On the Road Again…Home at last!

Is technology ready for prime time release?

“Mike, we have no internet access!”, Susan yelled from the office.

”Well, it’s electronic and you touched it” came my standard reply to her frequent complaints of her computer not working.

We had just gotten home from a 5-week road trip to California and had lots of emails to catch-up on, plus we were already late in sending out the blog.  And she was right; our integrated DSL modem/router had decided to go on strike at that particular moment so there was no internet access.  Sometimes I think technology still isn’t quite ready for primetime release.

I was a pioneer of such technology in 1981 when a friend and I began talking about starting an email company.  In those early years people hardly knew what a computer was let along a MO-dem!  It was an interesting and challenging job as we educated people on the benefits of email.  Back then email was a stand alone product, nothing like we have today.  It was slow and clunky with dial-up access, there was no wireless.  Email messages weren’t just downloaded into your mailbox to deal with later, they crawled across the screen at the “blazing speed” of 300 baud, so slow you could actually read them as they came in.  But, this was the new era of communication and I embraced it totally from the beginning.  Now I wonder if possibly I helped to inadvertently create a monster.

I started using email when I purchased my first Apple II computer in 1980.  At that time there was no publicly available email service and my friend and I were fortunate enough to be able to piggyback on a service called DeafNet which was run by the Deaf Communications Institute out of Framingham, Massachusetts.  The service used Telenet’s Telemail service and opened up a whole new means of communication for their hearing-impaired membership.

When I started my company in 1982 there was still no publicly available email service.  We worked with many diverse and geographically dispersed groups that had a need to communicate.  We helped foundations communicate with grantees; universities without walls communicate with students and teachers; associations communicate with far-flung members.  At one time, after receiving a grant from the Agent Orange Class Assistance Program, we even set up an electronic pen-pal project called Keeping In Touch (KIT) which enabled disabled children of Vietnam Veterans to communicate with each other.  For those of you who may not know it, the offspring of Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange suffered disabilities such as spina bifida at rates significantly higher than the average population.  The program was called Keeping In Touch (KIT) and enabled home-bound youth to communicate with other similar young people.

Just to show you the cost of being an early adopter of technology, I spent $5,000 on my Apple II by the time I put in a Z-80 card to display 80 characters per line and a CPM card so I could run other programs.  By 1986 I had upgraded to a Macintosh computer, which at that time also cost around $5,000, and then spent over $1,000 for my first hard drive.  It held an astounding 5 megabytes and I wondered how I would ever fill it up.  Our first Laserwriter Plus printer cost nearly $5,000 and was capable of 300 dpi resolution in black and white.  It must have weighed nearly 100 pounds and took up a huge amount of desk space.  It was quite a workhorse, however, and produced over a million copies during its lifetime.  By 1988 I had my first cell phone, which also weighed a great deal due to the size of the battery, and had managed to use it to wirelessly send and receive emails.

Here I am with my Mac, circa 1988 
 

Two of our employees clowning around, circa 1988.  Notice the Mac.

 

Every once in awhile, when I get frustrated with today’s technology, I like to take a nostalgic look back at where technology was then. Nostalgia is great and gives us a different perspective when we take the time to reflect.  It is good to look back into history periodically to see how things once were, the “good old days” as we call them.  On our return home we did just that when we stopped in Tucumcari, NM, along the famous Route 66 and spent the night in the Motel Safari.  But, before we could take that nostalgic look into the past, Susan was using modern technology as she researched and booked the motel from her iPad as we were driving down I-40, something people from yesteryear traveling Route 66 wouldn’t have ever thought possible.

The Motel Safari was definitely a step back in time from the outside but had been updated with a flat screen TV and wi-fi yet the interior was still in keeping with the vintage feel.

Although construction on Route 66 began in 1926 it wasn’t until 1959 that the Motel Safari was built in Tucumcari.  Originally it was known as the Best Western Motel Safari.  Almost every vintage motel along Route 66 was a Best Western at one time.  Best Western began in 1946 from a motel owner referral system created in California.  In 1962 the crown was removed from atop the sign and “Clyde” the camel was added.

 
Speculation has it the camel was added from a historical perspective, as camels from the U.S. Army Camel Corps once actually roamed the local area. In the 1800’s during surveying efforts to find the best routes through the area to form a national road system (what would become Route 66 one day), camels were used as pack animals for the expedition. 

 
I wonder what those camels would think about all of today’s technology. 

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