HUG was established to support the new Heath computer product line, but would also provide information on other products if it related to Heath computers. For now, this page will cover the computer clubs. If you know of any Heath-related clubs dedicated to other products, please contact me.
The first HUG manager was Bob Furtaw, who'd previously worked as a supervisor in Heath factory service. Furtaw later left to go to work for another company and Jim Blake took over. Jim started another business within Heath company called Softstuff and Bob Ellerton, who was service supervisor for the computer product line, took his place. Bob was later promoted and, because he had additional responsibilities, Jim Buszkiewicz took over as HUG manager.
Jim was the last HUG manager. Zenith Data Systems later took over the group and renamed it ZUG (ugly sound, that--sounds like someone choking on a peach pit). Jim remained manager until ZDS laid him off (along with all the other people originally there) and replaced them with people of their own. In any case, ZDS is beyond the scope of these pages. If you want to learn more about ZDS, check out Mark Herman's Z-Oldies Web page.
So there's a decade of history squeezed into a few paragraphs.
During the meeting, the people from National HUG made it clear that they would not be directly involved with a local Heath User's Group. They were just trying to get people together to see if there was enough who would be interested in starting a local club.
As the discussions progressed, one attendee, Vance Fisher, made several good suggestions on the procedures for forming the club and defining its purpose. He was eventually elected the first BLHUG president. He remained president for four of the five years of BLHUGs existence, then stepped down. I was president for the last year.
At first, the content of BLHUG meetings were oriented toward the technical aspects of microcomputers: The pros and cons of various processors, how to optimize a system, programming techniques, and other subjects that a computer hobbyist would find interesting. This not only included demonstrations of new Heath computers and robots (which were computers that could move about and talk), but also included seminars on MS-DOS assembly language programming and C programming. (The C programming language was still new at the time--at least to microcomputer users. There were no courses or tutorials available; only the pre-ANSI version of The C Programming Language by Kernighan and Ritchie.)
Anyway, attendance was strong and peaked during the third year (about 75 to 80 members). After that, it began to quickly drop off. Microcomputers had become an appliance rather than a hobby that required time and effort to learn. You simply bought a personal computer, plugged it in, ran your spreadsheet program, managed your budget, turned off the computer, then watched TV.
Membership and attendance dropped so low during the last year that I published a notice in our newsletter, SCALL .PRINT, that the subject of the next meeting would be whether or not BLHUG should fold.
Only three people attended.
So we voted to disband. Our last official acts were to notify the other members of our decision and to donate the balance of our treasury (about $500) to the St. Joseph High School Computer Department (which had provided us with space for our meetings).
The hardware was a hack (in the old-fashioned sense of the term). It was an H89 Z80 CPU board mounted in a commonly-available sheet-metal chassis along with a power supply, a serial port that connected to an external auto-answer 300/1200-baud modem. The modem software and library was stored on two hard-sectored, double-density floppy disks. That combination was very unusual as most hard-sectored drives at the time were single density.
Toward the last, we moved up to a second-hand Z-100 with a 5 MB hard drive. Frank Clark took the time to write a custom BBS program for us. It was written in C and ran under MS-DOS. The five-megabyte HDD gave us plenty of room for messages and our library.
Even so, the library was small--not only due to technology limitations and budget, but also because we insisted that the donations be in the public domain and had to be compatible with Heath Company products. In addition, we encouraged people to submit source code. It didn't have to be anything fancy, just provide an example of how a certain algorithm worked, or to inspire improvements.
Here is the entire BLUG library from our BBS. It's a 600 KB ZIP file and contains programs and documents for HDOS, CP/M, ZDOS, and MS-DOS.
Back to my Heath Company page.
Copyright © 1996—2000, 2003, 2005, William Albert Wilkinson. All rights reserved.