyo CP/M system (in Wordstar)! An entire remodeled 106 key keyboard would have been over 4,000,000 Yen...Those were the good old times!]
Ed sold us the computer that became the first real BBS. The first BBS, which went though many lives was handcrafted out of the finest Hong Kong and Taiwanese parts. I had a commercial business visa when I lived in Japan, and I had to leave Japan every 3 months. That's how a lot of the parts used to get back, I hand carried them, from the States also. But Ed wasn't the first gaijin computer store, Catena owned several Computerland stores in Japan, and they were one of the first big US computer stores...they really raped us!!!!! I'm not complaining; computers have done very well for me, and it was the TPC that really taught me how to use them and help others with them. Before that I was a musican, and while I was in Japan I sold vintage guitars to a music store named Ishibashi Gakki. These guys really treated me good too, they contributed to my "some" overweight problem in a big way also!<har!>
Ed was one of the few people that could program in those days, and while everyone was busy learning and coding in C, Ed used an odd language called Algol, which I was intrigued with but never used.
Catena also owned the department store across from Kawasaki Eki. A perfect example of raping people, however, everyone was free to bring hardware into Japan, just that the duty was so high on most of it, that is primarily why the prices were so high. Truth be told that I never personally bought much from Catena, but many of the clients and associates which I had in Japan were forced to in many cases for work that I did. Indirectly, I was responsible for a large chunk of sales for them...
I was an ace with Xtalk on the PC though, and Catena used Xtalk to access the Source, and later Compuserve (they bought the Source) and I knew exactly where to go and get the username and password for their KDD account, that was a nice savings for me for the last few years in Japan...;-) But I spent way too much with NTT and KDD, they liked me very much.
There was another guy, kinda young, his name was John Emmens (sp?), and it was John who gave me my first bootleg of the Lattice C Compiler for the PC. That was the defacto standard before MS and Borland battled it out. John was married to a Japanese woman as I recall, but the one story I always laugh about is when John got me going with C.
I told John I would love to work in C, since all the professional applications were written in C. John said, "Heck, it's easy...I just went into Toshiba for an interview and they asked me if I could program in C, so I told them yes. They hired me and I was in there the first week writing 'Hello, World!', they didn't know what was going on. After a while I knew how to program in C.".
This is true, in the old days you could get away with that because few people knew how to use or program PCs, people would pay to have you install dBase III, or Lotus 123, they were afraid of computers. And you could just get jobs easy like John's story above. Even though I started hacking at C in the early days (Fuji sama...Don Hill...helped me out quite a bit with that), I didn't use it on any projects until I moved back to the States.
Sigi Rindler, was there but didn't say much. It was before his famed "Mr. Akihabara" tours...damn, I had to learn Akihabara on my own. I always bought tons of stuff there, especially since I did import/export, I was always buying power converters under the train station. Sigi was pretty quiet, compared to me at least!<har!> (but wasn't most everyone!;-). He learned how to type quite well, from his posts here though...;-)
One of my friends, Tim Reece, worked at Computerland in Shinjuku on Yamate Dori, about a 5-10 minute walk from where I lived in Nishi-Shinjuku, and Tim actually copied me my first bootleg software...the price was outrageous in Japan at the time, and packages like Lotus 123 and dBase III were like US $2,000. Tim grew up in Japan, his father was a priest or something, or ran a mission...something like that. Tim's wife was really tough, used to yell and fight with him all the time, threw $#!T at him, like ashtrays and f#@$'d him up good!<G> She was a pretty mean gal from my memory.
Another friend that grew up with Tim in Japan was John Tetro, who became a very good friend of mine. John appeared kinda stupid in many ways, but was smart as a whistle in coasting into the last section of the memory chip phenomena of the early/mid '80s. John pulled a really nice chunk of Yen out of there, and didn't work most of the time I was there. He lives in Idaho now, where he bought his parents a home, and built one for himself. He's married to a Japanese lady, Yachiko, who my wife gets along with pretty good but we haven't seen since we lived in L.A., where they stayed with us for a week or so. John pulled out several million dollars on chips, and he used a Mac, but mostly to play games on.
Both Tim and John spoke great Japanese as they grew up there, and another guy had worked with John in the chip deal but never went on his own, so he didn't score big like John did. His name was Steve Denny, and he was the most educated of all of us, and spoke really good Japanese from studying while he attended one of the Japanese universities. The four of us would go out on Friday as a regular event and get whacked...we'd start off at a club that had happy hour in Roppongi, drinks were only 150 yen from 6:30-8:00 on Friday, then we would usually end up eating dinner at Victoria Station for a nice slab of prime rib and more drinks, and then we'd end up at Trader Vic's for the watermelon drink with straws hanging out of it, and the bartender would just dump alcohol in that watermelon shell...We would always tell Victoria Station it was one of our birthdays, and we would always tell them it was "Doctor Alan's birthday", or "Doctor John's birthday", "Doctor Tim's birthday", "Doctor Steve's birthday", etc...(there were even some Doctor Roger birthdays as I recall;-). Of course they knew it wasn't our birthday every week, but we spent so much money there, they would get all the waiters and waitresses over to sing it to us anyway.
Somehow Roger Boisvert got tied up with us and I would often end up driving him to Shinjuku station to get a ride home (he later bought my Honda Acty from me and still had it a couple years ago which he still used for camping...but that was before Exodus bought GOL). Annie Chang was at Computerland in Shinjuku and worked with Tim. It seems she got kinda active in the group when I left. Tim was there way before Annie though, and I used to hang out in that store and play Loderunner, a game for the PC, and I played it on an IBM JX computer if you remember them (like the IBM Jr., but ran Japanese DOS). John Tetro used to play Millionaire, a game on the Mac. Tim used to work...<har!>, and then we'd all go out drinking and eat dinner...
Mitchell Reed, vice president of Dai-Ichi-Kikaku (sp?). Very rare gaijin to hold a prestigious position in a Japanese firm. Mitch took me out for so many great meals and drinks, even bought my computer from me when I moved back to the States, and introduced me to my wife (who was renting a room from Mitch and his wife in Aoyama-Itchome). Mitch could eat and drink more than any human I have known. And he would eat Rolaids like they were candy. Mitch met me by a fluke kinda, as even though he was one of the original members of the TPC, he never went to any of the meetings...but he used Lotus 123, and he wanted to get Lotus 123 working with a Japanese color printer really bad. He somehow got in contact with Tim Reece over at Computerland in Shinjuku, who put him in touch with me. The odd thing was that Lotus supported this color printer on Symphony, but Mitch used 123. This would be the first time I would start hacking on software, and I started searching the printer drivers with a hex editor to find out that they looked very similar. As a WAG (wild @$$ guess), I suggested Mitch rename the Symphony printer driver to the name of the 123 printer driver, and see if it would print. And the funny thing was that it worked!<G>
Mitch tracked me down at a TPC meeting, and as soon as I walked in the door, he knew it was me and introduced himself. I first thought Mitch was trying to get me to give him some free time and help him with his computer, but Mitch insisted there was something he could do. And he asked me, "How about food, you obviously like to eat, what type of food can I buy you to help me with my computer?". Jokingly I said, "How about Kobe beef?". And Mitch replied with something like..."yeah, but how boring...we can get that all over Japan really easy...". What type of food do you really miss from the states he asked me...so I thought...well, I told him...there are 2 things that I really miss, Mexican food (Tex-Mex style), and pizza.
That night after the meeting, Mitch invited whoever wanted to come out for pizza and we went to the Sabatini's pizza shop downstairs. This became quite a long tradition, even until I left Japan in '87, we always went to Sabatinis after the TPC meetings for pizza and "shoot the $#!T" sessions. Mitch would explain to me at this original gathering how he was able to land the Lotus advertising in Japan by using charts that were printed out from his 123 using the Symphony print driver. I couldn't believe it, I was kinda blown away that something so simple could mean so much to the guy, but he felt indebted to me and always treated me terrific, took me out on the town, etc...Mitch had an enormous expense budget and was most generous with it to me.
This is what made the TPC, it was camaraderie and being able to get together with other "gaijin", where living in such a strange place as Japan could bring Americans, Canadians, Europeans, Australians, French, German, etc...together and somehow we all seemed to be similar. Some things Just clicked, like drinking beer out of a bottle (Japanese always use those tiny glasses), stuff like that.
It was the founders and many of the early members that helped give the club enough momentum to carry it through. And of course the PC boom didn't hurt either!<G>
I was always against any type of membership fee, and always felt that computer user groups should be free after I understood what user groups were. The TPC was the first computer club I had been to...so I didn't know any better.:-/ But the TPC is more than just a computer user group, and because of the unique situation in Japan, it's quite a good group to know, with so many diverse people. I certainly give a lot of thanks to a lot of TPC people who helped me out, and paved roads for me. I can not thank everyone enough, I was certainly a black sheep compared to most other folks in Japan. I was just a hippie musician searching for myself...I did make good money selling vintage guitars in Japan, but I moved myself out of music to be involved with computers for a cleaner, healthier life.
I certainly have a love hate relationship with Japan, and can only tolerate it for a short time nowadays. I still like the countryside the best. Japan is just not my home. Even after 5 years, it seemed that it was always foreign to me, waking up on Sunday and walking out to see old ladies walking in kimonos all hunched over, it wasn't my home.
Coming back to the States gave me so much more to pursue, and it has provided much more than I probably could have done in Japan. I have worked my @$$ off (I always have though) to get what I have and it's certainly not been easy. I'm not schooled in computers, and have learned most of what I know from hacking at them. Thankfully, that hasn't prevented me from getting where I'm at, and in many ways has probably helped me. Thanks to all who have helped me from the TPC, may you continue to help others living in Japan!
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