On January 4, 2006, I wrote the following email to my wife, my parents, and my children. It was a manifesto.
"I've just had a realization, an enlightenment. An awakening...
When I opened Roger Repairs, I was following in my father's footsteps as closely as I could. I have never for a moment stopped believing that following in my father's footsteps is the one perfect way to lead my life. But Roger Repairs is long gone, and in that enterprise I never matched my father's accomplishments in his own.
It dawns on me today that my dad did not pursue his own father's career, Dad struck out in a pioneer technology, he was a TV technician in 1950. In MS EXCEL terms, I was copying the VALUES, where I should have been copying the FORMULAS, of his life! My own times and circumstances would yield different results when plugged into the same formulas.
I want to make my living through web enterprise. I want to sit in my chair at home and make big piles of money. When I have made more money in a year off the internet than I have at my day job, I will retire. At that point, we'll be in pretty good shape, with my having doubled my income for the year.
The biggest hurdle I have to jump is a particular demon in my mind that frequently whispers to me that I'm a loser. He doesnt even have to speak, he just shows his face, turns his eyes downwards, purses his lips and shakes his head side to side...that naysaying sonofabitch has got to go, even if I have to get hypnotized or listen to motivational tapes.
That said, my epiphany this morning included complete confidence that I can do the thing. I know how!"
That awakening was not the beginning of my involvement with online gaming, and online golf. In December 1986, my dad gave me a 1200bps Anchor modem, and a one year subscription to THE COMPUTER CONNECTION BBS in Virginia Beach. You shoulda seen my face when I unwrapped that gift, what a disappointment! A couple of my computer buddies had been talking up this modem stuff, but I wasnt much interested. Or so I thought. My online life began with that first login to THE COMPUTER CONNECTION, and as soon as I saw THE DOORS---ONLINE GAMES, I was interested. As soon as I saw a monthly Doors Champion, I was enticed. As soon as I played two or three games and started piling up points, I was HOOKED! And it hasnt stopped since.
I became the DOORS Monthly champion THAT MONTH, and EVERY MONTH FOR THE NEXT TWELVE! I also made a lot of good friends there, and the Sysop asked me to become CoSysop for DOORS, the only CoSysop he had. Wow, an OPERATORS job for my skill at playing GAMES!? Here was a model I could live with.
In 1987, I launched my own BBS, starting with one node on a 2400bps modem, running on a PC-XT with a 10M drive. I quickly had to upgrade to 20M haha. I scraped together every cent I could find, bought a PC-AT 12mhz, two LANtastic 1mbps network cards, and a two-node license which cost $395 alone! On the fortunate date of 8-8-88, I had a two-node network online!!! Two users could now be online at the same time, they could chat with each other (or with me, at either console). Two gamers could compete real-time (except there werent many multi-player games, until I developed some). What a dream!
My business model was like this: I ran node 1 free of charge, and as demand increased, busy signals increased. So I offered node 2 for subscription, varying from $12 to $35 per year, depending on how many minutes per day. Free users were not allowed to connect to node 2.
I ran utilization reports, and as soon as utilization on node 2 reached 40% (40% of the day means 100% of prime time, plus...), I bought a third node, and a fourth, until by 1996 I had six dial-in nodes, plus my own private node. I ran 40% utilization when we were a four-node system...let me tell you, these were DOS systems, no multitasking, four nodes meant four computers, four color monitors (hey, I want to enjoy this!), four keyboards (NO MOUSES!), and four modems. The fifth and sixth nodes, though, never peaked out as the others had...
During this time period, other Sysops had begun talking to me about FidoNet, and Telnet, and such services. I did not pursue these ventures, nor did I let anyone persuade me. I was so stupid! I must have thought that my business model would eventually lead to my having hundreds of nodes...but as I was adding 5 and 6, I was starting to hear about something called "The Internet".
Just as my earthly dad had to about force me to connect to a BBS, my Heavenly Father had to push me to continue my mission in life by CONNECTING TO THE INTERNET. You may not agree with me about WHY it happened, but here are the facts: I walked out of my house to take my younger daughter to school on the morning of February 2, 1996. It was a beautiful sunny day after an ice storm. All the trees were covered with a glassy coating of ice, it was so beautiful, we were joyous, and I said "Well, if I'm going to live one day in my life over and over like Bill Murray did in that movie, this is certainly the perfect Ground Hog's Day to keep repeating!
Forty five minutes later, I came back home and found my house on fire. It had been hit by lightning, caught a surge protector on fire, and one room was in flames. The fire department arrived in 2 minutes 18 seconds, but we were out of the house until July 7 for cleaning and rebuilding.
It is hard to get a short term rental, and...we expected to be back home in 30 days! We found a place downtown, but I didnt order 6 telephone lines installed. I got one extra line pulled, and ran one node to tell everyone about the fire, and how we'd be back... but the truth was: The BBS was dead.
Nature abhors a vacuum. I connected to the Internet. I had tried Links386, it was pretty neat, but too slow on a 386-25mhz. Now I had my first Pentium, and I bought Links LS. I connected to a site owned by Brandon Crick of...of a game controller manufacturer in Canada, and operated by a kid named David Fagan. I was a flash in the pan when I started playing the game, I took about third place in my first attempt, then I came in first at Champ level my next six starts. The last two were kinda difficult, with the sixth being a one-stroke win, over this new kid named Paul Willey. I held him off for three weeks while he learned to play, and after the single-stroke win, I knew what was coming, so I parlayed my limited fame into a job helping Fagan operate the site. What a blast! I really loved the email traffic, plenty of people to talk to. I met Terry Schmitt and Bruce McDougal and Petteri Saari and Willey and Darin Hawley and Ken Huizenga and Zaza Kozhin and...this is terrible, nobody should be offended if I leave them off the list...Mike Murphy was there, and Bill Bunting, and Harvey Bunce, and Wayne Hummer...?? New Zealander. Anyway, the greatest time I had ever had in my life was when Fagan went for vacation and I had complete responsibility for the scoring. What I liked about it was that there was lots of opportunity there for automation, and I am at heart and by birth, a programmer. Each tournament I would score, I would commit more and more of the process to the computer...
Enough of this stuff! I believe I have made the point that I love online golf, I love the mechanics of scoring it, and I have now built the finest non-Microsoft launcher and leaderboard system there is, featuring quasi-realtime scoring with submitted rounds being VERIFIED! and posted within about 3 minutes of when you finish playing the game. Not too shabby!
I hope I also established my long-standing business model: I will offer free services to ensure that there will be plenty of players. I will offer some pay services so that the users who REALLY appreciate what I am doing here can keep it alive. I have to consider this revenue as contributions or charity, because in fact I would do it at my own expense just for the fun. But you read my mission at the top: I want to make a living on the web, I want to behave as an absolute professional (yet like an independent non-pussy-whipped American rugged individualist, not a yuppy jive talking smoothster...), not like a pitiful amateur running a hobby site. This is my passion, this is my mastery, this is my life. Join me in it, wont you?