In 1987 I attended the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago as an exhibitor. I was 20 years old, working at Xetec and we were showing off SCAD, a drafting program I wrote for the Atari ST. Attending was an awesome experience for such a youngster. I remember seeing HD video for the first time at that show, but that is unlikely. Probably what I really saw was the first ever 100″ LCD projection system which Sharp showed that year. It was still impressive for the time. I was also offered a job writing games in LA, which I considered for a while but eventually turned down.
But oneÂ ridiculouslyÂ influentialÂ thing that happened during the week was that I overheard someone use the term “19-2” as slang to describe the speed of something – and for some nerdy reason – I thought it was very cool. Who ever it was said something like “It was fast. It was like 19-2.” Now this is going to take some explanation – and even after I do my best you’ll probably still scratch your head. But let’s try. Â Travel with me back in time to Michael Smith Nerd World 1987…
To mark the era in a tech history timeline, this was before the commercialization of the world wide web, before cable modems or dsl, before laptops, and before normal people had email. Cell phones were only in movies. There were no iPods or mp3s – CD’s were just starting to catch on. The VHS vs Beta format war wasn’t even over. I did have a modem that I used to connect to and manage the local BBS, but it was probably only 2400 baud. That means it maxed out at 2400 bits per second, or 300 bytes (characters) per second.
But I overheard some random person use 19-2 as slang. The reference was a baud rate – a “futuristic” blazing fast 19,200 baud. But his use of the term was just like saying “it screams.” I was convinced that I was hearing this slang before it became popularized. Â What could be faster than that? In my tech-world-view 19-2 was extremely fast because I couldn’t conceive of a reason to need faster modem speed than that. Thus began myÂ delirium.
In the geekfest of CES 1987, in passing I overheard ONE person use a term that I can barely explain today, and became convinced that it would sweep the nation and become common lingo. And I was going to monopolize on it and name my software company after it.Â In 1998 I hired a local law firm to file trademarks in Kansas and Missouri. 16 trademark applications were filed, which cost me $265.12. Notice my attached business card that has the brilliant tag line “makers of high baud software.” What does that even mean?
Check it out. I just noticed that my suite number was 192. That was real. It was a mail box place and I got that box. I also had a custom license plate that had 19 2 on it. I think I kept on that trend for a while.Â Dare I say “interestingly” – a 19,200 baud modem never really became popular. After 2400 came 9600 baud, then 14,400, and then the industry skipped up to 56k modems which blew away myÂ punyÂ 19.2k.
The marks were registered for ten years and expired on May 12, 1998. Had I kept them I could just say, “oh I meant 192 GIGS per sec.” Â I was REALLY forward thinking.