Computer Histories Page VI

Sherman Lewis started teaching at Cal State University, Hayward in 1967 and spent his entire career there through retirement. He still lives in Hayward, continuing to work on his environmental advocacy. Sherman and his wife Alison struggled through his PhD dissertation with an Adler electric typewriter, which wore out in the process, just before Sherman and Alison. It was clear that this technology was slow and labor-intensive. Sherman read about the first user oriented computers and bought one of the first Osbornes. Even though the first Apple was available, he opted for the Osborne because it was cheap, a lot cheaper than the Apple. The Osborne had a tiny screen, two 5 ¼ inch floppies, 64 KB of RAM, and used an operating system known as CP/M. It ran the WordStar program and some kind of primitive spreadsheet. Sherman got a larger monitor to avoid premature blindness and also bought a Diablo Daisywheel printer. Professor Lewis felt like he was a real technological leader for his time; little did he know.

Sherman upgraded to WordPerfect and to other desktop computers as soon as they became both available and cheap. Dozens of floppies with programs, floppies with files and data, CP/M operating manual, WordStar user guides, and various other volumes of documentation went into storage as the technologies continued to advance. He kept his Osborne until 2011, hoping the price would go up like a Model T. However, some fairly easy research on Craigslist discovered that they were available if not for a dime a dozen, not much more. Having established the worthlessness of his long-treasured Osborne, he disposed of it to a local man, who melted it down for a small amount of gold. The monitor also disappeared into the vortex of old electronics. The Computer History Museum in Mountain View turned down everything Professor Lewis had to offer, but fortunately, there was a burgeoning computer museum in Rhode Island that came to the rescue, and the rest is history.

If you want more information on Professor Lewis, go to his website on

Sherman Lewis holds the B.A. from Harvard and the Ph.D. from Columbia University. He is the author of two books, Reform and the Citizen: The Major Policy Issues of Contemporary America and Urban Government for Metropolitan Lima, as well as a number of articles and reports. His current research focuses on urban land use and transportation policies, especially Quarry Village.

He teaches courses on urban governments, California government, public policy and citizen action. From 1992 to 1996 he was an elected member of the BART Board of Directors. He chaired the Sierra Club of California in 1990-92. He is currently a Senior Conservation Fellow with the Sierra Club, leads the Hayward Area Planning Association, and is a member of the MTC Advisory Council, the Regional Alliance for Transit, and the Bay Area Alliance for Sustainable Development