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“It’s a real thrill when I can fix something,” says Sam Duncan, an Ashby Village technology volunteer. And he means it. When contacted for this interview, the first thing Sam wanted to know was whether the newsletter was having any technology problems.


“I have no idea what I would have done if I were not living in the time of computers,” he says. Sam was hooked the moment his roommate at MIT introduced him to computers. He went on to spend most of his career programming in defense and aerospace as well as teaching computer courses.


Sam’s role as a technology volunteer began when he stopped by the Ashby Village booth at Berkeley Sunday Streets on Shattuck in 2014. He had recently retired to Berkeley, and the Ashby Village booth happened to be right outside his building. By early 2015, Sam was helping members with computers and electronics. Today he is part of a group of technology volunteers, some specializing in PCs, others in Macs, and still others in electronics. Some volunteers also serve on the Technology Committee, chaired by Maryl Gearhart. In addition to working with members, Sam enjoys volunteering in the Ashby Village Office, tending the office computers, printers, internet connections, and office equipment. According to Sam, it is a good match: “The staff are amazing, and I am thrilled to be able to work with them.”


One of the things Sam says he likes most about volunteering is “meeting a lot of really nice and interesting people.” He adds, “The vast majority of Ashby Village members are online and depend a whole lot on their computers and smart phones. It is really difficult when you can’t check email or get on line. I enjoy calling on members. People are always very appreciative. They are the nicest people in the world.”


The other thing Sam loves most about volunteering is figuring out how to solve computer problems. “I know what it is like not to have a computer that works. No one should ever feel stupid about having a problem,” he says. The problem could be with an Internet provider, faulty hardware or software, or maybe even a plug slightly pulled out of the outlet.


In addition to trouble-shooting, Sam gives personal tutorials, helping members establish their connections to Village resources, navigate the website, store addresses or photos, connect to social media, install apps to get services, Skype with family and friends, view an exercise video, listen to a podcast, or set up a Facebook profile.


What does Sam recommend if something goes wrong with a computer? Sam’s strategy is to look up the problem on Google, because “it has probably happened to someone else who posted a solution.” Try to keep calm and rest assured that Sam and the other technology volunteers will be there for you.

Volunteer Sam Duncan - photo by Richard Bermack