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Polis Report

PC Corral

By Bernice Yeung

To help parents decode the techno-babble of their computer-savvy youngsters, Mark Ivey and Ralph Bond of Intel's technology literacy group created a live demonstration to explain the mysteries of the personal computer. Since their demo is for adults who can't hold a technologically coherent conversation with junior, the two use "plain English" and perform in cowboy costumes.

"We're not geeky engineers who tell you that you're stupid," Bond says. "We offer a program that is sympathetic to the average consumer."

Chimes Ivey: "We knew that it never works to just hand people computer manuals, so we decided to use humor."

Indeed, the PC Dads, who are both real-life fathers from Oregon, assure audiences that they understand the parental point of view. "We know what a 'hard drive' is," they quip. "It's three hours along the coast with two kids in the back seat."

The PC Dads started out doing volunteer gigs for teachers and parents. At their first stint (a PTA meeting), they used a beat-up toaster as a prop. "Aren't toasters great?" the PC Dads asked the audience. "You don't have to worry about what bread is compatible with this toaster, or how many RPM you need for it to run ..."

When heads in the audience began to bob in agreement, Bond and Ivey knew that they had found a niche. Intel, realizing that the general public was ignorant of its products' capabilities, did some job shuffling to switch technical writers Bond and Ivey to PC Dad projects.

Now the PC Dads have their own forum on AOL and Intel's home page, as well as a weekly radio show, and they're touring with the "America's Smithsonian" exhibit. According to the PC Dads, the beauty of their Smithsonian show, "PC Frontier," is that it embraces newbies while also exciting those at the other extreme: geekdom.

(The PC Dads are in town in conjunction with the Smithsonian exhibit, which commemorates the museum's 150-year anniversary, at the McEnery Convention Center in downtown San Jose.)

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From the August 7-13, 1997 issue of Metro.

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