ACGNJ is the oldest personal computer club and user group in the world.
Amateur Computer Group of New Jersey
A computer user group (club) based in Scotch Plains, NJ

From the Founder of the ACGNJ

by Sol Libes

I founded the ACGNJ in May 1975, none of the original members are still in the club.

I created the ACGNJ because, in the late 1960's and early 1970's, together with a few of my students at Union County College, I had designed and built a small microcomputer, as well as several other digital projects, in the early 1970's. These were extracurricular learning projects and we had formed a small club to do this. I was aware that there other experimenters doing similar things. I was in touch with a few of these computer hobbyists comparing our efforts. Computer kit were introduced in the mid 1970's and we wanted to band together to learn more and help one another in our computer building activities. I had actually joined the Amateur Computer Society in 1968. The ACS was founded by Stephen Grey, in New York City, in 1965. However, Stephen closed up the club in early 1975 and created a vacuum that I filled by creating the ACGNJ at that time

I served as the ACGNJ President for the first six years, I then stepped down to Vice President for two years, I founded the IBM-PC SIG, and led it for four years before finally retiring, from any administrative positions.

When I retired as ACGNJ President, in 1981, the club had over 1,600 members. There were other clubs that quickly grew to have more members, but they were short lived. Many of the ACGNJ members lived outside New Jersey, and a few lived outside the country. They joined to get our very popular club newsletter, our annual printed membership directory, access our software libraries, and to use our on-line Bulletin Board System.

While I was President, we had several SIGs for CP/M, Apple, Radio Shack, Atari, and other computer types. We typically had attendance of 200-300 at main meetings. They were typically held in large cafeterias, or auditoriums, at Union County College, Middlesex County College, and Rutgers University, among others locations. For the first five, or six years, we also had flea markets at all monthly main meetings with many vendor tables.

In 1976 we created one of the first on-line Bulletin Board Systems with free access that anyone could log into. The system remained in operation until 1996....over 20 years of continuous operation. We created the first on-line software library from which users could download software. The system also had chat rooms, and a crude e-mail facility. In 1990 the system was linked to the Internet.

In 1977 we founded the SIG/M Software Library. It operated until 1983. In the six years of operation it created and distributed over 2,000 public domain and shareware CP/M programs on close to a hundred different floppy disks to over 50 computer clubs around the world. This was the first Software Library ever created for Personal Computers.

In 1983 we created the PC/Blue Software Library and distributed over 200 different public domain IBM-PC compatible software disks and shipped thousands of disks to hundreds of clubs around the world. Hank Kee served as the Librarian for both libraries creating the disks; Bob Todd, Steve Leon, and several other volunteers handled the distribution. The Library operated until the early 1990's when the Internet became a more popular way of distributing public-domain and shareware software.

In April 1976, Allen Katz and I organized the Trenton Computer Festival...the first Personal Computer show ever. It was a function of the ACGNJ and was held on the campus of Trenton State College (later renamed to The College of New Jersey). The first TCF had about a dozen exhibitors, an outdoor flea market, some exhibits, and a few talks. A few hundred people attended, many coming from as far away as California, Florida, and Canada. Over a thousand people attended the second annual festival and there was a substantial increase in exhibitors, the size of the flea market, exhibits, and talks. I also invited several other clubs to join in with us to run the event. Within a few years attendance rose to almost 20,000 and the size of the show also grew proportionately. It took several hundred club members to run the annual event

It was at the second TCF that we held out first banquet with John Mauchly, the co-inventor of Eniac, the first electronic digital computer, as the featured speaker.

The ACGNJ, in its 26th year of operation, is THE oldest Personal Computer club in the world.

Sol


Founding

In May 1975 I sent out a notice calling for a meeting of computer hobbyists. The meeting took place the first week in June. About 25 people came to the meeting, which was held at Union County Technical Institute in Scotch Plains. It was at that meeting that we agreed to found a club and called it the "Amateur Computer Society of New Jersey." Since I was the person that called the meeting, it was decided that I should be the President of the club.

Steve Grey, the President of the "Amateur Computer Society", which started 10 years earlier, complained about the name we chose for the club, and at our second meeting, we agreed to change the name to "Amateur Computer Group of New Jersey." Fifty people attended our second meeting!

It is funny, that a few months after starting ACGNJ, the ACS went out of existence. By then we had well over 100 members and we decided to keep our new name!

Sol


Steve Grey, the President of the Amateur Computer Society (Search for "Amateur Computer Society")

What was the first personal computer

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