So you went out and bought yourself a hot computer system. Now what?
Computer manuals are rarely as simple as promised, especially for the beginner who has yet to master the basics. By joining a computer user group, though, you can get advice from experienced users.
Coast Compute, an Irvine-based magazine for local computer enthusiasts, lists 36 user groups that meet throughout Orange County. There are groups for almost every kind of computer, including Macintosh, IBM, Epson, Commodore and Atari. Other groups are for users of various software programs and programming languages.
"Our group consists mostly of two types of people," said Earick Ward, president of the West Orange County Macintosh Users Group. "We have a large number of beginners mixed in with experienced die-hards who just can't get enough information about their system or software program."
The Macintosh Users Group, which has 150 members, meets monthly in Seal Beach. At its last meeting, Steve Gardner, a representative from Microsoft Corp., gave a sneak preview of the Excel 3.0, which isn't on the market yet. Jennifer McNabb, representing DeltaPoint Inc., gave a demonstration of DeltaGraph, a charting and graphics program that drew oohs and ahs from the crowd with its colorful, three-dimensional displays. McNabb also demonstrated Taste, a word-processing program with some desktop publishing capabilities.
Both representatives fielded tough questions and suggestions from the audience, which included software developers and systems engineers.
"The user groups provide us with valuable feedback," McNabb said. "We learn from them, because some find uses for the software that even we haven't thought of. They provide a consumer forum and help us keep our finger on the pulse."
The Macintosh Users Group distributes MacBugle, a newsletter published on editor Jesse Garzon's Macintosh. Members conduct free classes for beginners. Additional meetings that focus on a single program or application are held for special-interest groups.
Like most user groups, the Macintosh group has an extensive library of public domain software and "shareware." (Public domain software is free; shareware programs are distributed free, but to become a registered user, you must pay a nominal fee, for which you get printed instructions and updates on future releases.)
"There's a lot to keep up with in this field, but we have a lot of fun here too," said Ralph Cooper, director at large of the Macintosh group. "It's also a social outlet," he said.
For more information on the Macintosh group, call Cooper at (714) 750-7318. Or call Bob Lowe and Kim McDonald, publishers of Coast Compute, at (714) 724-1101. They'll help you find a user group that's right for you.
Los Angeles Times