Oh to be a dot-commer when the world was rife with stock options, catered two-hour lunches and, last but not least, jobs. That was then and this is now. Let us take a moment to reflect as the pain reaches into the upper echelons of tech culture and lands at the doorstep of a true digital revolutionary.
My 486 50-megahertz PC with eight megabytes of RAM was the height of technology in 1994. One of 500,000 subscribers to AOL, I used “Internet in a Box” as my Internet provider. AOL had not yet integrated the World Wide Web into its service. At 2,400 bits per second, I was wired for speed. It was on! Endless possibilities lay beyond the horizon. Although my university education had taken a detour four years prior, I knew that I now would be rich. Bill Gates had proven that if you were willing to sacrifice sleep and other petty distractions, and focus singularly on coffee and work, you could be a billionaire before 30, and then you’d never have to work again, right?
Millions of minions answered the call, learned programming or some other such Internet-related skill, and watched and listened faithfully as Steve Case and Bill Gates provided their guidance and direction. They were leading us straight to the money. It was unbelievable.
It was the best of times; it was the best of times. The cash flowed as freely as the Merlot and we were giddy with our success. Everyone who could think of a catchy domain name could do an IPO and recruiters practically stalked Internet developers. We thought we were so cool.
A far cry from Oct. 15, 2001, the day the merry-go-round stopped for me. “There’s no easy way to put this. We’re going to have to make this your last day.” This, a scant two weeks before my stock options would have been fully vested. The world can be so cold.
The writing was clearly visible on the wall by that time. I had been scanning FuckedCompany.com regularly to see if my company had made the list of Internet companies that had become, well, you know, f’ed. Deep in my heart I knew that this Internet joyride had to end. Profits must be turned at some point, right? But how could a company make a profit when it spends more than it makes? I’m pretty good at math, and I’m telling you, that doesn’t work out. And I’ve got the pink slip to prove it.
Now one of our flagship netizens, Steve Case is stepping down as chairman of AOL. After taking his service for Commodore 64s and forging a media empire,