When I was discharged from the US Navy in 1970, as an electronic technician, I joined Singer Business Machines (Div. of Singer Co.). SBC made mini-computers. Remember the expression "mini-computer?" Minicomputers were quite large. The disk drives were the size of a washing machine. As a result of being both a service technician and programmer for the System Ten by SBC, I became interested in computing. That was the minicomputer and mainframe era.
By 1985, I had been involved with minis and mainframes for 15 years and started my own business. The microcomputer was a natural investment for me when I became self-employed. My first computer was a Compaq portable computer. The Compaq weighed about 35 pounds, and it was the size of a suitcase. It had a built-in monitor (black and white), a "big" 10-megabyte hard disk and a floppy drive. That was the DOS operating system days. Selling microcomputer software demanded that I had a machine that I could bring with me for demonstrations of the product. Carrying the Compaq was like going to the gym. After taking it into NYC for a demo, I had enough exercise for a week. It was a full workout!
Joining BCUG was an amazing experience. Everyone at the “club” was sincere and dedicated to microcomputers. All were ahead of their time as early adopters of PCs. I enjoyed being an “experienced” user and became president of the club in 1989. After a few months of being the only presenter at each meeting, I started to recruit presenters from the many software/hardware companies that sold PC products and services. I believe I started the process of getting industry professionals to help the members become informed about PC software and hardware. Some of these presenters also brought their LCD overhead projection units. The flat LCD overhead projection unit was a blessing. I can remember bringing my Compaq portable and a monitor with me to the meeting in order to have everyone see the presentation on a monitor screen.
Thanks to the support of Fred Kagel, the previous president, Ruth and Cass Lewart and a few other loyal members, we kept the club going.
Right now, I am still self-employed, selling Computerized Maintenance Management Software and developing websites. Visit www.wsinetpro.com. Oops, not to forget, I don’t make many meetings anymore. Three years ago I moved to Maui, Hawaii. Come visit anytime, you’ll be glad you did.
Aloha, Frank Fiorentino
Fred Kagel recalls that it was Frank Fiorentino who invited a small company to present hierarchical databases to a BUG-80 meeting. That "small" company was Oracle.
Fred also recalls that it was Frank that personally called him to keep Fred interested in the club.
Andrea and I managed to meet up with Frank - just barely - at the Whaler's Village on Maui. We had sent him email before we left on 12/5 but didn't get a response. I tried calling him from my cell phone in Maui on 12/8, but still no response (found out later the message was garbled). Tried again on 12/9 (last night in Maui). Finally hooked up with him. He told me he had tossed our email since he didn't recognize the email address and figured it was just spam. So the regular telephone finally succeeded whereas the newer forms of communications (cell phone and email) had failed. Frank joined us for about 1-1/2 hrs at an outdoor grill where Andrea and I were just finishing dinner. He had arrived about 30 minutes early.
I took the following notes:
-Frank says he started the practice of getting speakers from outside BCUG. Prior to his presidency, speakers were solely club members (e.g., Cass Lewart). He figured people were tired of hearing the same speakers rotating on a 3-4 month basis and started contacting outside vendors to come speak to BCUG.
-At the time, about 20 people would turn out for the general meeting, and it was held in one of the regular classrooms, not the auditorium. BCUG did not have its own PC or projector, although it was just starting to save for an LCD. The people would just gather around a laptop and look at what was happening on the monitor.
-Of course, DOS programs were still popular.
-The monthly general meeting was all there was. No Workshops (that, as we know, came with John Corbett).
-Frank may have quoted a total membership, but I don't recall what it was. For some reason, I think 60-70 may have been the number.
-HTHS, which the club depends on a lot, existed as an entity, but did not have its own building. It met at BCC.
-The newsletter was one page.
-BCUG did not attend Intergalactica, which just started around 1987 (two years before Frank's presidency).
-Frank remembers talking about 8080 based machines at BCUG.
-Software sold at an auction included manuals. Auctions themselves were a bit of a novelty.
-Frank's business involved software for work order flow, inventory, and maintenance.
I would make a small bet that it might be possible to get Frank to visit NJ --- maybe to coincide with the 25th anniversary.
[As it turned out Fred Burg won the bet. Frank was the guest of honor at a Presidential Diner at the Grist Mill in Tinton Falls in September 2003, a few months before the 25th anniversary in December.