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FOR THE KIDS

Big Mac Meeting

Some 15,000 users of Apple technology are expected to attend a four-day computer fair in Burbank.

May 15, 1997|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Today is the first day of a four-day computer fair in Burbank--Southern California's largest annual gathering of Macintosh users.

What's going on at MacFair, as it's called, that would be of interest to kids and families? Isn't Apple Inc. in trouble? Why are the organizers of the event at the Burbank Airport Hilton Convention Center bracing themselves for an onslaught of 15,000 Mac loyalists eager to see the latest Mac technology and software at 130 booths and even willing to pay to learn the latest tricks for using it?

Consider computer book author and columnist Tom Negrino's seminar, "Mac Mastery for Kids," scheduled for noon Sunday. It's on the docket because so many schools continue to use Macintosh machines--sold nowadays by Motorola and Umax as well as Apple.

This particular technology is also the mainstay of the entertainment industry in the Valley. Jobs using Macs abound, even for high school graduates. Gov. Pete Wilson recently announced a $1-million fund to train high school youths for these jobs.

"The fair could give kids a leg up on what's used in school and in most of the creative industries in this town," Negrino says.

He will also be pitching a book Sunday, "Macs for Kids and Parents," which he co-wrote with Wendy Sharp.

Even if one skips Negrino's seminar and the 50 others on topics such as Mac essentials, customizing your Mac for fun and function, artists using the Mac, music on your Mac or hot software for kids, the fair's exhibits alone may be worth the trip.

The fair is cheaper, too, at $25 a ticket versus $75 for the seminars plus the exhibits. For members of Los Angeles Mac Users Group, it's $10 and $45, respectively, but it costs $48 a year to join the group.

One item of Mac technology being displayed is called the eMate 300. Originally designed as an inexpensive laptop for kids, it's become an underground hit. Savvy parents sometimes buy it for their own use, as have businesses.

Apple Inc. has had to set up a special 800 phone line to handle eMate inquiries. It's not available in stores, so you'll have to go to MacFair to see one. One of its charms is its price--$799. Another asset is its post-"Star Wars" look.

It's worth noting that the (800) 434-3033 number is reserved for students, parents and teachers. A special low-interest loan program is also available for folks in these categories. Call (800) APPLELN.

Bachelors and business people will have to wait until later this year to get their hands on an eMate, according to Apple spokeswoman Jill Wood.

Gender issues in computerdom will be the topic of a MacFair seminar Friday at noon. Although kids will be in school during this event, moms might be interested in the "Cyber Women Summit" because Bonnie Scott, director of an organization called MultiMedia Moms, will be one of the panelists.

Her group provides electronic peer support and counseling--what Scott recently called "moms online" (log on to www.multimedia mom.org). "It's grass-roots, parent-to-parent conversation about what happens when you set kids loose with a computer, which has become a new family appliance. They do things you never expected [and] things beyond what's prescribed."

BE THERE

MacFair L.A. '97--computer conference and exhibition, today-Sun. at the Burbank Airport Hilton Convention Center, 2500 Hollywood Way, Burbank. Seminars 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Exhibits open Fri.-Sun., 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission to seminars and exhibits, good for three days, $55; exhibits only, $25. Members of Los Angeles Mac Users Group pay $45 and $10, with membership of $48 annually. (310) 319-1826 or www.MacFair.com.

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