The computer is unwrapped:
'Tis the night before Christmas, and you've already taken a peek. Under the tree it awaits you, a machine that whirs and beeps. It's got wires and disks and a manual as thick as a house! You wonder why such a contraption needs the help of a tiny mouse.For those whose excitement about getting a new computer is tempered by the anxiety of how to get it running, rest assured - plenty of help is available.
If you'd rather avoid the humilation of asking your 9-year-old or your neighbor's kid to explain things to you, try some of these resources.
Help at home
CompTutors, based in Easton, Mass., will come to your home or business to teach you how to use your computer.
Co-owner Andrew Schulman said people often get more out of individual training than group instruction.
"When they practice on someone else's computer, they don't learn as much," said Schulman. At home, they feel more comfortable."
Schulman started out as a client himself. After he took a two-hour introductory course from the company founder, Scott Simard, the two began talking about forming a partnership and expanding the business.
Now they have a dozen instructors who travel to homes and businesses throughout New England, Simard said. They have clients as far south as Newport and Narragansett, and as far north as the New Hampshire border.
The company offers a $99 two-hour introductory course which covers system setup, operating system basics, a demonstration of your software, how to use your fax/modem, an introduction to on-line communication and file management. More in-depth courses also are offered on many of these topics.
Training is available for Macintosh, DOS and Windows users. Each session can include up to four people and is available seven days a week and evenings. Home users can contact the company at (800) 742-7031 and business users can call (800) 770-3057. By e-mail: CompTut800@aol.com.
More house calls
Another company that makes house calls is Comp-u-Doc Inc. of Warwick.
Owner Everett Lewis, who works from his home, sells, delivers and installs IBM-compatible computers and software. He also repairs computers and gives private training on their use at your house.
Instruction fees are $40 to $50 per hour. The company charges fixed prices to install specific software or hardware.
For more information, call Lewis at 738-9189, see his company's home page at http://www.comp-u-doc.com/ or send him e-mail at email@example.com.
Home and away
HomeKey Computers Inc. of Johnston offers instruction at its office or at your home.
Owner and president Michael L. Laferriere said his company specializes in computer training for "novice to intermediate computer users." His "target market" is home computer users, teachers and "active retirees."
HomeKey's services include tutoring, consulting and classes in topics such as Windows and Microsoft Works. The courses are $119 and include 10 hours of "hands-on" training. Each course is divided into one 2 1/2 -hour session each week for four weeks. A manual is provided.
HomeKey also does Internet training on e-mail, on-line investing and the World Wide Web. Internet classes are $45 for one 2 1/2 -hour session.
At-home tutoring or consulting is available for $69 for a two-hour session.
For more information, contact HomeKey Computers at 421-5387 or by e-mail at KBKD88A@prodigy.com.
Away from home
You can catapult your children hopelessly beyond your own computer knowledge by sending them to FUTUREKIDS, an East Greenwich computer training center.
"They come here like a piano lesson," said office manager Jan Brown.
The company teaches computers to children from ages 3 to 14. Classes for preschoolers are offered in the morning, and older kids can come after school. The courses last six weeks, Brown said, and center on a "fun theme," such as outer space and planets, to study word processing.
The 50-minute classes are taught three days a week. They cost about $20 per class.
Adult programs are also offered. A nine-week course that covers all the basics of computers is offered Monday mornings and Thursday evenings for $320.
The classes, which are taught on IBM compatibles, are "very non- threatening, with a sense of humor thrown in," Brown said.
For more information, call 884-4840.
Build your own
You can learn how to build your own computer by taking a course by the same name through The Learning Connection, a Providence-based organization. That $49 class begins in March.
A sampling of other courses they offer are Basic PC Concepts ($75 for two people), Introduction to Computers ($75) and Upgrading to Windows 95 ($69). There are also classes in Excel, Powerpoint, Word for Windows, Worperfect for Windows, Lotus 1-2-3 and Quicken. All are taught on IBM-compatible computers.
Many classes begin in January. For more information, call 274-9330.
Brown Learning Community
The Brown Learning Community has been a source of computer training for several years. Here's a rundown of many of its computer classes to be held this March and April: Typing ($75), Make Your Own Home Page on the World Wide Web ($80), Introduction to Macintosh ($240), Computing for Novices (taught on IBM, $170), DOS Made Easy ($180), Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 (fees not available). There are also classes for specific programs such as Wordperfect, Microsoft Word, Filemaker Pro and Microsoft Excel.
Would-be Internet venturers can take Traveling the Information Superhighway, and those already used to cyberspace may consider Advanced Internet (course fees not available).
For more information, call 863-3452.
Your local computer user group can often be a good place to look for help. The Rhode Island Macintosh Users Group is a terrific organization for new and experienced Mac owners. Its professional-looking monthly newsletter, AppleSource, is by itself worth the $30 annual membership fee ($20 for students). The newsletter has software reviews and announcements of upcoming classes.
Getting To Know Your Macintosh and Introduction to ClarisWorks are being offered for novices in January. There's also a class on Quark XPress, a desktop publishing program.
Each course will consist of three two-hour sessions from 7 to 9 p.m. on Jan. 16, 23, 30 at East Providence High School. Cost is $30 for RIMUG members and $90 for nonmembers. To register, call the East Bay Educational Collaborative at 254-1110 or 683-5151.
RIMUG has a free "open forum" this Saturday. Details and contact information are below in the Computer Calender section.
(See related story below for listings of other local computer groups.)
Thursday - The Ocean State Internet Society will discuss encryption software and anonymous remailers at 7 p.m. at the Weaver Public Library, Grove Avenue, in East Providence. General question-and-answer session is at 6:30. Free. For more information, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, call 435-8083, box 2, or see its home page at http://www.ids.net/osis/.
Saturday - Rhode Island Macintosh Users Group is having its monthly "agenda-less" meeting, open to any topic, at the East Providence High School, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free. For more information, call Juan Mariscal at 253-7702 or send him e-mail at email@example.com.
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