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Frequently Asked Questions about the 

Computer History Association of California 


Revision: U.8 Last-npdate: 2S O^ber 1^ Lait-iip^by: KIp CriHibi' 

What and where is the Con^uter History Association of California? 

The C&m^am W^Mey Associati@n <if C$ilWmm, &t CBhC, is m (Nio^Etted mj^s^m^on nMch 
studies, preserves, protects and popularizes the history of electronic computing in tihe State of 

Its mailing address is: 3375 Alma Street, Suite 263, Palo Alto, CA 94306-3518 USA 

Its e-mail address is: 

Its home page is: 

What does the CHAC do? 

It publishes a quarterly journal called the ANALYTICAL ENGINE, devoted to the history which 
CHAC is mandated to preserve. 

It collects and archives hardware, software and documents that are significant to that history. 

It forms part of an informal network of institutions specializing in computer history, in California 
and throughout the United States. 

Through taa IMEI^llT tesmism^^ers, it corresponds electronically with 
compute historians, both professional and amateur, worldwide. 

It plans strategically for the establishment of a major, comprehensive, public museum of 
computing, probably in the Silicon Valley area, by the turn of the century. 

/* the CHAC a charity? 

CHAC is an educational corporation in the public interest. It has received recognition as a tax- 
exempt charitable organization under California Revenue & Taxation Code Section 23701(d) and 
under Federal Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)3. Its assets are the property of the people 
of Califomia. Donations to it are tax-deductible. 


The ANALYTICAL ENGINE is the quarterly jouBwl of fte CHAC, published ia February, May, 
August and November. 

What's in U? 

Per issue, three or more articles on the history of computing in Califomia; one book review; 
news oSms&Sl mcE^W^ history and of dei%lqp»niDts t& 0&<^ histori<^ iwganizatbtts; a l^ers 

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Frequently Asked Questions About the CHAC 

column; a column of queries submitted by readers; details of any acquisitions by CHAC; and 
small standard features, such as a list of publications received in the last quarter. We dont 
guarantee lliat every one of these things will be in ^h issue, but tiiaf s a good sketch of s 

Where can I get it? 

There are six ways to get a copy of the ENG1N£: 

1 : Subscribe to an JaUBBtoiA mailing list on computer history, sudi as SmitfaaonJai In^ftution's 
SHOTHC-L, and youH be notified that the ENGINE in ASCD is available far download. 

2: Subsmbe to the USENET newsgroup alt.folklm'e.con^ptaerst and receive tiie tabte of 
contents, widi downloading directions, as soon as each issue ^>pears. 

3: Browse the Web to: 


and use the flp links to download the ASCII files. The following issues are available: 





File size 


February 1996 

November 1995 




NovembOT 1995 

late October 1995 




August 1995 





May 1995 * 





Oct-Dec 1994 





Jui-Sep 1994 





Apr-Jun 1994 





Jan-Mar 1994 





Oct-Dec 1993 




Jul-Sep 1993 




With this issue we went over to newsstand dating. 

4: Request die BKGINE1b^iUQonf)pfix}m these sorvom (in /pubAvombats/CHAG/ftp/pub) [our home server!] (in /comp-hist) (in /ftp/pub/CHAC) 

5: Subscribe by mail and ^>ec^ ihe paper edition. (See below.) 

6: If you'd like one issue of the paper edition to look at, e-mail us for a list of bookstores where 
it's available — so far in northern California only; or we'll first-class-mail a copy of the latest 
issue to you for $6. 

Frequently Asked Questions About the CHAC 

Page 3 

So far you've published eight issues of the ENGINE electronically for "free. " What do you 
propose to do in the future? Is 2.4 the last free one we will get? 

No. As it says in Vl#2, "The ANALYTICAL ENGINE is intellectual shareware. Distribution of 
complete, verbatim copies.. encouraged by the CHAC..." Our primary mandate is, and will 
remain, to collect, organize, diss^inate and popularize the histoiy of compoting in €alifomit; 
and the downloadable version of the ENGINE is our most important tool for the job. Anybody 
can download the ENGINE, read it, and pass it along, providing they don't hack it. Guidelines 
for reprinting and excerpting are in every issue. 

/ understand that liimit lave to pay for the ENGINE, but if I do, how much is it? 

Individual subs are US$25 per year for downloading or US$35 per year for paper. Corporate, 
library or institutional subs are US$75 per year for downloading or US$85 per year for paper. 
Subs for seniors, students, the unemployed and the underemployed are US$15 per year for 
downloading or US$25 per year for paper. 

Why are paper copies $10 extra? 

The premium covers our cost of printing, mail preparation and first-class postage, so that the 
donated amount nranains the same for electronic and for paper subscribers. 

If I send in my money, what will I get that I don 't get now for free? 

The satisfaction of making a donation to a cause you consider important; and the knowledge tha^ 
because of you and people like you, CHAC will survive and move forward. 

Can I pay with my credit cmd? 

No! VISA International thought we were too puny to bother with. Two consultants told us we 
could never aflford it Then Mitnick came along and spooked everybody about credit cards mvst 
the Net. We have an account with First Virtual, but are still setting up to use it. 

What about overseas subs? 

At the moment, we're asking subscribers outside North America to include an extra $10 per year 
for surface mail or $18 per year for airmail. These diarges strictly pass along our cost, but we 
feel that tiiejr're inoidio^ly high, and if we G«xi find an appropriately quick mediod of delivery 
that's cheaper than U. S. Postal Service, we will use it and cut tiie surcharge. 

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Frequently Asked Questions About the CHAC 

What about submitting articles? 

The ANALYTICAL ENGINE solicits manuscripts of 1000 to 2500 words on the general topic of 
the history of computing in, or with significant reference to, the State of California. Articles 
should focus on one interesting or illuminating episode and should be written for a technically 
literate general audience. Sulnntssions are welcome from both members and non-members of the 
CHAC. Article deadlines are July 1 5 for the November issue, October 15 for the February issue, 
January 15 for the May issue, and April 15 for the August issue. 

Each author may publish a maximum of one signed aiftcle pear year« This restriction does not 
apply to letters, queries or interviews. Thank you for cooperating to protect diversity of voices 
and topics. Previously published material will be republished only in clearly attributed quotations 
or citations; or when its publication in the ANALYTICAL ENGINE will bring it to tiie attention 
of a significantly broader audience; or when the ori^nal publication is matmally obsolete or 

Decision of the editors is final but copyright of dl published material will remain with the 

The {Htsfenvd document file format is Microsoft Wwd tm DOS or Wtawiows, but almost any 

DOS or Macintosh word processor file will be acceptable. Submit manuscripts on DOS 5.25" or 
3.5", or Mac FDHD (1 .4) diskettes. Alternatively, please send your article as ASCII or ISO 
Internet mail. Please avoid submitting on paper unless absolutely necessary. 

Can Iggt back issues? 

Back issues in plaintext will remain available fi"om the ftp servers till further notice. Back paper 
copies of Volume 1, Number 2 (October 1993) and thereafter are available from the Palo Alto 
address for $6 each. Volume 1, Number 1 (July 1993) is available for $3. Note: Some issues in 
paper are now in short supply. At present we have no plans to reprint them! 

Frequently Asked Questions About the CHAC 

Page 5 


In Robert X. Ctmgdiy's tiiought-p-oivoldng book, AccMerOed Empires (Ad^^a-Wesl^, 1992,) 

he points out that the year 1999 will witness a mass die-off of older mainframes — not in terms 
of their being replaced by denser and quicker systems, which has been happening for years 
ah-eady, but because they abruptly lose their ability to process transactions. 

The reasoning behind this is various, but the simple case is that many older mainfiames 
(especially if they're running COBOL) store their dates in the format 

and, when YY returns as 00, will halt on error. "Hardly any programmer in 1959 expected his 
payroll application to be still cutting checks in 1999," says Cringely, "so nobody thought to teach 
many of these computer programs what to do when the calendar finally says it's the year 2000." 
They didn't reckon with the principle of cybernetic inertia, which says that hardware in place 
tends to remain in place. 

Sure, there may be workarounds. But for lots of older computers, the programming overhead of 
dealing with this kink will be the last push over the cliff. Cringely's right; mainframes will be 
scrapped wholesale, and the oldest first. From the standpoint (^te^StxQ ittHC# makes s^e, 
since the oldest hardware is usually the slowest. But to the M^ie^ sod preservationist, tiie 
oldest hardware is often the most significant. 

If we intend to respond to this crisis, we have five years to make plans and marshal resources; 
five years to find and equip facilities; five years to nail down funding. And for a project of this 
size, five years is not a long time. Anyone seriously interested in preserving the history of 
computing — which certainly means any reader of this FAQ — is actually advised to figure liiat 
we're in a screaming hurry. 

In the October 1993 issue of the ANALYTICAL ENGINE, the Computer History Association of 
California announced INll^lWE 1999. What this is, and what it becomes, will be elaborated 
in future issues. For the moment, just plant two cardinal points in your mind: 

1 ) On or before January 1 , 1 999, we would like to see chaptm of this Con^ialir TSMory 
Association established in every state of the Union. To that end, we will advise;, collaborate 
with, and give moral support to any responsible groups of historians and preservationists who 
express serious intention of founding such an Association. 

2) On or before January 1, 1999, we intend to open a museum large enough to display a 
significant part of the history of computing in California, presenting the broadest available 
spectroan of appropriate artifects, and using the (then) most contemporary technology for 
instruction by interactive and virtual lItiMS> T© that ^id, we would appreK^^ the donation of 
(for example) a large disused factory or warehouse, convenient to freeways, and with loading 
docks; of pertinent hardware and software; of expert consultation, particularly with reference to 
accession, registration and curatorship; and of i^tt^iate amounts of money. 

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Frequently Asked Questions About the CHAC 

We reiterate: Five years is not a long time. What we're trying to do here can only be done once, 
or given up for lost. If you're reading ffais FAQ, you can help, with a donation to the 
ENGINE or with that factory. 

Save the mainframes! 

(Update: This hit the mainstream press in March 1995 when Guy GugUoHlL, in the "Capitol 
Notebook" column of the Washington Post, summarized it with a deliciously dire spin. "This is 
no joke," he opines; "....conversion to make federal computers read dates beyond Dec. 31, 1999, 

cost a^ estimated $75 billion in the United States.. ..In^«id... .you have to get deep into 
your computer system and change every line of code that uses a two-digit date field to one that 
has four digits. Better get started early.... [Conversion expert Chuck] Ross estimates that the 
averagi te6iml i^pi^ med ^ 7S to 100 appUcaticms, which should take 45,000 to 
60,000 people-days.") 


Do you have an old micro that's cluttering up your closet or garage? Look at the manufacturer's 
nameplate (probably where the serial number is) and see if it was made in California. 

If iti)in»j eiMiict CiiAC. ^mmiSf ^mm meseSeax^vm vimL..MiA "well taie 'ttxMyam hands 
and pay the freight. We're also interested in old docs and software. You get a tax deduction ftw* 
this, based on a valuation from an independent, published source. 

Put it this way: We can always use more money. We can always use more credibility. But if we 
don 't have more space we '11 die. 

In its brief but incandescent career, the CHAC has been offered a dazzling array of significant 
hardware — from singleboards and chipsets to an SDS 930 mainframe with seven tape drives. 
Whatever we accept, we caa save from des^c^n. But we can only acc^ it if we have 
someplace to put it! 

Ten thousand square feet, intelligentl^configered, would stme the hardware, soflwajre, docs and 
ephemera we're likely to be offered between now and the establishment of the Museum. 
Somewhere, on one of the South Bay's expressways, is a faintly forlorn tilt-up past its 
prime.... ready for a new lease on life from the CHAC. 

Can you offer us this building? (Read: Has your maturing, successful corporation outgrown its 
start-up space?) Step forward and be our Major Hero of the year. Adequate storage would give 
the MuseiiiEi its y^jp^ pw^le boost; and we can offer an equival^t tax deduc^on at fair 
mark^ strictly by the book.