Cruzio Internet is having a big anniversary and a big, big party — you’re invited!
We founded our company 30 years ago, when the internet was new, experimental, and little known. Santa Cruz plunged right in.
It Wasn’t Just Cruzio. Santa Cruz Was a Leader in Technology
Santa Cruz in the 1980s was full of fire-dancing free-loving hippies. It was also full of tech nerds who worked for Lockheed or Hewlett Packard over the hill. Students hoping to eventually work for the latter but who partied like the former filled out the mix.
Tie dye and pocket protectors got mixed together and produced the internet, with its far-reaching cosmic social effects and solid basis in science and math.
We founded Cruzio, our quintessentially Santa Cruz internet service provider, in 1989, as members of that vibrant, culturally diverse community.
Santa Cruz is an idealistic place, and Cruzio founders Chris Neklason and I had high hopes for humanity. We were inspired by people like John Perry Barlow, the Grateful Dead lyricist and early internet pioneer who proclaimed things like:
“We are in the middle of the most transforming technological event since the capture of fire.”
And we saw the light.
Communication is a powerful and a very human thing. The earliest internet had been set up to exchange scientific data. But almost immediately, even scientists in their labs used the medium for non-technical discussions. They shared with each other science fiction, music, and even knitting tips. Personal use of the internet spread.
Many of us in Santa Cruz were inspired by big ideas about bringing the world together with this radical new form of communication. In the late 1980s, we started Cruzio as a Bulletin Board System (BBS). We kept the equipment in our spare bedroom on Palm Street, on the West Side of Santa Cruz.
BBSs were precursors of ISPs. One of perhaps a dozen in Santa Cruz County, the Cruzio BBS allowed people out in the community to have their computers call our computer on the phone, exchange data, and send commands that our computer would follow. Pretty revolutionary in 1989. Mind-blowing!
Nerds Joined the Internet First, and Had a Ball
People who ran BBSs were called “sysops” and Santa Cruz had an active and collegial sysop community. We had our own sysop news- and email groups for the exchange of vital information: how to create and maintain fast connections from our little county to the rest of the world. It was hard work. For Cruzio, which had hundreds of customers by the early 1990s, it was all-day, all-night work.
We’d had an earthquake early on in Cruzio’s history. We saw that our service could be a lifeline, like ham radio. So we knew it had to be up and running 24/7, 365 days a year.
Most computers only displayed text back then, with rudimentary graphics. But users were creative about what they did with text. We drew pictures (often of cows), wrote poems, designed and played multi-user games. Students and people who worked in tech companies made up most of our users in the early days — they’d had email and newsgroups, and wanted them at home, too.
In 1990, when the internet was available to private companies, we jumped on it immediately. Cruzio became one of the first commercial ISPs in the country.
“Join the INTERNET,” we announced, using all caps for this obscure technical term. The software got better, partly due to Santa Cruz-based companies. And as more people put things online, online became more interesting.
In the next several years everyone, not just geeks but everyone, got on the internet.
We Love Our Community and Our Customers
Cruzio was lucky. Santa Cruz, our community, had the vision to embrace this new world early and enthusiastically. Our experiment was successful, and Chris and I were able to quit our day jobs and devote full time to the venture.
Our customers have always loved our fast, reliable internet and reasonable prices. They’ve also loved our local staff, our cats, and our kids. And we’ve responded by constantly working to improve speed and stability of internet connections: dialup begat DSL, DSL gave way to Velocity, and now wireless and fiber connections are replacing everything that came before. We see our company as a connector between the most advanced technology in the world and the needs and capabilities of real humans.
Cruzio now sells internet connections for $75/month which are often 1,000 times faster than the old 1200 baud (baud!) connections from 1989. The fiber optic cables supplying backhaul to our network carry more data than all the lines supplying all of Santa Cruz County twenty years ago — and we have more than one set of them, for redundancy.
Things move fast.
Many years have passed, and we’re still grateful to a community that embraces creativity and independence, and cares about honesty and hard work.
One of Our Cruzio Family Stories
And in the spirit of mixing the personal and the technical — which is what the internet allows us to do — I’ll end with a timely quote from one of our children, who grew up with modems beeping and buzzing all around her and her funny words written down in the Cruzio newsletter:
“Now I know how cats feel doing jumprope” declared Carly, at age 9, wearing her Halloween costume of cat ears and tail and trying to jump rope.
Thanks for all the support, and here’s to another 30 years of independent internet!
If you have a moment, check out the entries in the Great Cruzio Internet Jingle Competition. Vote for your favorite jingle!