In a sleepy valley in California in the early 1970s, something big was stirring. 

In 1971 Bill Hewlett of Hewlett Packard fame, issued a challenge to his engineers: fit all of the features of their desktop scientific calculator into a package which would be small enough for his shirt pocket. The result? The HP-35, the first hand-held calculator which was advertised as “a fast, extremely accurate electronic slide rule”.

hp35 desktop scientific calculator

As a result of these developments, (mostly) young men were tinkering in their garages to develop diverse electronic devices. Magazines such as “Radio Electronics” featured stories on how to build these kinds of devices by yourself at home.

Cover of Radio-Electronics magazine 1974

In this environment of tinkering and creating mock-ups, Gordon French (along with a few of his acquaintances, notably Lee Felsenstein and Fred Moore) decided to form a club which they named the “Homebrew Computer Club”. The idea behind the club was to have tinkerers come together to exchange ideas and trade hard-to-get parts.

Gordon French's  business card in Menlo Park

Gordon French’s business card, handed out so that club members would know where to meet.

Of course, Gordon held the first meeting of the club in his garage in Menlo Park in March of 1975!

Gordon French in front of photo of Homebrew Computer in Computer History Museum

Two early members of the club were Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. Their Apple-1 ‘computer’ was first presented at a meeting of this club in 1976.  Steve Wozniak later said:

 “Without computer clubs there would probably be no Apple computers.

The Homebrew Computer Club existed from 1975 to 1986. It is widely credited as a critical force in the development of the microcomputer revolution and the rise of Silicon Valley.

Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs constructing an Apple 1 computer

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