A history of VMUG and iMug 1985–2020: iMug Apple Collection at Museum Victoria

By Noel Jackling OAM

By late 2004, a small number of iMuggers were becoming increasingly aware that the personal computer was advancing rapidly but the history of its evolution was not being recorded and was in danger of becoming lost.

With Apple Computer Inc. having been the first to commercialise personal computing, there was no known collection of Apple hardware and software outside Apple Cupertino and Seattle's 'Living Computers' Museum to tell that story, and much of the early hardware and software was becoming increasingly rare.

In October/November 2004, on the suggestion of Noel Jackling, Les Posen approached Museum Victoria's Senior Curator in History and Technology, David Demant, to ascertain whether the museum would embrace a collection of Apple material. The response was positive, and over the following months an iMug Museum Committee, with guidance from David Demant, developed a draft Museum Victoria collection policy designed to tell the story of the way in which Apple Computer Inc., later Apple Inc., had changed the way we learn, and work and play.

The iMug Museum Committee that undertook this early conceptualisation work comprised John Green, Brian Livingston, Les Posen, Hope Stewart, Struan Robertson and Noel Jackling, which it did in conjunction with David Demant.

Selecting items for the collection

Representative items of hardware and software were specified by which to illustrate each element of the policy. Following Museum Victoria's adoption of the policy, primarily Brian Livingston and Noel Jackling set about canvassing donations from members of AUSOM and iMug and following up all possible leads.

The end result was that almost all items sought were donated. The prime period of collection was through the latter part of 2005 and 2006. Some of the more notable items were:

The collection contains about 100 items and can be claimed to be the best representative collection of Apple material outside USA.

Telling the Apple story: five revolutions

Museum Victoria invited iMug to mount an exhibition telling the Apple story. This was titled 'The Apple Effect: a collection of revolutions that changed your life'.

This was conceptualised as five Apple revolutions, viz.:

  1. Personal Computing
  2. Publishing
  3. Imaging
  4. Video
  5. Audio

A showcase was devoted to each revolution as well as which there was a lead showcase. Walls displayed two huge Apple Effect timeline banners (1976–1990 and 1990–2006—see Appendix 2 and Appendix 3) developed by John Green and designed by Robert Charlton, and a lead banner designed by Marc Edwrds, all printed by Ted Congdon of Whites Law Bindery.

A major Apple Effect brochure was written by John Green and with input from Anthony Caruana, and with brochure design by Marc Edwards and Peter Green. Marc Edwards also designed an Apple Effect postcard.

The Apple Effect postcard
'The Apple Effect' postcard

An exhibition committee determined showcase content. John Green, Lecki Ord and Noel Jackling developed showcase labels and Robert Charlton undertook showcase display design. The exhibition committee included Kerrie Mullins-Gunst, Lecki Ord, Robert Charlton, John Green, Brian Livingston, Neil Pringle, Robert Suggett, Louise Gomes and Hope Stewart with Noel Jackling as the group leader.

The official lauch of the collection

The exhibition was held at Melbourne Museum, 2–30 December 2006. The official launch and handover of the iMug Apple Collection and opening of the exhibition was on 7 December 2006 at Melbourne Museum. The keynote speakers were Diana Ryall, former Managing Director of Apple Computer Australia who came from Sydney for the launch and Dr Robin Hirst, Director, Collections Research & Exhibitions, Museum Victoria.

The Melbourne Chamber Choir Singers under the expert baton of Faye Dumont sang her new musical composition 'An Apple a Day', a work which was commissioned by iMug with the sponsorship of the Opus 50 Charitable Trust, whose Trustee, Mary de Jong, is the wife of iMug member Ben de Jong. The libretto to this song can be found in Appendix 4. Eliana Rotenberg kindly donated a scarf as a thank you gift for Diana Ryall.

A highlight of this opening event was getting the Lisa 1985 personal computer booted up and displaying its very early Apple 'white page' graphic user interface. After the exhibition, everyone got a guided tour of the CSIRAC computer (the world's only surviving first generation mainframe computer) from David Demant, en route to the Victorian Trades Hall Council bar for supper. Just minutes after departure, a puff of smoke issued forth from the Lisa, and that was the last time this iconic machine ran. Very fortunately this did not set off Melbourne Museum's fire alarm.

At the Trades Hall bar, David Demant and Noel Jackling talked of the fun and agony of developing policy and assembling all the equipment over the preceding two years. At the end of the evening, Lucas de Jong sang 'I am the very model of a modern Apple MacBook Pro', a parody on Gilbert and Sullivan's 'I am the very model of a modern major-general'. The words are noted in Appendix 5. You can hear Lucas's outstanding performance in the YouTube below:

Cataloguing the collection

Having collected almost 100 items, there was a pressing need to catalogue them. This task was undertaken at Melbourne Museum by Brian Livingston, Robert Charlton, Noel Jackling and Neil Pringle, and to some extent by Noel Jackling at home, he being granted online access to Museum Victoria's database for this purpose.

Most of this work was undertaken under supervision within the storeroom of Melbourne Museum, a privilege rarely granted to non–staff members. Most of the cataloguing was undertaken in 2007 and 2008, but as a few new items were occasionally acquired, these too required cataloguing, and so the cataloguing process wandered along until 2012.

Photographs were needed of each object, and the task of imaging was undertaken by Robert Charlton.

Overall, this was a massive project involving the skills and resources of very many iMug members.

Next: An odd occasion

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Table of Contents

  1. The early years
  2. The 1990s—rapid rise and rapid decline
  3. VMUG News
  4. VMUG premises in Ross House
  5. Help Desk, Computer Training and Public Domain Software
  6. Meetings
  7. The rise and impact of the Internet
  8. iMug Apple Collection at Museum Victoria
  9. An odd occasion
  10. iMug Widget—a small feature to advertise meetings
  11. A few prominent VMUG/iMug members
  12. In conclusion
  13. Appendix 1 - Four special December meetings
  14. Appendix 2 - Apple Effect timeline banner 1976–1990
  15. Appendix 3 - Apple Effect timeline banner 1990–2006
  16. Appendix 4 - Libretto to 'An Apple a Day'
  17. Appendix 5 - Libretto to 'The Very Model of a Modern Apple MacBook Pro'
  18. Appendix 6 - Office Bearers
  19. Appendix 7 - Life Members

Download the entire History of VMUG and iMug 1985–2020 as a PDF.