The 300 Baud Club
I met up with Josh Kopelman yesterday. Josh was the founder of Half.com, my favorite story about him is how he got the attention of Meg Whitman (CEO of ebay, who eventually acquired half.com): He plastered every stop sign between meg whitman's house and the ebay office with Half.com bumperstickers. Genius.
Anyhow, 2 questions i always ask people in the internet industry around my age are:
1. What was your first computer? (Mine was an Atari 400, although I played more on the Apple IIe)
2. Did you play with modems, and what kind did you have? (My first modem was the Hayes Internal 300 baud Smartmodem, followed by the awesome Novation Apple-Cat II.) This question sometimes follows into a test of recollection of the Hayes AT command set
Josh started with an Apple II and also had the Hayes Internal Smartmodem. We also geeked out about what games we were into, Josh liked Taipan, I was an Ultima Fanatic.
Ok, what's my point.
It seems to me like amongst all the successful web entrepreneurs I know, a high proportion played fairly early with computers, and more importantly, with modems. I'm not just talking small companies like HOTorNOT, I mean the founders of a lot of BIG internet companies too. The biggest, in fact.
My guess is that the same set of nerds that were tying up their family's phone lines downloading warez, wardialing, and trying to build blue boxes were also the earliest people to grow up immersed in online communities. They were the first generation that grew up online. (Incidentally, Jobs and Wozniak, the founders of apple, first got into the business of building blue boxes before they built the Apple I)
I often tell people that in a connected world, an online identity can mean as much to a person as his/her offine identity. This seems to surprise some people, but the truth is, it was already true of me and a lot of other people trolling around BBS's back in the 80s. It's probably because we were so dorky offline and could feel cool online, but that's another story..
It's funny, but whenever I meet other entrepreneurs, the thing that we usually bond over most is not the Internet today or where it's headed... we usually bond over the old days, talking about the Apple II or how exciting it was when the capability for 8-bit color came out (which meant we could now download porn, basically)
I guess it's official.. when you bond with people over the good old days, it's a sign you're getting old. :)