Heath Clubs and Related Organizations

This document was updated on Saturday, 2 April 2005.
Only internal changes; no new content.


Table of Contents

Introduction
Heath User's Group
Blossomland Heath User's Group
OMAHUG!

Introduction

Most of the clubs that were specifically dedicated to Heath products that I'm aware of were the various regional branches of the Heath Users Group (HUG), which flourished in the mid 80's. (A magazine that Heath started in the late '80s, Kit Builders Journal provided a club-like atmosphere, but I don't know if any organizations were formed.)

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.


Heath User's Group (HUG)

Heath Company started HUG about the same time they introduced their computer products (about 1977). At roughly the same time, an individual named Charles Floto proposed publishing an independent newsletter for Heath users called HUG that would be dedicated to Heath computers and other products. Though I don't know the details, Heath Company won the use of the name and acronym. So Floto named his newsletter BUSS, which contained information about Heath computers, tips from the readers, and rumors about what was going on at Heath Company. (It was an interesting newsletter, by the way. Many people at Heath Company read it to find out what new products Heath intended to release.)

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.


Blossomland Heath Users' Group (BLHUG)

Quick History

In the early to mid '80s, several regional HUGs that were already established when National HUG (during Bob Ellerton's reign) hosted a meeting to establish a regional Heath User's Group in the St.Joseph/Benton Harbor, Michigan area. The meeting was held at the Heath plant on Lakeshore Drive in the room which formerly belonged to the Heath Credit Union. The public was invited and enough people attended to fill up the room.

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).

BLHUG Officers

Here are some of the BLHUG Officers (and other people who went above and beyond the call of duty to support the club). The list is not complete and probably contains some errors:

The BLHUG BBS

From what I remember, the BLHUG BBS was started during the initial meeting hosted by National HUG. Two people (sorry--can't remember their names) had written a BBS program in Pascal (possibly an early version of Turbo Pascal) and offered it as BLHUGs first bulletin board system.

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.


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Copyright © 1996—2000, 2003, 2005, William Albert Wilkinson. All rights reserved.