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Column

Donations create waves of good will

By DAVE GUSSOW

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 3, 1998


Qt was a roll call of accomplishment.

One community or church group after another stood up last week and told how it had taken the gift of 10 computers and turned it into something special.

Preschool programs. After-school programs. Senior citizen programs. Training programs. Hundreds, if not thousands, of children and adults participating.

“It’s more than I hoped for,” said Jeffery Howells, executive vice president of finance for Tech Data Corp. “It’s incredible.”

Tech Data donated 200 computers to 20 groups in December. The company got some of its business partners to chip in sound cards, speakers, printers, hubs and cables for upgrades and presented the add-ons to the groups last week at a breakfast at the St. Petersburg Family YMCA.

The program started when Howells and Tech Data chief executive Steve Raymund talked about what the company could do to help the area affected by disturbances in St. Petersburg in 1996. The YMCA, under the leadership of president and chief executive John Cannon, supervised distribution of the computers.

While some groups need technical help for the upgrades, some have found community volunteers to handle maintenance and other fix-it problems. Howells said Tech Data employees are ready to help if needed on the upgrades.

At the end of the breakfast, boxes filled with the newly donated equipment were distributed to organizations eager to get the upgrades up and running.

• • •

First, there was Spam. Then there was spam.

The first is a canned meat product from Hormel Foods Corp., which tries to protect its rights to the product name. The second has come to be known as junk e-mail in the online world.

After our July 20 story on spam (lower case), some readers wanted to know why junk e-mail is called spam and about Hormel’s position on the term.

Mostly corporate silence, at least according to a January item from “PR News,” a newsletter covering the public relations industry. Hormel attorney Kevin Jones told “PR News” that Hormel made a “conscious decision” not to dispute the word’s Internet meaning.

However, the Austin, Minn., company threatens legal action against Web sites that incorporate images of Spam cans or offer Spam apparel or who, like former “Spam King”’ Sanford Wallace of Philadelphia, try to incorporate the name into their businesses.

How the online world adopted the term isn’t clear. The PC Webopedia (www.pcwebopedia.com) lists two possible origins:

“The generally accepted version is that it comes from the Monty Python song, Spam spam spam spam, spam spam spam spam, lovely spam, wonderful spam. Like the song, spam is an endless repetition of worthless text.

“Another school of thought maintains that it comes from the computer group lab at the University of Southern California, which gave it the name because it has many of the same characteristics as the lunch meat Spam: Nobody wants it or ever asks for it. No one ever eats it; it is the first item to be pushed to the side when eating the entree. Sometimes it is actually tasty, like 1 percent of junk mail that is really useful to some people.”

• • •

Florida is No. 1 – in the number of people victimized by an Internet pyramid scheme called the Fortuna Alliance. Those 1,592 Floridians also will get more in refunds – $569,691 – than any other state, according to a breakdown from the Federal Trade Commission. California was the only other state even close to Florida’s numbers. It’s just another reminder that people need to use extra caution on the Internet when they see deals that look too good to be true.


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