In Memory of Bob Reiling

Robert Reiling was, as I recall, one of the thirty variegated souls who gathered in a Menlo Park garage one night in March 1975 to examine and discuss the future of a small box with rows of red lights - the first personal computer to appear in Silicon Valley.

We were a polyglot band, those who met there for the first time, each with a story to tell about the past and the future. Engineers were reputed to be reserved, careful, given to meticulous detail work in which one error would sink a project, and confident in their assurance that work behind the scenes provided the necessary basis for very visible triumphs claimed by others.

None of us seemed to fit that bill - none but Bob Reiling, whose leonine presence and quiet competence in keeping things organized gave us a foundation for our adventures. We would return fortnightly to the Homebrew Computer Club to boast of our most recent accomplishments and to teach hundreds of others how to do the same, and the meetings would be ready to go, the newsletters would be printed up and mailed out; all coordinated silently by Bob. Had it not been for him we would have faced a much more chaotic situation and the Homebrew Club might well have disappeared halfway through its run.

Engineers get used to others taking credit for the results of their work. The games of glory seeking do not provide us the kind of inner rewards necessary to sustain our efforts. Bob never sought public recognition for his highly necessary support work, so our offering to his memory must be motivated strictly from within.

I hope I speak for all of us who made use of the Homebrew Computer Club’s forum in honoring his memory and his faith in human creativity. We are much the lesser for his passing but perhaps we have learned from his example. We certainly need more like him in the future.

Lee Felsenstein