Kur-ing-gai Computer Pals History

Ku-ring-gai was possibly the first computer club in Australia.

The world wide Computer Pals Movement and Lindfield

In 1983 ‘A Program of Computer Pals Across the World Inc.’ was established as an electronic writing project that linked over 1,400 schools, colleges, universities and community-based educational institutions throughout the world. Malcolm Beazley, a teacher at Turramurra High School was the Founder/Director. More information on the beginnings of Computer Pals can be found here.

Michael Beazley suggested to Ku-ring-gai Council that they assist in the formation of a group to join the Computer Pals electronic writing network. 

This resulted in Council arranging for interested local senior citizens to attend weekly discussions with students at Turramurra High School. The group learnt about Computer Pals and had lessons in how to use computers. It made its headquarters in a community hall at Lindfield. An Apple Macintosh computer was donated to them. This formed the beginning of what we now know as Computer Pals for Seniors (Ku-ring-Gai) Inc. which was registered on the 30th January 1998, under the Associations Incorporation Act 1984.

After some initial instruction on the Macintosh computer, they were presented with a new IBM-compatible System 586 computer with 8Mb RAM and an 850MB HDD, plus a 15” XGA colour monitor for a price of $1,669. The computer and a printer were donated by the Lions Club of Ku-ring-gai.

In 1991 Computer Pals for Senior Citizens (later shortened to Computer Pals) was launched to:-
• Unlock the barriers of isolation which many senior citizens faced
• Provide an opportunity for senior citizens to make new friends and renew old acquaintances
• Foster greater understanding between the generations
• Develop self-esteem in the individual
• Provide a real opportunity for individuals to develop expertise in using the new technologies

As a community activity, Computer Pals for Senior Citizens was usually attached to the local Council’s Senior Citizens’ Centre. Computer Pals was managed and operated by dedicated volunteers who gave time and expertise to assist teachers, students and community personnel, to understand the technology and then establish appropriate links with others.
Members of the group did not need to own their own computer but needed a keen interest in exchanging ideas and a knowledge of current events in your their own country; also a desire to build international understanding and friendship.

The newly formed, Computer Pals for Senior Citizens club, encouraged a group of people to investigate the working and manipulation of computers for the purpose of worldwide communication. Not one of the pioneers had any idea as to how to begin, yet they had the audacity and assurance they could cope. They were, after all, quite familiar with teaching, accountancy, secretarial duties, and community service, among a host of other capabilities.

The members mastered the use of word processing to compose and send messages overseas. They had their own electronic mail identity number and became well-known to schools, colleges, universities and senior citizens’ groups. 

Their expertise led to the ability to present a paper at the ‘Fourth International Computer Pals Across the World’ conference held in Wolfenbuttel, Germany in 1991. 

As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of Monday 8th July, 1991, Elaine Dabbs, a self-confessed computer addict and founding member of Computer Pals Ku-ring-gai, shared her enthusiasm for computers when she presented a paper to the conference. The Ku-ring-gai paper was presented by means of a computer situated in a community hall in Lindfield. The members submitted their first report with trepidation. The following year for the conference in Reno, Nevada, joint reports were submitted, co-ordinated by and Elaine Dabbs who took part in a live transmission to the conference. The subject was: “Seniors and Computers”.

The club has continued to operate with the support of Ku-ring-gai Council and run by dedicated volunteers. Since its beginning; technology, club equipment, teaching methods and content have changed enormously. The club has continued to adapt and remains a valued community resource meeting the original aims of the club. Numbers have fluctuated with the highest demand for the club’s services being experienced during the early 2000’s.

Early founders and long-term committee members remain as life members.