It's hard to believe--

... it's been 20 years and counting

Kay McCarte

I remember the day that my friend, Gini Hanley, said that she thought I
should come to a meeting at the Senior Center where members of MIT were
going to suggest a program to enable seniors to use the internet. Although I
had used a computer to do billing at work I did not have a computer.

At that meeting Jack Driscoll, consultant at the MIT Media Lab, told us the
head of the Media Lab, Walter Bender, and his students were working on this
program and, as his brother, Jim, was involved with the new Milano Senior
Center in Melrose, perhaps this would be a good place to try it out. Jack
Beckley, Executive Director of the Council on Aging, was delighted to add
this project to their programs.

MIT supplied our first computer, printer, scanner and camera, and we were
on our way to 20 years of on-line publishing. Marko Turpainen, a Finnish
student under Walter's direction, wrote the first (of many) program and came
often to get us started.

When Marko graduated, Ingeborg Endter entered our lives as we continued
our  progress, as well as many other MIT students who helped us along the
way. I might add that we also aided some of the MIT students in their
projects. We talked to one student who was interviewing seniors and
interacted with a robot.

We went to the Media Lab on several occasions where we were introduced to
many of the projects the students were working on, such as showing
products on the internet and arranging for the purchase and sale, an
unbelievable concept 18 years ago.  Another project that caught my eye
(though I never heard that it became a reality) was a doll for small children
which could take their temperature, blood pressure, etc., while they played
with it.

The SilverStringers attended a couple of meetings held for companies
interested in investing and checking out the students' projects at the Lab. At
one such meeting we gave a presentation about what we were doing, which
prompted Mr. Bender to ask how we liked teaching a class at MIT. WOW.

At another meeting we met with a representative from Aircom, Ireland, which
resulted in four of us, Ella Letterie, Don Norris, Russ Priestley, me and MIT
student Alex Stouffs, going on an all-expense paid trip to Ennis, Ireland,
where we met with many different groups, such as the Women's Fly Fishing
Group, students of all ages, a library group and the Travelers, and
encouraged them to start their own version of an on-line newspaper.

I was most impressed when we met with the Travelers at their Center. They
had set up computers for the women who attended to receive the homework
that had been assigned to their children. As well as being able to help with
homework, these women, most of whom had very little formal education,
also learned. It was a wonderful concept.

During these twenty years we have always managed to publish once a
month. Although we started off with about 20-25 members who regularly
attended meetings we are now down to seven or eight (we started off as
senior citizens after all). It has been a great run and, hopefully, we will be
able to keep it going with the help of new members who are more computer
literate than I am.


December 4, 2015

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