Author(s):    Aaron Zitner, Globe Staff Date: December 11, 1994 Page: 61 Section: BUSINESS

All politics may be local, but at the Boston Computer Society it is localized on the desktop. Some members are loyal to Apple computers, others to IBM and IBM-compatible machines, and that, among other reasons, has sometimes made for passionate politics. So this week, after the society chose its fourth leader in four years, the new director declared herself an agent of glasnost. "The past divisiveness did bother me," said Pam Bybell, a veteran staff member who was named executive director. "People might have gotten a little bit of zeal in promoting one computer platform over another, but I tend to look for things that bring people together."

After all, Apple and IBM are cooperating on a new computer that can run software written for both companies. "I think that cooperation on the industry level is helping us bring folks back together here," Bybell said.

Bybell will work with Arthur Nelson, who this week was named chairman of the 17-year-old society, which has 23,000 members and is one of the most prominent computer-user groups in the nation. Nelson is principal of The Nelson Cos., the Waltham real estate company.

Their selection by the society board caps several months of turmoil. Earlier this year, the society decided not to renew the two-year contract of director Bob Grenoble, who some said was not enough of a "computer person" to represent the spirit of the group. In addition, the society under Grenoble's tenure had missed a deadline to move from its Kendall Square headquarters after being required to leave. The society offices are now in Waltham.

After Grenoble's departure, the society chose an interim leader, Joe Valentine, a former United Way executive who agreed to stay only through this month, Bybell said. On Monday, the board chose to replace him with Bybell, 33, who had joined the society in 1987 as director of its 800 volunteers.

Bybell said the society has decided to broaden its mission to attract new members. Even while computers become more pervasive, membership in the society has dropped from a high of 32,000 in 1989. Bybell said the society will work harder to help all people improve their ability to use computers, whether veterans or newcomers.

"My guess is that there's an assumption that we're elitists or there's a Mensa kind of test to become a BCS member," Bybell said. "Hopefully the selection of me as executive director -- well, we don't look like computer nerds, geeks, propellerheads. We use computers, and we hope that will be a magnet to convince people that we're there for them."

The rivalry between IBM and Apple loyalists has begun to die down, Bybell said. An IBM group no longer keeps its own offices in Newton, and an office in Porter Square in Cambridge, once for Macintosh aficianados, now has IBM- compatible equipment as well, Bybell said. The society's annual computer show began as an Apple-only event, but Bybell said she incorporated IBM- compatible vendors and others when she took responsiblity for running the show three years ago.