Computer workshops at Club Med; getting away from it all - but not quite. Stephen B. Gray.
Computer Workshops at Club Med
Getting Away From It All--But Not Quite
The brochures and ads call Club Med "the antidote to civilization' and promise a vacation during which "you'll be immersed in a totally different style of living, where there are no TVs or telephones, radios, newspapers, or clocks.'
But there are computers.
In several of these earthly paradises, you can play games or even learn to program. How does Club Med justify using such civilized technology in vacation villages that have become famous as places to get away from it all?
In announcing the Atari 400 and 800 Home Computers as the "official' computers at Club Med villages in the Western Hemisphere, the chairman and CEO of Club Med, Serge Trigano, said, "The home computer will become a major force in society in the future. By offering these workshops to our members, we will be helping to demystify computers by helping our guests to understand the computer revolution.'
Raymond E. Kassar, chairman and CEO of Atari Inc., added, "Club Med villages offer a perfect setting for young people and adults to be introduced to microcomputers. We believe these computer workshops will help people to understand the exciting applicability of computers to our everyday lives.'
First Computer Workshop
The idea of computer workshops, or "ateliers d'informatique,' originated with Serge Trigano's father, Gilbert, who in 1954 joined Club M[editerran[ee, which had been founded in 1950 by Gerard Blitz and a few friends. Gilbert, who started as managing director, became chairman in 1963. His son Serge is head of Club Med, Inc., which oversees the villages in the western hemisphere.
The first computer workshop was in Kamarina, Sicily, using Honeywell, French PTT, Thomson, and IBM equipment. It was so popular that Club Med introduced the computer workshop to two villages in the Caribbean area: Ixtapa on the Pacific coast of Mexico, Caravelle on Guadeloupe in the French West Indies; and later to a third, Eleuthera in the Bahamas.
Future computer workshops are planned for other locations in Europe and at the village in New Caledonia, which receives many visitors from Japan. Atari has an exclusive on supplying computers for Club Med Villages in the western hemisphere; no company yet has an exclusive for the European villages.
A computer workshop was to begin operations thus summer at the Punta Cana village in the Dominican Republic. Several new courses, including VisiCalc and Logo, will be offered for the first time at Club Med. A system is being installed to provide the first Club Med computerized bulletin board, which will display, on CRTs in the village, daily events and special messages to all guests.
Another first at Punta Cana will be an information system into which will be fed guest likes and dislikes, for future planning; this may be expanded to other villages.
The computer workshop at Eleuthera offers lessons in Basic programming, for children at two different sessions in the early afternoon, and for adults in the late afternoon. Six lessons are taught, and all can be taken within a week, Monday to Saturday. Children can play games for an hour beginning at four; adults have a game hour beginning at six.
One of the Eleuthera instructors during the summer is Jean-Paul Boyer, who teaches in a Paris school of electronic engineering during the academic year. During summers and holidays, he goes to Club Med computer workshops to teach and "to oversee what's going on, to help computerize the villages.'
One summer afternoon, he taught Basic to three American adults: a woman who was a programmer at IBM for eight years, is now in a staff position, and is interested in the IBM Personal Computer; an electrical engineer who works in quality control; and a lawyer.
Workshop at Caravelle
The Caravelle workshop had eight Ataris last year, and will have 25 eventually. The Atari 400, with its easily cleaned "monopanel' keyboard is preferred for children, and the 800 with its standard keyboard for adults.
There are no separate hours for adults and children at Caravelle, which also offers a language lab, since Guadeloupe is French-speaking. The head sports instructor has been taking Atari Conversational Spanish, because of the influx of Spanish-speaking visitors from Columbia, Venezuela, and other South American countries. The course includes phrases that ate first shown on the screen and then spoken aloud from the program cassette in audio mode. Adult programs include word processing and stock analysis; children's programs range from States & Capitals to Number Blast. Games on hand range from Backjack to Space Invaders, from Eastern Front to Breakout. All the programs are in English, but several are being translated into French by the instructors. All instructors speak both French and English and can teach in either language.
Computer workshop staffers receive training at Atari headquarters in California, after being selected, according to Trigano, by computer. One of the instructors said Club Med hopes to have computers in 45 villages within two years; there are over 90 villages worldwide.
Asked why computers are featured at telephone-less Club Med, Serge Trigano answered, "We believe computers will be part of our life tomorrow. The computer is another civilization.' Are the workshops meant to counter the general decline in travel? "I don't think computers will attract people who go on vacation,' said Trigano. "Maybe, though, they'll choose one club over another, if one has a computer workshop and the other doesn't.'
Photo: A young vacationer keeps up his arcade skills.
Photo: Atari at the beach--wonder how those disk drives like the sand.
Photo: Instructor Yvonne Tournadour critiques a graphics program written by a New Jersey schoolteacher at the Caravelle workshop.
Photo: Two youngsters check out an Atari program in a Basic class at the Club Med computer workshop in Eleuthera.