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Computer fears? There's safety in club's numbers

(ran PAS edition)

When Beverly Formal bought her first computer 12 years ago, she wanted to learn everything it could do.

She told the salesman she wanted to learn about spreadsheets.

His response, she said: "Why do you want to learn a spreadsheet? You're just a housewife."

Formal, a 51-year-old Spring Hill resident, said, "I got so mad, I went home and learned it on my own."

Since then, Formal has gone through four computers and dozens of programs and software.

She uses her computer to plan road trips, check out books from the library, track her bills, store newspaper and magazine clippings and for research.

"It's starting to be my way of life," she said. "Unfortunately, you have to be a genius to keep up with (computer technology)."

She doesn't have to be a genius now that she has discovered the Central Pasco Computer Users Club.

The club is a computer support group that helps its members and guests cope with computer woes. The club meets the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at the meeting room of the Land O'Lakes library on Collier Parkway.

During meetings, members share tips on computer innovations and discuss solutions to the latest computer snags.

"We solve each other's problems and give each other hot tips on what is new and cool," said Mike Lott, a club member for about two years and owner of Tampa-based Stardot, which builds computers and updates old ones. "We do this for fun."

Formal went to the meeting Tuesday looking for suggestions about how to fix her fax modem and improve her computer's memory and hard drive.

The group had plenty of possible solutions, she said.

"The club is well worth it," Formal said. "After what I have seen, I am definitely joining."

The group enjoys solving challenging problems, Lott said.

"We like to have new people come in and have questions and us to help them," said Fay Walker, 65, a Land O'Lakes resident and the club's president. "If we had a goal, that's what it would be, to help people with problems."

Instead of going to a computer repair shop, members trade computer parts and explain how to install them.

"It's an old computer tradition to do that," Lott said.

The club's 30 members range from computer beginners to "technical nerds," Lott said. "We have lots of beginners come in, even people who haven't bought a computer yet."

The club can help make a computer seem less intimidating, said Walker, who admits she is no computer whiz.

"When I first came there, I didn't know anything," she said. "I'm still learning."

The club's membership fee is $12, which funds the club's computer. Most members, who are age 20 to 65, own IBM compatibles.

The only requirement to join, Walker said, is to have an interest in computers.

"Otherwise, we would bore you to death," she said.

You can check out the club's web site at: http://www.cyberspy.com/(tilde)nuisance

Or you can e-mail the club's president at: nuisancecyberspy.com

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