User Groups Overlooked Again
August 6, 2002
By  John C. Dvorak

   Link to original article online at the source,4149,427075,00.asp

It always makes me laugh when people equate computers with appliances or assume that someday computers will become devices you can buy and immediately operate. In fact, computers are more like cars.

The car has been around for over 100 years, and it still requires training to use. In fact, a car is so dangerous that it requires a license to operate. Why do we expect that anything as complicated as a computer will someday be trivial to use? It never has been. It never will be. And that's why we need user groups. You may have heard of them. Apparently, the computer industry has forgotten about them.

The industry has recently stagnated as market penetration has stopped dead, simply because we have forgotten that computer use has to be taught. Computing is best taught by a friend or associate—the way parents teach children to drive. More complicated matters can be taught at school, similar to drivers' education. And traditionally, expertise is maintained by reading computer magazines and joining user groups. During the dot-com boom, user groups were already in decline, and the economic downturn made things worse. Monster groups that used to have meetings with thousands of people, such as the Houston Area League (HAL), have faded into near oblivion. The massive and powerful Boston Computer Society simply folded its tent.

How is it that user groups thrived in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when there were a fraction of the number of users who exist today? What happened? Some might argue that the Internet mitigated the need for such groups, but the decline began before the Net took over. Besides, the Internet should help groups to thrive, because of its community-engendering nature. So that argument doesn't fly.

DCI Note:

Servicing all brand of PC's since 1984 we have run into so many frustrated users and we believe the first mistake they made was buying a computer like they buy other appliances.  But PC's are not like any other appliance!  PC's are constantly having their software setup changed, are connected to other computer via the Internet, hold the users important data, and so on.  When one buys a computer from a source that sells them like TV's the buyer is missing out on important extras that only reputable specialty computer stores would provide; such as making sure the buyer knows how to backup their data and providing the needed hardware and routines so they can easily backup,  providing a system that is fully setup for the users particular needs, transferring existing data and programs the user owns, configuring their printer, internet etc and then backing up the full setup for the customer so should anything go wrong the setup can be easily restored.  Add training so the user knows about the dangers of downloading so called freeware which often contains spyware.  Including the need utility programs they will need like a good image management program, Acrobat Reader, Norton Anti Virus, etc.  Provide training for them and their family on how to get Windows Security updates, how to protect their software setup, how to use email cautiously, how to backup their system files and we include routines to automatically backup the system files and their data.  The point being that when we are called after the fact to help with a problem it is often too late for us to easily fix the problem because the system was sold without any routines to backup the important files so we have no backup to restore.  Sure current Windows claims features like System Restore can restore the system files to an earlier time, but often we find system restore bombs out and says it cannot restore the backup!  Also our backups are a greater intervals and more rotational so we can generally go back further and get a good backup restored.  Frequently the kind of problems we are called to fix on other brand computers would not have occurred on one of our systems as we provided add protection and training that would have helped the user avoid such problems all together!  Also the type of computer many buy is very inferior to what we offer, but the untrained PC buyer usually does not know what to look for in a new computer.  As the components that make up a computer are rapidly changing we certainly understand it is difficult for us to keep up with what to recommend and we work at keeping up full time. Many just walk into an electronic store and buy a brand name they recognize for a price they feel is good.   Even those that know to consider certain specs like CPU speed amount of memory and hard drive size so not realize that those specs alone only tell a small part these days.  As 256Meg RAM for example comes in many speeds the old slow SDRAM vs DDR SDRAM vs RAMBUS RIMM RAM and these run at many different speeds.  There is more than the GHz rating of a CPU that determines its performance as current CPUs have varying amounts of Internal cache and communicate to the motherboard and RAM via the Front Side Bus at different speeds. The CPUs with the added cache and faster Front-Side bus speeds do not cost but a little bit more like wise faster DDR RAM costs little more than slow DDR RAM, but vendors know that getting the price down as far as possible will help them sell more computers and that is their only concern as it takes much more trouble to educate the buyer so they can better choose the computer that will better serve them.  Add-in the many other extras we include, like delivery, a clean and efficient software setup etc and you end up with a computer that is not nearly as frustrating and a user that is more productive and happier with their computer.  The full details are on our main page - Why Buy a DCI computer.