What is the Old Hackers Atari User Group?

This article is excepted from a Current Notes magazine article by Alex Pignato. (May 1993, volume 13, number 4) Due to declining membership, The Ol' Hackers Atari Users Group closed its doors after its final meeting in December 2000.

In the Beginning. It started innocently enough. I read a message on a Bulletin Board System (BBS) from another "poor soul" (Kevin Blaes) who was pleading for help so that he could upload and download with his Atari 835 modem. It had taken me six months to get a program to do this with my 1030 Atari modem, so I had a genuine appreciation for his frustration. I left him a message to send me a disk with programs on it and I sent back the program he wanted along with other public domain programs. The exchange of disks between us continued at a rapid pace, each of us trying to outdo the other.

Over the next 1-1/2 years, I kept addressing Kevin as "The Young Hacker," and signed notes as "The Old Hacker." He responded in kind. We also spoke on the phone frequently, and, in short order, a friendship evolved. This is part of what computers do for people; they make friends. During this time, I was conversing with Jerry Ginsberg, an acquaintance, and found that he had an 8-bit Atari, too; but no one in his family was using it. I told him about this "game" machine's potential, and its ability to do countless other things. Soon, he got hooked, almost as deeply as I. His wife and children got involved to the point where they actually had to set up a schedule to use the computer!

When the Long Island Coliseum had a Computer Electronics Show, Kevin suggested we meet there in person. I brought Jerry with me and the three of us spent a great afternoon at the show. When we saw all that there was to see, we decided to have a chat over a cup of coffee. An hour later, finding it very hard to break up, Jerry suggested that we all meet again at his home in a couple of weeks.

OHAUG is Born! When we next met, we each brought Atari friends; and, suddenly, there were eight of us. It was suggested that we start a users group and so "The Ol' Hackers Atari Users Group (OHAUG)" was born in December, 1985. I was voted in as President, Kevin as Vice President and Jerry was made Corresponding Secretary.

When Jerry's house got too small, we moved over to Tom Carroll's house and took over his top floor. Tom, who was self employed in the electronic recording field, had a studio with at least three Atari 800's, an IBM, and I don't know how many video cassette recorders. We met once a month on a Saturday afternoon from 12 to 5 pm and had a ball at our informal meetings, exchanging knowledge and data.

When the group got too large again, we looked for new quarters. Thanks to Jerry, we got permission to use the Plainview Public Library. Interestingly enough, the library was run on Atari 800s, so our group was very welcome.

What We're About. Our aims are similar to those of other Atari users groups. We exchange knowledge and information with each other and with over 60 other users clubs throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. We have a few members who have technical knowledge and who are constantly looking to make modifications to the hardware. We also have members who are professional programmers for various banks as well as many amateur programmers. The members are all adults and are a cross-section of the community. Our membership includes blue collar workers as well as many white collar professionals. The club brings together people from all walks of life with a common interest and the results are very warm friendships and growing enjoyment of our 8-bit computers. We are deeply committed to the 8-bit community. For example, we unanimously volunteered to package, stamp and mail over 200 Atari Classics disks, and will do so as future issues are made. We understand that at present about 300 people have bought these disks, more than was expected. We are also proud to be picked as the July 1987 Z*Magazine "User Group of The Month."

So how do we stay in touch with each other? In the beginning, we had a normal hardcopy club newsletter. Now we publish a double-sided disk bi-monthly "softcopy" newsletter. It's loaded with articles of interest from all over the world, as well as a number of interesting ready to run programs. As often as possible, we include the documentation, if available. We exchange our disk-based newsletter with over 60 clubs, worldwide. We have corresponding members in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy as well as all over the United States. Recently, we've even added a 65XE owner who resides in Moscow! Since he can't obtain American currency we carry him just for the honor of doing it. The Cold War is really over! As we exchange letters with our corresponding members across the planet, they have become good friends as well as just members.

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