Club Meetings Just Like the Old Days!

I don’t remember the exact moment I first attended a computer user group meeting. I do remember the location, and I also remember being young enough someone had to drive me there, but I mostly remember the excitement of joining with other folks from all over town (and some from nearby towns) who shared a love of computing and actually were interested in talking about computing topics. I wasn’t a huge gamer, but it was always nice to get the latest intel on great games, in case the sudden urge to play one came upon me. Then as it is now, hardware modifications and upgrades interested me most, and I envied those with full time paying jobs who could afford new peripherals, memory expansions, hard drives, etc.

Club meetings always followed a sequence. Before the meeting, folks arrived and visited, and then the President called the meeting to order (I remember first learning about “Robert’s Rules of Order” around this time). I don’t remember much about the business meeting, as I was young, and the topics didn’t hold my interest. I mainly waited for the business meeting to end, when more fun things happened. I wasn’t so naive as to think the business meeting was not important (it was, often because most clubs had a swap meet or similar, and planning it took some of the business meeting time), I just knew it was a prelude to more interesting community computing enjoyment.

Time passes, of course. I grew up, as did the club I joined. Initially, I published the newsletter, but I eventually ran the club as President, right before I left for college. And then I thought my computing club days were over. By the late 1980’s, clubs were struggling in some communities, and I didn’t find another one to join until 1996. But, just as before, the sequence remained the same. It was somewhat comforting, to know that some things seem to stay the same.

I think folks joined computer clubs for two reasons: to be a part of a community of like-minded folks and to obtain information about their chosen platform. In the early and mid ’80’s, it could be difficult to find out about new software or hardware, or even learn the ingenious ways people were using the hardware you already owned to make life more interesting or more fun. Now, of course, the Internet provides a constant source of such information, but institutions like the Glenside Color Computer Club continue to thrive because they provide a sense of community and an anchor for the hobby.

Like many, I joined GCCC via my attendance at a yearly CoCoFEST!, and I’ll admit I attended to learn more about the CoCo platform. Initially, I just soaked up information, and eventually someone asked if I’d be interested in helping direct the club’s efforts. And, once again, I am leading the efforts of a computing group, just as I did back in the 1980’s. But, I’ll admit that not only have things changed quite a bit (Internet, for one), but I’ve somewhat forgotten the sequence of activities in the meeting.

Having attended a number of the most recent GCCC meetings prior to being elected, I knew about the business meeting, and I’ve always attended virtually, since I don’t live in the Chicago area. But, at the January meeting, GCCC member and past president Tony Podraza reminded me of a big piece of those long ago meetings, the piece that was part of the “fun” of the meeting that made the “boring” business meeting tolerable for a teenage computer geek:

The Demonstration

I’ll admit I totally forgot that used to be a big draw for the meeting. As I recall, the business meeting finished quite quickly, and then someone would take over the club computer, load up a productivity app or utility and present the creative use to the rest of the attendees. Now, if I’m honest, I have to admit that the teenage me rarely watched the demos (they always seemed remedial in my know-it-all mind), but the adult me in 1996 took more of an interest (or maybe I finally realized I did not know it all).

So, I apologize.

I’ve been so focused on handling the business the club’s efforts (prepping for CoCoFEST!, making sure the newsletter gets out in a timely fashion – which mainly involves pestering poor overworked Steve Strowbridge, transitioning the club website to new digs, and helping push long suffering efforts like the GCCC ByLaws updates forward), I didn’t pay enough attention to the fun parts of the meeting. Tony notes that often John Mark Mobley would demonstrate an app or utility in past years, and I guess I must have missed those meetings.

Now, mind you, as I think back, we did not actually have a demo every month. Sometimes, the presenter was ill or had car troubles, or things just otherwise fell through. But, on those months, we all just took that time and visited with each other, and that seemed just fine. Everyone left the meeting refreshed from the conversation and the collaboration.

At the GCCC end-of-year virtual “Open House”, a member remarked that the event reminded them of club meeting of years past, where the focus was less on motions and seconds and more on topics of interest and general discussion, punctuated with laughter and jocularity. I took that as an action item, to try to incorporate some of that into regular business meetings by shortening the meeting duration for post meeting community discussion. I’ve not succeeded yet, but the club’s business really should not take more than 45 minutes to consider, so I’ll keep trying and I hope other members will help me in that effort.

Still, waiting until after the meeting might not be the best way to accomplish the goal. It might be that the club has a contentious topic to discuss, or maybe the business meeting is short but mentally draining, and folks just want to rest their brain afterwards. At the January meeting, past president Eric Canales suggested we schedule some time before the main meeting for a presentation/demonstration, or at least some unstructured conversation.

Thus, that’s the plan for future GCCC meetings. Since the regular meeting occurs at 7:30PM Central on the third Thursday of the month, I’ve scheduled an hour prior, from 6:30 PM to 7:30PM, as a demonstration time. I think Eric’s suggestion holds a lot of promise:

  • It’s been hard to start the meeting on time in the past few months, when key folks are just joining at the bottom of the hour. I want to be snesitive to folks who are present at 7:30PM, but there are key people who need to be present. A 6:30PM demo will allow folks to join with a bit more flexibility and hopefully be present when the regular meeting needs to start.
  • Those not interested in the business meeting but who want to join the group for discussions can have a specific time to visit.
  • If the demonstration needs more time, it’s pretty easy to poll folks at 7:30PM and see if a slight deviation is OK.
  • It places the lighter fare earlier in the evening, before people start shutting down for the night or before tensions rise due to a contentious business topic.

Of course, we need compelling demonstrations to make this work, so we’ll be soliciting for ideas and for folks to present. If you know of a topic of interest, or if you would like to present a specific topic (member or not, does not matter), please let someone on the GCCC leadership team know. We may designate some months are just roundtable discussions, but I’d prefer we try to arrange demonstrations for the first few months 🙂

I’m not sure how long it’s been since GCCC held a demonstration at a monthly meeting, but I sincerely apologize for the absence. It’s a useful part of the monthly community gathering, even with the Internet available to everyone, and so it’s worth getting it back into the schedule. I hope you think so as well.

Jim

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Glenside Club Meeting: Thursday January 21, 2021 @ 7:30PM

Though the future is still unwritten concerning the 2021 CoCoFEST! in-person event, we continue to press forward with plans to visit in late April. Since topics might be light the meeting short (I’m sure no one will complain), if time permits we’ll enjoy some general discussion topics after the meeting concludes, in lieu of a visit to Portillo’s! Please consider attending and visiting!

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2020 Glenside Holiday Virtual Open House

As discussed at the November 2020 business meeting, Glenside will host an end of the year virtual open house on December 20th, starting at 6PM Central and lasting until folks get tired of chatting or December 21st rolls around, whichever comes first. Everyone with an interest in the CoCo is invited, and we’ll congregate using the club’s default BlueJeans conference call link. As with any open house, there’s no need to arrive strictly on time, as I’m sure we’ll be hanging out online for a few hours at least. Feel free to arrive when the mood strikes. Be sure to bring a good story about a CoCo hardware or software product you enjoyed in 2020, and a nice cold beverage to enjoy (and tell us about) during your visit. I hope to see all of you there.

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Glenside Updates

Since lots of things are happening right now, I wanted to provide some quick updates for members to keep everyone in the loop:

  • As many may be aware, Steve Bjork, who has hosted the Glenside web site for some time, is winding down his hosting function in 2020. As such, I have worked with Steve to transfer the glensideccc.com domain name to a domain name registrar under a club login, so the club can maintain the domain name going forward. We appreciate Steve’s assistance in the past, but I think this change will create more autonomy for the club.
  • As per the November meeting business, the club agreed to secure a hosting provider for the web site. We have chosen WordPress as the technology, and DigitalOcean as the hosting provider. The interesting news here is that we actually are renting an entire virtual server on the Internet, not just a virtual web site. This presents some additional options, like running an Glenside-sponsored Internet BBS on the server, or running some specialized CoCo-affiliated Internet service (maybe a Drivewire print server that will PDF your printout to you via email, probably not, but you get the idea). Right now, we’re focused on just getting the web site moved, but I’m happy to hear ideas.
  • Behind the scenes, Eric Canales, 2019-20 Glenside President, has been working on a revamped web site look and feel, using WordPress. As I write this, there are a few issue’s he’s still fixing, but feel free to look at http://dev.glensideccc.com for a sneak peek. Congrats to Eric for putting in the hours on this redesign. I know some will like it, some will hate it, and some will “meh” it. That’s fine. But, for those who want the old site to just be moved over, please understand that is not possible. I asked Steve Bjork on the point, and the existing site uses a custom layout engine and CMS backend, which we do not own nor can we get. So, we’ll have to make this transition. If something is especially egregious, please let folks know and we’ll work to address it. Given the timelines, we will most likely begin that transition this week. So, I’d ask folks to please help us ensure that all of the key things you use from https://www.glensideccc.com are somewhere in the new site. We have and will continue to take archival snapshots of the old site until we switch, but the switch is coming quickly.
  • Also at the November meeting, the club agreed to host a virtual MeetUp on December 20. It’s a virtual video event, low key, end of year celebration, and I’m open to theme ideas (maybe the entrance fee is to tell us about the beverage you’re bringing to the discussion, or you have to show off at least 1 CoCo/MC10/Dragon related hardware or software item . I was out of pocket last week, so I am running a bit behind on scheduling the time and topic, so watch for a second note on this in the coming days. I’d love to see as many folks as we can engaged for a few hours that Sunday (probably early evening, but I’m open to ideas on best times as well). Above all, no prep, so no need to get anything ready (well, except for a beverage to talk about).
  • Terry Steege has been hard at work lining up speakers for the 2021 CoCoFEST! He has 8 confirmations and 1 maybe at this point. Obviously, it;s a bit early to give out too many details, as I realize folks’ schedules change, but we currently have some folks like Boise Pitre (The CoCo Collector: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfPHWedt4QRj8FuCLOx1-Xg) scheduled to be with us physically, but also some folks folks, like Nick Marentes (Gunstar, Rally-SG, and Pipes: https://nickmarentes.com/ProjectArchive/) planning to visit with us virtually from Australia. Terry continues to solicit ideas for speakers, and he has been reaching out to Tandy resources who might provide some historical perspective on the Color Computer development and manufacture. As you can expect, those requests take a long time to germinate, so stay tuned.
  • For those worrying about CoCoFEST! 2021, I can say with pretty good confidence we will enjoy a physical event in 2021. I have worked with the venue to secure an alternate backup date later in the year if circumstances look doubtful for an April event. But, things seems to moving in the direction we want at this time, so I see no reason to prematurely move the date. Still, if we have to delay, we have another option to lean on, and the venue are to call me if some other date options materialize.

Enjoy your preparation for the Season and I hope everyone will join us on the 20th for a celebration of the platform in these interesting times.

-Jim

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