Who in the World is Stephen M. Cabrinety?

I've been working with the Cabrinety collection for a year now. However, the collection has been part of Stanford for more than a decade. I am far from the first person to handle it and I won't be the last. For my last blog post of this year, I wanted to spend some time talking about the man behind the collection.

Stephen Michael Cabrinety was born in Sayre, Pennsylvania on August 4, 1966. He started collecting microcomputing software, hardware, and related materials while still in high school, and continued making acquisitions for the rest of his short life.  In 1982 Stephen dropped out of Stanford University and founded Superior Software, Inc. where he served as its Director of Development. Superior Software, Inc. released three educational software titles for the Apple II computer in 1982. The titles are listed below along with their locations within the collection:

1. Legendary Conflict (Series 1, Box 254)

2. Quest for the Scarlet Letter (Series 1, Box 93 and Box 254)

3. The Breckenridge Caper of 1798 (Series 1, Box 254)

In 1989 Stephen founded the Computer History Institute for the Preservation of Software (C.H.I.P.S.), the only non-profit, tax-exempt corporation at the time solely dedicated to cataloguing microcomputing software. October of 1989 he created a community computer lab in Fitchburg, Massachusetts called the Computer DISCoveries Center, with the intention of using user fees and annual dues to generate income for C.H.I.P.S. When using the Computer DISCoveries Center, people paid a $30 annual membership fee or paid by the day. The equipment in the center enabled users to transfer data from one format to another, or to copy software (limited to shareware and other non-copyrighted materials) that Stephen provided. He also spent his own money, took out bank loans, sought donations and arranged matching-gift programs with local area companies, including Digital Equipment Corporation in order to raise funds.

His greatest dream was to create an educational research archive offering a complete and accurate portrayal of the evolutionary trends of the microcomputing industry, preserving original software, hardware, and related materials for future generations to study. The C.H.I.P.S. business plan delineated Stephen’s vision and collecting philosophy, and as late as September 1995 (one month before he died), he pointed to it as the best representation of his long-term expectations for the archive. He passed away from complications due to Hodgkin’s disease on October 4, 1995 at the age of 29. At the time of his death there were more than 50,000 pieces of commercial software in his collection and approximately 300 functioning microcomputer systems.


Miller, Greg. “Software Trove Is Testament to Its Collector.” Los Angeles Times 12 August 1996. Print.

Medeiros, Richard. “A new home for old science.” Sentinel & Enterprise 12 December 1992. Print.

Nugent, Peter. “Computer center offers old and new.” The Montachusett T&G 25 November 1992. Print.               

Cabrinety, Stephen. Computer History Institute Inc. Business Plan. 1 May 1989.