(Approximate) The Chicago Area Computer Hobbyist Exchange (CACHE) is formed at Northwestern University by Bob Schwartz, in answer to a growing interest in the Microcomputer Industry. This group will soon be attended by Randy Suess and Ward Christensen, who meet and eventually create the first BBS, CBBS.
It all began in January of 1975 when Popular Electronics magazine featured
a microcomputer kit project, the Altair 8800 on their front cover. Looking
like a minicomputer of the period replete with lots of front panel
switches, this really kicked off the microcomputer revolution. There had
been a kit computer offered by RadioElectronics magazine in October of
1974 boasting the Intel 8008 chip, but it lacked the far greater
instruction set of the newer Intel 8080 and was a collection of stacked
circuit boards and a bird's nest of cables.
A small company in Albuquerque (Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems,
MITS) was offering the Altair kit for $399.00 including the 8080
microprocessor chip, hoping to sell 200.500 through Popular Electronics
and thus avoid bankruptcy. Their sales of calculator kits had been
dropping as the readymade Japanese calculators were hitting the stores.
To their astonishment, they had orders in house for 2000 kits by April
1975! There was an amazing market in the country for people who wanted to
own their own computer.
Compared to today's PCs, the Altair was primitive: it had 4K of static
memory, 25 front panel switches for programming the computer in machine
language (binary), 36 LED indicator lights to display the results of any
computation and that was all. No keyboard, no monitor, no floppy disks and
no operating system (DOS) . Naturally, everyone wanted to get their
computers beyond this stage. Any information about solving construction
problems with the Altair, software for the Altair, in short anything
related to computers was in great demand.
By the summer of `75, the obvious answer to the quest for information was
a computer club so Bob Schwartz circulated a notice to the effect that
"Anyone interested in forming a computer club should meet at Northwestern
University". A crowd of about two to three hundred people attended, agreed
to meet again, and began what is now known as the Chicago Area Computer
Hobbyist Exchange (CACHE). This was indeed an appropriate name for the
club as everyone had to build their own computer in those days and all
wanted to exchange information, hardware, and software. The club
flourished, meeting on the third Sunday of each month; first at
Northwestern, and later at a variety of schools and colleges. Our present
meetings are held at the Levy Senior Center, 2019 W Lawrence Ave.,
The format of the meetings was rather informal and informative, however it
was soon apparent to the officers of the club that we needed to divide
into groups according to brand. At that time we had the Altair, the Apple,
the Radio Shack TRS.80, the Sinclair, the Commodore, the Digital Group,
the Imsai, the SWTP 6800, and many others. No, the IBM PC wasn't around
then and didn't arrive `til August 1981. We called these individual groups
SIGs and believe that we were the first to call them by that name. After
these SIG meetings, we met in a large group to discuss topics of interest
Another of our `firsts' was the bulletin board established by Ward
Christensen and Randy Suess in February of 1978. We think it was the first
of its type in the country. Ward is also the father of X.MODEM, the first
microcomputer error correcting protocol for modems.
Slowly as the microcomputers evolved, many brand names dropped away and
the remaining SIGs are the IBM, WordPerfect, Communications, New Users,
Windows, and Technical SIGs.