I am old enough to remember when the Apple IIGS came out along with the Tandy TSR80 and young enough to catch the evolution of today’s migration to Cloud computing. What an amazing time we live in! Along the way, I’ve had the benefit of using PCs on both computing platforms and then some, including many of the mobile platforms: GEOS, Palm, Win CE (wince as it was derisively referred to), Windows Mobile, iOS and finally Android. I’ve watched many other computing platforms and OS’s come and go too as their relevance grew and faded.
This brings me to PC users groups. In the pre-internet days, it was the only way to meet up, network and learn from other like minded individuals who shared the same passion and desire to learn about the dizzying tide of hardware and the software that went with it. They packed these groups’ meetings, anxious and excited to absorb every morsel of information being presented. Companies discovered that these groups were a great source of feedback as well as potential customers and showered attendees with samples, demos and free products. I remembered those days well. it was the reason I joined one. I learned so much over the years and made life-long friends and met many industry captains along the way.
Then the internet came along and matured, allowing many of us to discover so much more than what our local PC users groups could ever hope to offer in terms of the breadth of information and audience-all from the convenience of our homes and at any hour of the day. I admittedly joined several “on-line communities” for this reason, as no local PC users groups existed to fill this vacuum of new ideas, techniques and disciplines. I had slowly outgrown my own group’s ability to teach, share and showcase my increasing interest in 3D image creation, digital printing, mobile computing and other exploding areas of technologies. The recession did not help either as it became an important factor in driving my decisions as to where I spent my hard earned money including memberships and subscriptions.
Yet, I stubbornly kept my membership in my local PC user group. Whether out of a sense of loyalty to friends or a misguided sense of giving back to an institution that had given me so much in my adult professional life. My little local PC users group still remains an important part of my monthly routine. It was there when I needed it the most and to abandon it now would be of such a disservice to the ranks of a new generation of users who seek the same knowledge I did when I was at their point in the beginning of my career.
I believe that local PC users groups like mine are still relevant despite all the on-line communities and information sources on the internet. There is still a role they play in our ever evolving computing universe. Many urban and rural communities lack the access to internet which makes the education of technologies prohibitive and daunting. For the thousands of us who have benefited from these users groups in the past, its time to repay the knowledge we reaped by returning and showing a new generation and others who lacked the opportunity, what we have learned. There is also an immediacy to feedback when one attends a meeting and is able to ask questions of a speaker.
The local PC users group is also more attuned to the needs of their community than their internet counterpart and can offer job banks, news and education tailored for their area. Now, don’t get me wrong. There is room for both to coexist. While the message and meeting topics must adapt to the times and technology for many of the older groups, they can survive and continue to play an important role. It is the cornerstone of what makes computing so unique, amazing and so unforgiving. Relevancy is so fleeting. Just ask Palm and its WebOS.
: ) Henry Lee, proud CDPUG eZine Editor/@nativeArtzCLE