West Coast Computer Faire

The West Coast Computer Faire was an annual computer industry conference and exposition most often associated with San Francisco, its first and most frequent venue. The first fair was held in 1977 and was organized by Jim Warren and Bob Reiling. At the time, it was the biggest computer show in the world, intended to popularize the personal computer in the home. The West Coast PC Faire was formed to provide a more specialized show. However, Apple Inc. stopped exhibiting at the West Coast Computer Faire, refusing to exhibit at any show other than COMDEX that also had PC-based exhibits. In 1983, Warren sold the rights to the Faire for US$3 million to Prentice Hall, who later sold it to Sheldon Adelson, the owner of Interface Group and COMDEX. In total, sixteen shows were held, with the last in 1991. After Warren sold the show, it had a few more good years, and then declined rapidly.

West Coast Computer Faire
Moscone Center, San Francisco (2013)
GenreConference, exhibition
Location(s)San Francisco
InauguratedApril 16, 1977 (1977-04-16)
Most recent1991


Some people refer to the first fair as the birth of the personal computer industry. It took place on April 16–17, 1977, in San Francisco Civic Auditorium, and saw the debut of the Commodore PET, presented by Chuck Peddle, and the Apple II,[1] presented by then-21-year-old Steve Jobs and 26-year-old Steve Wozniak. At the exhibition, Jobs introduced the Apple II to Japanese textile maker Mizushima Satoshi, who became the first authorized Apple dealer in Japan.[2] Other visitors included Tomio Gotō who developed the TK-80 and PC-8001, and Kazuhiko Nishi who produced the MSX.[3] There were about 180 exhibitors, among them Intel, MITS, and Digital Research.

When the first fair opened, almost twice as many people arrived as Warren anticipated, and thousands of people were waiting to get into the auditorium. More than 12,000 people visited the fair.

As Jim Warren later recalled: “We had these lines running all around the fucking building and nobody was irritated. Nobody was pushy. We didn’t know what we were doing and the exhibitors didn’t know what they were doing and the attendees didn’t know what was going on, but everybody was excited and congenial and undemanding and it was a tremendous turn-on. People just stood and talked—‘Oh, you’ve got an Altair? Far out!’ ‘You solved this problem?’ And nobody was irritated.” ... The first Computer Faire was to the hardware hackers an event comparable to Woodstock in the movement of the sixties. Like the concert at Max Yasgur’s farm, this was both a cultural vindication and a signal that the movement had gotten so big that it no longer belonged to its progenitors.

The 2nd West Coast Computer Faire was held March 3–5, 1978, at what was then the San Jose Convention Center (now Parkside Hall). This event had the first-ever microcomputer chess tournament, won by Sargon.

The 3rd West Coast Computer Faire was held on November 3–5, 1978, at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The 4th West Coast Computer Faire returned to San Francisco in May 1979 at Brooks Hall and Civic Auditorium. Dan Bricklin demonstrated VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet program for personal computers.[5]

At the 5th West Coast Computer Faire, held in March 1980, Microsoft announced their first hardware product, the Z-80 SoftCard, which gave the Apple II CP/M capabilities.

The 6th West Coast Computer Faire was held in April 3-5, 1981, notable for being the venue where Adam Osborne introduced the Osborne 1.

The 7th West Coast Computer Faire saw the introduction of the 5 MB Winchester disk drive for IBM PCs by Davong Systems. It was held on March 19–21, 1982, in San Francisco. That year's conference also featured a Saturday breakout session, titled "THE IBM PERSONAL COMPUTER", with eight talks delivered in a three-hour period. One of these was (as listed in the program):

P.C. — It's Impact on the MicroComputer Industry 
Bill Gates, President
10800 N.E. 8th #819
Bellevue, WA 98004

At its peak, all available spaces for exhibits were rented out, including the balcony of Civic Auditorium, and the hallway to the restrooms in Brooks Hall (where Bob Wallace ("Quicksoft") introduced "PC-Write").

The 8th West Coast Computer Faire was held March 18–20, 1983.

Subsequent West Coast Computer Faires were held in Moscone Center in San Francisco. After the 10th Faire, Bruce Webster wrote that "Warren sold out just in time. The Faire is shrinking. It may not be dying, but it is no longer the important trade show it was two short years ago. Without the giant booths from IBM, Apple, and AT&T, the Faire would have looked like any other small, local, end-user show. The move to the Moscone Center didn't help that impression; a large chunk of the main floor was unused, adding to the impression of the Faire's shrunken size".[6]

The 16th West Coast Computer Faire was held from May 30 to June 2, 1991, at Moscone Center.


  1. Helmers, Carl (April 1977). "A Nybble on the Apple". BYTE. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  2. Walter Isaacson: Steve Jobs, Chapter Six – "The Apple II" pp. 144. Simon & Schuster (October 24, 2011) ISBN 1-4516-4855-3
  3. 富田, 倫生 (1985). パソコン創世記 [The Book of Personal Computer Genesis] (in Japanese). 旺文社. ISBN 978-4010098974 via Aozora Bunko.
  4. Levy, Steven (2010). Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution (25th Anniversary ed.). O'Reilly Media. pp. 225, 227.
  5. Helmers, Carl (August 1979). "Editorial: Returning to the Tower of Babel, or... Some Notes About LISP, Languages and Other Topics". BYTE. pp. 6, 154–158. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  6. Webster, Bruce (September 1985). "West Coast Faire, Mac Stuff, and the Amiga". BYTE. p. 401. Retrieved 20 March 2016.

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