May 1994: www.ibm.com is launched
I was in a pretty deep funk ten years ago.
I was convinced I'd be caught in the next round of resource actions at the lab I worked at, Myers Corners Lab. I was pretty much a C average employee at the time, spending too much time screwing around with ftp, gopher and helping people with various Internet things, and not working on the books for the internal product I was assigned to.
I think we learned that IBM was closing our lab in May, though it may have been April. I know that it was inevitable, one of the three buildings at MCL was all but empty and various services were being cut back.
So, mid-month I accepted an invitation to interview at a company in Atlanta. I learned two things on that interview: first, I never, ever wanted to live or work in Atlanta (a feeling which would be reinforced two years later during the Olympic Games), second: it was incredibly reassuring that someone, somewhere was willing to pick up the tab to interview me for a job I was maybe remotely qualified for.
I returned to Poughkeepsie feeling a bit better about things. I was scheduled to present a
Communications Seminar about this Internet thing.
My manager and I figured maybe 10-20 people would attend.
I don't know the actual numbers, but the entire cafeteria was filled, easily a hundred people, perhaps more.
I ran out of the FOILS I'd prepared (this was pre-Freelance and PowerPoint).
In retrospect, it was a goofy presentation.
I showed how people could sign up to send and receive Internet email (in those pre-Notes days, IBMers uses PROFS and VM/CMS for their office needs). I introduced ftp, gopher, archie and veronica and briefly, just briefly, touched on this world wide web thing.
I talked a bit about the Books On Internet project where we'd gotten the product release folks out of a bind by publishing some S/390 Parallel Sysplex books using gopher and ftp, thereby meeting a requirement that the books be available at GA.
I couldn't really demo the web except through a text only browser that you could telnet to at NJIT. I showed that our dread adveraries Amdahl and Fujitsu had web sites.
At the time of the demo, IBM did not have a web site.
This was actually the subject of much debate in the internal internet community. A group in Atlanta had started to put together a website oriented around IBMLink. Meanwhile, in Armonk, the corner office was still stewing about Sun's presentation of results from the 1994 Lillehammer Olympic Games on the web and had started a parallel effort to create something called a home page for IBM on the Internet.
These projects collided in April 1994 with Corporate Communications taking command but the IBMLink folks doing the work and hosting.
www.ibm.com was launched May 24, 1994 after being previewed at the 1994 Senior Manager's Meeting.
Meanwhile, back in Po-town, I was drafted to do work at the divisional level to create a proper
home page for the Large Scale Computing Division (with no money, formal support, etc. a trend which would continue for years).
Over the next few months I worked with a variety of people to figure out what one would actually put on a
home page...what did customers want? What did the marketing people want? What could we actually support?
It was fun. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but it was better than watching as MCL melted down.
I continued to present my talk, now titled
Surfing the Internet and made my presentation available internally through gopher and the old TOOLSRUN request system.
My last presentation unfortunately was to the IBM Kingston lab the afternoon the employees there were told that the lab would close.
The summer carried on, with me getting more and more confident in my take on the right way to run things. This included frequently flaming the people running the Corporate site about various nitpicks and issues.
The division site, lscftp.kgn.ibm.com, launched in mid-September. I was flown down to Atlanta (again!) to demo the site at the N+I trade show.
Over the course of the fall we did a variety of neat things on the web site, launching a sub-site for the POWERparallel group (if ever there was a bizarre corporate marriage it was POWERparallel and the System/390 divisions). I was briefly on some sort of internal division assignment to LSCD headquarters. That came to an end at the end of the year as they couldn't figure out how to fund any staff.
I was back to being in the position of getting my resource actioned out of the company.
Then, in the most bizarre turn of events which could occur, the very people I'd been an utter pain in the ass to at Corporate came calling.
They needed a dedicated technical staff. They asked:
Would I take a one year assignment?
And of course, I said no.
No way was I going to move to Westchester on my own dime for a one year assignment. I needed something, a raise, some sort of compensation.
So they asked again, this time offering to reimburse for mileage and any necessary lodging.
One year working in Corporate on www.ibm.com wouldn't be too bad, especially if they picked up mileage (it was ~100 miles round trip) and occasional lodging (in the rare event I'd have to work late).
Of course, the one year assignment became a five year adventure.
I went from being technical staff to the so-called webmaster for www.ibm.com and eventually the dubious yet real role of corporate webmaster. Along the way we picked up a few people, did some cool things, and served a couple billion hits.
When I eventually left in 1999, I left a job that was completely unimaginable in 1994. I left because it was almost all politics, all corporate, and all stress. I left because the fun had long seeped out. I left because I didn't have anything else to prove, I'd built and rebuilt the site, hosted a variety of events, invented a bunch of tools and technologies, and learned quite a lot from the experiences and misadventures.
I left because when the CIO tells you you're his
go to guy, you know it's time to leave.
Anyway, that all started ten years ago. It certainly doesn't feel like ten years has passed.