Live Steamers and PCs

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by John Grant

From Live Steam Magazine, July 1991

A number of years ago the mind of Gordon French, a past leader of the West Valley Live Steamers, started to wander from our hobby. This was partly because few shared his interest in 3/4 inch scale; most liked 1.5 inch scale.

At that time, micro-processor chips were just coming onto the market and Gordon started to think about the problems of building a small computer for personal use. He felt there might be others in the area that shared his interest. With that in mind, he started the "Homebrew Computer Club."

Using his experience as a leader of WVLS, he brought an important feature used in Live Steam clubs to his new club -- "Bits & Pieces," where members "show and tell" their projects. He also made his new club as informal as WVLS -- no elections, no business meetings, and no Roberts Rules of Order.

"Show and Tell" in a very informal setting turned out to be a good combination. There was a rapid exchange of information on putting these electronic components into the form of a personal computer.

This was the right time and right place (Silicon Valley) to start his club; in less than one year the club grew from four people in Gordon's living room to filling a 400-seat auditorium.

Among those 400 people, two unique free spirits, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, realized there was a market for a small and inexpensive personal computer. Apple Computer Company was born! There were about 12 other smaller companies formed from relationships developed at club meetings.

There is an ironic twist to the end of this story. As Silicon Valley grew, the orchard property of Dwight Durkee (chief founder of WVLS) in Cupertino, California, was rezoned, forcing Dwight to abandon his track and move away. An Apple Computer building sits on the track site now!