A California Computer Systems history

This page last updated Aug 19 2011. (c) COpyright 2011 Herb Johnson.


I have a Web page devoted to California Computer Systems (CCS), a popular S-100 provider of the 70's and 80's. In Dec 2009 John Mason, who co-founded CCS, told me his story and the story of his cofounder Dan Burgoon; and that guy's father John Burgoon, who started SSM. Text in[]'s are edits by me. John's comment about that was: "Write it as you wish, past history we can't really change, even though we do shade it with politics."

I've also added responses from former CCS staff which I've recieved. - Herb Johnson

CCS history post-SSM, by John Mason

John Burgoon was a Navy aviation radio operator during WW II. John founded Solid State Music, [later just SSM], in about 1974. [His youngest son,] Dan Burgoon, [was a] Navy Air Controller. After serving his enlistment in the Navy, Dan worked for his father for a couple of years, from 1974 to 1976.

I designed 5 or 6 of the S-100 boards for John Burgoon at SSM (VB3 Video card, 1702 ROM, 2704/8 EPROM, 2102 8K RAM) while Dan Burgoon was working [there]. The VB3 was designed with parts John already had stock in quanities. A bit of a wierd design.

Father / son working relationships do not always work well...[Dan left] Santa Clara and went south to Northridge [and] started Hobbyworld, financed by Mormac. [Mormac consisted of] Terry Koozud {primary push}, Pat Ketchum {later of Datasoft}, and Bill Morgan ( the "mor" in Mormac, a gray-market IC vendors). In early 1977 I designed a 16K Static RAM board, 2102 type {JTM 16K RAM} for him to sell at Hobbyworld as a bare board, kit or assembled, on a royalty basis. It sold very well, about 4000 boards shipped. My royalities were $5.00 a board.

[In early 1979 Dan] and I decided to start a computer company: thus CCS came into being. CCS was self financed, and had a selling product from day one.... the CCS 2016 RAM board. [The 2810 Z80 CPU was the 2nd product. Financing was by supplying Mormac with ICs at a 10% override. Meanwhile, in mid-1978, John split SSM into 2 entities, SSM for products, and Anchor (Navy leanings) for surplus and new parts sales. John's second wife owns and runs Anchor Electronics today.

Dan was president of CCS and I was Executive VP & VP - Engineering. Our first address was on Laurelwood in Santa Clara CA. In Jan 1980 our second address was on 250 Caribbean Drive in Sunnyvale CA, a 34,000 sq ft building. I designed the first 14 products myself.. 2016, 2032, 2810, 2200, 250x, 2520, 2704, Apple II boards, etc. [from about Mar 1979 to Nov 1980]. I started hiring engineering talent about Dec 1979. Gross sales for 1979 were about $350,000. Not bad for 9 months from start, and a total of 5 people.

I left CCS in July of 1980, and started litigation to recover my part of the profits. A settlement was reached in Jan 1981 of $750,000. I received 2 payments of $10,000, then payments ceased (Don Sera became president). I never received another penny from CCS. Second year gross sales were $4.5M, with a net profit of $1.8M (Many MP/M systems were sold to China). 3rd years sales were $14.5M - then bankruptcy. CCS was striped of its cash and assets after Dan Burgoon was ousted. We put a lot of money in other people's pockets...

Don Sera died before he could be held accountable. Stock percentages (ownership) were shifted twice [via some shell companies], ultimately leaving Dan and I with a tax bill and no cash, then to equity. I lost rights to the designs at bankruptcy, but the tax bill disappeared also. The CCS residue was purchased in bankruptcy by a southern CA company, who continued to sell MP/M systems to China for at least 3 or 4 years.

I started STD Microsystems (STD Bus) after CCS, and ran it until after my wife died in 1989.

I still have source listings for CPM and MPM (8" floppys, paper from DR) and much of [firmware engineer] Ben [Mason]'s source code. - John Mason

[note: Pat Ketchum founded DataSoft, who initally acquired rights to some arcade games and converted them to videogames. Later the company created new titles (games), and worked with notible people in fantasy and science fiction. The company became Cyberdreams, and ceased operations in 1997 a few years after Ketchum left. - taken from Web sources by Herb Johnson]

CCS employees by John Mason

Employees of note [included]:
Barbara Strugallia - Accounting and anything that needed to get done
Jerry Waddell - Sales (Went on to be President of Vista, a 5-1/4" Drive company)

John Mason (myself) - (Engineering):
Robert (Bob) Daley (deceased) - PC Design and mechanical
Robert (Ben) Mason (deceased) - ALL firmware, software, and misc hardware (he liked 68xx peripherals)
E. C. (Craig) McKelvey - 2710, 2720, many other products
Stephen (Steve) Quimby (unk) - Agency (UL) Engineering, PET & TRS-80 products
David (Dave) Larsen - 2422 Floppy Controller, 2065 DRAM + others
Victor (Vic) Linderholm - Apple II GPIB
James (Jim) Lilje - PC Designer
Martin (Marty) Johnson - All around Technician
Brooke Doverspike - Technical Writing par excellence
[also see other staff names below - Herb]

Ben Mason was my older brother. Ben's real forte was crunching assembly code to an absolute minimum. He was a retired USAF mustang Captain. Went to work for me at CCS on his retirement from the USAF. He was originally a Missile Tech (E-5), got the Air Force to pay his way thru college, with a BA in Mathematics from Colorado State all the way to a Masters in Computer Science from Texas A&M. Spent the rest of his time in the Satellite arm (SAMSO) of the Air Force. He died at 59 in 2000, at Longmont, CO. At the time of his death, he was Principal Firmware Engineer at Seagate/Connors. He was also very active in the SCSI standards group.

[Myself,] John Mason, I came up as a Navy Electronics Tech (E-5) to Chief Radio Electrician (CWO3) before I was 21. Field service Engineer, Technician, PC Designer, Design Engineer. [Worked at] NASA, AMPEX, HP (Data Systems, Microwave, Communications Divisions), and other misc companies along the way. I got my doctorates in Mathematics and in Physics after I was widowed 20 years ago [in 1989]. [My ham radio call] was WA6MEY, but now is W0JQ. I don't remember John Burgoon's ham call.

[By the way,] I also know the history of Davidge Computers (Ben was involved with them heavily), and Davidge Controls (which I am involved with now). Worked with Hal Elzig (W6YJL) of Halted Specialities. That's a story in itself!

- John Mason, Ph. D.

responses from former CCS staff

In Aug 2011, Brian Donnelly wrote to me:

"It sure was awesome to see what all you wrote on the old CCS page... Sure brought back great memories. I worked for Dan Burgoon and John Mason for 5 years and then went on to work with John at his new company. GREAT group of guys. I sure wish I could track them down somehow."

Anyway.. I wondered if we could possibly update to the page there that listed the employees that were there at the company in the first couple months.

Rodger Osgood (Manager of testing)
Shirley Silvera (Accounting)
Brian Donnelly (Purchasing)
Roger (I think it was Roger) Billingsly (shipping and receiving)
Kathy ??? (Receptionist)

Thank you again for the awesome memories. - Brian D

Contact information:

Herb Johnson
New Jersey, USA
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Copyright © 2011 Herb Johnson.