Wisdom shared in tribal lore
(From left) Judy Young, Ivan Radywonik, Isabel Collins and Dick Johnson belong to AUSOM, which was formed in 1979 and has more than 700 members. Photo: Jill Lockwood
HUMANS, being tribal animals, like to clump together. It is in our DNA. Clumps get names and purpose, and thereon clump members think of themselves as special. Think of the zeal supporting every code of football.
The phenomenon also appears in home computing, where the rivalry between keen users of PCs and devotees of Apple products sometimes looks like a silicon version of the War of the Roses.
So the PC mob jeers: ''The Mac's not your mistress/lover. It's a computer.'' Which just goes to show they don't understand about Macs until, as has been happening more frequently over the past several years, they switch to a Mac.
I have tried often to define the almost religious connection many Mac users have with their machines. True devotion goes beyond basic factors such as elegance and quality, and lives in millions of Mac users.
The Mac has little corners of no purpose beyond the delight of the user, the mesmerising Visualiser in iTunes/View, for one. I remember Steve Jobs saying: ''One of our people just came up with it. It's so simple, and so beautiful.''
This tribalism has also moved into tablets and smartphones - Apple versus Samsung, although it's really Apple's iOS versus Google's Android, and maybe soon Windows 8.
Melbourne has long been a playing field for this rivalry. From the beginning of consumer computing it had successful computer clubs. Melbourne PC User Group on the Windows/Linux side, and two for Apple -the Internet Macintosh User Group (iMUG) and the Apple Users Society of Melbourne, known as AUSOM, which in some respects it is.
AUSOM began in 1979, before the Mac arrived in 1984; and the VMware User Group (VMUG), forerunner of iMUG, in 1987. Both grew rapidly - AUSOM to more than 1100 members, one of the largest Apple computer clubs in the world. The Berkeley Mac User Group (BMUG) was the biggest but it splintered, leaving AUSOM, still with more than 700 members and probably now the leader.
Although computer club membership generally has declined (many now take technology for granted), AUSOM remains active and strong.
The internet also brought change. Monthly AUSOM meetings attract about 200 members but hundreds more communicate through online bulletin boards and forums.
On the first Saturday of every month, members gather at the NewHope Baptist Centre, 3-7 Springfield Road, Blackburn North. There's a good cafe, big auditorium, and meeting rooms where special-interest groups - for applications such as Photoshop, GarageBand (run by musician and club vice-president Judy Young) and many others - help beginners and experienced hands. There is even one-on-one training. Elsewhere are meetings of subsidiary groups, such as the one for ''retirees and others'', and another for iPad/iPhone users. There's also an active sub-club in Mornington, run by former AUSOM secretary Isabel Collins.
Club president Ivan Radywonik is fulsome in his praise of pioneer members still putting in for the club: ''People like Steve Cooper, one of our most knowledgable members, and former president Dick Johnson.''
AUSOM has people for whom the club is the cornerstone of their lives. Pam Doughty, recently honoured for 20 years as software librarian and club magazine editor, joined in 1985. ''We used acoustic modems on phone lines to connect to the US,'' she says. ''I took on the disc library - we had freeware on CDs that members could buy - and went from there to the magazine.''
Membership of both Mac clubs is open to all. Fees are modest, and the help and information limitless.
CORRECTION: Macman on February 21 referred to VMUG, the Victorian Macintosh User Group, as the VMWare User Group. VMware did not exist in 1987. It was founded in 1998. The error was introduced in editing.