by GREGG PEARLMAN, Antic Assistant Editor
The nucleus of southern New Jersey's leading Atari users group began meeting at a computer store in the early 1980s. By the spring of 1983 this arrangement was no longer satisfactory, so the group found a hall and circulated flyers.
JACS, the Jersey Atari Computer Society meets at the Camden County Library in Voorhees, New Jersey, in the third week of each month.
JACS covers Camden County, the 'Philadelphia region' of South Jersey,' says former club president Bob Whipple. Some members come from neighboring counties or from Philadelphia itself. Another large, active club, JACG (Jersey Atari Computer Group), covers much of the northern state, neighboring on New York City.
JACS' 125 "memberships" consist of individual and family members, including some from other countries. "One guy from Saudi Arabia wants to join for information and the newsletter, says Whipple, "and there are members in Canada and Europe." About 75% of JACS' members attend each meeting, but that percentage drops during the summer. "We have a strange mixture," says Whipple. "Many members are between 12 and 16, but they stop attending when they get their driver's licenses. Then we have the 'middle-aged' guys, 28 to 38, and the folks that are 50 to 65. Only about 10 women attend meetings, but one who joined recently has become the secretary-I don't mean anything sexist by 'secretary,' she just really wants to be involved."
Whipple says that JACS had the first 1040ST on the East Coast. "We invited Atari Corp. to our April, 1986 meeting. We rented a larger hall and about 450 people came. Then we bought some of the equipment they demonstrated." JACS loans the ST to members for a month at a time-free-and someone has borrowed it each month.
Most JACS members are technically oriented. Whipple is a systems designer. Past president Forrest Blood, who created the JAC-RAY demo (see photo) with Whipple's help, works for a company that makes motherboards. Others are engineers. Students also make up a large part of the group. JACS programmer Larry Nocella has been published in Tech Tips (XL RAM-disk, Antic, January 1987).
BBS AND NEWSLETIER
Between Bytes is the club newsletter, although actually there are two now. ST Potpourri is an ST newsletter published within Between Bytes every other month. Brian Colfiesh edits both newsletters. The newsletters are printed on a dot-matrix printer in emphasized print, but the editors are trying to move over gradually to a laser printer.
JACS has two bulletin board systems. Brian Colflesh runs a BBS called Blitburg (formerly The IRS) on a 1040ST with a hard drive. He has set aside one SIG for the ST and one for the 8-bit to catch the overflow from the JACS bulletin board operated by Curtis Fickensher.
JACS is involved in the annual Computer Festival at Trenton (NewJersey) State College. 'At the 1986 show," says Whipple, "when Atari brought a 1040ST-which wasn't available yet- a hard disk drive, and the 80-column card prototype, people mobbed us."
The most recent special event was the successful Atari Fun Night in March, 1987. The meeting had "no format, no speakers, no business, no nothing." JACS invited some vendors of Atari products to come in for free and sell their wares. "We had about seven STs set up," says Whipple. "One was hooked to a Casio keyboard for a MIDI demo, and two were linked together for Flight Simulator II. We set up our BBS there, and people who wanted to know how bulletin boards work could just walk up and try it out.
"People demonstrated word processing and games on the 8-bit, and one member did a voice demo that had a face with a moving mouth.
"A Broderbund representative was impressed with the size of our group and the percentage of people attending. He asked, 'Is this your normal draw?' and we answered, 'No, it's a little off this evening. We usually have standing room only.' And Ira Brick-man of White Lion Software thinks we're one of the best users groups he's seen. We run into him at shows and he says, 'There's my buddies at JACS!"'
PRINT SHOP COLLECTION
One unusual project that JACS is known for in users group circles is its extensive library of Print Shop Graphics disks. Many of these graphics are not available from any other source, public domain or professional. No Frills Software currently markets the JACS icon disks commercially. (See "More Icons for Print Shop," Antic, December 1987.) JACS can still sell the disks, but No Frills packages them and is converting them for other machines.
"At our meetings we show the newest products and demos we can get, and we want club participation. Sometimes our guest speakers promise to come, but don't. Members feel taken in when they get the newsletter announcing a guest speaker, and then at the meeting someone says, 'Um, the guy called and says he can't make it.' One speaker did that two months in a row."
JACS is an official Atari users group dating back to pre-Tramiel days. The group doesn't countenance any kind of piracy and allows no demonstrations of "backup copies" - only original software is permitted.
"Our computers are for demonstration only," says Whipple. "They're put away right after the meeting. Sometimes people ask to make disk copies. No way. We follow the laws."
About 70% or 75% of JACS' 8-bit members (and 45% overall) use the 800XL, and between 15% and 30% use 130XEs. (Some people have both.) According to Whipple, however, only 3% use 800s, and no one uses 400s, 600XLs or 1200XLs. JACS has 33 ST owners, of which 29 have 520STs and four have 1040STs.
In descending order, 8-bit people use the Atari 1050 disk drive, the Indus GT and the Atari 810. No JACS members use cassettes any more. No 8-bit users have hard drives, either, but about three ST users do.
Many JACS members have BMCMX80 printers. "They were closed out,' says Whipple, "and someone purchased the whole load and sold them under the name CTI. It's the club's favorite, printouts are nice." Several other members use Panasonic printers, and others use Epson. None buy Atari printers.
Whipple says that perhaps half of JACS' members own modems. The most popular brands are the Avatex 1200 and 1200HC, and the Atari 1030. Roughly 25% of the members use online services. But they access the JACS BBS and Blitburg all the time.
About 10% of the club members program. Top 8-bit languages are Turbo BASIC, ACTION! and BASIC XE-they rarely use Atari BASIC.
Importance of Atari uses to members are as follows:
1. Business/financial (SynCalc, SynFile +, etc.)
2. Word Processing
3. Productivity/Creativity (Print Shop, XLEnt software)
ATARI USERS GROUPS
(Jersey Atari Computer Society)
P.O. Box 710
Clementon, NJ 08021
(609) 346-1224-8-bit BBS
(609) 346-0611-ST BBS
(Jersey Atari Computer Group)
8 Crescent Road
Pine Brook, NJ 07058
(Atari Computer Enthusiasts of Northern New Jersey)
Unique ACENNJ Publication
Antic receives dozens of newsletters each month from Atari users groups throughout the United States, Canada, and even overseas. But the newsletter from ACENNJ, the Atari Computer Enthusiasts of Northern New Jersey, is different from all the rest-it's not on paper!
The ACENNJ Newsletter edited by Paul Tupaczewski is the first we've ever seen that comes on a disk.
Tupaczewski, author of Bomb Squad (Antic, June 1986) and ASCII Art Converter (July 1987) has put together a slick, colorful BASIC package combining editorials, columns, reviews, flashy graphics, standalone programs and digitized sound demos- including one that sounds suspiciously like Tupaczewski saying, "Here we go again" when the disk is booted.
This 8-bit newsletter takes up about 90% of both sides of a 5 1/4-inch disk. You can read the text files one screen at a time, or make printouts. The horizontally scrolling table of contents also allows you to choose local BBS news, Atari headlines, technical hints and even a game, in addition to the types of files previously mentioned.
The disk newsletter idea is clever and reader-satisfying. It's an approach that could well be considered by other Atari users groups who want to try something a little bit different. -GREGG PEARLMAN