Stan Veit's Book
Just another note to tell you of my progress to date in reading Stan Viet's history. I'm into the chapter on IMSAI, and so far except for one flat outright lie (for which he should know better) I think the book is pretty objective. The lie is (of course) that The Computer Mart was the second store in the world. He knows very well that it isn't true, even if he chose to ignore The Data Domain altogether. There were already several MITS dealers already and at least two or three "other product" dealers, like for example, The Byte Shop of Paul Terrell and another store in Berkeley whose name I can't remember. I actually visited both of those stores in early February 1976, at least three or four weeks before The Computer Mart and The Data Domain opened for business the same day, March 1st, 1976. Now he knows that, so I just wonder why he would tell such a falsehood.
I've been reading and am up to page 149, about to start the chapter on The Digital Group. Reading his stuff is absolutely fascinating. He tells some of it so well, with little embellishment, and then suddenly goes into fantasy land where he almost always shows himself to have been a soothsayer, prognosticator and pioneer's pioneer, always one step ahead and always right in the long run. I did notice though that his business failed almost three years before mine, and mine failed after I let some outside investors throw me out. (I must admit that I haven't told you about myself in those days. I will soon, suffice to say that I was totally disorganized, smoked four packs of butts a day and worked in an office that looked like a land fill.)
Now, back to Stan Viet. I realize that I outsmarted him with IMSAI dealer pricing. He accepted Ed Faber's deal of ordering 50 machines and paying up front for future releases. The trouble with that deal was that IMSAI kept raising the retail price of the products which effectively raised the dealer cost so he never got more than the twenty to twenty-five percent discount, and never raised his margins. I did a bit better. By agreeing to 100 machines I locked the dealer price at the 25% discount off the retail price at the time of the contract. Every time they raised the retail price, my margins went up until I had sold all of the machines I had committed to, and a good deal of the 100 I had committed Ted Nelson's itty bitty machine company to as well. When they ran out, IMSAI had established dealer policies that quite simply were designed to drive the weaker dealers away so they could use the product to stock ComputerLand franchises which enjoyed better discounts anyway. I talked to the two gentlemen who had the Indianapolis area franchise, which included Bloomington and they told me that southern Indiana would be the last place into which they would venture because "Southern Indiana belongs to The Data Domain." One of those partners was the Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, so I was very flattered. ComputerLand finally did arrive in Bloomington, in about 1980, from another franchise in eastern Illinois, but they didn't bother us much, and went away after a year or so.
I'm getting off the subject again. And I talk about Stan Veit's ego! I better wind this up for now. I typed about this much earlier, then somehow lost it again. I do not know how I do that but it has something to do with reaching for the left hand shift key and snagging another one at the same time. Everything just disappears out of the message portion of the screen and I can't find it anywhere in the system. I am becoming more and more convinced that I should try to put my memories into some order.
Reading Stan's reordering of events just kills me. For example, he says that the SOL-20 was introduced in his booth at the New Jersey convention in the summer of 1976. There was a three day meeting of the Midwest Association of Computer Clubs in Cleveland on June 12, 13 and 14, 1976, attended by nearly 5,000 people. The Data Domain split the cost of a double booth with Processor Tech and they demonstrated the SOL-20. I believe it was Bob Marsh and Steve Dompier and they demonstrated a little graphic program that drew a train on the screen and it chugged across, puffing smoke out of its stack and attracting people from all over the convention center. They also showed a little S-100 card that generated music which played from the attached speakers. They used PTC's own Basic 5 to program the thing. To tell you the truth I was so busy selling everything we had to a crazed mob of computer nuts that I didn't get enough time to really study the demonstrations. That was several months before Atlantic City.
Another thing that bothers me is that he says that the VDM-1 was advertised in the first issue of Byte, which is true. But then he says it didn't become available until the fall of 1976, a year later. Yet the video display section of the SOL-20 is the VDM-1 design incorporated along with the design of the 3P+S and an 8080 CPU and some other stuff on a single mother board. And that design was a done deal in June of 1976. We had sold a heck of a lot of boards which looked like VDM-1, acted like VDM-1 and were key to the sale of many IMSAI computers, for months before then. And I told you about the 3P+S at the World Altair conference in March 1976. Yet every thing he says about South West Tech is exactly as I recall, including how they first screwed their dealers and then drove them away.
Well, I finished it over lunch. He is a writer there is no doubt of that, and I must admit that having been in NYC during the earliest days put him in a unique position to become acquainted with everybody and anybody. I only got to talk to some of them by phone, and many not at all. Later, his positions at Popular Electronics and Computer Shopper were even more opportune to do what to him came naturally -- writing. I don't know much at all about the Commodore story, or Atari, or Texas Instruments, Sinclair and the rest of the "little machine" companies. I guess, if I'm as objective as I can be, I would have to say that it is a great book. If one does not know about the lies and rearranged chronological events, it would all look perfectly plausible. He never mentions things he feels uncomfortable with, and glosses over dates and events when they don't fit with his interest.
I don't know if I told you what happened to me soon after the Computer
History Club asked me to become a member. Re: the section in the stuff you
sent me titled "Stan Viet's Book." In there I tell the story about how the
SOL-20 was shown in the MACC Show in Cleveland on the 12th and 13th of
June, a couple months prior to when Viet claims it was introduced.
UNDERSTAND, I WOULD SWEAR TO THIS IN COURT, UNDER OATH. I went into this
with the CHC and Lee Felsenstein came down on me hard, saying that it could
not have been done because the design of the packaging and the design of the
power supply were not done until after July 1st, and that he had asked Bob
Marsh if he remembered it, and Bob's response was that he had not been in
Cleveland that month and didn't know when. He also said that if Steve
Dompier had shown his "choo-choo" board it must have been plugged into an
I have to acknowledge Lee's higher authority because he designed the danm
thing! So I had to write to Mike Swaine and confess my error, which got into
the book. And now I'm "fessing-up" to you! (But I would still like to know
what it is that is so vivid in my memory.)