Helping at Atari's CES booths
CLAUG, the ChicagoLand Atari Users Group, is one of the major users groups in the Chicago area, along with SCAT (Suburban Chicago Atarians) and the Lake County Atari Computer Enthusiasts in Waukegan. CLAUG was originally the Atari SIG of a multi-computer society called CACHE (Chicago Atari Computer Hobbyists Exchange). It went independent as the Atari Computer Users of Chicago in 1981.
"We started with only about 30 to 50 members," says CLAUG corporate secretary Chuck Schwark. "After two years on our own, the group became the ChicagoLand Atari Users' Group, Inc., in 1983. Now, with over 230 members, we believe that CLAUG is the largest and oldest group in Illinois devoted entirely to Atari computers. Our membership grows by an average of 7 to 15 new members a month."
Schwark is also the database manager for the group, taking care of attendance and membership files, and the editor of the monthly newsletter. "I edit and paste up the master galleys and print the label sheets," he says. "Then I send it to one of the assistant newsletter editors who makes photocopies. We exchange newsletters with users groups around the country, as well as in Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Panama, South Africa, Poland and Spain."
Since 1985, CLAUG has been one of the groups invited by Atari Corp. to help man its booth at the Summer Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Chicago each June. In 1985, for CLAUG's efforts at the show, Atari president Sam Tramiel presented CLAUG with the first 520ST system delivered to anyone but software developers.
"Since we are in Chicago," says Schwark, "and a lot of our board, including myself, work in the electronics or computer fields, we normally attend CES anyway. We said we could help, one thing led to another and we started helping at the show by doing basically grunt work and running some of the booths. This worked out pretty well. There are usually 10 or 12 volunteers."
CLAUG doesn't hold its own computer fairs or events, but it does run a demonstration booth at Computer Central, a local bi-monthly computer fair. There CLAUG distributes membership forms, answering questions and generally gaining exposure.
"We recently began sponsoring a project at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago," says Schwark, "and our vendors have donated software and hardware to the hospital for the kids. Atari donated a couple of computers, while Spinnaker and other third-party vendors have donated a great deal. Now the Child Life and Child Psychiatry departments each have two complete systems."
CLAUG volunteers donate their time to instruct the kids on software operation and hold question-answer sessions. They have also taught hospital staff members how to use the Atari.
"We don't do a lot of things with the general public, but we are one of about six groups who formed a consortium to run the Midwest Atari Fest in July," Schwark says. The groups include SCAT and MILATARI out of Milwaukee.
CLAUG covers metropolitan Chicago and the six "Collar County" areas, with a few members out of state or overseas. Collar Counties include most of the northeast quarter of Illinois. CLAUG serves about 800-900 square miles, within a 100-mile radius from Chicago. It has some 230 family memberships paying $15 annually.
Most members are business and professional people. The group doesn't have many young adult members, but quite a few family members bring children to the meetings. There's no special interest group for the kids, but enough youngsters attend to get together separately and show off their programs.
Many of CLAUG's seven new monthly members are ST owners or first-time computer users. "I think that what attracts them most is hearing that Atari's still alive," says Schwark. "They may have had an 800 sitting in the closet for two years because retailers told them, Atari's dead, we don't sell any merchandise for it, so why not buy this IBM clone?' But now the Atari dealers attract new visitors who see all this new hardware and software that's been developed, and it's sort of like Christmas."
Four or five local Atari dealers set up tables at the meetings of CLAUG and the other user groups in the area. CLAUG requests a minimum 1/4-page newsletter ad for participation.
CLAUG's ST SIG has recently appointed a 16-bit Public Domain Librarian. CLAUG already has a large 8-bit public domain library and a hardware library including a couple of 810 disk drives, an 800 computer, modem, touch tablet, 40-column printer and 850 interface, as well as that color ST system from the '85 CES.
"Although there may be some groups that say they're larger, we believe we're one of the largest, if not the largest, in Illinois," says Schwark. "Since the average family in the group has 1.2 children, according to our survey in the June 1986 newsletter, we've got maybe another 20-25% above membership numbers. And the average household has 1.9 computers."
CLAUG I is a 24-hour, public-access BBS that doesn't require passwords. It has 8.5Mb of download capacity and is run on a 130XE with a 1Mb RAMdisk, with BASIC XL and MYDOS. Disk storage is on four TEAC 77-track, double-sided, double-density drives and four TEAC 80-track double-sided, double-density drives with 26 sectors per track. All this equipment is owned by CLAUG president Pete Pacione.
The BBS gets an average of 200-300 calls a week and has now answered over 60,000 calls. It's very busy, and not easy to log onto. The BBS runs itself 24 hours a day and sysop Pacione looks in on it occasionally to make sure the modem lights are still blinking and the disk is still whirring.
In a poll of CLAUG members, 30% of the membership owns STs (up from 22% in June, 1986) and about 10% of these ST users also own 8-bit computers. The 800XL and 130XE are the most widely used 8-bit computers, and the most popular disk drive is the Atari 1050. CLAUG averages 2.1 disk drives per member. Some 40% of CLAUG members spend over $500 annually on their computer interests, and 26% spend more than $250.
Programmers constitute 80-85% of CLAUG. The most popular ST language is C ("all flavors"), and the most used 8-bit languages are BASIC, assembly and Forth.
Epson and Gemini are the most used printers. The most common modems are the Atari 1030 and XM301, as well as the MPP/Supra models. In fact, 94% of the members own modems and 25% of the members use commercial online services.
The kinds of software most widely used by members are ranked here in order of importance:
1. Word Processing
7. Database Management
8. Personal Finance
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