By Neil Andrus
In a world where most marriages fail to last ten years, the reaching of the tenth anniversary in the life of an organization is worthy of some hoop-la. That is why we have reserved the tenth day of the tenth month of this year (October 10, 1995) for some extraordinary events.
To mark the tenth year of the Toronto Users Group for Midrange Systems, a full afternoon and evening of events have been coordinated. The activities will be held at Le Parc (south-west corner of Highway 7 and Leslie St. - the site of the highly successful TUG/IBM meeting with Frank Soltis).
The afternoon will commence with a joint IBM/TUG venture. At 1:30 PM there will be a half-hour summary of IBM's scheduled, October 10th, AS/400 announcements. From 2:00 - 3:30 PM, the AS/400 as a Server will be presented, including Data Base Server, File Server, and Communication Server. The time slot of 4:00 - 5:30 PM is reserved for a presentation on Windows NT and the AS/400. A cash bar will open at 5:30 PM. At 6:30 PM, a sit-down dinner, intertwined with a Mystery Dinner Theatre, will take us into the evening.
We have planned for this to be a day and evening to remember. Do you recall where you were on November 22, 1963? Can you think of what you did on June 21, 1988? We'll attempt to make October 10, 1995, another one of those memorable days.
More information is detailed in a flyer that has been distributed with this newsletter edition.
TUG is an organization that numbers its days back to the year 1985. One of the earliest signs of its existence arises from a letter of May 6, 1985. The letter was addressed to yours truly from Penny McGann (yes, we are still both around). It went in part like this:
|"Dear Neil ... I would like to call a social meeting for the membership of "MARM". To be a member of the group, all that is required is to have an IBM computer System/34, 36 or 38 and to be interested in meeting other users to discuss hardware and software problems. The agenda for the first meeting is: -Getting to know each other and - If you would like the User Group to continue? (How, why, where and when). ... The first meeting is May 30, 1985 starting at 5:30 p.m. at 60 International Blvd., Rexdale, Ontario in the Boardroom. Yours truly, Penny McGann, Data Processing Manager."|
Attendees at that meeting became the founding members of the current Toronto Users Group for Midrange Systems. Of those originals, Wendy Boddy and Neil Andrus remain connected with the Board and Penny McGann is seen frequently at the registration desk and she also assists with special events.
Our first meeting that boasted a speaker was held on November 27, 1985 under the organizational name of "M.A.R.M. - IBM Users" and was held in the boardroom of Granada TV Rental Limited on International Blvd., Rexdale. The topic for the evening was "DataPak Network". Users of ten years ago just like now, had a keen interest in the mysteries of data communications. The remainder of the evening was filled with a plethora of activities that beset a fledgling organization: - Presenting a Code of Ethics, Selection of Officers (Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer), Membership Fees, and Suggestions for a Group Name.
Although the November, 1985 agenda suggested that officers were to be selected; volunteers were possibly even more difficult to convince in those days than they are now. It took another three months, until there was a meeting on February 19, 1986 with representatives from 11 companies in attendance, before Rick French, Bell & Howell Ltd. volunteered to be chairman, John Mogensen, DuBois Chemicals of Canada Ltd. (alive and well at Creditel of Canada Limited) became Secretary and Penny McGann accepted the Treasurer's role. A Code of Ethics was approved and an annual membership fee of $50 per company was suggested. Cheques were to be made payable to: "IBM System/38 Users Group - Toronto".
Behold, a users' group had been born, and we were off and running ... we just weren't sure in which direction.
The pioneer group of companies in the first, full year of operation in 1986, included: American Hospital Supply Canada Ltd., Bell & Howell, Bowes Co., Brampton Hydro, CCL Industries Inc., Crothers Limited, Dubois Chemicals of Canada Ltd., Granada, Hilroy, Insight Consultants, JJM Simpson Consultants Ltd., Lanzarotta Wholesale Grocers Ltd., Law Society of Upper Canada, Morguard Investments, Nelson Canada, Patons & Baldwins Canada Inc., Richardson -Vicks Ltd., Samuel, Son & Co. Ltd., Shaw Industries Ltd., Signode Canada Inc., Syntex Inc., and World Vision Canada.
By the middle of 1987 we added: Indal Computer Services, Kinney Canada, Mitsubishi Electric Sales, Ontario Store Fixtures, Royal Doulton Canada Inc., and Wrigley Canada Inc.
We could ask, "Where are they now?" Of that original list, more than thirty-five percent have either been right-sized out of existence, free traded out of the country, merged into another corporation, or in a few instances, they have changed platforms. There are a few who have not renewed their memberships and this is the year in which we have budgeted for an intensive follow-up on those "recalcitrants". The vast majority of the companies that remain in existence have continued their memberships, year after year. We certainly thank those corporations and individuals who have displayed a continuing loyalty. Fortunately, our overall membership has grown into hundreds of companies.
From these early members, little did we know at the time that the Law Society of Upper Canada would provide us, nine years later, with this year's president, Linda Johnstone.
Having seen us for two years from 1985 to 1987 wallowing with a membership of about two dozen, I offered in mid 1987 to create and fill a new position of membership coordinator. At the next board meeting, with an air of confidence, I stated that we would have over 100 people at our next meeting in September. The seven board members knew that we had never seen more than 18 people together in one room for any of our meetings. They wondered how a membership of 100 companies could be garnered and brought together at the same time for a meeting. Secretly I wondered if it could be done but felt confident about going for my objectives. With Emma Perlaky as the Chairperson we put together a series of planned meetings, dates and topics. I put together a flyer and membership registration form and outlined the year's events. The board that year, consisting of Emma Perlaky, Rick French, Peter Duquette, Wende Boddy, Robert Kolanko, Kevin Wright and myself agreed that we would feed people before the meeting with a hot and cold buffet. With an extensive mail campaign (considering the minuscule budget available) we invited companies to join for $50.00 and hear great speakers and come and be fed in body and mind.
Within days the memberships started to roll into our newly established mailing address. Within a few months we had 153 corporate members. For that first meeting not only did we exceed 100 people, we had more than 150 people. It was standing room only! The evening was a personal success in terms of having delivered the number of people that had been promised. It was marred by one individual who exclaimed to me that he thought the evening was 'tacky'. Although I never asked the individual to explain his comment, neither of us was dissuaded from being involved with the users' group for both he and I took on the mantle of presidency in later years and have worked together frequently.
The challenge of putting together an association identity with a logo, was helped by an artist at Hilroy. Peter Duquette had our stationery printed in his company's print shop. Everything was accomplished on a shoestring budget.
I remember putting together the first editions of our newsletter. With budget-priced software called "Newsmaster" (researched by Rob Kolanko), each time that a line of text was inserted into a page, real-time processing lost all meaning. It would take what seemed like minutes to shuffle all of the text down the page. Putting together four pages of a newsletter on a pre-1987 micro took tortuous hours. We quickly got rid of the idea that all errors should be corrected. There became known what one could call "Linotypers' license". While I have heard one of our directors exclaim as he looked at our early newsletter editions that we had gone a long way and wasn't this early newsletter primitive, (same individual who used the expression: tacky) it seemed to me that the early newsletters were like building a log cabin when we didn't have bricks and mortar. The results were appropriate for the time. I have developed a great admiration for pioneers. The person who discovered the wheel was one brilliant inventor.
Newsletters were photo-copied and stapled at Granada on their high-speed copier. Fortunately both Penny McGann and Wende Boddy worked there ... another low-budget operation for the user group.
The early years were possibly the most enjoyable years. We have had pioneers throughout the years of our association's evolution. Most of them with imagination and courage accepted the challenge of using their own personal time and energy to put one layer of bricks on top of an existing layer. We have moved from counting in the hundreds of dollars to counting in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Even now as we grapple with: a tenth anniversary; a TEC III, including a vendors' EXPO; increased newsletter advertising activity; new logos and colors; putting cash into short-term CD's; selecting new and relevant speakers for the next twelve months; we see a need to find a path for our midrange computer users group to follow. We need more of that courage and imagination to predict the breadth of platforms and the vertical depth for the association to travel. For what period of time is the AS/400 relevant? What allegiance should we give to networks and client/servers ... to openness?
This year's Board of Directors will appear as pioneers in the year 2,005. I trust that they make it.
In the meantime let's enjoy the successes of the first ten years and have some hoop-la on October 10, 1995. That lady T.U.G. ... she's a "10".