Born and raised in Orlando, FL (this was not by his own choice, but by the choice of his parents--and for some reason he is still living in here as a native today!)
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, I found myself actively absorbed by computing devices such as the early Atari and Commodore 8-Bit computers and the Atari ST 16/32-Bit computer. Of course all of this was pre Internet boom, so everyone was dialing up Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) on their extra-slow-pokey modems. (I could actually type faster than my first 300baud modem could send or receive data!) I even ended up running a few of my own multi-node BBS’s on the Atari and PC platforms, some of which included my first few hard drives (On my Atari 8-Bit I had an external 10MB MFM Hard Drive that cost $700 and on my Atari ST I ended up with a external 30MB RLL Hard Drive that set me back $500!)
Running my own Bulletin Boards is actually what got me so entrenched into computers, communications and programming. I felt a constant desire to create new applications (and to modify existing ones) for the users of my Boards. From game development, to classified areas—I even tried a couple of times to develop my own BBS from scratch, including a full messaging and file system! Back in the BBS days I met fellow Tower Computing members Joe Rivera and Edgar Arroyo, both of whom were wildly addicted to the same types of computing I was. Eventually, the public Internet took off and the days of BBS’ing were all but gone. Everyone would switch to dialing up their “shell providers,” who offered basic Telnet connections to the Net.
In 1994 I began my work with computers professionally vs. just as a hobby. First as a salesperson and technician for the wholesaler Computer Tech in Altamonte Springs, then later they would move me to the retail outlet Computer Depot in Casselberry. The couple of years I spent working in these two places lead me to my friends Carey Crownover, James Winslow, Doug Loft, Tim Curran--and just about everyone else that I have known during my computing career. The pay wasn’t great in these first couple of years, but I learned so much about so many things! We must have built thousands of computers and installed hundreds of networks for customers in 1995-1996.
Eventually, the good times at Computer Depot were over. I ended up creating my own company called Computer Creations. I was connected to the Net practically seven days a week at this point. By working out of my home and placing ads in the local paper, I was able to sell 3-4 computers per week out of my house and I serviced/installed quite a few networks during this time as well. I created a DOS based file management program that indexed all of our software and made it easy to search, create lists, and trade software with my friends. Over time, working from home became relatively monotonous, and Carey and I decided to merge our computer companies, lease a small office from Doug Loft, and try our luck with our own little computer shop. This definitely helped drum up additional business and it created a kind of competitive atmosphere that kept us on our toes.
My first fully developed commercial application came to light in this office. Everyone I knew was sick of contact database programs that were available. They were either too simple, or far too complex. Using Visual Basic 5 I created Contact Keeper v1.0—an easy to use, fully featured, tabbed browsing styled contact management application. Many of my friends, associates and customers ended up using this application for managing all of their contacts and marketing information.
A nice bonus to having resources pooled with Carey was our ability to purchase expensive technology and split the cost. We were the first people I knew of that owned a CD Burner. Our Yamaha 1x CD Burner cost us $999 ON SALE, and each blank CD media cost $9.95! Back then, we were able to charge $50 to back up important company data to a single CD-ROM. (You can imagine how upsetting it was to burn a coaster at $9.95 each.)
By the beginning of 1996 we ended up with a full T1 line in our office. I’m not exactly sure what made us sign the dotted line on a contract for $1,800/month for an Internet connection, but doing this changed the course of the rest of our lives! I’m pretty sure that our little Cisco 2501 powered T1 circuit touched the lives of almost everyone we knew back then--and even a lot of people that we met during the next few years. Having 1.53mbps of pure, unadulterated Internet access did wonders for business—and it proved to be loads of fun hosting our own late night Quake server tournaments from our office.
During our transition from computer hardware techies to Web hosting and development, we incorporated our company under the name Webtivities, Inc. (which meant activities on the web). Joe Rivera worked for a while at ANetWeb (a marketing firm in Altamonte Springs, FL) and this is how I met Tower Computing Group members Tracey Smith and Josh Mann. Everyone I knew was focused on networking, web servers, developing web sites and web based applications, Internet marketing—the whole world started to go wild over the Internet! We created hundreds of corporate websites, adult websites, statistics software (StatBasket.com), shopping solutions (ETyphoon.com), search engines (FinalSearch.com), online databases, domain registrars (dotAnything.com)--the list goes on and on.
(TO BE CONTINUED)