April 6th, 2005

(no subject)

Hard to believe, but today marks the 10th anniversary of the official start of my self-employment.

Back in late 1994, I was complaining about the impossibility of dragging my then-employer into the 20th century as regards the Internet. I'd managed to get the department some limited access to web browsing (via a Demon dialup account on one PC in the corner of the department), having had to prepare a report on why this might be useful first. We had email, sort of, more or less -- it was a UUCP connection which appeared to involve a couple of rolls of gaffer tape, some wet string and one or two underfed hamsters powering the link.

At Christmas, that year, I was bitching to rotwang about how there were people out there who wanted to know about this Internet thing, and how, if my employer wasn't so behind the times, we could help with that, and I ought to set up in business to do it... and he turned round and said "Well, why don't you do that, then?"

I should note that I am third-generation self-employed -- both my parents and grandparents were retailers for a good many years -- and so this was not quite so much of a leap in the dark as it might have seemed to others. I prepared a business plan -- a work of utter optimism now that I look back on it, but then I guess that most of them are -- and specced up some hardware to do what I'd need. I prepared to go and talk to bank managers to arrange loans, but my parents decided they'd prefer to lend me the money instead; a lump sum to buy hardware to start off with and to arrange for a leased line (for lo, this was back in the days before broadband and ADSL), and some money each month so that we could afford little things like the mortgage. (All now long since paid back.)

So, at this point, there I was, sitting in a nice new office (room above my parents' shop which they weren't using -- very usefully rent-free), with a Sparc 10, a leased line which was providing bandwidth to my desk on a par with the entire transatlantic bandwidth that JANET (the UK academic network) had had only a few years before, a newly-minted domain name, and the copy of How to Make A Fortune On The Information Superhighway that I'd been given as a leaving gift from my department (given that it was written by Canter and Siegel, the notorious 'Green Card Spammers', it was more as a how-not-to-do-it guide than anything else ;)).

It's been a very interesting 10 years. Some days it feels more like 100 years...