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Making beautiful music via computer

You know the old saying: it doesn’t hurt to ask, right?

I am not much of a volunteer, being selfish and xenophobic. But one activity I have gotten involved in is the Minnesota Folk Festival. This group puts on concerts of traditional music in the Twin Cities. We are an anachronistic group, our consciousness firmly rooted somewhere between the 14th and 19th centuries. Not surprisingly, that’s how old our computers are, too.

Until recently, anyway. We assessed our organizational needs, and a new computer ranked near the top. The old one, an old 486 clone, lacked a CD-ROM drive, was slow, and had such limited storage that we could only run AOL 3 for our Internet connection. This software, highly regarded in its day, kept us from doing such elementary things as downloading and uploading files. It was a techno drag.

Since I was the most–make that the only–technologically oriented person in our group, I was assigned the task of begging for a new computer. This was not easy for me, since I am a bad combination of shy and vain. But loving banjo and bagpipe music as I do, I agreed.

Everyone told me to try IBM, Compaq, and Gateway. I said I would try those places, but first I was going to try the place I get most of my stuff from, a little upgrade shop in the Prospect Park neighborhood of Minneapolis.

General Nanosystems is run by a man named Khalid Mahmood. The shop has been in existence about six years, and I have gone there for all my home and business computing needs–systems, components, upgrades, the works. I have tried mail order, and I have tried the big stores, but I like dealing with the same people, face to face. And it is techie heaven: Customers there generally know what they want and are there for low prices and good service.

I just had a feeling that Khalid, who has no reason to like banjos and bagpipes, might be able to help us. And I figured, it doesn’t hurt to ask, right?

So I wrote him a note, pitching the idea. I was hoping to call him later in the week and ask him if he had gotten the letter. Instead, Khalid called me–something unknown in the realm of charitable giving.

“I got your letter,” he said.

“Really?” I gulped. I tried to recall the terms of the request so I could re-pitch them to him on the spot.

“Sure, why not?” Khalid was agreeing to donate an entry-level Athlon system. I was floored, and I thanked him up and down, and hung up.

The next Wednesday I went in to pick up the system. The place was busy as usual, with salesmen running every which way, the phone ringing, and people queued up with their computers in their arms. I asked a clerk if our system was ready, and I was half tempted to sneak out the door with it. The place was bedlam. But I knew I had to thank my benefactor.

In a minute Khalid came out front. “I just wanted to thank you again,” I said, and reminded him of all the benefits sponsoring organizations get. They are mentioned in the program, on the Web site, and thanked publicly several times from the stage. I wanted to tell him he was getting something for his generosity.

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” he shrugged. “I just thought, it’s for music. Music brings people together. So it was my pleasure.”

So I trundled the boxes out to the car and drove home. Our group would be wowed by this great gift, and would put it to good use. I was full of warm thoughts for General Nanosystems. And I promised myself the next time the opportunity presented itself, to listen even more carefully to the music.

ComputerUser columnist Michael Finley also writes Future Shoes.

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