Cajun Clickers going strong after 25 years as a computer club

People might think 25 years ago was a different world. When it comes to personal computers, it was like the Paleozoic era.

But that’s when the Cajun Clickers Computer Club began. A quarter-century later, its membership is still going strong.

Formed by a handful of employees at the River Bend nuclear plant in 1989, the club eventually grew to a peak of about 2,000 member families. There are still about 700 memberships, said Dr. Chandan Sharma, the club’s current president, who wasn’t an original member, though not for lack of desire.

“I wish I had known about it earlier,” said Sharma, who joined in 2003. “I had been looking for something like this all my life.”

The original members formed a club mostly to save money by purchasing floppy disks — younger readers might pause here to Google “floppy disk” — in bulk. But it grew into more than that because the members discovered there was a lot they didn’t know, but were eager to get together and figure things out.

“It was to share information about computers,” said Ron Johnson, one of the original members. “The purpose hasn’t changed, only the people.”

The computers themselves, of course, have changed a lot.

In 1989, Apple introduced the Macintosh SE/30, which, with an 80-megabyte — yes, kids, megabyte — hard drive cost $6,500. Of course, users didn’t need a lot of power to run those High-end computer games from the Internet, because the Internet was a shell of its current glory, and the games laughably simple by today’s standards.

But the early adopters saw where things were heading, even if others didn’t.

“When I (came to) work here, I wanted a computer, and my husband said, ‘What are you going to do with a computer?’” Sharma said. “So, that was famous last words. We never had one. When our children grew up, three or four years down the road, they needed one and we got one at home. But I never learned it. Finally, in ’03, I found this place and realized that computers are not rocket science, and anybody can learn a computer.”

Which is a good thing, because computers have become ubiquitous.

This is especially true of mobile devices, which seem as natural as breathing to younger generations, but are far less so to their grandparents. The club is mostly populated by older adults trying not to get swept away in the digital current.

“We have a large population in their 70s and 80s who are coming to learn,” Sharma said. “It’s a whole new avenue for them. It’s a place where they feel comfortable learning. They’re with people who are in the same boat and with people who are going to teach them in a language they understand. Although they have children in the workforce who are very familiar with computers and grandchildren who kind of set things up for them, they don’t have the patience like we do. We can teach them the basics of what they want to learn. To see them use the computer and feel comfortable with the computer is very rewarding.

“These kids have grown up with a remote control in their hands. We used to think ‘we are all thumbs’ was a bad thing. Now, if you have all thumbs, it’s great. It has a different meaning in today’s language.”

The club holds monthly meetings with presentations about popular technology, provides its members a monthly newsletter with tech articles and tips, has a learning center at its headquarters at 10120 Red Oak Drive and holds computer workshops. As with its origins, more experienced members teach the newbies.

“Whenever you walk into Cajun Clickers, you always walk out knowing something you didn’t know before,” Sharma said.