FROM COMPUTER LUNCH
TO DIGITAL DELI
The Lunch Group began inauspiciously enough on July 29, 1982, over a Mexican lunch on Manhattan's West 44 Street. Of the quintet of New York journalists, three had used personal computers for more than a month, two actually owned their machines, and one later confessed to having been totally intimidated by the rather simplistic conversation. Within a year, that one reporter would write an influential cover story for a major business magazine, nudging the price of IBM stock up by over 10 percent in a single week.
As the personal computer industry grew, so did our informal lunch group and the level of its sophistication. Our numbers expanded to include regular contributors to national news, business, consumer and lifestyle periodicals, as well as members of the popular computer press and book authors. Our discussions began to revolve around the instant folklore of microcomputers, with such recurring names as Woz and Budge and Draper and Gates. Our culinary preferences tended toward burgers and salads, but the talk was more often than not about Apples and IBMs.
Seldom were heard the words "bit" or "byte" or any unduly technical debates, since our backgrounds and interests tended to be humanistic as well as practical., We shared the joys and tribulations of setting up a first computer system, of learning a word processing program, of sending articles over telephone lines, of applying the personal computer revolution to our lives. We took pride in experiencing the frontiers of what many felt to be the most far-reaching and influential cultural development any journalist or author could hope to cover at this time.
Each of us came to computers in different ways. My own path led from twelve years of covering pop culture for a variety of national publications. Looking back, the progression from reviewing rock-and-roll to writing about personal computer software was a logical one: after all, a disk is a disk is a disk ... I had watched the entertainment industry go through periods of expansion and decline. The lessons learned would aid me in writing about the world of personal computing-after word processing on an Apple II almost doubled my professional output and income, sealing my fate as a computer enthusiast.
Other regulars at our monthly lunches came from hard news, feature, political, travel and even porn writing backgrounds, bringing varied insights and a spirit of noncompetitiveness to our peripatetic feasts. We changed restaurants six times in our first year as the group grew larger and hungrier.
When Peter Workman of Workman Publishing first heard about our odd assemblage of computer humanists, he exclaimed: "The Lunch Group. We must have a book by The Lunch Group!" It was he who gave us our name-though in all accuracy, writers have been gathering for lunch ever since the invention of the writer's block. It was Mr. Workman who suggested a book of original, informative writing and art about our computerized era. The result of his inspiration and ours is this volume.
The book came together during a period of boom and bust in the personal computer industry, and of tremendous demand on the time and talents of those involved in covering it. Overnight it seemed everyone in The Lunch Group was working on the Big Interview/Article/Book. Suddenly we were too busy to do justice to the rich banquet of personal computer lore on our own, so we invited some distinguished guests to join in.
Our contributors were scattered across the country and were never destined to be in one place at one time. We nonetheless formed a network of elective affinities, representative of the personal computer community at large. Our ages ranged from thirteen to sixty-three, and lest anyone believe that computer users must all be dehumanized wretches, during the gestation of this book we actually had more than our share of births, weddings and at least one stellar transcontinental love affair.
We tried to include as many differing viewpoints as possible, but certain prejudices remain, like the fundamental belief that personal computers are a positive force for the empowerment of the individual, reaffirming our right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Incidentally, our title, Digital Deli seemed the only logical choice once we got to sample the variety of contributions about our digitally-based computer culture. We are grateful for the opportunity to give new meaning to Gerald Wright's alliterative pun, first applied to his pioneering Silicon Valley computer store.
As with any ambitious publishing project, the process of putting this book together had its ups and downs. Without our computers, Apple II's #630912 and #965517 (and their associated Epson FX-80 dot matrix printers), this task would have been close to impossible. Using WordStar as our word processing program, we were able to streamline production for this book, typesetting directly from the disks used for editing copy.
Digital Deli would not exist were it not for the prodigious digits of Carla Marie Rupp, who entered most of the words between these covers and many more; Sally Kovalchick, our persistent editor at Workman; Lynn Strong, our eagle-eyed copy editor; Paul Hanson, art director extraordinary; Diane Le Masters, ingenious designer; Robin Holland, photographer first class; and Rona Beame, patient photo researcher. Thanks also to Wayne Kirn, Digital Deli's production manager, for taking the plunge into computerization; to Bill Effros, our technical editor, for good vibrations; and to Barbara Plumb, who introduced us to Workman Publishing. And to my techno-romantic muse. She knows ...
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