This ongoing column will provide you with ways that you can use your computer to "enhance" your insulator collecting experience. I will try and stay away from that "techie" talk; if you want all the nitty-gritty, you can buy a copy of PC Magazine! Most people with a computer can take advantage of the software and hardware solutions that I present.
A computer is a rather general name for a broad spectrum of machines, from laptops to super computers. When I use the word "computer" I will generally be talking about your "typical" home computer, probably costing between $1,500 and $3,000 and running Microsoft Windows. OK, all you Mac users can join in too! I assume you probably have some of the following hardware on your computer as well: a printer, fax modem, CDROM drive, and sound card.
Many of you are still wondering how insulators and computers are related. From my point of view, the computer is just another tool available to you; a very different and powerful tool!
The key to a computer's power is really the software or applications that you run. These applications help you to compose letters, send faxes, draw pictures, and much more! Before I go into more specifics, I thought I'd just share with you some of the ways my wife Jill and I have used word processors, database management tools, graphic editors, and a home finance package to assist us in our roles in the insulator hobby.
For the Yankee Pole Cat Insulator Club, we use our computer to track club members and renewal dates, to print out the master copy of our newsletter, and to print out address labels. The return address label has a small picture of our club's "mascot" (our "Pole Cat"), and the address label has the member's status and expiration date printed on it.
For the 1995 National that we co-hosted, our computer kept track of the show's income and expenses, and who bought banquet tickets, dealer tables, etc. We created all the text and graphics in the dealer packet, as well as the 52 page show directory. With a graphics editor, we created a "camera ready" design that the Postal Service used to cancel the show cachets. And, we created the graphic that was engraved on the dome of the 1995 NIA commemorative insulator!
All right, so you aren't running your insulator club or preparing for a National Show. So, what do you do with your computer?
Our entire collection of insulators is catalogued in detail in a computer database. We record everything from condition, to who we bought it from, to how much we paid. From this, we can produce lists of duplicates, insulators we want to upgrade, and a complete inventory of all the insulators we own.
We have created our own "personal letterheads"; one with a picture of a pair of insulators, and another with an insulator and a water bottle. To complement those, we have created custom return address labels and business cards. And of course, we write all our letters using our word processor.
Now, add a little hardware - a modem. Suddenly, your computer joins a world wide network of computers! Over the phone line, you can send that ad that Crown Jewels had to receive by the tenth of the month on the tenth of the month! With access to electronic mail, you send out your latest "for sale" list. No stamps, no paper, no phone calls… A few days later, you gather up all the responses, and send out packages to the people who bought your insulators. Of course, you create your own custom address labels for the packages!
You hop on the "Information Highway" and cruise over to the Glass Insulators Web Page. Read the latest articles, check out the picture of the CD 181.5 "Spaceman" in full color, see what shows are coming up in your area of the country. Your heart pounds with excitement as you read the new section on Porcelain! Don't like Mud? Look at our extensive section on "Insulator Go-Withs" instead!
Now, imagine this; you come over to our house with a new insulator you would like to show some people. Within minutes, a color picture of that insulator is available for viewing by 30 million people. Now hold on, did I just say 30 MILLION people? Yes! You reach for your subscriber directory, and confirm that there are only 1,716 combined Crown Jewel subscribers and NIA members. What is he talking about?
Oh, did I lose you a few paragraphs back? Read it again, carefully. All that is possible today! Some of us are actually doing that right now! Are you getting a little more excited now? Maybe you realize something; the computer can help you communicate in ways you never imagined a few years ago.
Before I finish, I want to tell you how you can view full color versions of some of the black and white photographs that are in this issue of Crown Jewels. For now, I will assume you have access to the World Wide Web. If you subscribe to America Online, CompuServe, or Prodigy, you do! Find out how to get to the "Web". Somewhere up at the top of the page will be a field called "Location" or "URL" Type in http://www.insulators.info and press Enter. In a few seconds, you should get to the "Glass Insulators" Home Page. Find the first topic called "Photographs and information". Look down, and click on the subtopic "Crown Jewels of the Wire". You will be viewing a list of photographs. Click on the one you want to see, and in several seconds the photograph will appear on your computer screen!
I'm sorry I don't have the time or space with this first column to go into more details about this. But, you can bet I'll talk more about the Web in my next column! Stay tuned… And feel free to email or write me with any questions you may have about Insulators and Computers!
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Last updated Sunday, December 31, 1995