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It's always been about the collaboration for me. I'm a geek, but it isn't what I'd planned to do for a living. I'd gone off to University of Arizona to study a program that I hoped would eventually take me to veterinary school so that I could take care of horses. That was, I admit, a vague idea at best. Mostly what I was studying was living with my girlfriend. School was a distant second.
Although I'd been into computers for a while they weren't more than tools and toys at that point. Then my cousin's boyfriend - a med school student at the time - showed me his Apple //e with an Apple Cat 300 baud modem. He was using it to connect to local bulletin boards, where people were having conversations about politics, science, science fiction, and just about anything else. Not all at once, you understand. One person would call in and read the messages, respond to a few and hang up. That made room for the next caller. Some really fancy boards had two lines.
I was hooked. Instantly. Here was a way for all these people who otherwise would never meet to share ideas and work on things together. To my good friends at that time -- Madison Clarke, Traveler, Zen Master, and others who knew me as Max Hammer -- thanks for a great start. We even had a few GT's (Get Together) for pot luck lunches at parks around Tucson. Within a few months I set my own first system up - called "Radio Free Arizona" and later another called simply "Igloo". Yes, "thenorth" goes back much further than you thought.
Around that time, another friend out at Berkeley who was an admin (aka sysop) on a machine called "anableps" gave me my first internet account. I was "firstname.lastname@example.org" in about 1988. They introduced me to a new thing some Fins were working on that was like "talk" only you could be on different systems. They called it "IRC" and it was strictly command line like everything else.
Not long after that I moved to Tempe and did a little work at ASU. It was during that time that I wrote "Zapper" -- it was my first shareware. Zapper was the first "Zone Aware Packer" for FidoNET mail systems. FidoNET was this cool mail transfer network. You as a user could send a message to anyone in the world who was on another bbs on the FidoNET and it would eventually get there. Usually. Each FidoNET system would dial the next one over, always a local call, and the mail would get slowly moved across the country. It was usually faster than putting a stamp on something and dropping it in the mailbox. Zapper allowed a sysop to join not just FidoNET, but also Alternet at the same time. He could also use other compression for the mail packets besides just ARCA. You could use pkarc, pak, lhz, or one of a half dozen others. I had over 200 dial-in dowloads for Zapper 2.0 when it came out.
I was working as a System Engineer for Tandy Corporation when the 1000RL came out and stayed with them when I moved to Boston to be with Barbara (we later married). Long story short, I left Tandy and went to work doing tech support for Corporate Software. They picked up Notes in the beta cycle of 2.0 and I got trained. I moved to a consulting firm called "Trellis Network Services" out of Southborough, MA but after 6 months I can honestly say I really did not like some of the things I saw going on there. When Barb got offered her dream job in Maine, I hung out my shingle and started my own consulting firm.
I guess that's pretty much the whole story. From the minute go, the real value in computers I saw was always in human collaboration.
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