The Apple Blossom
Volume 2, Number 5
TAB First things first Lorin; could you tell us how you got involved with the Apple II?
LE I became involved with Apple II computers when I visited my daughter's new school. Under a cover in one corner was an Apple II+ computer that no one knew how to operate. I offered to learn how the thing worked, found Washington App le Pi and was put in touch with Phil Shapiro (of GenieLamp fame). Phil is an Apple II programmer and teacher of long standing.
TAB I've been involved with the Apple II since 1982, and I've seen a lot of changes throughout personal computing. What are some of the big changes you've seen in computing through the years?
LE In the short time I have been affiliated with Washington Apple Pi, I have watched the Apple II community become afflicted with "death by marketing", a disease that successfully invaded the Apple III much earlier, and is beginning t
o infest first generation Macintosh users. Yet the two Apple II groups have reacted so differently to market realities. One is in serious denial, while the other has adapted quite nicely.
Another major change is the shift from hardware compatibility as a major concern, to application interoperability.
TAB What kind of role does a user group play historically, and is it different from the role it plays today?
LE Historically the Apple II user group was the home of collective knowledge that offset a new owner's ignorance and provided shelter in times of travail. The computer user in those days was a hardware driven individual. Custom cables
, writing and installing patches, and making compatible the hardware of different manufacturers bonded Apple II users like nothing else could.
Today, a user is applications driven. Hardware compatibility is a given. The Macintosh user works to get different features in software to work cooperatively. Some Apple II and IIGS users do this to a lesser extent, while the rest are still working t heir classic and honorable craft—creating patches, for example, in an attempt to get current hardware to work with their computers.
TAB With regards to Apple II user groups, we've seen a lot of different ways of managing the shrinking Apple II user base; some merge with Macintosh groups, some stay all Apple II, some become SIGs of larger Macintosh user groups. Wha t's your take on this?
LE Every Apple II owner loses a little of his or her shelter when an Apple II group dies. The cumulative effect of those little deaths should shake the community to its roots. Besides groups disappearing, the Apple II community is los
ing the farm system that supplied it with new members. I am not sure they understand the impact of what is happening.
How a small group should respond has more to do with the makeup of the group, how they view what is occurring around them, and whether the Apple II continues to fulfill their needs more than anything else. I doubt one size fits all.
TAB A lot of people out there are involved in user groups if they can find one in their area. Can you tell us a little about the user group you're involved with?
LE From what we see, too many Apple II (and Mac) people are more interested in availing themselves of the services of a local/regional users group than joining it. Somehow the connection between membership in, and the continued existe nce of, a users group has been lost.
TAB What are the different functions that your user group provides? Do you have the typical user group services, such as meetings, special interest groups, newsletters, libraries, and an electronic bulletin board?
LE Washington Apple Pi is the oldest and largest Apple II, III, and Mac user group in the United States. We provide world-wide support to all Apple and Mac platforms with software and hardware assistance, a bimonthly magazine, a 14-li ne regional bulletin board with over four gigabytes of files transfers and downloads, as well as on-line assistance, in-house maintenance, an enormous reference library, classes, tutorials, and on and on. We operate, in-house, a full Internet service (wi th Lynx capability for Apple II members).
TAB A lot of people look for support now to the online world, either online services (like CompuServe, Delphi, America Online, and Genie) or the Internet (for Apple II support, that's the comp.sys.apple2 Usenet newsgroup and its affil iated groups). Is this competition for the traditional user group or can the two be used to complement each other?
LE Let's see--expensive, tiny, not available, and overpriced. Is there something in the question I missed?
Clearly there is an allure to what is thought to be a 'free' support service, such as Internet-based services. Here again, the experienced user finds a challenge, while the inexperienced users finds network adventuring a daunting process. The user gr oup that can keep the different skill levels of its members involved in these activities through the group will survive, because it is providing support to its members. Coexist, sure; but, an Internet-based anything is no substitute for the personal touc h that comes from members helping members.
TAB What's the biggest single service a user group can provide for its members?
LE Personalized assistance from the collective knowledge of the user group brought to bear in a non-threatening, non-demeaning manner.
TAB What kind of challenges are user groups facing today?
LE The Aztecs mentality of the Apple II community. The contrast between the way the Apple II and III communities have dealt with the realities of the market place is instructive. The lack of a national bond among user groups. Each feels like a little boat on a great ocean. Historically they have been unwilling to band together for the common good; it is not too late to try, but there appears to be no interest.
TAB What is your real life job? Does it involve computers too?
LE In real life my computer is a tool to help me research public policy issues and write about them.
TAB Finally, if you could have just one thing to tell all the Apple II users out there, what would it be?
LE Be realistic in your expectations for future role of the Apple II. If you really care to preserve the Apple II base in some form, look at the difference between the way the Apple II and III people have addressed their plights. And,
as you read this, remind yourself of the enormous differences between the installed base of Apple II and III machines and that the depth of software available for the two machines has no comparison! The Apple III community never had an installed base li
ke the II; it never had the breadth of software available for it; and, it never had a farm system of schools training people on Apple computers.
The many fewer Apple III folks banded together under the leadership of Dave Ottalini (and the assistance of Washington Apple Pi) to preserve their membership base and gain new capabilities for their computers: SCSI, 1.44 SuperDrives, high speed modem capability, brand new operating system, etc. Now contrast that with the attitude within the Apple II community. The last cycle of public and private school students raised on Apple IIs is coming to an end. Macs and Wintel are the machines of choice in schools today. The folks who hacked their way t o "success" can't see (or won't acknowledge) the changes around them. As a result, if we are not careful, we will hack ourselves to death--and wonder why.
Can it be turned around? You bet! Do we have the collective will? Well...