tim oren

network observer

In the beginning...

I grew up in Kokomo, Indiana, a great place to be from...
I learned computing on punchcards, Fortran II on an IBM 1130
I got my degrees (Computer Science & Systems Science) at Michigan State University in 1975 and 1982.
I was on the old Arpanet in 1975, writing SAIL on the Sumex DEC-10, qualifying me for the Internet Old Farts Club.
I was part of a Michigan startup which went bust in 1983, and I came West to join some old friends working with Gary Kildall at Digital Research. I left with Gary to do a CD-ROM startup (KnowledgeSet) in 1985.

Then suddenly...

... went up to Palo Alto for two days, to goof off at the 'History of Personal Workstations' conference. The stars were out: Englebart, Kay, Licklider, talking about >why< they did it. Something clicked, and the lameness of batch processed CD-ROMs was pretty obvious. Computing as personal media was the agenda from then on.
... heard some rumors about a Bill Atkinson project and bluffed my way into Apple and onto the HyperCard and CD-ROM teams in 1986. Cooked some big (for then) HyperCard database projects with Grolier and Whole Earth. (Thanks to Sue Ambron for the funding!)
... got into the agents and database problem, doing early personified agent (Guides) work with Abbe Don, Brenda Laurel, Kristee Rosendahl and Gitta Salomon. When Apple ATG decided to have a text and hypertext research group in 1988, I got asked to manage it.
... got sucked all the way into management, and ended up leading projects or departments in text retrieval, hypertext, groupware, and online communities in the next few years. Along the way, I helped organize the ACM SIGLINK and its Hypertext conferences. There was a guy with a kinda ugly demo called WWW at one of them.
... started a project called TeleCommunity. A Stanford student named Steuer spent a whole summer surfing on my nickel to see if we could persuade Apple that the nets were getting to be a serious issue. Nah...
... jumped half way out of Apple, to run network software engineering at the Kaleida joint venture with IBM. You don't suppose two big companies would invest $60 million without a business plan, do you? Nah....
... got headhunted to run CompuServe's future technology area. Ended up trying to convince them the Internet was the future, and started the first (official) Internet engineering group there. Yes, I did move all the way back to Columbus, Ohio. No, I don't recommend it.

... came back West to Seattle to restructure CompuServe's Spry acquisition into an Internet Service Provider, SpryNet. Seven months in a relocation apartment during a Seattle winter. I don't recommend that, either.
... bailed back to the Bay Area, where I'm now affiliated with the Institute for the Future, and doing private consulting. Home again!

And finally...

Community is where it's at on the Internet, absolutely.
Every online service marketer knows that if the users don't talk to each other, they leave. It's as simple as that.
Meeting each other and building our own commons, as we choose ourselves, is the differentiating power of the medium.
If the Net isn't put on a sound economic basis that recognizes this, we and all of our hopes and business plans are toast.
We are wiring Gaia's nervous system, so let's do a good job, OK?

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