early USRobotics history
jack.rubin at ameritech.net
Sun Feb 26 13:16:15 CST 2006
Ah, the pleasures of being on the cc-tech digest! Kind of like
I'm not clear on the pre-history of USRobotics but I can tell you some
of the early history. In the late '70s a group of UofC students (and
near-students?) got together to do some computer stuff. When the name
actually appeared and what the first "product" might have been I don't
know, but apparently the group went from 7 to 5 to 3 members. I became
aware of the company in 1982; at that time the principals were Casey
Cowell, Paul Collard and Steve Muka and the only product was modems. A
Hyde Park neighbor of mine, Stan Metcalf, had been a member of the
earlier group(s) but we never really talked about what the group was
doing when he was involved with them. The story told at that time was
that the company had been formed to produce a home terminal based on Don
Lancaster's TV typewriter which they would sell to UofC users for
dial-up access to the campus mainframe. When the modem was finished,
they realized they would do better selling it as a standalone product to
be used with a standard terminal (eg the Bantams and Teleltypes) and
stopped short of designing their own terminal. I never knew anyone named
Terry who was involved with the company or knew of any other products.
When I first learned of the company, they were in the process of moving
from Washington and Eagle Streets in Chicago, right around the corner
from what would become Oprah's Harpo Productions, to McCormick Street in
Skokie. First location had been in Casey's apartment on Lincoln Avenue
near the Biograph theater. I started with them in 1984; I don't think
Bill Donzelli joined the company until a good bit after the move to
Skokie. When _I_ cleaned out the basement on Eagle Street, I found a
couple ASR-33s and some Perkin-Elmer Bantam terminals along with a fair
number of bogarted doobies left by the shipping crew. The Bantams were
still in use internally by the company and had been resold by them at
one point when they were still selling the black, vacuum-molded
"bathtub" modems. By the early 80s, the current product was the
aluminum-cased (Hayes look-alike?) AutoDial series.
The company ran on a couple of MP/M based Dynacomp systems with attached
terminals (the Bantams and/or Televideos, later Wyse50s). My first job
was to convert the single-user BASIC inventory program (a legacy of the
first system, a TRS-80 Model III) to dBaseII and then multiuser
DataFlex. When we moved to Skokie we also moved to a couple of
Godbout-based S100 systems, running MP/M then MP/M II and finally the
Gifford version of ConcurrentDOS. Skokie was a lot bigger and I
installed DR-NET to link a couple remote systems; not long after we
moved to an HP3000 and the ASK MANMAN (manufacturing management) system.
ASK was FORTRAN based and used HP IMAGE for data management.
Lots of hard work and good times.
Date: Thu, 23 Feb 2006 18:12:25 -0500
From: "Bob Bradlee" <Bob at BRADLEE.ORG>
Subject: Re: US Robotics PC?
To: "General Discussion: On-Topic and Off-Topic Posts"
<cctalk at classiccmp.org>
Message-ID: <200602232323.k1NNNoZ1070982 at keith.ezwind.net>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
Back in the late 70's the guy who started US robotics was building modem
kits and systems with a guy names Terry who had a computer shop Midwest
Micro Computer in lombard Il. It was second only to Itty Bitty Machine
Company just off the Northwestern campus in Evenston
as the first computer store in the Chicago area. Terry wanted me to
help him fix a bunch of
modem kits that were being solid the US Robotics name, I was shocked at
the choice of name, and was told he went out of his way to secure the
name and trademark, that was why we had to fix the kits he could not get
working ASAP. Wish I could think of Terry's last name
That one will bug me a while :(
Any Old time Windy City hackers remember Terry ?
Here is one for the crowd, Does any one else at the founding meeting of
the Chicago Computer Society met for the first time at Devry and Ward C
CBBS and Modem1 through 7 fame asked everyone to stand up and sit down
in response to what universal question ?
BTW: the computer you are thinking about was z-80 ran cpm and wordstar
and an early spread sheet and a hack of what became eventually Xmodem
because that was about all there was then. I think the printer was the
first used of the epxon FX80 not to be confused with the MX80 that came
along a few years later. The FX printer was very popular in early Point
of Sale systems.
Thanks for bringing up a fresh batch of old memories.
On Thu, 23 Feb 2006 14:08:21 -0800, Chuck Guzis wrote:
>This was back, oh, in about 1978. I was at one of the trade shows
>(don't remember which one) and there was a fellow with a computer with
>integrated monitor, disk drives and a printer (sticking out of the top)
>in a fairly large black box--probably Z80, but I can't be sure.
>I remember that it was USR because of the unusual name of the company.
>Has anyone else ever seen one of these beasts?
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