This was written 11th February 2011
Bruce Horsfall, Home Computer Club (TGA) president, with club secretary Colleen Gourlay. Photo / Sam Ackland.
A Tauranga computer club is proving you can be 80 years old and still know the difference between ROM and RAM.
Between the 40 members of the city's Home Computer Club, there shouldn't be a question about computers that can't be answered - no matter how old the program.
The club has been helping members troubleshoot since 1990, when the late Neil Muir founded the group.
Mr Muir was "struggling to understand his computer and realised he needed help", club president Bruce Horsfall said.
Mr Muir wanted to join a computer club but found there wasn't one.
"When he suggested it at a computer shop, he was told that there had been two attempts to get one going but they both had failed, as his effort would as well."
Not put off, he placed two newspaper advertisements and not long after, the club held its inaugural meeting in a room hired at Tauranga Girls' College, with Don Ross elected president.
"Trying to find an evening that would suit everyone was impossible so they met on a different night of the week each month."
The club was never short of exciting speakers, with one coming from Auckland just to give a talk, Mr Horsfall said.
"Occasionally the club held a hands-on day on a Sunday, when members brought along their computers to share activities and seek help with programs."
The not-for-profit club carries on with strong support from its members, who get together at monthly meetings.
Meetings usually consist of a get-together between 9.30am and 10.30am, members discussing everything from their latest PC achievements to websites they have discovered, before one of the most useful aspects of the club - the question and answer session.
"Where possible, we try to get members' participation in answering the questions - a problem shared is a problem halved.
After a lunch break, we concentrate on a specific subject for the afternoon session."
Members were encouraged to bring along their computers, as there were always plenty of opportunities to ask for hands-on help from more experienced members.
Mr Horsfall said the object of the club was to promote computer awareness, boost expertise and to generally benefit computer members.
"The club tries to foster group participation. Members can go to computer classes at various schools to learn specific programs, but we tend to concentrate on personal use in the home."
Mr Horsfall was using computers long before the club was founded and recalled how his first computer - an early 1980s Sinclair - could be plugged into a TV set and also came with cassette ports for connection to a cassette player.
The club's hope for the future was to upgrade its equipment and increase its membership.
"The majority of our members are of the older age group. The oldest members are in their 80s and grew up in a generation when computers were not a commonplace item. But as they say, you're never too old to learn to use a computer."
For the record, Mr Horsfall pointed out ROM (Read Only Memory) was the stored memory of a computer and RAM (Random Access Memory) its working memory.
People wishing to join the club can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone either Betty Clethero on (07) 544 2067 or James Cave on (07) 571 4941.
The club's website can be found at www.hcc.gen.nz