By Aaron Dishno Ed.D.
Early Text Days
I was in my early 20’s back in 1990’s, I could say “before the turn of the century”, I owned a computer store called House of Computers in Riverside California. We were a small computer store that sold custom built computers; taught beginning classes in basic computers, Windows, and Office products; installed networks in businesses; and with the help of one of my employees, Dave “Pyro” who got his name from his side job as a fireworks pyrotechnic, we started a bulletin board system.
My initial bulletin board system (BBS) was created on one of the classroom computers and ran a DOS based system (all text on the screen). For the techno geeks out there, we had 14.4k baud modems, which gives you a time reference of when we ran the BBS.
Dave had been running a BBS out of his home for a long time. His first BBS was using 300 baud modems on a Commodore 64 computer. (it would take hours to upload a floppy disk of information!) I learned a lot from him.
Since it was a DOS text based system, it attracted the techno savvy crowd, mostly Dave’s friends. So I was introduced to a great group of guys that would upload and download every sample game I had ever even remotely discovered, resulting in megs of data and playable network games. (Back then, megs of data was like terabytes of data today!)
At night after hours, we would order pizzas and play network games on the classroom computers in our computer store.
I may be responsible for getting in business with a computer store and teaching classes, but I definitely owe Dave for teaching me about BBS (my first social networking), introducing me to some great computer gurus, and so much about computer games.
Graphic Based System
The text based system appeased the techno crowd for my store, but left a much larger group of people, my customers, out of the scene.
Then one of my computer customers opened a new door. He showed me a windows based program, called Excalibur, that would allow me to create a graphics based bulletin board system. It used pictures, forms, menu buttons, and text (this was before most of us heard about or were using the Internet and web pages).
In 1991, I created a new unique system entitled “The Professional’s Key” using this software that was like a precursor to my 3D Browsing.
My creation was original. I noticed that the program had screen swipes to change the screen when you clicked a menu button. Basically, when you clicked a menu button, you could make the current screen shift left or right off the screen as the new screen swipes on the screen. In my mind,
I saw the potential to create a street of buildings that when you clicked the end of the street on your screen, it would shift the screen as to Walk you to the next building. If you clicked the door of the building, I would fade the scene to an inside view of the building.
Limited by the technology of the time, this was when I first invented the idea that became 3D Browsing.
Using this screen technique on the windows based system, we had a whole new experience for our users. I spent the next couple years building screens that looked like 3D (point perspective) buildings to represent a coffee shop where users could hang out and chat; a book library with books to upload and download; and a music store, game store, and even my computer store.
Taste of Success
Within a couple of months, we had 12 phone lines that were always busy and ran the BBS on all of our computer school computers in the office. Over a hundred people were paying $10.00 a month to support the system and be part of the user group.
Before then, the only people I had ever heard of using a BBS were techno gurus. I had made something that attracted the common person. We had mechanics, teachers, construction workers, housewives, grand parents, parents, students, and kids all logging onto the BBS every day to chat, leave messages, download, and upload.
We were a major part of teaching social networking and connecting people before the Internet and AOL became popular, especially in Riverside.