[Smaug] Dawn of Personal computing: West Coast Computer Faire

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Apr 19 14:10:15 PDT 2011

Quoting Peter Belew (abcruzww at gmail.com):

> And the computer faires were replaced by the so-called "swap meets",
> with lots of small vendors, mostly local, selling bargain-price
> software and parts at the Cow Palace, San Mateo Fairgrounds, a civic
> auditorium in Oakland, etc.

There were two companies that did that:  One was Robert Austin Company
of San Bruno, which did the weekend events in the Cow Palace, Oakland
Convention Center, and (sometimes) Pleasanton & San Mateo Fairgrounds.  
They quietly folded in 2005.  A second company whose name eludes me --
CompuMart? -- held events in Hayward, Livermore, and Vallejo.  No idea
what happened to them.

(These were distinct from the Vintage Computer Festival and ham events,
which persist.)

One interesting thing about Robert Austin Company is that its employees
had no understanding whatsoever of computing.  They strictly were in the
middleman business, selling admission tickets (sometimes) to attendees
and charging per-table fees to vendors.  That was enough to keep them
afloat for a decade.

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