Central Florida Computer Society finds cause in helping others

Central Florida Computer Society finds cause in helping others

Group helps veterans, newbies figure out digital issues

By Andy Ceballos | May 21, 2014


If you love computers or are looking to learn more about them, one group in Central Florida will get you hardwired for success.

The Central Florida Computer Society, a local organization in Orlando, specializes in discussing all things computer. Started in 1976, the organization's goal is to help individuals increase their knowledge of computers and become better with them. Arvin Meyer, president emeritus of The Central Florida Computer Society, said working individually with people helps the learning process.

"Our motto is 'users helping users,'" he said. "You can watch a YouTube [video] and do all that kind of thing, but you don't necessarily really get specific questions answered unless you are one on one."

Meyer is the recipient of the Microsoft Access Most Valuable Professional Award. The award is given by Microsoft to community leaders for sharing their passion and knowledge of Microsoft to others. Microsoft Access is a database management system created by Microsoft. Meyer first received the award in 2000 and has received the award every year for the last 14 years.

The society itself is filled with both experts, such as Meyer, and novices looking to learn more. Meyer said the group currently has about 80 active members. He said the computer industry has been good to him.

"Since it's benefited me so much, I wanted to give back," he said. "And so, I started in the group coming to the [Microsoft] Access special interest group. And then I took over as the leader of it. That was in 2003. I've been doing it ever since."

The organization holds a general meeting once a month at the Maitland Public Library that typically features a speaker who discusses a topic relating to computers. The organization is also divided into special interest groups, or SIGs, that focus on specific areas or topics relating to computers. One example would be a Windows SIG, or the Microsoft Access SIG of which Meyer is a part. The group also holds occasional workshops, such as one that was once held to teach people how to build their own computers. Meyers said it is not as challenging as one might think.

"We've had some workgroup things like 'build your own computer'" he said. "We had people from all over come in and learn how to build a computer. It's actually easier than changing a spark plug. People don't think that, but it really is very easy."

Dues for the organization are billed annually and are $25 for an individual or $15 for a full-time student. Corporate membership with the organization costs $100.

Cheryl Wilson, a member of the society since 1991, originally sought out the society to get help with the computer she had originally purchased.

"I had probably purchased a Gateway or a Zeus [computer] and was working on it and got totally frustrated with all of the error messages," she said. "Things were happening and I didn't know why."

She said the error messages would come up for different reasons, such as not having enough RAM (random access memory) or needing to reboot the computer. She eventually found out about the society and joined, and it was able to help her to get better with computers.

"I went to one of their meetings and sat there kind of blurry-eyed for the first couple of meetings," she said. "They came up, people came up and talked to me, and I said what I needed, and eventually things began to sink in."

She said she would eventually go on to run her own graphics special interest group, touching on subjects such as photography. Her proficiency continued to increase during her time with the group, and she went on to learn web design. She currently serves as the group's webmaster.

"It's been extremely good for me," she said. "I wouldn't have survived without them, let's put it that way."

Ken Larrabee, special interest groups chair for The Central Florida Computer Society, noted that while the organization helps people with all sorts of problems related to their computers, they are not out to compete with private businesses.

"Our job is not to compete with businesses, but to make the computer experience better for people who already own them," he said.

Larrabee also noted that his experience with computers has allowed him to dispel some incorrect notions, such as one's computer being slow because it is old.

"I've taught under the auspices of a computer society. I've taught in senior citizens groups on how to keep your computer clean. People say, 'Well, my computer is old and it runs slow,'" he said. 'No, it doesn't run slow because it's old. It runs slow because you've got it doing too much. When you buy a computer, it should run just as fast when it gets old as it did when it as new."