Club History

History of the Club

The club was formed in September 1982, by a group of young computer enthusiasts from Sir Frederic Osborn School, in Welwyn Garden City, Herts. They found a suitable site at the Campus West library, and advertised the first club meeting in shop windows and by word of mouth. A large number turned out for the meeting; some bringing along their micros. In those days the latest computers were Sinclair ZX81, Sinclair Spectrum, BBC Micro, Vic 20 and the Newbrain. The meeting lasted two hours, and everyone went away promising to return for the next one.
Another meeting took place, but soon after part of the committee decided to resign, and a shake up took place. The committee shrank to two until a third member joined soon after the second meeting. After much discussion, it was decided to move the meeting away from the Campus, because it was proving to be too expensive. The committee looked for a suitable building.
Two weeks later it moved to the Panshanger Youth Club on Herns Lane, Welwyn Garden City. It was decided that club meetings should take place every 1st and 3rd Friday in the month. The name of the club was changed to 'Basic User Group'. Over the next few years the numbers were steady at around 10-15 per meeting. In 1985 the club's name was again changed to 'Panshanger Computer Club' because it was felt that it represented the area in which the club was situated. In 1987 the meeting dates were changed to every alternate Friday. The reason for this was that it would be easier to remember when the next meeting was and it meant that the time gap between meetings would be constant. Unfortunately, two of the founding committee members had to resign due to personal commitments. Indeed a great blow, but fortunately two other club members were drafted in.
Club Meeting March 1999
Club Meeting at Panshanger Junior School - March 1999
In 1989 the club organised the first club outing to British Aerospace. It proved to be an outstanding success for all concerned. In 1999, after about 16 years at the Panshanger youth club, the club moved about 100 yards down the road to Panshanger Junior School on Daniells, the road directly opposite our old premises. How lucky to find excellent premises within walking distance of our old venue. Soon after our move to new premises our Chairman, John Stonier, fled to Yeovil to marry his fiancée. Without John's efforts over the 16 plus years he was associated with the club it would NOT have been the success that it had. He resigned as Chairman and all wished him and his good lady all the best and hoped they would stay in contact. The ever willing club secretary Mark Empson, took on the newly created club committee position of 'General Dogsbody'. Mark, along with John Stonier, as one of the original members of the club and so it passed to 'good hands'.
Club Meeting April 1999
Club Meeting at Panshanger Junior School - April 1999
During the summer of 2001 some faceless accountant decided we were not paying an economic rent and the cost for our evening of entertainment quadrupled! This could not go on as although, due to good club finances, we could absorb a loss for a while this would have caused us to become bankrupt very soon. So, after many enquiries we moved into older but just as nice premises at the Hyde Association on Hollybush Lane, still in Welwyn Garden City but about 5 minutes by car away from Panshanger.
Club Meeting February 2003
Club Meeting at Hyde Association - February 2003
In late 2013 the club was again at risk of becoming homeless as redevelopment of the entire site on Hollybush Lane meant the demolition of the Hyde Association building. The proposed community building that was to be built along with the new housing development could not offer us sufficient space for our purposes. So, yet again, we were forced to find new premises. After many enquiries we were very fortunate to find our present home the Ludwick Family Club on Hall Grove, Welwyn Garden City.
Club Meeting January 2014
First Club Meeting at the Ludwick Family Club - January 2014
The club held its first meeting at the Ludwick Family Club in January 2014. It is interesting to note that original membership consisted of dedicated Computer enthusiasts who were mainly adults. The present membership appears to have a good mix from teens to senior citizens and all interact well and exchange ideas. The club caters for all aspects of computing and all levels of expertise. Subjects discussed range from building and upgrading machines, software use virus removal. The games side blows hot and cold but there is often a network game being played. Members attending the club bring a number of different computers with them, some bought and many built, running Windows, Linux and other operating systems. Smart phones ( Android and iOS) are also represented. The club has use of a super fast Virgin broadband connection on club nights.
In 2015, our senior committee member Mark Empson passed away, as has our resident computer buff Geoff Smith. The club as such has staggered forward. At the 2016 AGM it was decided that in an effort to save the club from closure, a new format to the club was needed. The current committee was reduced to one Club Organiser and a Deputy, the fees were kept the same and requests were made for ideas in going forward.

Meetings changed from every other Friday back to the first and third Friday of each month. It was agreed amongst members we would use our pot of funds built up over the years towards the running of the club and keep club fees affordable against increasing rents. There was a steady attendance over the years that followed and an increased interest in retro computing with many 8 Bit and 16 Bit computers being repaired and used. This saw the club come full circle from its roots with BBC Micros and others from the era such as the Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum in regular use.

Club meeting 2018
Club meeting at the Ludwick Family Club - November 2018

Covid hit in early 2020, a very strange time for everyone and club meetings paused for 18 months. During this time we spun up weekly Skype calls every Friday for members to join and keep in touch. These were a big success with good regular attendance. Much conversation revolved around everyday life and food shopping more than computing but it’s likely the club would not have continued without these. After a few false starts, club meetings finally resumed in mid 2021.

Average club attendance never quite recovered in the time after Covid but we retain a core group of members that still attend regularly. The Skype calls also continue to this day each Friday between club meets, offering another way to keep in touch.

ZX Spectrum
8 Bit Micros make a return to the club - September 2023

As the end of 2023 approached, the pot of funds we had been using to subsidise the club started to run low. If the club was to continue long term the options were to increase fees significantly or change the frequency of club meetings. Discussion took place among members, and it was agreed we would move to meeting once a month on the First Friday of every month starting in January 2024. We believe this offers the best balance of affordability while keeping the club available for those that wish to attend and benefit from it.