One day, in the summer of 1988, I got a phone call from a friend of mine, Michael Masch, asking if his friend can come over and use my computer and modem. Back in those days people with modems were a rarity and I was not only the only person in my neighborhood of Philadelphia with a modem but I also had the fastest modem around. I had just spent $550 for a new 2400 baud modem with MNP 5 error correction and a year previously started my own BBS.
So this balding guy with a red scraggly beard (Avrum Goodblatt) came over to my house and collected his e-mail at the lightening speed of 2400 bps. While he was logged onto the WELL collecting e-mail and reading the Jewish section with me looking over his shoulder, he got beeped for an online chat by a friend, Ari Davidow, in Berkeley and they chatted a few minutes. I can't say how impressed I was so when Avrum invited me to join him and Ari in creating a national Jewish online service, I jumped at the chance.
In 1989 we opened up JewishNet on a dialup service called NWI, Inc. There was no Internet access and NWI charged $10 a month plus $15 per hour. NWI also hosted online services for a dozen religions and religious sects. So we joined together and formed Ecunet. While it was cool to be a part of this diverse religious network, it was definately uncool to see messages all over the Jewish portion with signatures like "Yours in Christ". Over a period of one year we managed to get something like just under 100 people to sign up. Then NWI got caught in a fight between their landlord and the mortgage holder. One day the entire building was locked up by the Sheriff and NWI disappeared from the scene. Poof!
Then, in 1991, we formed a partnership with NYSERNet and JewishNet got reborn as...