How friends help friends on the Internet: The Ross Greenberg Story

This story comes to me from Dennis Fowler, and used with his permission.

Before the internet, before Windows was a gleam in Bill Gates’ eye, Ross Greenberg pioneered computer anti-virus software. In the mid ‘80s his Flu-Shot protected against all 81 viruses loose at the time. It’s impossible to know how many computer users owed the health of their systems to his work. Ross also became a computer journalist, and in the ‘90s, a member of the Internet Press Guild (www.netpress.org), a non-profit organization promoting excellence in journalism about the Internet.

Also, for the last two decades he has battled the relentless, crippling onslaught of Multiple Sclerosis.

But the slow decline in his physical abilities couldn’t slow his active mind. When Ross could no longer type he used voice activation, dictating articles to his computer, sending them over the internet, first from his home office in upstate New York, then from Atlanta, Georgia, where he’d relocated so his wife and caregiver had family support.

Then, early this year, the marriage crumbled, and he found himself in a nursing home, confined to a motorized wheelchair, his computer left behind, without even a phone of his own. While his mind was still clear, he was cut off from his livelihood, his IPG colleagues, the internet, the world.

Ross’s plight came to the attention of the IPG when, through the generosity of Rebecca, the home’s administrator, he painstakingly pecked out a brief e-mail, using one finger, to a fellow IPG member, who passed word along to the Guild.

Naturally the IPG wanted to help. A valued colleague was imprisoned by circumstance. Could the money be found for at least an inexpensive laptop computer and an internet connection so Ross could rejoin the world?

IPG members, many of whom had never met Ross, opened their wallets. Even those who were themselves struggling with unemployment and a shrinking market came up with $10 or $25. Within days they’d pledged more than enough to buy a laptop and get him back online. The nearest IPG member, an hour and a half north of Atlanta, volunteered to deliver the system.

Problem solved?

Not exactly.

With his handicaps, Ross needed the muscles and know-how of someone in the Atlanta area to help him. He needed voice activation software, a microphone. Even the simple act of slipping a CD into a drive was a challenge, hooking up cables an impossibility. With no IPG members in the immediate area, a plea for help went out to the Atlanta PC User’s Group (ATLPCUG), a group of people who’d never heard of the IPG. Who only knew of Ross from the dark ages of computer history or as a byline in a magazine.

Despite this they immediately responded. ATLPCUG President Tom Baley contacted long-time member Al Gruensfelder, President of Atlanta based Always-Care ® Nursing Service, who agreed to help. Other ATLPCUG members took up a collection at their March meeting and offered hardware for the project.

Wisely, the first thing Gruensfelder did was vist Ross. A laptop, it turned out, wasn’t the best solution. Instead Gruensfelder offered to retrieve Ross’s massive, fully equipped but inoperative desktop system. Still recovering from back surgery, with the help of Ross’s son, Al wrestled it into his van and took it to Frontech Computer Inc., a business his company had worked with for twenty years.

Frontech’s owner, Charley Jin, donated company workspace and labor by Kevin Capossere, Frontech’s Technical Manager. Campossere had to virtually rebuild the system to get it running again, wrestling with a major operating system upgrade, replacing damaged hardware. The money donated by IPG and ATLPCUG members was used to replace parts, upgrade software, purchase a table to hold the system and subscribe to CLEAR Wireless for the Internet connection.

By late March, after countless trips by a tireless Al Gruensfelder between various stores, Frontech and the home, punctuated with imprecations to the digital gods, Ross Greenberg had his workstation, on a two foot by four foot CostCo table raised on blocks to accommodate his motorized wheelchair. He had an internet connection, a new printer, a 24” monitor, and a new friend named Al. Three days later he dictated an e-mail to the IPG. Ross was back!

Thanks to the efforts of a lot of good people, and donations from across the country, Ross Greenberg is again active in cyberspace, the internet extending his mind’s reach far beyond the walls of his nursing home room. Now he is working with other nursing home residents to bring them in touch with friends and relatives via the internet.

Proving once again what a powerful force computers, the internet and friends from around the world can be in drawing people together, enabling the disabled who can, in turn reach out to help others.

13 thoughts on “How friends help friends on the Internet: The Ross Greenberg Story

  1. David, thanks for sharing such an inspiring story. Given a goal, many people are very willing to out and help someone, particularly if they can see tangible results.
    Everyone was a winner here.

  2. Pingback: Friends – The One with All the Weddings | Movies Favorite – Actors, actresses, Movie Makers & TV Series

  3. Thank you for making this story available. I am happy to know the communities out there can help our members in need. I’ll also note that my reaction is not typical for me; I find myself positively allergic to the 20/20 – TV news type of “inspiring” story. This one resonated with me.

  4. Thanks everyone. Those of you who are touched by this story and would like to donate to help Ross (there are ongoing expenses, and in typical IT fashion we went over budget and the IPG didn’t quite raise all of the funds that were expended), can send a paypal to Dennis at dennisf6@localnet.com.

    • thanks to everyone! Having a computer system and contact with the world is extraordinarily devastating to lose. Having the friends I have at the IPG — I have only met two or three members — has been fantastic! I don’t know how yet but I am swearing to pay back Dennis in the IPG every penny they may have *invested* in me. Plus interest.

      Ross

      • Ross! I don’t know Dennis and IPG, but I want to hug them all. I didn’t know. I saw some photos on your FB page, but didn’t want to pry. Smack me with a trout.

      • Hello Ross, Bob and I read your story .We are sad about he unhappiness in your life but rejoice in how friends and colleagues rallied to help you. We were searching for your address to send a holiday card to the family. so here goes…Wishing you and your network all positive connections in the New Year! Monet and Bob R.

  5. At the risk of sounding like a horn toot, here’s a story which predates the WWW by about a decade. A local friend called me about a sight-challenged friend of his who was graduating from the Chubb Institute. He’d found a job at one of our AT&T locations in NJ, and he needed a ride of 20-some miles to work. At the time, our POST directory (internal electronic – later intranet-hosted) allowed one to send an email to everyone in a building, 1300+ people in this particular case. Less than a handful of employees were annoyed by my solicitation of a ride, less than a dozen were curious how I got their email address, three people lived in the same community as our site-challenged new employee, and one lived so close it was a natural to offer the ride. I never followed the person’s career. I was so impressed by the power of the directory, that I went on to join the directory team years later as we split AT&T and Lucent.

  6. This is very inspirational. Ross, I saw a post in which you asked about Chanoch Weil. I am his goddaughter, and I had been searching for him for several years. I found out today that he passed away two years ago. I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you but I thought you’d want to know.

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