By PENNY FLETCHER
The first computer I worked on appeared in my newsroom in the mid 1980s. I remember its screen was a huge blue blinking light with white letters on it. If you didn’t put your cursor in the right place before you saved, everything you’d written just disappeared. It was manufactured by Compugraphic Corporation, which had made its mark in phototypesetting equipment two decades before.
Skipping completely over the word processing machines used in many offices in the period between the popularity of typewriters and computers, I went directly from a manual Royal typewriter to “computers by Compugraphic.”
The experience led me to believe I hated computers, and would never become accustomed to them.
Then the company I worked for switched to an Apple II GS. This type of computer required you to type in long code numbers every time you wanted to change type size or font. By today’s standards, it was horrific.
When I was nearing 40 — yes, a whole 25 years ago — I enrolled in an evening class at East Bay High School to learn the latest technology, which was then the drop-down menu. I’ll never forget the pride I felt that I had mastered something before it entered the newsroom where I worked!
I’m bringing this up now because many people my age and older still swear they’ll never learn to use a computer. They think the switch is too difficult. Better to write letters and use the telephone and take 35mm photos directly from the camera to a lab.
I’ve heard this quite a bit lately, especially in Sun City Center where free help is available almost every day.
Unfortunately, those who won’t try working on a computer don’t have the daily opportunities to say “hi” or chat with friends and family that those on line have instantaneously. That means it’s easy to lose touch with younger family members, especially if they live far away. Email and social networks are the present and future modes of connectivity, and people who don’t learn them are missing out on daily opportunities to stay in touch.
Residents of Sun City Center and Kings Point have an unusual opportunity. They don’t have to enroll in a night class at a high school or community college. They can go, without charge, to the Sun City Center Computer Club in the atrium building on N. Pebble Beach Boulevard.
Entering the Computer Room the other day and seeing all the services the club provides to eligible residents I wished I’d had the opportunity to learn from tutors like that.
The Computer Club, more than 800 members strong, is an active one. It meets the first Wednesday of each month in the Florida Room (also in the atrium) at 7:30 p.m.
But between meeting dates, there are several special interest groups, including Genealogy, Quicken and Photography that meet just to work (and play) in a specific area.
The Computer Club’s president, Ilona Merritt, puts out a very professional monthly newsletter called The Journal, letting more than 2,500 people on their mailing list know what’s going on and when.
What interested me most when I went into the Computer Room last week was how the room monitors assist the walk-ins that pass through every day.
Incoming President Bob Wehrle, who has been serving as both vice president and director of education during the past year, says the monitors and class instructors take on problems ranging from “How do I turn on my new computer?” to the most complicated programming. If the person asked doesn’t know the answer to the question that’s asked, he or she can usually point you to someone with a specific area of expertise.
The reason I chose to write about the Computer Club now is to encourage those who haven’t taken the leap from paper and pen to computer connectivity to do so — if not for the holidays then in the New Year.
The people in the Computer Room can show you how to email family and friends, stay connected via social networks and easily share photographs with the click of a mouse.
Even those who still fear using a computer themselves can stop by the Computer Room and ask for the monitor to help scan a 35mm photograph, send a holiday greeting, set up an email account to chat with people in other states, or to work on projects like memoir writing, which the monitors say is a very popular use of their tools.
To find out more about this helpful club any of the 25,000 residents of Sun City Center or Kings Point may drop by the Computer Room weekday afternoons between noon and 5 p.m. or attend the next meeting in the Florida Room Jan. 5 at 7:30 p.m. Those of you already on line may email firstname.lastname@example.org or check out its Web site at http://scccomputerclub.org.