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The golden years meet the digital age

In the past decade, computers have come a long way.

What once were the tools of students and office workers have spread into nearly every American home. Computers have become faster, more reliable and increasingly user friendly.

Since 1992, members of the Kitsap Computing Seniors club have been following the change in computer use, from the popularity of the Internet through a half-dozen versions of Microsoft Windows to the proliferation of digital cameras. On Monday, March 18, the group celebrated its 10th birthday over cake during a meeting at the Silverdale Community Center.

Kitsap Computing Seniors got its start in the summer of 1991, when Ramp Harvey got the idea of starting a computer group for Kitsap County seniors after coming back from a SeniorNet training session in Bellevue.

“I thought there was nothing (in Bellevue) that we can’t do in Kitsap County,” Harvey said.

So he wrote a two-sentence letter to the North Kitsap Herald asking if any seniors would like to learn about computers. Much to his surprise, he received 27 responses.

With help from a $2,500 grant from Pope Resources, Harvey had the nonprofit group’s foundation in place within six months. In March 1992, 90 people showed up for the first meeting at Central Kitsap High School.

“Most of them didn’t have a computer,” Harvey said. “But they wanted to learn.”

Lawrence Earl was one of the group’s first members. He said he had a Commodore computer at the time but didn’t know a thing about IBM-compatible PCs.

“I joined with the hope I could learn something and I did,” Earl said. “And I’m still learning things.”

He said the group’s 431 members are an endless source of information.

“With so many members, if you have a problem, there’s a good chance somebody else has had that problem before,” Earl said.

According www.seniors.gov, a federal Web site, seniors are the fastest-growing group of Internet users. More and more seniors are getting their own computers.

Harvey said one of the group’s first decisions was to not limit the club’s age range.

“We’ve got one person that’s 33 years old and another that’s 93,” Harvey said. “But most of the members are in their 60s.”

Many seniors take part in the group’s classes because of the laid-back atmosphere. The classes range from introduction to Windows to manipulating digital images to learning how to search online genealogy sources.

“A lot of kids and grandkids are giving their old computers to their grandparents,” said Kathy DeLosReyes, a former Computing Seniors president. “Then the question is, ‘So now what do I do with it?’ This group is a great way to get instruction.”

Kitsap Computing Seniors meet at 10 a.m. on the third Monday of each month at the Silverdale Community Center.

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