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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Ghosts and Gadgets of Antedotcom

Hooray! Dervala’s Divine Dispatches are now emanating from my own territory—just across the Bay in San Francisco. (Sorry—I realize that alliterations are amateurish, but freed from clients and editors, I can’t help myself. I love playing with’em) Anyway, a big fat Welcome!

In yesterday’s post, describing her office move, she wrote a line that brought me up short:

“Yesterday we moved to new offices, just down the street on Brannan and Fourth, where the dotcom ghosts walk.”

Ghosts walking Fourth and Brannan? Egads! I'm one of 'em--that's right where I worked--and nearly expired—HOWEVER, it was the PRE-dotcom bust.

Yes, kids, there was a big bad bust before there was a dotcom--when the only gadgets I toted were a spare beer-opener in the backpack and a tape casette player (black headphones).

Of course, there was the rage of the day--the old, original Mac--which had its own special bag--heavier than shit, but with which you could demonstrate your cutting-edgeness if you were willing to lug it around. But I don't think you could call it a gadget.

Well, that dear old Mac ushered in a helluva wave of new business activity. Suddenly people were freed from the constraints of large-scale IT centers (called DP in those days)--and from the tyranny of complex keyboard commands. You could go off on your own and publish all manner of stuff. You could be little and look big.

The original Macworld Magazine was founded just down the hall from our offices. It wasn't long before they took over the entire floor below us. They were swimming in money. Hip little restaurants began to sprout up all around, and you could wear anything as long as it was black.

Then, after years of Reagan's balooning deficits (sound familiar?) and a stock market crash, it all ended, painfully and quickly (sound familiar?). Fourth and Brannan was an overnight ghost town. That's when I started free-lancing. It was tough—really, really tough, but I scraped through.

Then, half a decade later, it all sprang back to life--and then some. It made our little boom look like child’s play. After a lifetime of pounding doors and begging for business, desperate emails started flooding the in-boxes—“can you pu-leeeze help us get our start-up off the ground?” Craziness. Reality turned upside down

And, then, half a decade later, it all collapsed again. One thing about aging--it sure gives you some perspective.

Anyway, my heart is gladdened that the capable and likable likes of Dervala Hanley are now walking the streets of my old turf--injecting some fresh life into a much-buffeted area.

Whatever new up-and-down currents lie ahead, I'm sure the likes of her will ride'em out with verve and class, albeit overly laden with all the gadgetry that I'm glad I don't have to screw with (cell and laptop excepted).

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