Report from 1978's "Second West Coast Computer Faire"

This report from the Second West Coast Computer Faire -- in 1978 -- from Byte magazine is a perfect time-capsule of the heroic age of personal computing:
I enjoyed the many special features of the show, particularly the excellent computer generated art on display in the lobby. The microcomputer chess tournament proved to be one of the hits of the show. Larry Wagner from Atari presided over the 3 day battle of the processors, taking time out to give me a guided tour of the tournament. The level of play was impressive, and the winning program, called SARGON, was a 16 K byte Z-80 assembler program written by a husband and wife team, Kathe and Dan Spracklen. It beat some highly touted com- petition. (A copy of the SARGON program is available for $15 postpaid from the Spracklens, 10832 Macouba PI, San Diego CA 92124.) I was impressed with the professional appearance of the show, which held its own with many of the established engineering and computing shows. The Third West Coast Computer Faire will be held this coming November 3, 4 and 5 in Los Angeles. Plan to see it if you can.”
The Second West Coast Computer Faire (Jul, 1978)


  1. Ha!  I remember Sargon fondly.  Playing the game and also perusing the source code on my Commodore 64.  Of course, being about 7 at the time, I knew what the string of movement formulas were for but otherwise it was mind-boggling to me.

    1. I used to play Sargon on the Apple ][. A piece of trivia — the chess game that Kurt Russell plays near the beginning of John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is in fact that version of Sargon.

  2. It’s refreshingly anti-steampunk and the handwritten flyers taped the wall are just adorable, but I’m still trying to figure out what Michael Nesmith has to do with Star Wars.

  3. I remember going to early computer fairs (Atari and Apple era). I recall booths by Creative Computing and Scott Adam’s Adventure International. Fascinating stuff, but with so many choices — and no way to afford a computer — I felt utterly intimidated and behind the times. (“How could I every be part of this?”)

    By the time I had my own machine (an early IBM PC) computer faires had degenerated into glorified flea markets, with a wild variety of vendors (many of them dodgy bottom-feeders) selling old and new hardware and software. (Of course, I was a dodgy bottom feeder of sorts. I bought cheap floppies and resold them to fellow college students to be able to afford pizza and meals at diners. I actually folded my own floppy disk envelopes, because the bulk packs I bought didn’t come with them.)

  4. I’ve actually got a copy of the proceedings of the faire, if anybody is interested. There’s a great quote from the banquet speech given by Adam Osborne (of Osborne Computers):

    “Very large, low-cost memory devices, as they appear in the future, are
    likely to revolutionize more industries than any other single
    development. I single out the music industry – the recording and
    reproduction of sound – as the one likely to experience devastating
    changes in the future.”

    1. I, for one, would LOVE a copy. I missed out on all of this stuff the first time around, on account of not being born yet, but I find early computing history Fascinating. 

  5. Egad, my mom actually took me to that one. And we bought a copy of Sargon. Thanks for the blast from the past.

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