This is a very rough history of my "Internet presence". I'm presenting it serially, although many things happened in parallel. The dates and the events are all a bit fuzzy, so it may not be entirely accurate. A big thank you to The Wayback Machine and Netcraft for providing the tools I used to help me piece some of this together.
It all started with FunkyMonkey
Sometime in late 1997 I decided to create my own website. I was working off-and-on for a local dialup ISP and was permitted to host my personal domain, funkymonkey.net, on one of their servers. I hosted a few CGI scripts and regularly updated the site with my thoughts on... whatever...
Sometime in '99 I decided that I wanted to move FunkyMonkey to my own server. The ISP I worked for had recently moved and expanded. I was still working for them providing tech support, so they allowed me to host the server at no charge. The system was a Windows NT 4.0 system as I did not yet know - or care to learn - my way around a command line. The machine sat under my desk, but was eventually moved to the server room. With seemingly unlimited horsepower and disk space, and full control over the server itself, I began adding dynamic features to the website, such as a ongoing story feature (called Jackanory), games like Hangman, and a forum. I began to grow a bit of a user base. For those that asked, I would offer hosting under the funkymonkey.net domain to other users.
I believe the server pictured eventually became aurora.virtuaweb.net
As FunkyMonkey grew, some of my hosting users began to inquire about hosting their own domain names as well. I also received inquiries about hosting for-profit sites, something I didn't allow under the funkymonkey.net domain. I was soon going to be off to college, and the thought of a small revenue stream was appealing. This leads us to chapter 2...
I spent some time thinking about what to name my hosting company. Thankfully this was a time when domain names were a bit less picked through. Sometime in mid-1998 I registered virtuaweb.net and began planning how to handle things I hadn't had to consider before - e-mail, DNS, backups, etc. I had been using questionable copies of Windows NT 4.0 up to this point, and I was not comfortable continuing that path under a for-profit venture. I somehow managed to learn my way around Linux, Apache, and BIND in a very short time.
An early version of the virtuaweb.net website.
I was apparently big on disclamiers back then.
Yes, we used an iMac as a mail server!
At this time, I was in my Freshman year of college and trying to balance the growth of VirtuaWeb with coursework. The servers were a one hour drive away, and the support inbox was hard to manage during the day -- there were no smartphones after all. I tried to employ fellow students part time to aid in managing the support inbox, but I was never able to provide the level of service I wanted my customers to have.
As I considered how to handle these growing challenges, a surprise acquisition offer arrived. The ISP that I co-located the servers with (the same one I had worked for prior to college) wanted to expand their web hosting offerings. The offer was for roughly 12 months worth of revenue. It seemed fair at the time and I accepted. It was certainly a learning experience, and the checks I received were a nice bonus for an otherwise poor college kid. Unfortunately, the payout was based on customer retention over a one year period, and a number of customers left VirtuaWeb post-acquisition. The total payout was much smaller than expected.
I was no longer permitted to host websites for a fee. I had several personal domains, and a few domains I hosted for friends for free. These had to live somewhere, which takes us on to chapter 3...
I had registered the domain do2.net shortly after funkymonkey.net. The intent was to house FunkyMonkey and several other websites under the unbrella of Digital Dioxide Networks (i.e. DO2... Get it?). I never moved forward with that plan, but it was a nice, short domain name, so I built a new machine under the domain to house my personal sites and those of my friends. The server was named chocotaco, which to this day is my favorite hostname ever.
In mid-2001, my father (a seasoned radio / RF / ham radio guy), the ISP that had purchased VirtuaWeb, and myself began discussing the possibility of using wireless networking to provide broadband. The name Digital Dioxide seemed a good fit for such a venture, so the name and the domain were repurposed.
For a number of reasons, my father and I parted ways with the ISP and ultimately built a wireless ISP ourselves. This takes us to chapter 4...
The story of Coastal Wave could (should?) be an entirely separate document. This is the abridged version. The company was established for two purposes: 1) To provide Wi-Fi service at marinas on Lake Erie, and 2) To provide fixed wireless broadband service in and around Ottawa County, Ohio. The company grew steadily, with a peak coverage area of several hundred miles and Wi-Fi hotspot service in some 50+ marinas.
My personal servers could no longer live at the ISP we had split from. Everything was migrated to the Coastal Wave NOC (which was a small back room at a flower shop). I had been playing with older enterprise hardware during the early 2000s. There was something fun about bringing new life to older hardware, and I felt that things built for enterprise use were going to outlast whitebox hardware. During this era, my personal domains bounced around between various Sparc and PPC architecture machines.
I clearly liked to experiment...
In late 2005 I decided to separate from Coastal Wave. The fixed wireless portion of Coastal Wave was eventually sold to another wireless ISP, and my father continued to run the marina portion of the business for a number of years following.
Pod Six Networks
In 2005 I had moved away and was no longer involved full-time with Coastal Wave. I still did some side work for a few customers, and I "licensed" the hotspot automation software I had written back to Coastal Wave. I had registered the domains podsix.net and podsix.org previously - a reference to Sea Lab 2021. The .org had been my e-mail domain for quite some time, but the .net version had been unused since registration. Pod Six Networks was born.
For the first time since the late 90's, I was no longer a full time entrepenuer. I secured a full time position with a Linux/OSS consulting firm in December '05, using the Pod Six Networks name only for the occasional odd job. I still had a pair of Sun Sparcstation 20's (darkside and alchemy - each with Ross HyperSPARC processors at 150Mhz!) hosting web, e-mail, and DNS.
As the ISP that had acquired CoastalWave took over operations, I began phasing out what remaining physical infrastructure I had remaining. I had already moved my e-mail to GMail for Domains (now GSuite) during their early beta. Everything else was moved to virtual servers at Dreamhost and Linode, where they continue to live today.
The last two physical Pod Six servers, now stashed unceremoniously
in the basement. With a little fiddling, they still boot!