I was really glad to get some feedback from the Telalink intern graduates following my last post. There were a few posts in response on my Facebook wall that I thought needed to be merged into my blog so that’s what I am doing today. Before I do, though, I was listening to a story on NPR about how women novelists in the US were being classified in Wikipedia (http://n.pr/16eApbn). I was only half listening when the word “Kaldari” rang out and I realized that Ryan Kaldari was being interviewed!
Ryan was one of the original “unofficial” MLK interns who attended UC Berkeley before working for Sitemason for many years. He left us to work for Viacom and he now calls San Francisco and Wikipedia his home. One day, I’ll write about how, as a student, Ryan wrote a $2.00 counter check to Rio Bravo to pay for his soda but he either forgot to sign the check or wrote so illegibly that no one could figure out how to contact him, which was only necessary because the check bounced! The Rio Bravo team knew the Telalink crew well enough to venture a guess that the $2 mystery check writer was somehow associated with them. And now, let’s hear from some of Ryan’s colleagues from MLK.
First, Paula Pfleiger Thrasher writes: “I think I mentioned in the other post, not quite the full story on how the internships started. Carl Tashian was the first MLK intern, but I think he may have even started before the first official school co-op internship thing for school. Carl can fill in details there. I didn't start until October-ish timeframe in 1995. I had originally lined up an internship downtown that fell through right as the school year started, then ended up instead working out at the McClures in Belle Meade in the receiving department doing data entry on bill of materials/invoices/etc. I did that for at least six weeks then my boss got arrested for tax fraud. Plus it was mind-numbingly dull. So I was looking for a new internship when Carl invited me to Telalink. I started working help desk, and there was a paid employee called Rich (I think - I forget his name? Anyone else remember?). He was kinda passive aggressive and a little jerky. At that time Bill (Butler)/Bob (Collie) were sick of answering customer calls so they put up with him. He eventually quit (got fired?) and at one point the entire help desk team was pretty much me and Bill's mom (Mary Watkins). Crazy. Then we hired Scott (Sears) and later Marc (Powell). I never wrote any real sexy or famous sites, but I did write that dang support website complete with filemaker database backend (I think? can't remember) along with a little homegrown ticket system. Didn't make Time magazine though - ha.” [editor’s note: I am not disclosing the name of the jerky guy but I can state that he was not fired. He left for another position with another company]
Daniel Templeton writes: “I was at Sun until it became Oracle and about a year and a half longer. I'm now two Years at Cloudera, the leading Hadoop distro provider. I did indeed marry Cari, and she's now been at Google for six years.”
Finally, Carl Tashian shares this fantastic memoir:
Starting around 1993-4 I had dialup Internet access via CTRVAX and later via PPP from Vanderbilt's CS department. I paid by the CPU hour or something. Which at first was expensive, but once I moved to PPP it was actually the wrong way to bill things, so I could be on all day and would barely pay anything in terms of CPU. And perhaps that is why, at some point, Vanderbilt limited access to the university community and shut down outside accounts like mine...
But I was hooked to the Internet at that point. I was running a MUD and writing code for it, running a BBS w/UUCP that needed nightly Internet access, I was playing with the first generation of web browsers, I was a newsgroup junkie, and I couldn't imagine giving all that up. I think I got an AOL account for a minute, but that didn't work out--it wasn't close enough to the metal.
So I found Telalink. It was exactly what I wanted, but too expensive for me. Something like $40 per month? Way out of my price range. So (and I honestly think this is the first time in my life that I'd ever done this) I cold-called Telalink and invited myself over. I came up the back stairs and climbed a ladder to the roof, where Bill and Bob were grilling up some food and working off of RoofNet, which was really just one ethernet cable snaked through an open window. Anyway, that first meeting was a little awkward, because I was a shy kid so new people were a challenge. But after chatting a bit we went downstairs and I remember Bob showing me around-- the Linux boxes, the Cisco routers, ISDN modems, etc. It was definitely a wonderland for me, and the fact that Telalink had a 256k link was a huge draw.
I remember telling Ryan and Paula about it. Anyway, I'm not sure how it came up but I started spending more and more time at Telalink. This felt like it was way before the official internship, which would have been from Sept 1995 to June 1996, where I worked about 25 hours a week at Telalink. Tim, Bill, Bob really stayed out of our way as interns, gave us full access to everything and pretty much let us explore our curiosities as long as we didn't get in the way too much. I think in particular Bill is a great leader in that way--very trusting. And that's how the HTML guide came to be--just by being curious and having the time to follow it through.
It felt a lot more like a real job during the Official Internship period. I think it was Ryan, Paula, and I. At some point, before we hired Kelly Setzer, it seemed like all of the web & DNS servers were my responsibility. Bill gave me a pager. I took it very seriously. I'm sure I made a lot of mistakes, and I remember, when Kelly came on board, realizing that he was a Real Sysadmin. I learned a ton from him. Telalink was a great learning environment across the board, life-changing for me. And I think things like the HTML guide got me into college, ultimately. Because I wasn't that psyched about school, didn't take it seriously, and didn't test well. I wanted to make things people would use. Still do.
BTW the Telalink Virtual Tour website is still up (http://tashian.com/virtela/). I it threw together by scanning some pics from an old book on telecommunications from the school library.
It’s stories like these that remind us just what a frontier it was back then but, maybe even more importantly, what great relationships, vocations and contributions came out of this “internship” community. So much passion to learn and create. I hope that we can get some more stories from other Telalink graduates. I also wonder where and how these stories are happening now.
AUTHOR: Thomas Conner
Thomas Conner is the co-founder, president and chief financial officer of Sitemason, a hosted, supported alternative to Wordpress and Drupal, built for agencies, freelance designers and developers.