By Bill Marchant
Preliminary notes: I am writing this history from documents I have in my possession, and also from memory. It is entirely possible that the latter function will be found faulty. Therefore, if anyone reading this has information to correct the mistakes I will undoubtedly make, I hope he or she will let me know so that corrections can be made.
This computer club has its origins in St Mary's University . In about 1986 or so Colin Stewart and I, who both worked for the Canadian Coast Guard at the time, were looking for a club or society to help us improve our knowledge of personal computers. We heard of meetings taking place at St. Mary's and there we found one of the professors had organized a group. We also met Andy Cornwall at one of the meetings. I mention these names because they are the only ones I can remember who were more or less originals.
We used to meet at St Mary's in early afternoon, once a month. It was great for the university students, but not so great for those of us who had to take time from our jobs, consequently there was pressure to change the time. When we finally did get to change the time, the meeting place changed also. Our new meeting place was The Nova Scotia Institute of Technology on Leeds Street. And the meeting times became Sunday evenings. During this time we had a membership list of close to a hundred members.
Colin Stewart became the editor of a monthly newsletter which we managed to mail out to members in time to remind them of the next meeting. Articles written by members as well as notices and members want ads were included. The newsletter frequently ran to eight full pages. Colin and I published it using borrowed copy equipment. It ran (as far as I can remember) from December 1989 to May 1998. The editorship changed hands several times during its life. Club members contributed articles on subjects deemed to be of interest to other members. We timed the release for the weekend prior to the meeting, so it provided the extra function of reminding members of the next meeting.
We conducted a programming contest for members during our time at Leeds Street. There were three contestants. The problem was to write a program to play tic-tac-toe. One of our junior members wrote in 'C'. Norman DeForest, one of our more famous ex-members, wrote in DOS Batch File Language, and the third contestant (your author) used Pascal. Since there were three prizes, it was voted that we should all get one. It is ironic that at about this time there was trouble with the night watch staff at the College, about the admission of minors to the building. We pointed out that the nearest adult to any minor in the meeting was deemed to be his or her parent. That seemed to put the problem in the background, but it did rub us the wrong way.
During our last few months at Leeds Street, I remember one of the very few Annual General Meetings we ever held. Those of us who now act as officers of the club were elected then. The motive for this meeting was to set up conditions to make it possible for us to run a lottery. The plan was to get donations of, (or purchase if we had to) items of computer equipment, and draw tickets from among those at the meeting to select a winner. This happened for several meetings and then for reasons of inertial laziness, fell into disuse. When the time came to ask for renewal of our lottery license, we failed to do so.
In 1996 when there was a change of policy within the Community College system and we would have had to pay $50 per meeting for the use of the NSIT space. we chose to move instead. We moved to the meeting room at the Veteran's Memorial Hospital on Jubilee Road (The street is now called Veteran's Memorial Way). Then in September 1997 we moved again to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic on Water Street.
The Maritime Museum did some major renovations during this year, and we moved again: this time to the Engineering School of the Fleet School in Stadacona. This was a good place because for the first time, we had the use of a computer lab. On several occasions, we were able to use the computers in the room for demonstrations. It suffered the disadvantage that whenever we met there, we had to be accompanied by a member of the Engineering School staff. As long as we had several of them as club members it was fine, but when one member had to attend all our meetings to give us access, it became a chore, and we moved again. This time to the Canadian Legion building on Cunard Street. We remained there for a couple of years until the Legion People decided that they could no longer exist as a separate Legion Club, and we moved again. (The Legion building has since been demolished).
Our current meeting place is the Halifax Place Community Room at Sobey's West End Mall, Halifax NS, store, which we have been using for several years now.
The club has been known variously as (a) Halifax Area MS-DOS Computer Club; (b) Halifax Area MS-DOS Computer Society; (c) Halifax Area Personal Computer Society; (d) Halifax Area Personal Computer Club. The initials HAPCS and HAPCC were used interchangeably to denote the club.
We have always had trouble attracting young people to the club. At one point we tried to remedy this with an essay contest for high school students. We set up guide lines on computer subjects to be written about. We also set up a marking mechanism to ensure anonymity to the marking staff. There was considerable effort put into contacting schools, boys and girls clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides and cadet organizations. We offered cash prizes for the best essays in several categories, and a free membership in the club for all contestants. The Halifax School Board made a point of telling us (through one of the teachers at St Pat's High School) that we would not be permitted to interfere with the education process, and the support of the teachers we contacted had to be withdrawn. The net result of the essay contest was that we got not a single entry. NONE!!
The HAPCC at present (written in 2007), has about 15 or 20 members, and our monthly meetings usually attract about a dozen of these. We are in need of renewal or revision, or something. This is not meant to be an expression of pessimism, but there is certainly need for change. Other things around us have changed, and we have not met the challenges in a proper manner. In the early days, there was only one way to get information about computing. That was by voice from another person. People joined clubs, or took courses to achieve this. Now, the internet has become the principle means of getting both routine and specialized data. If you need to know, ask Google, or send an e-mail to someone who knows. Personal face to face is no longer necessary. This is a shame, because people are much more that just an e-mail address.
The club used to have a Club Mug. We ordered (I think it was a gross) from a supplier, and sold them to members. Not everyone was as enthusiastic as those of us who authorized the purchase, and we didn't quite cover our costs. In the days when we used to get guest lecturers to talk to us, we used the last dozen or so mugs as gifts for our guests.
We had a lot more success with training courses. When DOS was king we ran several courses. We were permitted to use the computer facilities of Henson College. The most successful course ran once a week for four weeks. It attracted a number of new members when we priced it as $30.00 for members, and $45 for non-members. The annual membership fee at that time was $15. We also ran many DOS courses in the classroom of Bits and Bytes Computers, Paul Moore, the owner was not officially a member of the club, but was very supportive of it, and if I remember correctly, he did not charge for the use of his facility. the club, on the other hand made a bit of money for the treasury.
We also sponsored a programming course in 'C'. Members paid a modest amount to Bits and Bytes Computers, (then on Portland St in Dartmouth), for six evenings of instruction. Paul Moore was the very capable instructor. Six or seven members took advantage of this.
One year we set up a booth in the Mic Mac Mall to publicize the club. Club members took turns of a couple of hours each at the booth. We had a pamphlet describing the club, and enthusiastic members to talk about it. We got a few new members that way. At that time we called ourselves the Halifax MS DOS Computer Club. A few shoppers asked us about Multiple Sclerosis (MS). That was OK because we talked about computers to them anyway. This method of advertising the Club foundered on the shopping mall management idea that in future we would need liability insurance. This proved to be an expense that we did not care for.
For quite a few years, we stopped collecting membership fees, basically because we had no expenses, and we did have some money in the bank. The club is now the owner of a projector so that members can display pictures and presentations on the screen in our meeting room. This used a bit of our cash, and the decision was taken to re-instate the membership fee, now set at twenty dollars.
To bring it all up to today's date (2008), At our January meeting the club voted to change its name to the Halifax Computer Club (HCC). At the same meeting we adopted a new logo taken from the original on the mugs mentioned in an earlier paragraph and updated. This logo will be used on our web site, and on a club banner which is being prepared for use at things like installfests and other interclub get-togethers.