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First Days of the Internet

There are times when I think back and question “what if”. I was talking with a vendor and we were reminiscing about how long we had been in the Internet business. He didn’t believe I was as old as I am. The memories that came back were from the days I was working for Larry Flynt.

I can’t remember the exact year but I can remember the place. The year was either 1991 or 1992 and my small office in the building on Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills had a window that looked onto N Palm Dr. One wall of my office was covered with filing cabinets and the my desk was directly across the room. Even though I had a window my view was a wall of filing cabinets. My desk had two computers, a PC and a Mac. The PC was for doing business type stuff and the Mac was for editing images and creating ads. I had an Internet connection, which was rare at this time as there was no web browser available to the public yet. At this time the biggest use of the Internet was bulletin board systems (BBS). I had been using several BBS systems and Usenet to promote the band I was in.  Just around this time I had found a new program called Excalibur. Excalibur was a revolution because it was a graphical BBS that was easy to use.

excalibur-bbs-not-my-pictureAfter using Excalibur for a while I had contacted the developer/owner of the software about the potential to put Larry Flynt magazine content on the system. He was excited as we both saw the potential of this and we spoke several times. Excalibur at this time was in beta phase but was getting near a full release. We both figured that the back content from the magazines could really be a great initial boost for the release of the software.

At this time Larry was not back running his company yet (he had not yet had the spinal surgery that freed him from debilitating pain) and I had to deal with the President (whom I will not name here). We had a few conversations and I showed him the BBS system. We went over some numbers and I explained that this would not effect magazine sales at all because we would only publish content from the archives. I remember his response amazed me then and still blows me away today. His response was, “I don’t see anyone using this and I don’t see any way to make money with it.” At this point my response was that we would make money the same way we did with print – advertising. I explained that we could tap the current advertisers for a little more money and the entire project could be run with a staff of 2 people. He turned down the project. When I called the owner of Excalibur and gave him the news we were both in disbelief. He attempted to get a different answer out of the company President, but without any success.

It’s hard to imagine now what might have happened if this deal had gone through. We were pushing to be the first major magazine on this new thing called the Internet but management didn’t get it.

Not to long after this deal fell through I got a call from a friend who was completing his masters degree in communications. I had a modem on my home computer (the only one of my friends that had one) and he asked me to bring it to his place. He seemed really excited so I hauled all my equipment to his place. He had gotten a copy of this great new experimental program called Mosaic. We installed the software and fired up the modem. At this point I remember us counting about 300 total graphical websites. (Within a few days we couldn’t count how many there were.) I figured correctly that this was would kill bulletin board systems and it took over where Excalibur may have been huge.

There was another time I tried to push the idea of getting the back catalog of Flynt magazines online again and was again rejected. I could have been the first person to put major magazine content on the graphical Internet . . . but wasn’t.