It's been a year now since I wrote about users' groups. I figure that, in the meantime, a lot of personal computers have been carried out of local computer stores by newcomers to the home computer field.
It may be about time to recap for those who have never considered the value of a users' group, and to tell you how to find one in your area.
What's a users' group? Basically, it's a bunch of ordinary people like yourself who've taken the plunge and bought themselves a home computer system and then banded together with other owners of the same system to share tales of woe and their great new discoveries.
Specifically, users' groups offer members a chance to discuss problems, share new programs and the latest info on new developments, as well as a chance to buy computer "peripherals"--or computer equipment other than the computer itself--at a big savings because many groups make group purchases. The members will even pass on to you what they think are the best places to shop.
The users' group is valuable not only for those who already own a system, but they're also a great source of information on the merits and demerits of particular system for those trying to figure out which system to buy.
Finally, nobody can tell you as much about a computer as someone who's used it for a while.
To find a users' group is really a simple task. Call the dealer that sold you your system or sells a system you're thinking of buying and ask for the number of the local user group. They should have it.
If they don't, well, either there is no such users' group locally--although the store would probably be glad to help you form one--or the store isn't doing a good job of meeting its customers' needs. This, of course, ought to make you wonder what sort of service you're going to get if you buy a system from them.
Here's a listing of some of the major users' groups in the Washington area:
* Apple Computer: Apple Pi is the largest user group locally with about 3,000 to 3,200 members. For information, call 654-8060.
* Atari: In Northern Virginia, there is--appropriately enough--Novatari. Call 620-3116. In Washington, call 599-1621 after 5 p.m.
* IBM PC: For information about Capital PC, call 364-2467 or 948-1742.
* Timex Sinclair: call 699-8712.
* TRS-80: You can hook up with the TRS-80 group, who use Radio Shack/Tandy Corp. computers, by calling 292-7376.
If a users' group for the computer in which you're interested isn't listed here, or if you're in another geographical area, check the Yellow Pages for a store that carries the model. Then call and ask for the phone number of the local users' club.