Is It True That I Invented The Internet AND The Personal Computer?

In the About Sonny Cohen section of this website I state, “Yes, I did invent the personal computer and then the Internet.” A flip remark if there ever was one. I guess I better explain.

Photo of Altair Computer by Dmitry Sumin from Flickr and used under Creative Commons license
Altair 8800 Computer. Probably the first microcomputer that was sold to consumers around 1975.

In the early to mid-1970’s, hobbyists built simple computing kits. The ancients remember Heathkit, Altair, etc. Some of these kit manufacturers put together a set of circuits on one board. TaDa! The motherboard was born and shortly thereafter a more or less functional computer.

Did I invent any of this? Nope. My contribution was introducing these nascent tools to the market with cartridge games (think Fairchild Channel F Game Console) and then the Apple I followed quickly by Apple II (IIe, II+, IIc, IIg, IIgs, etc.). The personal computer was a “movement” that I, with hundreds of others helped lead. Yes, together with many others I did help to realize the personal computer from its tangle of wires and circuits. In 1977 I met with Steve Jobs and became one of the first Apple Computer Dealers (an extinct species). We were off to the races.

Photo of telephone and modem by Bryan Alexander from Flickr and used under Creative Commons license
Modem with Phone

And yes, I did invent the Internet, too. We just didn’t call it that. We called it the telephone system. Some called it “Ma Bell.” And we connected our computer to the phone system. We called it a bulletin board system or, to be cool, BBS. And when somebody used their computer to call our computer they could do exciting things (consider the time!) like leaving a message or downloading a computer program or even entering a virtual room and connecting with other computer visitors. Wow! Yes, we were very cool nerds. And, again, with many others we helped paved the way for the modern Internet.

I know, saying I invented personal computers and the internet is a stretch. But that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Zoom Lite : Tips for Small Organizations, Groups & Clubs

Preparing for that Zoom presentation

One new literacy required of small organizations is the ability to conduct Zoom meetings and, in particular, presentations.

That monthly guest speaker, some announcements, homemade brownies and coffee have been a staple and the glue which helps hold your purpose-driven communities together. While not really as satisfying as a face-to-face evening, the online meeting with Zoom or collaborative tool of your choice can provide continuity not to mention an activity to fill a calendar that may have too many gaps during our Covid health crisis.

After I produced several successful Zoom events, one attendee who has her own organization, reached out to ask me for some tips as she embarked on plans for her own Zoom meetings. Here is my quick list:

  1. Do a dry run with the presenter before the meeting. Make sure they can share their screen, hand control back and forth, access chat. Discuss muting and unmuting participants. And make sure they sign in early to avoid being locked out if your Zoom license has an attendance limit. You don’t want the presenter to be locked out!
  2. Share the conference join link thoughtfully. Perhaps it doesn’t simply get posted to your event website where it can be picked (and shared further) by anybody. Maybe it only goes in your meeting notification email. Yes, you can always require pre-registration. But this is just one more hoop attendees have to jump through to get to your event. Try to avoid creating barriers to participation. Think about it.
  3. Consider using the “waiting room” feature so that each attendee must be individually admitted. I’ve done this for crowds approaching 100 and it is not a problem. It provides some level of control. Keep in mind that “screen names” may not resemble the people who you know by their In Real Life (IRL) names.
  4. Encourage early signins. No matter how easy you try to make this, people will encounter signin challenges. Let them have their signin crisis 15 minutes before start time rather than 5 minutes after.
  5. Offer support for Zoom newbies days in advance. In my experiences with non-technical communities, only a few take advantage. But the few who did really needed help. Be kind. Be patient. Be helpful.
  6. Be explicit that no help or support is available near to presentation time.
  7. If possible, and with the presenter’s knowledge and permission, record the zoom meeting. Make it available on a request basis for a short time (week) after the live event. This goes a long way to satisfy those who forgot the meeting, attended but now want to share it with a friend, or those who simply couldn’t overcome the technology challenge
  8. Have a short script or meeting plan. This will include the familiar structure of calling the meeting to order, announcements, etc followed by the presenter and then Q&A. Don’t take this for granted. Have a plan.
  9. Comb your hair. Maybe you are in your pajama bottoms. But your screen image should not look like you just arrived from the outback.

Your list may differ. And I’ve certainly left some important things off. If there is a bottom line here, it is to be mindful. This is not the time to be winging it. Good luck. Have fun. And let me know what you think.