Computer Club Members at Elmbridge Village’s Share Their Love of IT

Diary posted

10th February 2016

Elmbridge Village’s computer group was started in 2014 and now has more than 30 members, 20 of which are ladies. The group meets monthly which is right, given all the other activities happening in the village.

While membership is thriving and the monthly meetings well attended, residents do expect an extra boost in numbers when Elmbridge Manor is completed later this year. The brand new village clubhouse will be fitted with Wi-Fi, encouraging wider usage.

Group chairman Peter Murphy and Website co-ordinator Derrick Myers help to set the scene: “Many members have been given devices such as iPads, laptops or iPhones to enable them to keep in touch with their families. There is therefore a wide range of computer ability in our group.

“Topics covered at meetings include basic word processing as well as family history, editing videos, photography and geography, all presented and explained by group members. Internet security (virus warnings) when using technology is also of particular interest to us.

“With new residents arriving in the village all the time, some with limited or new experience of computing, this group will also be looking to introduce some basic knowledge and understanding sessions.”

A number of members of the computer group were asked to share their own stories of when and why they first entered the world of computing. This helped the group to establish what expertise it had within its members and to understand what subject matters needed covering.

Here is a collection of fascinating stories from members which reflect the rich and diverse background of many of the people who come to live in a retirement village and help us to understand why computers are an integral part of our lives, whatever our age….

Dave Barratt

I began to learn about computers in the mid 1970s. The first thing was Disk Operating Systems (DOS) and then word processing, spreadsheets and data processing. I used these for my work as an instructional officer for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) for preparation of lessons, writing exam papers, marking, assessing and keeping records.

My current use is for playing games, finding out facts from the Internet, letter writing and emails. I rarely use social media and have never written a Tweet or a text.

Peter Bennett

After retiring I started to research my family history and soon realised I needed a computer to make real progress. It was then I discovered the advantages of emails – no paper, no stamps, no trips to the pillar box and instant contacts worldwide.

These days I use the computer for a wide range of tasks from research to ordering our groceries. It is invaluable, especially now we are older and less mobile – we just couldn’t do without it.

Pip Calvert

I first bought an Amstrad computer to replace an old typewriter roughly 20 years ago. I first used it to type letters and then bought a desktop and found you could communicate with both friends and strangers much more quickly.

I now use it mainly for emails, my investments, keeping in touch with the stock exchange and booking hotels and rail travel for holidays. I do not use Facebook or Dropbox but perhaps I should learn these next.

John Crossley

It was some time in 2007 when I was 82 that my eldest son gave me his old computer because it was too slow for him. I had long retired and didn’t want anything to do with computers!

However, it was a ‘freebie’ so I got started. I had nothing to lose. After a little help and instruction I soon found that my ‘freebie’ was too slow for me as well. I acquired another newer one and was computing happily.

I started sending emails, checking the daily weather forecast and playing Spider Solitaire. I also started using the Internet as an Encyclopaedia.

I now regard my computer as an essential tool in my life. I could not conceive life without it.

I am now 90 and have decided that if I am ever to be hospitalised, I simply could not do without my computer. I have bought myself an iPad to take with me wherever I go; this was another learning curve for me but I can assure all who read this, well worth it. Get an iPad, you will never regret it!

Denise de Fraine

I first came across a computer when setting up a stock control system for a friend’s small horticultural machinery firm. He was besotted with any type of technology and had just bought a new word processor.

This was like a large typewriter with a small screen which showed four or five words at a time. A year or two later in 1982, whilst being interviewed for a job with the South of England Agricultural Society, I was asked if I approved of all this new technology. I said I thought it was a good idea and I got the job as Livestock Officer responsible for all the horse and livestock activities. This involved six or seven committees all under my banner. My dislike of doing minutes stems from this.

It took me some time to persuade my new colleague and the Chief Executive’s secretary that technology could do some jobs more efficiently. Over time the computer was put to greater use in keeping updated lists of exhibitors and letters and instructions for judges and stewards. Draft schedules for the various shows we staged were also kept. Much easier to update each year!

It was a steep learning curve especially as one of my assistants had a complete blind spot regarding computers, but it all stood me in good stead for my time as Show Secretary for the Heathfield Show.

I eventually acquired my own laptop and got into emailing and occasionally exploring the Internet when my computer behaves itself! The more sophisticated computers get the more they appear to have problems!!


Margaret Franklin

In the late 60s I had been teaching mathematics for several years and we were told maths teachers should also teach computing. At this time it meant programming and I was not interested in computing at all but had to do something about it.

By the early 1970s my husband and I had a very early computer. I am not sure what it was but I left all the technicalities to my husband. Much later in the 80s we had an Apple Mac which was lovely. I really liked that but could not get software for it to do my genealogy on so in the end I had to get a laptop.

Derrick Myers

My introduction to computing came in the late 1960s as a design engineer at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh using punch tape to operate a machine tool.

Following this I worked on mechanical design products at the Nuclear Physics Laboratory at Daresbury in Cheshire. In 1976 I introduced and managed a Computer Aided Design (CAD) system used for two major projects undertaken in the field of experimental physics.

In 1984 we moved to Surrey and I joined a construction company. Here I also installed and managed a CAD system for roof tile designs. This later developed to include manufacture (CADCAM) and financial elements.

Currently my wife Norma and I have iPads. She has software called DRAGON with which we can speak to the laptop and an iPad rather than type. She also spends a great deal of time playing a bridge game!

We jointly use the laptop for our banking and any shopping requirements. We email friends and family whenever we can and we Skype our grandsons at the Universities of Aberdeen and Oxford.

Peter Murphy

I first got involved in computing about 1994 when a chap from the company IT department arrived in my office and deposited a computer on my desk. He disappeared before I could ask him how it worked!

Luckily my boss and one of my colleagues were computer literate and after giving me a couple of lessons I was left to experiment on my own.

I used it predominantly for spreadsheets, covering financial forecasting, cash flows, financial claims, etc. I designed my own spreadsheets after working out how to introduce formulae into cells. If I had a problem I shouted for help and somebody would sort me out.

After I retired I bought a computer and Microsoft Office programme which I use for writing letters, family finance, calendars, computer group details and keeping various records on spreadsheets. I also use the Internet to send emails, to do research and for news and sport. I also have programmes for editing photographs and videos which I use extensively.

To a large extent, I have self-taught to suit myself by trial and error and by reading manuals and magazines.

Audrey Porter

I was first introduced to computers when I was teaching Secretarial Studies at the Pitman College in Southampton Row, London, early in the 1980s. It had all been with word processing for which we used Word Perfect to produce letters and reports, also the use of spreadsheets and other aspects useful for office work.

I am now using Windows 7 and don’t wish to upgrade to Windows 10. I use my computer for emails, banking, shopping, and information on Google and for booking tickets, etc. Also, my family live abroad so we Skype each other regularly.

Eric Roberts

Back in the early 60s, I found myself in the post of Purchasing Manager for a large chemical company, on a 400-acre site – the company having covered 76 acres by the time I arrived.

I was soon involved in some of the construction management. I also found that management of the stores was also mine, with 10/15,000 items of stock to cope with.

The original system I put in was a Kardex with a card for each item of stock, each card being updated daily as appropriate. The entries were manual by clerks sitting on wheeled chairs that allowed them to access any card in any cabinet. Fine, but ascertaining what needed ordering/replacing became a very difficult and somewhat inaccurate affair so in casting around for a solution, I discovered that a Computer Bureau had been opened in Manchester. I contacted them and, as a result was able to create a mutually satisfactory solution using their computer to process information from my cards. This gave me a one-page report each month and showed only those items that needed re-ordering.

Being a member of my professional association, The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply, I passed on this information at our next branch meeting. As a result, I received several invitations to speak to other branches and companies, including ICI, to explain how my new system worked.


This meant that I had to really get to grips with how to use computers effectively – and that’s how it has remained. I have of course gathered a good deal of information and understanding about how computers work but I have tried never to confuse that with how to use them effectively.

Being retired, my use of the computer (on Windows XP) is confined to email, letter writing, etc. I have also loaded my entire music collection of about 5,000 tracks. Up until recently, I have researched and given presentations to the local U3A jazz club using my collection as an information base and as a means of burning CDs.

Most of my music is also loaded on an early iPod and I play these through a Bose speaker dock. Through the Internet I also access a private radio station in the US which plays jazz 24/7 from a collection of 80,000 tracks – at my request the owner of this station plays specific compilations of tracks that I do not have.

Nita Robertshaw

I was given the computer 15 years ago by my son. I use it to send and receive emails, play games and do research. I have found and printed pictures for embroidery and I am also investigating my family tree. The computer enables me to easily keep in touch with friends and family.

Phil Williams

In 1961 the news was the Cuban missile crisis. But in the University College of Swansea where I was working, Cuba was overshadowed by news that we were to get a computer.

This was a mainframe. We would have to wait decades for Apples, PCs, laptops and tablets. To ensure that such a very expensive asset would be used, all members of staff were invited to a short course and for two days we were told about such mysteries as floating points, number bases, if/when gates, etc.

Apart from the mathematicians, everyone was thoroughly and completely bemused ‘what do I want with a computer?’ grumbled the philosophy professor, ‘all I ever need is a room where I and my students can quietly cerebrate together’.

And since no-one used the computer, the college admitted defeat, employed half a dozen programmers and then nearly everybody used it but nobody understood it!

When I retired I bought a BBC B, plus daisywheel printer and began to see the great advantages of word processing. Later I acquired a modem and started connecting to the Internet for gaining information. Emailing followed and those are really the only three functions (reading, writing and posting, all electronically of course) for which I use my laptop.

I’m not someone who is interested in computing as a skill per se, but just very grateful that in this increasingly computer dominated age, I can just about get by.

Shirley and Eric Upcott

We were introduced to using a computer about 10 years ago by our son and his wife. We used it quite a lot for the first few years but now it is mainly emails, shopping and occasionally Skyping. We also have a Kindle Fire which is very easy to use for games, news, emails and information.