Since this is an election year it probably won't surprise you that the
title is misleading: there was no June General Meeting. But on Saturday, June
1, there was the summer edition of the Washington Apple Pi Computer Show
and Sale, better known as The Garage Sale. It was also the first really
warm weekend of the year, and the date of the WHFS rock festival at RFK
Stadium. Over 50,000 attended the rock festival; a somewhat smaller attended
the Garage Sale at the Northern Virginia Community College (Annandale)
I have no idea what most of the people did at the Garage Sale. I never had
a chance to wander around and see what was being sold, or talk to the tire
kickers, or even find the restrooms. From before the doors officially opened,
until minutes after we started shutting everything down, I was trapped at the
Computer Checkout Table.
Our motto: If You Bring It, We'll Check It. Fortunately, people limited
themselves to computers; we would have had trouble with, say, scrawny kittens
or cranky Model-T Fords. We had only one failure: someone brought in a Power
Mac 7100 with multiple problems, and we couldn't get it to even display an
image on the monitor. While it had many minor problems, this allegedly wasn't
one of them -- "I don't know why it is doing this; at least this part works at
The Checkout Table boasted a turn-away crowd. Even with assistance from Pi
President Lorin Evans and, on a couple occasions, Tom Witte (who spent the
rest of his time managing the show), there were people constantly lined up.
Some drifted away, unwilling to wait, or unwilling to hold their equipment
while standing in line. They brought old Macs, new Macs, and really new Macs
("Gee, this is the first time I've seen one of these!" "Well, maybe you
shouldn't be checking it, then." "Are you kidding? I'd love to take a look at
it!"). Significantly, the oldest machine we saw was a Mac Plus, and we saw
only one of those. It was in working condition, if somewhat confused about the
hard drive someone was trying to attach to it. A few minutes of quiet
counseling, plus installation of a compatible operating system, turned this
into a happy, functional machine again.
The most common problem, aside from general disorganization ("Why can't I
have 7,600 files in the System Folder?") was: dead batteries. We saw Mac LC,
LC II, and LC III machines with dead batteries, Mac IIsi machines with dead
batteries, and a PowerBook 100 with multiple dead batteries. In at least a
couple cases, people must have suspected this was the problem because they
"just happened to have" whatever exceedingly uncommon lithium battery was used
in their particular Mac.
Another common theme: clutter. Several people explained that "I was told
to add this update file to my computer, so I did," but instead of an installed
update, or patching a program, the compressed update archive was dropped in
the System Folder, or the patching program was placed on the machine and the
application it patched was thrown away, or some variation. One person had
carefully placed eight successive updates, decompressed, of a program in the
program's folder; all told, these came to 1,100 files. Yet none of the patches
had actually been applied. In every case, without exception, the user admitted
that they hadn't bothered to read the instructions which came with the
This illustrates an interesting dilemma: people want less expensive
software, and they want rapid updates to software; this clearly implies
electronic distribution, with users applying the updates themselves. But many
users don't seem to understand how to update their own software. Purchasing
updates from the vendors directly would probably work better for many people,
but would also be slower and more expensive. Help with the inexpensive "do it
yourself" approach is a Pi specialty -- users helping users. But for many of
these people (several of them members), it had never occurred to them to
attend a Pi meeting or tutorial, or call to ask questions on the TCS, the Pi's
computer bulletin board. Perhaps we need periodic articles in the
Journal on "How to use a user group?"
Several people suggested we sell tickets: as I checked the machines, I'd
explain what I was doing, and this attracted a crowd. Even bigger crowds
gathered if the cover was taken off a machine, and a tour was given ("This is
a hard drive, that is a floppy, these are memory chips, that is a giant
dust bunnyŠ") Lorin incited a small mob scene when he disassembled a
PowerBook 100; offering ice cream snacks in a kindergarten probably couldn't
attract so many excited, eager faces.
Suggestions, and volunteers to staff those suggestions, are being actively
sought for the next Garage Sale, in December. The Checkout Table is an obvious
success; what else would be of value? Tutorials? Classes in Internet surfing?
(Bring your own beach towel.) Send suggestions to the E-mail address at the
bottom of the article.
What would a Pi Garage Sale be without door prizes? Several Pi members
(and the entire staff) have suggested we give away items from the second
tutorial room at the Pi office. While some of this stuff probably has
something to do with the kind of computers we know and love, other items are
so ancient or obscure that they look to be not only pre-microprocessor, but
pre-light bulb. It would have gone like this:
"Welcome to the Washington Apple Pi Garage Sale! Oh, look -- you are a
drawing winner! Have this!"
"What is it?"
"We have no idea! But we'll help you put it in your car right now!"
But nooooo -- boring traditionalist insisted we give away something
(usually) more identifiable, such as:
America Online T-shirt (AOL): Luke Short What's On the Internet (Peachpit Press): Michelle Robb Art Studio 2 (Micrografx): Marcie Calcagno
Apple tote bag (Apple): C. Richard Goodman Now Utilities (Now Software): Harvey Cohen WordPerfect QuickStart (Peachpit Press): Harley Nygren
America Online T-shirt (AOL): Amy Triplett Amazing Animation (Claris): Eileen Powers
User Group Connection mouse pad (UGC): Jay Miller
PlusWare keypad (PlusWare): Dale Rivers Internet Yellow Pages (Osborne-McGraw-Hill): Carol O'Connor Webhead (Peachpit Press): Teague Clare
America Online T-shirt (AOL): Michael Weagley
User Group Connection mouse pad (UGC): Charlie Stancil
America Online T-shirt (AOL): Paul Simon PageMaker QuickStart (Peachpit Press): Milton Goldsamt
Abacus keypad (Keytronic): Michael Mattie Wiz Tools (ASP Software): Marianne Teague Web Arranger 2.0 (CE Software): Elmer Keene
The drawing prize form has a space in which the lucky winner gets to say
what kind of computer, or computers, they own. There was the expected mix of
Apple II, Mac and PC machines, but one person listed an Amdahl mainframe. They
must have a most impressive air conditioning bill.