Great Lakes Geek PC and Tech History

The Great Lakes Geek was fortunate to grow up along with the PC industry. It's amazing how new some of the things we take for granted really are.

Having come of age with many of the luminaries of Cleveland Technology the Great Lakes Geek has begun a series of episodes on Cleveland Tech History.

Ron Copfer - Serial Entrepreneur and Tech Pioneer

Ron Copfer is a serial entrepreneur having started 16 tech companies so far. He was also an early adopter and pioneer in the Internet and IT space. He was involved in the first onramp to the Internet in the world. He worked with Marc Andreesen and became a beta tester for the Mosaic browser. He then created the first website between New York and Chicago.

He got involved with the largest law firm in the world, Jones Day, and provided graphics for trials. He created the first online catalog taking it from a paper catalog to CD and then put it on the Internet with Cold Fusion. He got involved with wearable medical devices by cold-calling a firm in Israel and flying there showing up at their door. Big Data, CRM, SaaS, etc. - Ron was involved with every bleeding edge technology that came along.

He has also been involved in every Cleveland and Northeast Ohio tech organization including NEOSA, Nortech which led to BioEnterprise and JumpStart and others, One Cleveland/One Community, Digital C and others. Ron explains how he was able to build companies and then transition it to his team and move on to something else. He tells how curiosity, persistence and enrollment are essential for an entrepreneur. This video will give you a taste of why we call him the most interesting man in the world. See what Ron is up to know at the in the Rebuilder's Xchange. Watch the Cleveland Tech History Interview with Ron Copfer.

Jim Cookinham - Godfather of Cleveland Tech Industry

Jim Cookinham has lived and worked all over the world. (See stories and photos from Jim's experiences . After the Naval Academy and working on nuclear submarines Jim eventually ended up in Cleveland. In 1981 when the IBM PC came out Jim and his wife Cindy started IPCO which became the first publication for the IBM PC and the first to include a disk with each copy.

Jim met with other community tech leaders in an organization called CRITA in Salt Lake City and his 14 pages of notes led him to create the Northeast Ohio Software Association (NEOSA) when he returned to Cleveland. Jim created a thick directory of thousands of tech companies in NE Ohio. He was able, with the help of Crain's Cleveland Business and others, to educate the community that while there may not be a plethora of Silicon Valley type tech-focused companies in town, the IT departments of Progressive, Cleveland Clinic and others still counted. Jim and NEOSA developed many innovative programs to promote the advancement of the tech community and IT industry.

He challenged Mayoral candidates on their tech plans and when Jane Campbell became Cleveland Mayor she followed through and appointed the city's first Tech Czar, Tim Mueller. When City Hall's PCs were found to be outdated, Jim created an AdoptAPuter program that provided new PCs for the Mayor and 20+ others. He started an Angel Network to get funding for startups. The NEOSA Tech Thursdays (NETT) were held at Great Lakes Brewery and brought together tech industry people in an informal setting over great beer. He created an Entreprenerd (he used my word!) Boot Camp and brought in CIOs, CEOs and other leaders to help startups. The NEOSA CIO Symposiums exposed the tech community to the leading CIOs in town. NEOSA's Future Forums brought in brilliant minds to look ahead 5-10 or more years.

Jim is in Colorado now so this video was recorded remotely but you will see some of the major contributions made by Jim Cookinham to Cleveland Tech History.

Chris Thompson - Journalist who changed Cleveland's Tech Scene

Chris Thompson is a former journalist who became managing editor at Crain's Cleveland Business, a weekly print publication covering business and business people. As he worked with a growing tech industry in an exciting era he devised an idea for something called CrainTech. Chris saw that there was a growing demand for an online platform alongside the traditional print publication.

As editor of CrainTech he reported the stories of the fascinating people and projects that were in Northeast Ohio. Projects like One Cleveland/One Community which sprung from the surprising find of large quantities of dark fiber under the streets of Cleveland. Or The Little Computer. Or Thunderstone who, before Internet search was even a concept, had their search technology embedded in companies like WordPerfect, Dow Jones, eBay and Novell.

He covered people like Packy Hyland Jr. of Hyland Software, Tech Czars Tim Mueller and Tim Moran, Baiju Shah at BioEnterprise, Chris Coburn at the Cleveland Clinic and Phil Wintering founder and CEO of American Cybercasting Corporation who built the first full curriculum for middle schools and high schools delivered completely over the internet.

In this video interview with Dan Hanson Chris will also talk about the role of Higher Education for tech and why Cleveland may not have taken advantage of all the available opportunities and resources. Plus, we'll see what Chris has been up to since the CrainTech days.

Tim Mueller - From Web 1.0 pioneer to Deputy Mayor - still making things happen

Tim Mueller and his company Vantage One were pioneers in the tech industry when this "new thing called the Internet" developed. Their skills and vison with Web 1.0 led them to deal with Fortune 500 companies like GE Lighting, Eaton, Exxon, Sherwin-Williams and others. Their work environment was full of fun Silicon Valley type features and Tim shares a few of the stories. They worked with the Cleveland Grand Prix and IMG in 1996 to present the first broadcast of a sporting event online before Mark Cuban or anyone else did. After selling Vantage One, Tim became the Deputy Mayor of Development for Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell. (Be sure to watch as Tim explains their unique and successful pitch to Sysco Foods.) Tim then went to a Silicon Valley company with Marty Wolf where he is still making things happen. Tim talked about Mario Morino and other industry figures that he connected with over the years and gave advice to budding entrepreneurs.

Kevin Goodman of BlueBridge Networks

Kevin Goodman is Managing Director, Partner at BlueBridge Networks, LLC in Cleveland. BlueBridge has evolved from a Data Center to also being a cloud provider offering managed services, cloud back up and reselling licensed hardware and software. In this video interview with Dan Hanson, Kevin tells how as a Political Science major from CSU he ended up in this industry. He and Dan reminisce and talk about how backup strategies have evolved (remember the Grandfather-Father-Son tape rotation scheme?) and the change in malware and cybersecurity from the innocuous (like the comical Cookie virus or manageable Michelangelo virus) to the criminal and often politically motivated ransomware and other cyber-attacks. Kevin reflects on some of the people he has worked with or been inspired by such as Dorothy Baunach, Phil Alexander, Jim Cookinham, AJ and Packy Hyland, Ron Copfer, Steve Potash, Laura Bennett and others. Kevin shares why he is optimistic about the industry and tech in business especially with the recent announcement of Intel's plans to build state of the art chip factories in Ohio. He is also optimistic about Mayor Justin Bibb and Council president Blaine Griffin. And… you will learn why the company is called BlueBridge.

Stay tuned for more episodes of Cleveland Tech History

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Bob and Dan's Adventure to the PC Graveyard
Geek Blast from the Past

Computer techies (OK, geeks) Bob Coppedge and Dan Hanson used to take groups to various places of interest to computer professionals (OK, other geeks). They called it Bob and Dan's Excellent Adventures.

This video from 2004 was just unearthed from some old DVDs. This was a different adventure as Bob and Dan visited a cemetery and visited the graves of some old technology - from dBase to Win 95 before facing their own demise.

Watch it if you dare.

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Tech Timeline
Geek History

The Great Lakes Geek has been working on a Tech Timeline of important dates in the region's tech history.

For example, Cindy and Jim Cookinham started a publication in late 1981 called IPCO INFO. It was the first publication for the IBM PC.

On May 19, 1997 programmer John Hill started Aztek.

And so on.

So if you have a milestone that should be added to the Tech Timeline, let us know.

Geek Memory Lane

The Great Lakes Geek discovered a few old treasures on a recent cleaning spree. Young people cannot know the excitement of printing out pictures (on dot matrix printers!) using just ASCII characters. They really were works of art. I found a Mona Lisa and an Alfred E. Newman but there were a lot more like George Washington, Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe and others.

Here is my Alfred E. Newman (What Me Worry?)

Alfred E. Newman ASCII art

Alfred E. Newman ASCII art

See some more ASCII art at

ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange and it was originally developed from telegraph code.

ASCII reserves the first 32 codes (numbers 0-31 decimal) for control characters: codes originally intended not to represent printable information, but rather to control devices (such as printers) that make use of ASCII. For example, character 10 represents the "line feed" function (which causes a printer to advance its paper), and character 8 represents "backspace."

Codes 20hex to 7Ehex, known as the printable characters, represent letters, digits, punctuation marks, and a few miscellaneous symbols. There are 95 printable characters in total. Those characters in the standard ASCII character set could be displayed on most computer monitors -even on early desktops/terminals incapable of displaying digital images- and could be printed on most printers. It could be created using nothing more than a text editor.

Mona Lisa ASCII art

Mona Lisa ASCII art

Early printers lacked graphics capabilities so you couldn't print images. But you could use the characters in clever arrangements to create outlines and shading. That's ASCII art.

Of course you wanted to use the wide greenbar paper and if you were lucky enough to have access to a 24 pin dot matrix printer they could really look good (if you squinted).

If you are old enough to remember sharing bulk printers than you will recall how print jobs would be separated from one another with ASCII art to print large banner pages, making the division easier to spot so that the results could be more easily separated by a computer operator or clerk.

And of course since it just used ASCII characters, the images could be sent in e-mail before you could embed pictures.

Here's the short video I did about ASCII Art.

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Early User Group
Another Geek Time Warp

Remember the old PC user groups like this one? Tandy PCs, public domain software, BASIC SIG, BBS and more

Westside Computer Club

Microsoft releases Source Code
Geek News

Don't get too excited. It's the source code to MS DOS1.1 and 2.0 and Microsoft Word for Windows 1.1a.

Microsoft partnered with the Computer History Museum in San Jose on the project and is releasing the code "to help future generations of technologists better understand the roots of personal computing."

For younger techies the idea that the entire DOS 1.1 operating system loaded and ran in only 12k bytes of memory is unbelievable. That's not a typo - 12k.

Tight code like that is one of the reasons for the famous quote (not really from him actually) by Bill Gates that "640K ought to be enough for anybody."

TRS80 Model 100

Way back in 1983 the Great Lakes Geek got his first portable computer. It had a great form factor, nice keyboard and useful ports.

The LCD screen was only 8 lines and 40 characters across but that seemed plenty for the text-based BASIC programs you ran on the unit.

Maybe the best part of the ahead-of-its-time unit was the built-in 300 bps (yes 300 bps) modem. It made the Model 100 a favorite of journalists who could type about 10 pages of text into the unit and then plug into a phone line and upload their columns to the main office. 300 bps sounds excrutiatingly slow but when you just transferred ASCII character and plain text, it was surprisingly useful. The Geek spent a lot of time on the old Cleveland Freenet with that device.

The Great Lakes Geek recently uncovered his old Model 100 and shot this video of it. Ah, memories.

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Blast from the Past
Geek Memory

Found this great shot of Bob Coppedge, the late Jim Evans, Peter Norton and me (Dan Hanson) from a COMDEX in Las Vegas a loooong time ago.

Great Memories.

Dan Hanson with Peter Norton, Bob Coppedge and Jim Evans at Comdex in Las Vegas

Bob Coppedge, Jim Evans, Peter Norton
and Dan Hanson at Comdex in Las Vegas

4.5 megabytes of data
Geek Time Travel

Here's what 4.5 megabytes of data in 62,500 punched cards looked like in 1955. Today, of course, one photo on a cell phone can use this much data.

Herman Hollerith invented punch card computing for use in the 1890 census, and that same card program existed with minor tweaks throughout the mid-20th century. The Great Lakes Geek recalls dropping off stacks of punch cards and hoping they were in the right order and no errors.

Punch cards mountain

4.5 megabytes of data

The Birth of BASIC

Professors John Kemeny and Tom Kurtz along with a band of Dartmouth undergraduates invent the Basic computer language. Watch this great video.

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Eudora Source Code
Geek News

According to GlobalNewsWire, Computer History Museum (CHM), the world's leading institution exploring the history of computing and its impact on the human experience, today announced the public release and long-term preservation of the Eudora source code, one of the early successful email clients, as part of its Center for Software History’s Historical Source Code. The release comes after a five-year negotiation with Qualcomm.

The first version of Eudora was created in the 1980s by Steve Dorner who was working at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It took Dorner over a year to create the first version of Eudora, which had 50,000 lines of C code and ran only on the Apple Macintosh. In 1991, Qualcomm licensed Eudora from the University of Illinois and distributed it free of charge. Qualcomm later released Eudora as a consumer product in 1993, and it quickly gained popularity. Available both for the IBM PC and the Apple Macintosh, in its heyday Eudora had tens of millions of users.

After 15 years, in 2006, Qualcomm decided that Eudora was no longer consistent with their other major project lines, and they stopped development. “In my opinion it was the finest email client ever written, and it has yet to be surpassed. I still use it today, but, alas, the last version of Eudora was released in 2006,” said Len Shustek, chairman of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. “With thanks to Qualcomm, we are pleased to release the Eudora source code for its historical interest.”

The discussion with Qualcomm for the release of the Eudora source code by the company’s museum took five years. Qualcomm has transferred ownership of the code, the Eudora trademarks, copyrights, and the Eudora domain names to the Computer History Museum. The transfer agreement allows CHM to publish the code under the very liberal BSD open source license, which means that anyone can use it for either personal or commercial purposes.

Download options and more information about the source code

Geek Report

1991 cost of iPhone

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