After hearing Open Source Bridge co-founders Selena and Audrey on Twit.tv FLOSS Weekly, Mike Vore was kind enough to drop us a note about another Oregon open source gathering that preceded Open Source Bridge by a year or 27, the Semi Official Gathering (SOG).
Very informal. Very open source (although it was called “public domain” back then). Very cool.
Here’s Mike’s recollection of the three SOGs he attended:
I had been getting Micro Cornucopia magazine for years and had read the articles about SOGs and dreamed of one day being there. But because of family commitments I missed the first 5. Then I got the opportunity to go in 1987, and what a blast.
First off, they were cheap—at that time I think the fee was $150, and that included Room and Meals at COCC. We stayed in the dorms at the college. Grand View was the name of the Student Union, which was at the top of a hill facing the mountains about 25 miles to the west. And it was a grand view.
I had been playing around with my Apple II (6502) with a CPM (Z80) card and had gotten Xmodem and Bye working on both types of systems, but didn’t run a BBS. This was just for fun. And all in Assembly.
This was in the time when 1200bps modems ruled, and “Social Networking” (What’s That?) was CompuServe or The Source. Or if you were lucky, a friend with ARPA Net connectivity—via UUCP. All were dial-up except for the large Universities and Government installations.
Again back to SOG. Dave Thomas, the publisher of MicroC (as it was affectionately called) had started SOG on a whim. He put a mention in one issue that on one weekend his garage would be open, the BBQ hot, and some beer on ice. He thought that only a couple locals would show up.
To his surprise, I think, it was more like a couple dozen, one from as far away as Denmark (he showed up for all the rest too). Dave realized the need for a gathering of this type—and “unconferences,” another term that had not yet been invented.
For the next few years he, Larry Fogg, and the staff of the magazine worked to make SOG a reality. Up through SOG-6 it was held in Bend. And the day before the sessions was always a white water raft trip on the Deschutes. This was a great way to unwind from our day jobs, and get to know the other participants in a relaxed way.
Then to get away from Oregon, the next couple SOGs were more regional, Scott Ladd held one in Gunisson, Co. and the next year others were held around the country. One even in York, Pa., only a couple hours drive from my home.
The more regional ones were not as good as the original, and by the 7th or 8th Dave Thomas was getting burned out. He even “folded” the magazine—there was no one that could keep one up to his standards. And by that time IBM-DOS—later to become MS-DOS—was taking over the world from Apple-DOS and CPM.
The SOG ‘tech sessions’ really became more of a discussion than a presentation. Typically “My favourite editor is xxxx. What’s yours and why?” Then between sessions—which generally ran over with Q&A—we would gather in the shade on the ground, looking like a stereotypical college setting.
One evening two of us from the Baltimore/Washington area lead a Food-SIG to Chen’s—one of the Chinese restaurants in Bend. The place was inundated when 50 of us showed up, But Chen’s was able to handle the surprise crowd and fed us a lavish feast. And when the 3 or 4 generations of the Chen family came out of the kitchen they received a standing ovation from the entire restaurant.
When I heard of your Open Source Bridge on Leo’s show it brought back great memories, and it brought home the point that what the tech world needs is more unconferences at a reasonable price. Back in the time of the SOG, there was nothing known as Open Source, just two divisions—Commercial and Public Domain—and years later Share Ware.
I’ve been to Portland. Love the town, the plethora of great Micro Breweries, and the Light Rail system. If there was any way to make it out there for OSB I would, but unfortunately I [have some other commitments] on your weekend.
Thanks, again, Mike! We’re honored to remind you of such an amazing event. And we’ll definitely try to live up to the benchmark set by SOG.