Chapter II: Nostalgi-A-DAM
by Tom Keene
Recently I ran across an article that was talking about the early
days of the ADAM. In retrospect, it is truly remarkable how enthusiastically
the ADAM was received and how terribly Coleco botched the marketing
of this great machine. Many of us have heard of the horror stories concerning
the first production ADAMs. Let me quote to you an
"A while ago I talked with Joseph Sheppard and this is what he had to say:
CAUG: Would you still buy an ADAM today?
JS: Yes, I would. I still feel, (regardless of what Coleco has done), that the ADAM, right out of the box, is the best computer for the money. My expanded ADAM, (two tape and two disc drives), with all the Coleco and third party software that I have, in my opinion, is more than enough computer for me and most people.
In fact, I was at Honeywell the other day and the technician told me that the ADAM outperforms the Apple, in benchmark tests, for speed and accuracy in computing.
CAUG: Did your ADAM work when you bought it?
JS: I was one of the first consumers in Southern California to get an ADAM in December '83. Of course, at this early date, virtually none of the Adams being sold worked and mine was no exception.
I returned my ADAM FIVE times to TOYS-R-US. The fifth didn't work and they were all out of stock, so I slipped it back to Coleco, (before Honeywell was contracted to do warrantee work). Two months later I received my 6th ADAM from Coleco and it didn't work either. By this time TOYS-R-US had some in stock so I got my seventh which also didn't work.
I read that Honeywell was then fixing them, so I took it to them and they replaced it with the eighth one, (It worked!), which I am still using now. But the truth is, I'm very glad that I stuck with ADAM!"
There were a lot of similar experiences by owners of the first Adams
A lot of people point to the bad review that Consumer Reports gave the ADAM as being its death knell. But recently I reread that report and although it did have reservations about its poor reliability, it also made the ADAM appear to be the best computer yet developed (which, of course, it was).
I never experienced any of those problems that gave the ADAM such a bad reputation. On the contrary, I have found it to be OUTSTANDINGLY reliable. I have never owned any piece of equipment whether as automobile, VCS, TV, Hi-Fi, or another computer that has even come close to the reliability I have experienced with my ADAM.
There is no question about it, though, Coleco made a big mistake by marketing it before it was ready. But the pressure of the enthusiasm of early ADAM computer hopefuls, (and perhaps the presence of Coleco's financial backers), was apparently more than they could resist.
And the enthusiasm of those early ADAM owners was something to behold! They wanted so badly, to get user groups going.
From personal experience, I know that our IEAUG wasn't born overnight. There were many private meetings in various homes. They really wanted to get going, but friction and the inability to organize, plagued it for months. Many prominent ADAM users attended those meetings.
Harvey Klein, Mike and Paula Smith aggressively tried to get the great off of dead center.
Bill Fee hosted one group which included Taylor Barcroft, Mike, Paula Smith and Brian Stranahan.
Several times, it looked as though a cohesive group would emerge.
-Barcroft, who had highly commercial ideas about the ADAM market, moved off on his own and started putting ads in magazines for his ADAM Users of America. He advertised his newsletter which turned out to be that disappointing "GARDEN of ADAM".
Don't get me wrong. That was a real slick newsletter! Probably it was the most totally professional newsletter ever put out by anyone. It was truly outstanding. But the disappointment was that there was never a second issue. I rather treasure my copy of that newsletter. It not only looked good, it WAS good.
Wayne Motel was one of the contributors. It came out in October 1984. Taylor got his newsletter out ahead of nearly every other AUG newsletter.
-That same month we saw another commercial national ADAM users group begin publication. It was the SPRITE CHASER put out by the No. 1 ADAM Users Group of Cherry Hill New Jersey. The president was Jay H. Forman, and it appeared to be affiliated with the M.W. Ruth Company, although I don't know that for certain. It was a fairly good newsletter but not as good as many others of the months that followed.
(Editor's Note: M.W. Ruth, is thought by some to be an abbreviation for "my Wife Ruth", "Ruth" being the name of the wife of Jay. Ruth seems to have run the M.W. Ruth operation quite successfully until it failed to make royalty payments to authors and manufacturers of some of their products).
-The ADAMLAND NEWS of the International ADAM Users Group, located in Lander Wyoming and run by Buck A. Rogers came out just one month after the Sprite Chaser .
Back Roger's newsletter was not a fly-by-sight operation and, although it was not as "slick" as GARDEN of ADAM it was a superior newsletter is every respect. Very few newsletters since have matched it for technical excellence.
There has been much said about the incredible claims that Rogers made for the equipment he was developing. But according to some people who actually saw his stuff, he wasn't kidding. That hardware was so outrageously advanced, that to this day, nobody has proposed anything half so fantastic.
All I can say is that if his hardware was as good as his newsletters, then it must have been terrific!
-The Nevada ADAM Users Group headed by Al Roginski was formed that month; but I have never seen a newsletter from them. (I'll have to ask Al about that, since he is a member of our IEAUG).
-Another newsletter (also commercial) hit the ADAM community in December 1984. It was also highly acclaimed, and a very professional newsletter. I speak hereby of Al Gerson's AUGMENT, the official newsletter of The ADAM Users Group, Inc.
Like Taylor Barcroft's users group, it was heavily advertised and totally commercial; but unlike Barcroft's club, ADAM Users Creep Inc. was not a rip-off. It was published in Lynbrook, N.Y.
(None of these newsletters are in publication today).
Is January of 1985, four newsletters made their entry into the field. Three of these are still is publication.
-One that survived, NIAD, was a commercial venture that had no local membership and held no meetings.
(NIAD, founded by Lyle Marschand in the Chicago area, still flourishes. It is heavily committed to marketing hardware and software, and is not a user group in the usual sense).
-Another survivor is that very fine group in Houston, known as the Greater Houston Area ADAM Users Group, (GHAAUG), under Terry Fowler and Tom Rutan.
-The third, still existing, club that began publishing a newsletter in January of 1985, was our own IEAUG. It was never a commercial enterprise and has never failed to hold a monthly meeting since that first meeting is 1985.
Also begun that January was the ADAM-X-Change in Wolcott N.Y., first headed by Wade Rowley and later by Robert Wright. As far as I can determine, theirs was a fairly short existence.
-The following month, February 1985, the Puget Sound ADAM Network published its first newsletter. They were merged from two previously established groups.
-The Seattle-Tacoma ADAM Users Group, headed by Barbara Duncan and the Northwest ADAM Users Group headed by Valerie Zimmerman predated the Puget Sound ADAM Network. When the Puget Sound club published their first newsletter, Barbara and Valerie appeared to be co-authors.
In February 1985, the ADAM Users Group of San Diego County also put out their first newsletter. This group was directed by the efforts of Sue and Bill Askew. The group is no longer is existence.
It was largely held together by Larry Overman who lived in Fountain Valley, California and drove almost two hundred miles to each meeting. It finally disbanded last year with many of its members joining the IEAUG.
Strangely, Larry joined the San Diego club because be wasn't aware that there were any ADAM groups in his area. Actually, at the time, there us another very active ADAM group in this area, (besides IEAUG), and that was AUSOCAL --ADAM Users of Southern California.
-One of the all-time best technical newsletters began its short life in February of 1985. That was the bi-monthly ADAM Technical Journal of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I never knew what happened to them. The publisher was Serendipity Productions and no names were ever listed in their newsletters. It did not appear that it was a users group and no mention was ever made about meetings. But what a newsletter!! Far and away the best I have ever read.
-In May 1985, The ADAM Users of Southern California (AUSOCAL) published their first newsletter. The principal writers were the founder, Harvey Klein; and Paul Schector. This group drew its support from the Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley regions.
The group was comprised of a highly technically oriented membership. They maintained a close liaison with the Inland Empire ADAM Users Group.
Harvey, who was the sparkpluq of AUSOCAL, was burning the candle at both ends. He was working on his thesis for an advanced degree which would be more than enough for most people. His wife who helped type his manuscripts, was suddenly stricken with a terminal illness and died very quickly. Understandably, Harvey couldn't continue the enormous workload of scheduling meeting places, putting out a newsletter etc., so he arranged to merge AUSOCAL with IEAUG.
A compromise location in Anaheim California was convenient for both groups and that is where it is today. The AUSOCAL newsletter was published for about three years.
-In July 1985, Jono Smith embarked on his short-lived California ADAM Users group, (CAUG), with a single issue of his newsletter. Greg Noblette was his assistant editor. It was a good publication but lacked organization. Jono later became the Sysop of the ADAM forum of the Family Computing section on CompuServe.
(Jono's predecessor as CompuServe Sysop was John Mesiavech, a giant of a man in both physical and intellectual dimensions. John lived is Glendale, California and attended a number of our IEAUG meetings despite the very long drive. Before moving to the Family Computing Forum, John was the mainstay at the Creative Computing magazine's ADAM section of CompuServe. Later, when he was billed for over $900 by CIS, (which John maintained was in error), be abruptly left CIS and the sysops job fell to the 12-year-old Jono Smith. Shortly afterward, John bought an Amiga and sold the residue of his ADAM equipment to Tom Ball of IEAUG.
-Another independent publication, not affiliated with a users group was the Expandable Computer News published by Sage Enterprises. It began publication in April of 1984, which makes it one of the earliest, if not THE earliest ADAM newsletter. It is largely written by Darrel Sage, but there were many regular contributors who were among the most prolific writers of that time.
Sage Enterprises was also a commercial venture. Toward the end, their interest turned to the Amstrad computer and very shortly thereafter, the bimonthly ECN folded.
-The Kansas Coleco ADAM Users Group under David Carmichael, began publishing their newsletter from Wichita, Kansas in November 1985. It has been a mainstay in the ADAM community ever since. David Carmichael has also been very active in PLINK, which has one of the friendliest ADAM forms in the country.
-The following month The Greater Cincinatti ADAM Users Stomp began publishing a newsletter from Covington, Kentucky. It was the work of Harold Orndorff and Keith Bowman.
-The Denver ADAM Users Groups began publishing newsletters. The Denver Newsletter was a bimonthly publication by Jesse Thornhill II.
-I wonder how away of you recall the ADAMNET. It was the property of Don Reese and generally operated out of Arkansas. It had numerous addresses in Arkansas.
Although it was a commercial venture, it had a large impact on the ADAM community. Ultimately, it too vanished. (Don Reese is now living in Diamond Bar, California and has disposed of all of his ADAM gear as well as his huge collection of ADAMANIA. An IEAUG member, Bob Gorden, of Yorba Linda, California bought his equipment (IEAUG has his vast library of computer programs (disks) and written documents).
In the year 1985 there were a few more influential user groups founded. If they published newsletters, I have never seen any.
The Bellevue AUG was started by Norm Castro in the Omaha, Nebraska area. Norm is still very active and has the exclusive rights to sell the back issues of Expandable Computer News and some other now extinct newsletters (see the chapter by Norm on Newsletters).
-There was a group that Don Zimmerman started in the east, called the Genessee Valley AUG.
-Russell Williams in New York City founded the Metro AUG.
-In Bloomsburg, Pa. Steve Chamberlain formed the (717) ADAM Users group.
-Brian Stranahan was listed in almost every newsletter in the country as having the Southern California ADAM Users group. This was never the case. Brian did attend a number of the early meetings when plans were being developed for a users group; but he dropped out, and to my knowledge, there never was a group led by him.
-Another piece of nostalgia concerns two early hardware companies.
The first was EVE ELECTRONICS, in Vermont. Eve produced 64K memory expanders, etc. Their demise occurred as other work interfered with ADAM work.
The second was a company known as JJ's Gourmet Hardware and Software Exchange. It was later to be known as Orphanware and later still as CL Digital. And now, according to it's founder, John Lingrel, it is Gone With The Wind.
Thomas J. Keene