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Twenty Years
of Learning and Sharing!

Alamo PC Organization, Inc.: 1983 - 2003

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Authors Note:  This article would have been dry indeed without the input and perspectives of those members who “were there” when Alamo PC was born and/or as it’s grown over the past two decades. And they responded in true Alamo PC sharing tradition. During the busy holiday season, they took time from jobs and families – and life in general – to respond so reflectively and so thoroughly that the resulting article has been expanded and divided into two parts. 

On such a significant anniversary for our organization, it’s appropriate to take a look at when, why and how it came into being, what it’s accomplished along the way and what direction it should take in the future to best serve its members and their changing needs.

In the Beginning. . .

What was going on in 1981 that led a hand-full of self-described “nerds” to band together and form what would in 1983 become the Alamo PC Organization? Computers had been around and evolving for many years. But suddenly evolution became revolution. In an over-simplified nutshell, the silicon chip had made possible the down-sizing of computers to the point that desk-top computers — totally independent of mainframes — were suddenly feasible. It took IBM about a heartbeat to develop and begin marketing what most agree was the first “personal” computer in 1981.

A whole new world opened up for computer enthusiasts. But they lacked the experience and knowledge to take full advantage of the new technology, and the manufacturers were not providing any help. So they turned to each other. It was the birth of user groups.

The precursor to Alamo PC actually was the brainchild of a local high school teacher whose name has faded from memories over 20 years. He originally started the small group, as Ben Jackson recalls, “because he thought it would be fun.” When the membership — and responsibilities – quickly exploded, he was more than happy to hand over the reins when Ben and his friend Terry Ebert asked if they could take the group over and keep it going. Jüürgen Schmidt was also a charter member. “I started attending meetings shortly after I got my first IBM PC in early 1982,” says Schmidt. “There were no computer stores in San Antonio selling the IBM, so I had to go to Austin to buy it. We (the original group) met a few times, but the club was about to fizzle because the original organizer had lost interest. Ben, Terry and I were interested enough to keep it going.”
 

The First Five Years
1983 - 1988
Within a year or so, there is enough Commercially-available hardware and software for the new PC that SIGs (Special Interest Groups) are formed.

 “The Newsletter of the Alamo PC Organization” is born — the forerunner of PC Alamode. . Jüürgen Schmidt produces the first issues in 1983; then Paul Weber takes the Editor reins and guides the publication for the next six and a half years. The first issue in the  PC Alamode archives is dated January, 1985. It’s 12 pages long and 7 ½ by 8 ½ inches deep and folded in half. Why the odd size? “To save postage!” Ben Jackson says. The lone ad is for a 10 MB hard disk.

The group gains sufficient membership to begin inviting guest speakers

 Alamo PC registers with IBM as an “official support group.”

 Although it has to borrow a CPU, the organization establishes its first electronic Bulletin Board. “We should start figuring out a way to acquire our own CPU,” writes President Mike Powers in his “Interface” column.

A hotline is established for information regarding meeting dates/times, etc.

President Mike Powers plugs the eight Alamo PC SIGs, calling them “the heart and breadth of our club.” They are Novice, DOS, Advanced Lotus, Business and Finance, Data Base, Beginning Assembly, 

Telecommunications and Beginning Users. dBASE II and III, 1-2-3 and Symphony are added later.

Reflections
Jüürgen Schmidt

Ben was President (of the newly-formed Alamo PC Organization (APCO), Terry was Vice President and I did whatever else needed doing - I was treasurer, bulletin board operator, public domain disk copier, etc. The three of us kept it going for two years until there were enough members to help. We particularly needed help finding meeting places, arranging speakers, and most importantly, getting established as a non-profit organization.

We collected dues and made a little profit from the public domain diskettes. Our first major purchase was a video projector. This thing was huge - you needed a dolly to move it around. Since we had no permanent facilities, a big challenge was where to store the thing. After a year or so we had sufficient membership and presence that we could invite speakers. Vendors were always happy to come and show off their products. One of the more interesting presenters was Adam Osborne, who was showing off his new CP/M-based Luggable. MS-DOS was still just another operating system at the time. Diskettes and memory were expensive, so we would buy these in bulk and resell them to the club members, passing on the savings.


The newsletter begins publishing software reviews.

Monthly meetings are held at the San Antonio Savings Association’s cafeteria. A friend of Ben Jackson’s who banked there simply asked SASA and Alamo PC received. Banks had always been favorite meeting sites because of their large conference rooms.

Attention is still focused on developing and improving the SIGs.

PC Alamode begins publishing free member classifieds. The newsletter is being assembled, stapled, manually affixed with stamps and mailing labels and delivered to the US Postal Service. The one paid vendor ad is for a 10-MB Hard Disk marked down from $575 to $549.

President Snyder laments an apparent apathy toward participating in the SIGs, and calls on members to become more active and contribute to the club.

1986
Editor Paul Weber gives PC Alamode a new look and format. It’s now 8 ½ x 11 and can accommodate not only larger type, but also, and more importantly, standard sized, camera-ready full-page ads. The new standard-size publication can be bulk-mailed – more savings!

Public domain software is made available in he Library.

Mention of a “new storage media” appears in PC Alamode: “The Joys of a Hard Disk.” No more loading everything from diskettes on booting up!!

SIGs respond to the expansion in software and member interests with Networking, Graphics, Games and Robotics. “Learning About Hard Disks” is still an important topic.

The President summarizes the three vital ways Alamo PC is meeting member needs: Monthly meetings and programs, the monthly newsletter, and SIGs.

 Dues for new members increase from $20 to $25 per year. Not just inflation and additional expenses, but a reflection of the ever-increasing value of membership in Alamo PC. Full-time students and renewals are still $20.

1987
A new source of income based on Alamo PC’s growing membership, reputation and influence: Beginning in January, vendors must  pay for exhibit tables at the General Meeting — $25 for the first, $10 for additional ones — limit eight!

The newsletter expands from 16 to 20 pages, with a masthead reminder for members and potential members of the essence of Alamo PC: “Alamo PC is a forum for the exchange of information and experiences on the IBM PC and compatible computers — we welcome anyone interested in learning and sharing what they know to join for our mutual benefit”

Desktop Publishing is an area of SIGnificant interest.

Members can now download programs from the Software Library.

The Help Committee is started, with 10 selfless members volunteering to assist other members with hardware/software questions.

A considerable growth in membership and General Meeting attendance is attracting nationally prominent speakers, but also necessitates a larger meeting place. The UT Health Science Center Medical School provides one beginning in November. Just in time – by years end, membership will have grown 47 percent.

Impressive member numbers also prove helpful when leadership begins approaching local computer stores to offer discounts to members.

Editor Paul Weber notes, “We are entering an exciting era in Alamo PC’s history.” He’d read that the average lifetime of a computer user group was two years. “I think we’re going to make it!” He also predicts that the up-coming First Annual Membership and Contest could increase membership to 1,000. “When we reach that stage, I believe we will have become one of the top 20 computer clubs in the USA!” 

1988
PC Alamode boasts 11 advertisers.

Dramatic advancements in computer technology: OS/2 (precursor to Windows) makes Alamo PC’s “learning and sharing” role more vital than ever.

 Home computing becomes home-office computing, with more people buying computers so they can take work home or run a home-based business. Responding to its members changing needs, Alamo PC forms a Planning Committee to draft a five-year plan to meet the challenges of projected growth in membership and member services.

The Mike Powers APCO Humanitarian of the Year award is established in memory of Alamo PC’s second president. The first is awarded to Paul Weber for his “continuing and exceptional leadership and service as an Alamo PC Board Member and editor of our PC Alamode.”
 

The Second Five Years
1989 - 1994
1989
Alamo PC now has about 700 members, a nationally recognized newsletter and 13 regular SIGs, 

Director and Officer positions are expanded from nine to 15 — nine elected, five appointed, and a past-president ”for continuity and guidance.”

Microsoft exhibits Windows 386 at the October General Meeting.

The Mike Powers Award is presented to Frank Snyder.

1990
The Bulletin Board makes Board minutes and financial reports available for download on a trial basis. Alamo PC property and Equipment Assets total $6,616.46.

Periodic Member Surveys are initiated to determine what members want from Alamo PC.

Cynthia Thompson’s first issue as the new PC Alamode editor debuts in August. She pays tribute to Paul Weber for having brought PC Alamode “all the way from a little folded sheet...to a publication of which he was justifiably proud as were Alamo PC members.”

President John McGinty notes that, while user groups were originally formed because of early PC users’ need for information and guidance, there now is an “information overload” of computing publications.. Nevertheless, “User groups will continue to be the most reliable and trusted source of help for the PC user.”

1991
Ted Lawson is recruited as VP for Advertising. By the end of the year, the number of advertisers in PC Alamode had risen from two to more than 50! (No wonder Cynthia Thompson to this day refers to him as “our beloved Ted Dawson”!)

Alamo PC continues to send representatives to the annual COMDEX Conference/Exhibit, always a major source of information about new and upcoming computing technology. News from COMDEX helps keep the organization abreast of significant developments and keep its learning/sharing commitment. 

Reflections
Cynthia Thompson


The people who were Alamo PC to me were Ben Jackson, Frank Snyder, and Paul Weber. These three, as well as many others throughout Alamo PC’s history, worked tirelessly for the organization. 

By the time Paul Weber handed PC Alamode to me, it had become 8 1/2"x11" with a blue cover and 16 to 24 pages, largely depending on the whims of (software) reviewers or Paul's ability to scrounge good things from other publications. My main man for most of my tenure was Ted Lawson, another man who gave many hours to promoting Alamo PC through recruitment and selling advertising space in the publication. That lad unfailingly brought advertising materials in the day past the absolutely final deadline. I always thought, ‘Next month I won't take it if he's late.’ Ha!

In an effort to save on newsletter expenses, Gary Stock, the advertising salesman at the time, did some research on printing PC Alamode on newsprint. Pretty scruffy, I thought, but we went with it, opening new worlds. We progressed from six issues a year with white newsprint covers to a shiny cover! Ted said, ‘You want a shiny cover? I'll sell more full-page ads!’ October '93. Oh, that was a proud month! We then thought we'd earned the right to call it a magazine, not just a clubby newsletter.

By that time we were 48 inside pages and boasted three monthly columnists: Dennis Stacey, Joseph Humpherys, and Vade Forrester. By the last Thompson publication we had 64 inside pages, as we do today, and had added columnists J. C. Clay, Susan Ives, and K. Joyce McDonald (and others gained and lost by the wayside), some of whom continue to write regularly for the magazine.

A sampling of “what’s hot” this time, reported by Larry Lentz and John Gaddis: Multimedia, pen-based systems, notebooks, graphic accelerators.

“Ed. Thompson,” as she signs her column, and the (already) award-winning PC Alamode end the year with yet another prestigious award: “Best Newsletter of the Year” from the Association of Professional User Groups. 

1992
Ted Lawson still is hard at work bringing in more and more advertising, prompting Editor Thompson to write: “This big-time advertising thing is truly new for us. Isn’t it exciting to see the developments of this and other Alamo PC facets unfold?” 

One of those exciting developments, directly attributed to the increase in advertising revenues, was a boon for the SIGs: a new Proxima color LCD projection panel.

New President Alex Flores predicts “1992 is going to be Alamo PC’s year.” He foresees that membership will exceed 1,000 and that Alamo PC will own its own color LCD Video Display equipment and a computerized Voice Telephone System.. The latter is a big improvement over the old answering machine, accommodating up to 999 mail boxes and including Fax capabilities.
 

The 15 SIGs, which had always met in scattered homes and offices, finally obtain a training room at the Madison Retirement Community. 

The Board approves purchasing the Complete Communicator, making Alamo PC “the only user group in town to have a voice mailbox!” (For those of you who might have blinked, there was another user group in town for a short time.)

The Board also agrees that software reviewers for PC Alamode be allowed to keep and register the software after the review is published.

And what better example of the sharing tradition than the formation of the Home Help Committee? Ten selfless members volunteer “to help our new computer users on their own PCs in their own homes or wherever their computer is located.” It is a unique service among user groups.

1993
Happy 10th Birthday, Alamo PC! 

President Vade Forrester reports a new high in Alamo PC’s bank balance — $12,941.57! Five thousand is used to open a savings account; other funds are earmarked for SIG training materials, updating the Bulletin Board with a faster computer and doubling the phone lines to eight.

The President also reports on another interesting trend: “Windows for Workgroups has focused everyone’s attention on getting computers to talk to each other, either on networks or over long distances.” (Rings a bell, doesn’t it?)

And so Alamo PC’s first decade draws to a close. What was that about an average two-year life expectancy for user groups? But then, when was Alamo PC ever “average”?

 

Reflections
Vade Forrester


I joined Alamo PC in 1988 and almost immediately began to contribute to PC Alamode. After Cynthia saw I was semi-reliable, she let me write a monthly column, which I called Horizons. It was not very focused, with no real theme. But Cynthia let me continue anyhow.

In 1990, John McGinty asked me to serve on the Board of Directors as the publicity chairman and trade show organizer, and for some reason, I agreed. While on the Board, I met a remarkable individual  named Alex Flores. We got along well, and decided that for the 1991-1992 term, Alex would run for President of Alamo PC and I would back him up as First Vice President. That was a very productive year for Alamo PC, and we established it as a well-respected user group.

In 1992, I was elected President, and got to preside over a Board of very enthusiastic individuals. We had some spirited debates, and I occasionally felt frustrated. But viewing things with 20-20 hindsight, I realize that our Board was one of the hardest working in the history of the club.

In 1993, San Antonio hosted the US Olympic Festival, and Alex Flores, an avid sports enthusiast, chaired a major effort by Alamo PC to support the computer needs of the Festival Committee. We contributed around 5000 hours of help to the Festival. Ted Lawson saw in this effort a golden opportunity, and wrote up an application for Alamo PC to receive a User Group award from PC Magazine, the first of its sort. We were selected as one of the half-dozen winners, and I attended COMDEX in Atlanta to receive our award.  I presented it to Alex Flores to keep for us, since it was his leadership that made it happen.

The Next Ten Years
1994 - 2003
1994
President Frank Snyder writes 
We’ve come a long way since I left office in September ‘88 from about 550 members to more than 3,500; from approximately $4,000 in the bank to $30,000. Instead of practically begging hardware and software companies to make presentations to our members, they now call us regularly. Alamo PC used to be just another computer user group. Today we are the fifth-largest in the USA, and probably in the world.
He also outlines some specific goals for the organization — in addition to increasing membership and improving SIGs, he envisions locating a permanent meeting place and creating a resource center “for all our members” with a computer lab and a library for magazines, books and commercial software.

Ted Lawson, VP Advertising & Marketing, receives the Mike Powers Lifetime Achievement Award.

The big news at COMDEX in November is the highly-anticipated introduction of Windows 95. The Internet is also a major focus, as is Multimedia — 3D sound (stereo is becoming outdated) and in video, a trend toward faster operation and higher resolutions. Users will be able to watch movies on their computers! With respect to Windows 95, Tim Hoke, reporting on the exhibition, makes a prophetic observation: 

Reflections
Larry Lentz


The year I served as President (93/94), membership grew from about 1800 members to about 3,500, thanks mainly to the hard work of Ted Lawson and Frank Snyder. 

That summer (1993) we hosted Microsoft’s road show for ‘Chicago’, the code name for Windows 4.0, later to be named Windows 95!  Microsoft made us a special deal that they would buy $10 of the membership dues for anyone who joined the club that night!  We got over 900 new members at that meeting.

We held our General Meetings at the Health Science Center then, and they limited how many people we could have attend.  We had folks circling the campus for hours hoping to get in!  Because of the huge amount of traffic for that presentation, we wore out our welcome at the Health Science Center.  A good friend of mine, Bill Clark, was a member of the Alamo Heights ISD school board, and he arranged for us to be able to meet in their facilities.

“While OS/2 users are still around, software companies across the board believe Mr. Gates and Company will continue to dominate with more than a lion’s share of the market.”

1995
Cynthia Thompson, PC Alamode Editor, is presented with the Mike Powers Lifetime Achievement Award in March. Stan Faye, General Counsel to the Board, receives the honor in October.

Finally! Windows! Microsoft’s Windows 95 World Tour presentation in San Antonio, co-hosted with Microsoft and Compaq, had been Alamo PC’s best-attended meeting ever, reports President Frank Snyder. 

We filled Trinity’s Laurie Auditorium to its maximum seating capacity of 2,479. At least 150-250 were turned away at the doors . . . We estimate there were another 500-700 people who came but did not leave their cars. Our best estimate is that between 3,100 and 3,400 people actually came with as many as 900 not getting seats.” Microsoft later writes Snyder: “Due to the hard work of your volunteers, San Antonio’s Windows 95 World Tour was the second best-attended in the US.
Only the Los Angeles user group had a higher turnout. 

Alamo PC member Bill Hudson spearheads the effort to start a local Seniornet Learning Center. Incarnate Word College offers the use of a computer lab, but $10,000 is still needed. An anonymous gift of $5000 from a member brings Alamo PC’s SeniorComp a giant step forward. In November, it becomes a reality.

Phyllis Christian receives the Mike Powers Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her devotion in searching out and downloading software to make available to members on the BBS.

By years end, with the leadership of Frank Snyder and salesmanship of Ted Lawson, membership had increased from 3,500 to more than 5,000, making Alamo PC the third largest independent user group in the US. 
 

1996
The “Information Superhighway” definitely has “arrived,” and PC Alamode now has an Internet Editor — Susan Ives.

Cynthia Thompson is ready to hang up her Editor’s hat, and announces that Clarke Bird, formerly editorial director of a trade industry magazine, will edit and publish PC Alamode beginning with the April issue. 

Alamo PC conducts its first “Demographic Survey of Members” via PC Alamode to determine who its members are, what they do and where they live. When results have been analyzed and are published in the magazine, Editor Clarke Bird describes the average member: “The odds are you are a married male, 40 to 60 years old, live north of downtown San Antonio, have belonged to Alamo PC for one year or less, work in an office, use word processing software most frequently at work and have one computer at home connected to a dot matrix printer.” Respondents rank Alamo PC benefits in the following order: the PC Alamode, General Meeting presentations, the BBS, SIGs, member discounts and the Home Help Line.

1997
In June, the Resource Center moves from the Petroleum Center to Central Park Mall. President Jerry Seiler envisions a computer lab and a library of computer books and product information.

The Board votes to replace only four of its 12 members each year to retain continuity from year to year and to choose a President Elect “to gain experience before taking over the presidency.”

President Seiler announces that “Thanks to the untiring efforts of Editor Clarke Bird and Webmaster Susan Ives, the Alamode and our Web site are receiving international awards for excellence.”
 

Reflections
Susan Ives


I joined Alamo PC at a Computer Blast show, went to a meeting a few weeks later and won a pricey software package before my membership check even cleared the bank. This was a good deal! For a while I just cruised along reading the PC Alamode and attending monthly meetings. Then I signed onto the BBS. I was hooked. The BBS led me to the Internet, and I became obsessed with this new communications tool. That’s what got me more involved with Alamo PC. I wrote a two-part article on selecting an Internet service provider, mailed it and a disk to Cynthia Thompson and held my breath to see if it would get published. [It did.] Now we have two Internet theme issues a year. Learning to use the Internet was a challenge in the early days, so I called John Gaddis and brashly suggested I could lead an Internet SIG. I taught a beginners class, which became “Jumpstart Internet,” and an advanced class, which became “Power Internet,” for about six years, often partnering with John Woody. The next challenge was a Website. Only a handful of people knew how to design a Website, and one of them, John Daigle, encouraged me to put up a site for Alamo PC. “But I don’t know how!” I complained. He showed me how. I was Webmaster for Alamo PC for about six years. That, too, evolved into a SIG, “Jumpstart Your Home Page”, which still meets today. For me, Alamo PC has provided a framework and a network to help me learn. When I write an article for PC Alamode or teach a SIG, I have to dig deeper, think harder and organize more tightly than if I were just ‘noodling’ around on my own. I’ve become an expert of sorts, and it all started with Alamo PC.
Alamo PC Organization
Presidents
From To President
1/83 8/84 Ben Jackson
9/84 3/85 Mike Powers
3/85 8/85 David Jauer
9/85 9/88 Frank Snyder
10/88 3/89 Bill Sheffman
4/89 6/89 Pete Dilan
7/89 9/90 Sam Pinnell
10/90 9/91 John McGinty
10/91 9/92 Alex Flores
10/92 9/93 Vade Forrester
10/93 9/94 Larry Lentz
10/94 9/95 Frank Snyder
10/95 9/96 Linda Chriswell
10/96 9/97 Jerry Seiler
10/97 9/98 Susan Ives
10/98 9/99 Tim Hoke
10/99 9/00 Joe Brazell
10/00 9/01 Larry Grosskopf
10/01 9/02 John Woody
10/02   Joe Brazell
PC Alamode
Editors
From To Editor
9/83 3/84 Jurgen Schmidt
4/84 8/84 Ron White
9/84 3/85 Jim Morgan
4/85 7/90 Paul Weber
8/90 3/96 Cynthia Thompson
4/96   Clarke Bird
1998
At Central Park, the organization’s first hands-on computer lab finally becomes reality, thanks to a $15,000 donation from SeniorComp, which moves there from Fort Sam Houston. Microsoft donates thousands of dollars worth of software. President Susan Ives calls the new network computer lab “a first-class facility featuring state-of-the-art computer work stations” and notes that it represents “a quantum leap in the level of service we can provide.” 

Alamo PC demonstrates its commitment to computer education in San Antonio by establishing two scholarships for local computer science students. One, for $1,500, will be awarded to a UTSA junior or senior majoring in Information Systems; $500 will go to a SAC student majoring in a computer-related field.

1999
President Tim Hoke is optimistic about Alamo PC’s future following the most recent COMDEX gathering: 

If Fall COMDEX was any indication, the computer industry and PC user groups are still expanding. Experts predict it will be a long time before the computer community reaches its zenith
He also reports that APCUG had awarded PC Alamode first place in the Magazine category. 
We may be the second-largest PC user group,” he says, “but we produce the very best magazine!
Reflections
Tim Hoke


When I moved to San Antonio in January 1990, I began looking for a PC user group, as my friends in Kansas City belonged to one. I looked in the yellow pages, but to no avail. Then one day I was reading the Express-News classifieds and there was a little ad under the computer section advertising a PC user group called Alamo PC Organization. I called the number and got the president, Alex Flores, who sent me an application. I immediately sent it back and the rest, as they say, is history. Within a year, there was a vacancy on the Board of Directors and I was asked to fill it. I had my hands full as the new Secretary, but I soon began helping the VP of Programs, Frank Snyder. When Frank was elected President, I took over VP of Programs for several years. I also represented Alamo PC at COMDEX several times, and at the Borland User Group events and one Microsoft Software Summit Meeting. In 1998/99, I served as President, after which I was Product Review Coordinator. I’ve had the privilege of serving with some of the nicest people in the world and have made a number of lifelong friendships, not to mention learning a lot about computers.
Editor Clarke Bird is notified by the User Group Academy that PC Alamode has won an Academy Award, but he has to wait until January to find out which award! It’s worth the wait. The UGA is a user group comprised mostly of Mac users and known for its visually-exciting publications, which makes the news, when it comes, even sweeter: Best in Show, reportedly judged on article content and layout.

Dvora Mathews, who had been a manager of the first Resource Center at the Petroleum Center, is presented with the Mike Powers Lifetime Achievement Award. 

President Joe Brazell reviews improvements in the Resource Center over the past year: a second computer lab with 12 workstations; two servers now, running with a 100-megabit network; upgraded software; and raised walls that allow simultaneous classes in the two labs.

2000
The editor announces that PC Alamode has won all the major awards in the magazine category of APCUG’s second annual newsletter contest.

President Joe Brazell commends the volunteers who have contributed so many hours to remodeling the Resource Center and computer lab. The lab now has 14 computers, 8-foot by10-foot screens, and two projectors. Skilled volunteers have raised a wall to separate the lab and classroom areas, rerouted electrical wiring and installed additional electrical outlets. By September, a second lab with 14 workstations has been added.

At the Volunteer Recognition Awards Banquet in October, PC Alamode Editor Clarke Bird receives a surprise — the first Paul Weber Excellence in Writing Award.

2001
DSL Internet connection service becomes available, and members call on Alamo PC to help answer the inevitable question: To switch or not to switch (from cable modem)? 

We’ve Moved,” announces PC Alamode in May. President Larry Grosskopf dubs it “The Great Alamo PC Relocation Affair.” Grosskopf explains today

New Central Park Mall management had notified us the previous January that we would have to start paying rent
Subsequent lease negotiations failed, but while months went by with no final word from mall management, a foresighted Board was exploring other options. 
Our two vital considerations were cost and a central location...We finally accepted a lease offered by Crossroads Mall.
The last weekend of March 2001 is “sharing time again,” and volunteers turn out to pack up and move.

In his last column, President Grosskopf reports rumblings that user groups like Alamo PC have worn out their welcome. 

I contend that now is the time when our importance and value are significantly increased directly in proportion to the lack of support many computer and software vendors now provide. We can become an even stronger and more influential force than ever before.
Citing the wealth of education and experience that APCO members are willing and able to share, he predicts that “We will continue to be a dynamic and vibrant organization.” 

To upgrade or not to upgrade (to Windows XP)? That’s the question by Fall. Windows 98 had earned a loyal following, and those who had tried ME were casting wary eyes at Microsoft’s newest OS. A good time to have the combined expertise of Alamo PC members to share advice and opinions. 

2002
The “Great Flood of 2002" in July takes a toll on Crossroads Mall and the Resource Center. Luckily, Larry Matthews and Moore McDonough are there to sound the alarm, and reach Bridgette and Joe Brazell. “The four of them.” President John Woody writes later, “saved the Lab from really major damage.” There is still a lot of work to be done, but volunteers have the Resource Center open again in less than three weeks.

President Woody announces discussions concerning proposed name changes for some of Alamo PC’s functions to clarify them for members and respective members. “The SIGs/Classes terminology is getting confusing,” he writes. Susan Ives, VP Marketing & Public Relations, believes some standard definitions need to be developed to better describe and distinguish between the actual functioning of SIGs, Classes, Seminars/Workshops and Clinics. She offers observations and suggestions and asks members to provide their feedback to the Board.

A Strategic Planning Committee is formed to establish a long-range plan for Alamo PC. Ideas to be considered include fixed, fee-based course agendas in business subjects; how businesses are brought into the organization; and whether the cost of membership is still on target.

President Woody announces that, as a result of efforts by David Steward, VP Programs, and Rose Lynn Saenger, SeniorComp Director, Dell has offered to supply Intel PIV 1.6 Ghz computers for both labs at $625 each. Alamo PC purchases 30, each with 40 GB hard drives, CD-RW drives, 256 MB of RAM and running Microsoft XP Pro. Included are applications for SeniorComp and the Advanced Lab SIGs. Woody writes

This Resource Center upgrade greatly supports our effort to upgrade training and SIG participation and will place Alamo PC on the cutting edge of the next 15 minutes at least

Incoming President Joe Brazell sees “turning the tide in the decline in membership” and “maintaining our financial status . . . without increasing dues or fees . . . ” as two of the biggest issues facing the organization. 

Alamo PC is evolving to meet the new needs and demographics of current and future members,” he writes. “To continue to publish the magazine in its current form and operate the Resource Center, we will have to increase our membership soon.

2003
The Strategic Planning Committee and the Board have been busy studying ways in which Alamo PC can best meet the changing needs of its members and potential members for the next 20 years.

Expanding our focus
Joe Brazell

Initially, Alamo PC was created to help people learn the basics of computers. Today, many people receive that training in school or at work. Virtually everyone now uses a computer daily, at the office and/or at home. Also, computers provide broader uses today, and the needs of users have changed accordingly. Alamo PC must evolve and expand to meet those changing needs. Although the organization will continue to meet the basic needs of the users for whom it was established, at some point the need for basic training will dwindle. This requires us not to change our focus or direction, but to expand them,

Today, computer users in general use more sophisticated tools and software and need assistance with those tools. Their expectations are higher than in the past. Also, small businesses increasingly are finding that to survive, they need their own web pages —not static information pages, but evolving and interactive sites. We need to learn how to meet their needs to interest them in our organization. Other major trends Alamo PC has just begun to harness include digital photography, CD and DVD-burning (the lab has CD-RW drives for CD-burning classes, but no DVD burners.); small-business and home networking, and security for those networks.

We need to address wireless technology and mobile device training and expand in the area of Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). We also need to expand our focus to include the needs of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, meaning young families (including the children, which means gaming), and of business people. We need classes to cover small business accounts, Web site development, contact management, graphics and other areas. We need to provide parents some help, guidance and tools to help them protect their children while online.

Alamo PC is still alive and well. We still are one of the largest computer user groups in the world. We have a healthy bank account and the Board continues to be prudent about spending while acquiring the tools to meet the needs of current and future members. By expanding our focus and direction to keep pace with changing computer users’ needs, we can maintain that stability.