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James Hong

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

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)

and

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. :)

12 Comments:

Anonymous Josh Kopelman said...

Still miss the PR#6 to reboot ;-)

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Richard Yoo said...

I had a 300baud modem too! man, I'd tie up the phone line for days!

1:14 PM  
Blogger Pud said...

nice post.

the cool kids spelled it was "Apple ]["

1:26 PM  
Blogger james said...

hahha!! yea, i originally wrote it as apple ][, then i was gonna write it as apple //, then i just wrote it how wikipedia wrote it

3 commenters.. 3 successful web entrepreneurs! :)

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Dan Sage said...

Not to ruin the streak of commenters = successful web entrepreneurs, but just wanted to say your posts the last few weeks have been showing in their entirety in Google Reader. I'm glad. Before it was just a snippet.

I didn't have anything.

1:56 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

I just had my AIM screen name 10th anniversary, reminisced about BBSes, and thought that was old skool until your post. I remember a Practical Peripherals modem, but that might've been the second one. Don't forget the turtle and MUDs!

Check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1n4fDgmrF3o

11:23 PM  
Anonymous PJ said...

First computer was a TI99/4a, but first connected with a modem on a PC, or maybe it was an XT. Started at 300bps, miserably slow. It wasn't even a modem, some kind of sound-card emulation. My dad hacked it somehow to 1200baud. External modems after that, maybe my next one was a Practical Peripherals 2400 MNP5, then a Boca Research 2400 v.42bis, way faster. In college at an ISP job they gave me a USRobotics Courier v.Everything :-) Doubt I will ever use it again.

4:48 AM  
Blogger Jason Rubenstein said...

Wow.. uh, not including the greenbar IBM 360 remote terminal and acoustic rubber-cup modem in 5th grade? A TRS-80 my Dad brought home but no modem. Then it was a USR 1200 of some sort to go with my friend's Apple-II & then the PC(a 286) we built from mailordered parts. So did anyone else join or start a demogroup after a few BBS visits as well?

10:39 AM  
Blogger Colin Surprenant said...

CALL -151

Great nostalgic post. First computer was a Sinclair ZX81 with a 16k ram external addon (that you had to secure with an elastic). 2nd computer was an Apple ][, actually a clone, which I could afford. First modem was an internal "Taitron" 300 baud for the Apple ][. Man did this modem war-dialed.

Cheers,
Colin.

7:32 AM  
Anonymous John Winslow said...

LMAO... Are you ever aging yourself.

My first computer, if you can call it that was the C64.

My first connected machine was the IBM XT with a Hayes 300 baud internal, followed by a Hayes Accura 2400 Baud interna.

When 9600 came down below 1000.00 I purchased both 386 machine and an internal Hayes Optima 9600 external ,followed in short order by a Hayes Ultra Series 14.4 internal.... Then DSL!! Woohoo...

Man do I feel old now!!

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Bryan Menell said...

At 110 baud with the phone handset going into those suction cups, we dreamed of 300 baud! And then when the 1200 baud modems came along, you could receive text faster than you could read it (thank goodness for cntrl-s -- what we you do without flow control?).

And my Apple hard drive could hold 5 megabytes! How would you ever fill that up? No more need for Floppy A and B.

I still remember my CompuServe ID: 72307,2100 but I forgot my GEnie ID. Those were the days....

1:22 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

+++ ATH

6:01 PM  

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