In the early 1980s, before the internet and even bulletin board systems, we joined computer clubs and groups to learn the ins and outs of these masterful new machines.
The internet has revolutionised how we communicate, but computer user groups are still very much active, catering to novices and experts alike, providing a forum for people to share their passion with others, and helping to educate and maintain a community of like-minded people.
Members can meet each other, socialise and learn about a wide range of topics – everything from using an operating system to photo and video editing, design and publishing, productivity programs, music, media and more.
Computer user groups are usually organised geographically, making it easier for members to meet up. Groups typically meet once a month at a community centre or similar venue, although some of the larger, more established clubs have their own function rooms.
Some groups cater to particular interest groups, such as seniors or users of particular applications like Adobe InDesign, or to platforms, like Mac users and the Linux operating system.
Most groups require you to become a member, but usually they welcome interested people to come along and check them out before joining. Membership fees are generally between $25 and $65 per year. This covers administration costs, venue hire, web hosting, newsletters and so on.
Groups often have a website so you can explore their online help resources and see what courses they provide, and find out when and where their next meeting will be.
People join computer user groups largely for education and support, but there can be a long list of benefits for members.
Groups may offer any of the following:
Many clubs produce their own newsletters to keep members up to date on upcoming events, club news and workshops.
Some clubs may allow members to advertise goods for sale.
Members are invited to share problems and solutions.
Software may be available at a nominal price, like $2 or $5, usually collated and tested by a club member to ensure it's safe and useful.
Guest speakers from a company or vendor or expert members may lead workshops tailored to the membership, for example courses in Ofﬁce applications like Word or Excel, an introduction to making phone calls online using Skype, how to make greeting cards, digital photography or building a family tree. The cost can be cheaper than courses provided by private training companies.
Online help service
Members can log a computing problem and other members will help resolve the issue.
Email and internet
Some of the larger groups may provide an email address and subsidised or even free internet access.
Larger groups with club premises may offer members use of their facilities such as meeting rooms and computers.
Meet some members
Sydney PC User Group
"I wanted to join a group that goes beyond the beginner's level and has a diverse range of activities. We have a monthly meeting with leading presenters from the IT and computing industries. There is also a question and answer session where members help with each other's problems. We also have a series of special interest groups – members meet regularly for presentations and to help others resolve problems in an informal environment."
Launceston Computer Group
"I like being in the position to help others, particularly people older than myself. I am really interested in family history and searching convict and immigration records. My other great interest is graphics. We learn to manipulate and enhance photographs, even restoring old, torn and discoloured photos. We have open classes which are kept to manageable numbers, with volunteer tutors helping students learn and keep abreast of the latest in computing."
Perth PC Users Group
"I have had so much computer help over the years I estimate it has saved me many hundreds of dollars, maybe even thousands. Our members receive telephone and personal help in most aspects of computing including software and hardware, eleven magazines a year, monthly meetings with guest speakers and demonstrations, heavily subsidised training workshops, special interest groups (SIGs) throughout the metro area and, most importantly, make great friendships along the way."
Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Associations (ASCCA)
"Most seniors believe they are getting left behind with technology; there is no advertising now that doesn't give you a web address for more information. While the initial drive to join a club may be directed by fear of not being able to keep up with society and in some cases even members of their own family, especially grandchildren, they actually find a whole new world not only of learning but also friendship, purpose and a feeling of accomplishment."
Computer User Groups National List
- National Computer Interest Groups
- The Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association
- Australian Delphi User Group
- Australian Developers Network
- Australian Network for Art and Technology
- Internet Macintosh User Group
- Internet Society of Australia
- Avalon Computer Pals for Seniors
- BUGS– BSD Users Group Sydney
- Byron Shire Mac User Group
- Byron Shire Seniors Computer Club
- Clarence Valley Seniors Computer Club
- Club Mac at Crows Nest
- Coffs Harbour Apple Mac Users Group
- Computer Pals – Holroyd
- Computer Pals – Newcastle
- Computer Pals – Northern Beaches
- Computer Pals – Parramatta
- Computer Pals – Turramurra
- Crows Nest Centre Computer Club
- DB2 Users Group – Sydney
- Endeavour Seniors Computer Club
- Forest Computer Pals for Seniors
- Gorokan Seniors Computer Club
- Hawkesbury Seniors Computer Group
- Hunter Valley Linux User Group
- Hurstville Seniors Computer Club
- Illawarra Computer Enthusiasts
- Kempsey Shire Linux User Group
- Mangrove Mountain Seniors Computer Club
- Newcastle Coders Group
- Orange Coast IBM PC User Group
- Penrith Valley Seniors Computing Club
- Seniors Computer Club Central Coast
- Shoalhaven PC Users Group
- South Coast Linux Users Group
- Southern Highlands Computer Users Group
- Sydney Apple Macintosh Users' Group
- Sydney Australia Java UG Project
- Sydney Clarion Users' Group
- Sydney Deep .Net Users Group
- Sydney Flash Platform Developers Group
- Sydney Linux Users' Group
- Sydney Mac Users Group
- Sydney MySQL Users Group
- Sydney .Net Users Group
- Sydney Open Solaris User Group
- Sydney PC Users Group
- Sydney Perl Mongers
- Sydney PHP Group
- SyXPAC: Sydney's XP Activity Club
- Apple-MAQ Lions Club of QLD
- Brisbane Seniors Online
- Brisbane PHP Meetup Group
- BRISBUG PC User Group Inc.
- Carlyle Garden Seniors' Computer Club
- Clarion User Group Queensland (CUGQ)
- Home Unix Machine – Brisbane Users Group (HUMBUG)
- Noosa Linux Users' Group
- QMUG - Brisbane Adobe Designer and Developers Group
- Queensland MSDN User Group
- Sunshine Coast Computer Club
- Seniors of Caboolture Computer Club Inc
- Toowoomba Seniors Computer Club (Part of TOPAP)
- The Toowoomba Apple and Macintosh User Group (TAAMUG)
- North Queensland Macintosh Users Group
- ASCCA – Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association Inc
- Gold Coast Seniors on the Net
- Gold Coast Apple Users Group
- Gold Coast Macintosh Users Group
- Gold Coast Linux User Group
- Adelaide AMIGA and PC User Group
- Adelaide Dot Net Users Group – development of software and technologies
- ARPA Computer Group – basic computer skills for retired people
- AutoCAD users Groups of South Australia
- Fleurieu Computer Users Group
- Information Systems Audit and Control Association – SA Chapter
- Linux SA User Group
- Seniors-On-Line – Adelaide
- South Australian Apple Users Group
- South Australian Clarion Users Group
- South Australian Internet Association (SAIA)
- Southern Districts Computer Users Club Inc.
- Southern Vales Linux Users Group (SVLUG)
- The Database Developers Association of South Australia
- Valhalla LAN Parties
- ACS Australian Computer Society – Canberra Branch
- ACT Apple User Group
- ACT SQL Server User Group
- ACT and Region ColdFusion Users Group
- Amiga Downunder User Group
- Australian Delphi User Group
- Canberra .NET User Group
- Canberra Developer Users Group
- Canberra Institute of Technology Computer Users Group
- Canberra Java Users Group
- Canberra Linux Users Group
- Canberra Macromedia Users Group
- Canberra Schools Linux Users' Group
- Canberra Sharepoint User Group
- Endeavour Web – Computer Clubs for seniors
- PC Users Group (ACT)
- Darwin Gamers Association
- Darwin Seniors Computer Club
- Darwin Wireless
- Alice Springs Linux Users Group
- Hobart Computer Users Group
- Hobart Dot Net Users Group
- Launceston Computer Group Inc
- Linking Seniors "Seniors helping Seniors".
- N. W Computer Users Group
- Tasmanian Linux Users Group
- Apple Users Society of Melbourne (AUSOM)
- Ballarat Linux Users Group (BLUG)
- Central Victorian Macintosh Users Inc
- Linux Users of Victoria
- Macromedia Users Victoria – now also looks at other Adobe software
- Melbourne Linux User Group
- Melbourne MySQL User Group
- Melbourne .NET User Group
- Melbourne Novell Users Group
- Melbourne PC User Group
- Melbourne Perl Mongers
- Melbourne PHP User Group
- Melbourne Sharepoint User Group
- Melbourne Wireless
- Melbourne Visual FoxPro User Group
- Melbourne XP Enthusiasts Group (MXPEG)
- Microcomputer Club of Melbourne
- Newlands Project
- VicFUG – Victorian FreeBSD Users Group
- ColdFusion Users Group
- Perth PC Users Group
- Perth Linux Users Group
- Perth .Net Community of Practice
- Perth Sharepoint Users Group
- NET Community of Practice
- Society of Linux Professionals
- Western Australia Macintosh Users' Group
- Western Australian Internet Association