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Magazine Article

For... Bee Improvement. Published... April 2001

Cyberspace Beekeeping...

I have been interested in bees and beekeeping since I was four years of age. I did not pursue this directly until I was in my late teens when I started collecting beekeeping books and became fascinated by bees and beekeeping methods. During the 1960s I started manufacturing beekeeping equipment. Originally I had no bees of my own, until about 1975, then I started with a single colony, then ten, then thirty five:- but then most of you will have been down this route!

By trade I was an electronic engineer and I have had knowledge of computers since 1961, however they were not very accessible to individuals and programming was an absolute nightmare compared to the present day. I have been involved in the design of computer hardware and used many versions of computers over many years. The IBM desktop PC that has become the "standard" of today was not originally thought to have much appeal, there were others that were more suited to those with an engineering background.

My manufacturing company APEX Enterprises became bankrupt in 1995 and shortly afterwards I had a heart attack. The surgery that I underwent to correct the problems was unsuccessful, which leaves me feeble and easily tired, my poor physical state means that I can barely do justice to the few bees that I do still keep.

I obtained my first IBM PC in October 1999, I purchased a particularly inexpensive machine (£299.00) which was riddled with faults. It took me three months of intermittent work and extra cost to get the thing running to my satisfaction. With a workable machine I started looking at the internet... I had known about the internet since the early, military "arpanet" days.

I was very surprised, as I did not realise what a powerful resource the internet had grown into. A friend passed me the URL's of a few beekeeping related sites which included several Email "lists", I should explain that a URL is an electronic address of an internet website and that Email lists are forums of discussion by like minded individuals.

During my time as an equipment manufacturer I met and conversed with many beekeepers, academics and other equipment manufacturers. The Email lists are similar to this, but with a fully worldwide group of participants. I jumped into this system with both feet and I now regularly converse, discuss and on some occasions argue with, about a thousand individuals on about a dozen Email lists.

During my time as an equipment manufacturer I did many experiments with bees, and had intended to write books on retirement. Beekeeping books currently do not sell very well and the possible market is diminishing all the time, so I decided I would put my information on a website instead.

I thought that a website of about 12 or 15 pages would suffice so I bought a book on HTML (a very simple programming language) and rattled off a few pages... After two weeks I had produced about forty pages and realised that I had only scratched the surface. I have been plugging away and have produced an unsophisticated, sometimes controversial set of about 400 pages, (some of which are far from complete) I hope what I have produced so far is useful to others... I am always open to suggestions for additions or improvements.

I deliberately hold no copyright on any of my internet work so that it may be freely distributed.

My health is not likely to improve, but my brain remains active and I can exercise it in the many discussion groups. As I spend more than half of my beekeeping time at a keyboard, I now describe myself as a Cyberspace Beekeeper.

Many of you may already have computers and then again many of you may be unaware of the benefits. To those that say "I have no interest in computers" I would reply that they are only a means to an end... They are merely a way of communicating with other people or obtaining information. You do not need to be interested in how a telephone works to be able to use one. There are computer owners that do not use the internet. To those I would ask that they think again, there is much useful information "out there" and no doubt you have information that others may wish to share. Email is very fast, efficient and virtually no cost, you can send 10 or more Emails to any point on the globe for about £0.01. Most libraries now have internet computers and will give instruction on how to use them. For a fee of about £1 per hour they will let you try it for yourself.