Chris Espinosa on The Byte Shop

Source: Interview with Chris Espinosa, 13 June 2000.

Espinosa: In the summer of 1975, one of my friends and co-hobbyists had a father who was head of IS at Kaiser Aerospace and Electronics, and he had a couple tickets to the California Computer Show, which was being held in Rickey's Hyatt. This friend of mine and I went with his father to the show. We walked the aisles and there were these big disk drives, and minicomputers, and it was basically mid-1970s mini-mainframe oriented.

But there was one guy in a 5 x 5 booth with a card table, and an ASR-33 teletype tape punch, which we were very familiar with. There were no other ASR-33 teletypes on the floor, it was completely ancient, and he was trying to bootstrap it to a MITS Altair 8088 with Microsoft BASIC read from a tape punch. Even though we'd never seen an Altair, and we'd never seen Microsoft BASIC, we sort of knew how to do it. So my friend and I got the machine up and running.

The guy introduced himself as Paul Terrell, and handed us some flyers about his store, the Byte Shop, that was having its grand opening next month in Mountain View. So the next month we go up to Mountain View for the big grand opening-- and it's not open yet. He's still putting plaster on the walls, moving stuff around [Pang laughs], but my friend and I spend much of that summer at that and the other Byte Shops. At those computer stores, which was the early nexus where people would meet and share information, we read Byte Magazine and Interface Age, and saw flyers for Homebrew Computer Club.

The problem was that my friend and I were 13 and 14 years old, couldn't drive, and didn't really have the persuasive powers to get our parents to drive us on an evening up to Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

But in one of the stores, I think the Palo Alto store, I met Steve Jobs when he was installing an Apple I. I started working on an Apple I because it had an incredibly advanced user interface: instead of toggling in your programs in binary on the LED panel, you got to type them in in hexadecimal in the keyboard [Pang laughs]. That was an advanced user interface. And it was a completely self-contained, one-piece design with everything on one board that you didn't even have to solder together yourself.

So I really became enamored of the Apple I, despite my friend's prescient observations that if I didn't learn 8088 assembler language and went with the 6502 I'd be stuck in a backwater, because the Intel chip and the S-100 Bus and Microsoft BASIC were absolutely going to be the standards. [Pang laughs] This was in 1975. And 25 years later, S-100 bus came and went, but Intel and Microsoft basically won, and I've stuck with the loyal opposition.

Pang: What's happened to this friend of yours?

Espinosa: Jim Guard, last I heard of him he was working at-- not Mountain Computer, not Cromemco, but one of the other S-100 computers that went CP/M and then morphed into something else. I have no idea if they still exist any more. I haven't heard from him in 20 years.


Document created on 6 July 2000;