SUNNYVALE -- Warren Hegg is fond of talking about replacing " with dot.compassion."


It's the Menlo Park business consultant's pithy way of describing the work of the Digital Clubhouse Network, which he serves as president, guru and head cheerleader. His ideas have taken root so far in Sunnyvale's Town Center mall and in New York City's Financial District, but Hegg hopes they will eventually spread to every state in the nation.

The nonprofit organization has trained several thousand people -- including senior citizens, schoolchildren, people with disabilities and the terminally ill -- how to cross the chasm that separates the haves and the have-nots of the Information Age.    

Among other things, Hegg, 53, and his volunteers teach people how to make their own digitalized movies. Using multimedia equipment and software donated by high- tech companies, participants learn at workshops how to block out their movies on storyboards, how to import source material off the Internet and how to write scripts and narrate them for the 150-megabyte, five- minute productions in the still-image style of documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

A number of the digitalized film shorts -- including one of World War II veterans, men and women, recalling their experiences, and another made by breast cancer patients -- have been accepted for the Smithsonian Institution's history collections, Hegg said.

"Some of this stuff has terrific emotional impact, and that's what people are searching for -- the real emotional impacts in their lives," he told California Historical Society officials during their recent tour of the facility in Sunnyvale, which has 35 desktop computers.

The prospect of becoming a moviemaker may be what draws many people to the sprawling clubhouse, tucked among boutique shops, jewelry stores, and fast-food counters in the Town Center.


But Hegg, former longtime head of international planning for SRI International in Menlo Park, had other ideas for spreading the gospel of his digital network when he first installed it four years ago in a cramped warehouse room in Santa Clara. As members become skilled on the computers, they are obliged to volunteer to teach others, who then go on to teach others, and so on.


"The deal is that each member pays their dues in volunteered time," said Hegg, a colorful, impassioned speaker who on occasion feels compelled to apologize for one of his stem-winders. "I know for some people it's like drinking from a fire hydrant," he said.


Other innovative programs include one that allows elementary school children without access to computers to learn the basics of getting on the Internet, and another that teaches disabled people and at- risk youth how to create Web pages and develop business skills.

A unique feature of the volunteer teaching approach, said Hegg, is that it empowers what he calls the "early adapters," typically boys about 15 or 16, to "live beyond the box" by linking up with others, the elderly, the disabled and others whose paths they may never have crossed before.


The teenagers are "usually very quick to adapt to the technology, but they haven't got a lot of life skills," he said. "By helping others cross the digital divide, they pick up those skills."

Hegg, an Idaho native who has a master's degree in Asian economics from the University of Hawaii and once worked as a radio journalist in Tokyo, said he commanded $3,000- a-day consulting fees before he decided to make the Digital Clubhouse his life's mission.

He now draws $70,000 a year from the network, Hegg said. His salary and that of a few other top managers at the largely volunteer Sunnyvale and New York City clubhouses are a recent measure approved by the board of directors to enable the network to compete in the nonprofit marketplace, he said.


In the the early days, Hegg said, he ran the first clubhouse on a shoestring -- missing his home mortgage payments several times to meet the network's bills -- until he was able to persuade several Silicon Valley clients and industry leaders to step in and help.

One of his earliest boosters, Adobe CEO John Warnock, was recently presented by Hegg with the network's first annual founder's award.


"We love to see the things Warren is doing and we're hoping it catches on even more and continues to grow,"said Dyanne Compton, Adobe's community relations manager.

"Warren is truly an evangelist, a visionary who can take you years into the future, and he was able to sell us on that vision," she said. ''In another life, I'm sure he would have been a preacher."


Cisco, Mitsubishi, Proxim and Apple have also contributed to Hegg's digital network, which has attracted national attention. The organization has won several information technology industry awards and is drawing political and business leaders to Sunnyvale to learn firsthand about it.

The latest to drop by was U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, who chatted with students about what they were learning last Thursday after giving a speech at a Stanford University conference on Internet crime.


Her visit was timed to coincide with the announcement of the Cousins of the Clubhouse 2000 Project, an effort Hegg has undertaken to establish 40 to 50 more digital clubhouses in churches, community centers, housing projects and schools around the country.

"In my dream of dreams," he said, "you'd have one of these clubhouses in every town in the nation, where every senior, every at-risk youngster, every kid in a wheelchair, every woman struggling to master a 21st century job would have access -- and the network would be as ubiquitous as the Web itself."