Way back in 1989, eleven guys who loved "talking tech" would get together in each other's homes to share their ideas and help each other out with any kind of technical issues.
"They were CB operators, ham radio operators and general tinkerers," said Jolyn Bowler, vice president of the Hilton Head Island Computer Club (HHICC). "They were members helping members learn technology, and that is still our mission today."
The club is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
In 1992, the club became a nonprofit organization; its 501(c)(3) status requires that members provide community service. To that end, they provide free help to other nonprofit organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, Operation R&R, the Pregnancy Center, Safe Harbor, the Children's Center and Programs for Exceptional People.
In 1993, as the internet was beginning to come online in the community, Bowler joined HHICC and has volunteered there every Tuesday since then to share her expertise. "There's so much out there it's mind-boggling. We want to help you understand and learn what is best for you and your needs," she said.
President Norm Galloway agrees. He said that even the name of the club is deceiving because they offer so much more than information and help about computers. "Technology changes so quickly. This is a great place to get help. No question is too dumb," he said. "You don't have to be stuck because you are afraid of asking what you think is a dumb question."
The HHICC Resource Center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. five days a week to help members with one-on-one assistance with their questions about Apple and Android phones, Windows operating systems, Apple products, Chromebook and Google, voice assistants, home automation, WiFi networks, password recovery, internet security, and even web design.
The club also offers a full schedule of presentations, workshops and classes. Memberships are a bargain at only $25 per year for individuals and $30 per year for families. "The memberships are much less expensive than a Geek Squad visit," Galloway said. "Four years of dues would be about the same as one visit."
Steve Tunnicliffe is one of their Apple experts. Back in Ohio, he went to assisted living facilities to help residents with their computer issues as a volunteer. He moved here three years ago, found the HHICC and got hooked.
"My biggest enjoyment," Tunnicliffe said, "is helping members learn. Most people use technology in specific ways - the web, email, pictures and password recovery. We want people to get the most out of their devices. The best part for me is when I see the lightbulb go off ... knowing that they've learned something."
To celebrate its 30th anniversary, HHICC will hold an informational open house on Nov. 4 at USCB's new campus on Pope Avenue. The event is open to the public.
There will be heavy hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar, sign-ups for one-on-one trainings, and presentations on identity theft, home automation and information about the club.
The open house is free and registration is required by visiting their website at hhicc.org. "This is an opportunity to see what we do and to try us before you buy us," said Galloway.
For more information call 843-842-4475 or visit HHICC at 70 Shelter Cove Lane on Hilton Head Island.
Edwina Hoyle is a freelance writer in Bluffton.