When many adults need help with computers, tablets or smart phones, they ask their children. Joe Isaac’s children ask him, but they may have to wait their turn.
For two decades, Isaac has been a rock star among members of the Central Kentucky Computer Society — teaching classes, writing a popular blog and sending out regular emails with tips and tutorials to more than 400 fans.
Isaac is proof that you can be both a computer guru and a 90-year-old great-grandfather. He doesn’t understand why more older adults won’t take the time or effort to keep up with technology.
“I tell them it makes their life easier,” said Isaac, who keeps himself current by studying online tutorials. “They can get their bank balance, they can send emails. I wouldn’t know what my kids and grandkids and great-grandkids were doing if I didn’t get on Facebook!”
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Isaac, who is from Cumberland in Harlan County, moved to Lexington in 1957. He and a first cousin opened Burger Shake, the iconic fast-food restaurant on north New Circle Road that is now run by their daughters. Burger Shake is best known for posting its cheap burger price in big numbers on its sign.
“We started out at 19 cents,” he said. “Now it’s up to $1.23!”
Isaac, who also sold real estate, said the worst part of owning a business was calculating payroll.
“Then in the ’80s I found out there was a computer program that would do your payroll,” he said. “I bought it and we bought a computer.”
The more Isaac used computers, the more he wanted to learn. So he joined the Central Kentucky Computer Society, which was started by a group of local computer buffs in 1984 to “demystify technology.” Among the founders was David Reed, a former Herald-Leader journalist who created the first version of the newspaper’s website, Kentucky.com.
Isaac began taking CKCS classes in 1993, “and I got into it deep,” he said. Two years later, when Microsoft came out with Windows 95, the first major upgrade to its PC operating system, Isaac mastered it and started teaching classes for his fellow CKCS members.
One thing we do fairly successfully is convince newcomers it isn't as hard as they think it is.
Bob Brown, Central Kentucky Computer Society member since 1987
Isaac has been teaching ever since, and he is on Microsoft’s beta team that helps developers test each new Windows version.
“I don’t like to say this is my life’s work,” Isaac said. “But it’s close to it.”
CKCS is now signing up students for spring classes in a full range of subjects, including computer basics, word processing, Windows 10, digital photography and PaintShop Pro. Most of the hands-on classes, which are taught by an instructor and an assistant, run for two hours, one day a week for six weeks.
Tuition is $60 per class, and people who pay to become a CKCS member ($40 a year for individuals, $60 for a family) get a 20 percent discount. Some classes are live-streamed on the Internet for free. (For more information and class schedules, go to: CKCS.org.)
CKCS also offers periodic three-hour, $30 workshops and seminars on a variety of topics. Recent ones included Mac OS X El Capitan, Lightroom, Windows 10 conversion and digital photography for beginners.
The organization is non-profit and all-volunteer. Tuition and membership fees pay for classroom space at 160 Moore Drive and equipment, which now includes eight Windows-based PCs and five Apple Macs.
Isaac is one of several regular instructors. Digital photography workshops also have been taught by some of Central Kentucky’s best photographers, including Charles Bertram, John Snell and John Hockensmith.
The public is invited to a free monthly technology field trip. The next one is a tour of Lexington’s traffic management center, 101 East Vine Street, at 7 p.m. April 11.
CKCS has about 300 members, most of whom are older adults, said Joe Dietz, the organization’s vice president. Most join because they want to learn technology that will help them accomplish things: processing, digital photography, online genealogy research, Facebook and Skype.
“The number one thing is communicating with grandchildren who live far away,” said Bob Brown, a retired engineer and member since 1987. “One thing we do fairly successfully is convince newcomers it isn’t as hard as they think it is.”
CKCS is always seeking new members of all ages, interests and experience levels.
“Our biggest deficit is young people,” Isaac said. “Even my own kids! I say, ‘Why don’t you come over’ and they say, ‘If we have a problem we just ask you.’”
Central Kentucky Computer Society
160 Moore Dr., Suite 107