Cover Story: Apple Polisher

Leader of local user group still gets excited about computers

Feb 14, 2007 at 2:06 pm
Joe Lamb

Terry Crooker

Name/Organization: Terry Crooker, President of AppleSiders

Years as President: "I just started in January on this term. I've been president several other times over the years. We generally try to turn the president over every year."

How did you get the position: "There's a general election, but mostly it's by acclimation. I'm willing to be president, and there aren't too many people who run against you."

Duties: "To be the emcee at the general meetings, to be the spokesperson, I guess, and to kind of give some direction."

Salary: "No. We joke every year about getting an increase in pay, but the double of zero is still zero."

Trusted second in command: "We have a vice president who's also very knowledgeable. In fact, he was president last year."

How many people do you boss around? "There are about eight of us that sit on an officers' board.

We meet once a month."

President Bush gets "Hail to the Chief" played when he walks in a room; if your position had a ceremonial song attached to it, what would it be?: "I don't know. One of those nerd songs, I guess (laughs). A few people have hummed 'Hail to the Chief' on occasion."

Terry Crooker likes Apple computers. A lot. Proof? He's been a member of AppleSiders for a quarter century.

"I joined when Apple was almost king and went through all the years where Apple couldn't get a kind word from anybody," he says. "Now the tide has turned where people are saying a lot of nice things about Apple again."

Founded in 1978 (a year after Apple's launch), AppleSiders is a nonprofit user group that, as its Web site boasts, "exists to share technical information, to educate and encourage newcomers to computing and generally further the art, science and enjoyment of personal computing."

The group meets the third Wednesday of each month at Maple Knoll Wellness Center (11100, Springfield Pike, Springdale), where topics range from broad-based programming issues to specific questions about specific problems. Each meeting opens with a Q&A portion, and a raffle and door prizes are staples. There's also the occasional special guest — everyone from Apple system engineers to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (four times!) have appeared over the years.

Crooker, who started his "third or fourth" different term as president in January, has fielded just about every possible Apple-related question during his 25-year affiliation.

"I have been in this club for a long time," he says. "I've kind of become the de facto grand leader, I guess, because I have the continuity of what we used to do, what we have done, what works, what doesn't work. I've been an officer this whole time in various leadership positions."

He joined the group in 1982 after buying his first Apple computer, an Apple II. It wasn't long before they recruited him to publish the group's newsletter.

"I'm in the printing business, and I discovered they were putting out a newsletter," Crooker says. "I started printing it for them and about a year later they asked me if I wanted to be the editor. I said, 'OK, I guess I can do that,' and I've pretty much had that job ever since."

AppleSiders currently has about 100 members (dues are $30 a year), a number that's grown to as much as 200 in the past.

"I don't know how many years computer user groups as a whole will have left," he says. "I've suspected for a number of years that user groups would outlive their usefulness, partly because of the Web, partly because computer technology is maturing.

"It's become an older group. Mostly seniors are coming. The young kids who grew up with computers just take to them like ducks to water. They don't need as much help. Plus I don't think they like being in a group."

Long a cult figure on the computer landscape (its share of users has hovered around 5 percent), Apple has seen its profile surge in recent years via the wild success of the iPod. Crooker doesn't mind the attention.

"When Steve Jobs came back to Apple, he said he wanted Apple to be like Sony, and apparently he's working in that direction," he says. "Apple is moving into a consumer market and not just focusing on computers, which I think is ultimately a good thing."

But what does the added attention mean for AppleSiders?

"I think we're still viable," he says. "We still get new members from time to time. The excitement from the early days of computing isn't quite the same, but there are spurts when new operating systems come out."

Computer talk aside — he peppers our conversation with talk of GUI interfaces and jabs at Microsoft's new Vista ("another poor knockoff") — what keeps Crooker coming back year after year?

"It's part social," he says. "I've met a lot of nice people over the years, people I would call friends. It's also a place to share information. I certainly don't know it all."