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Summary:ZDNet's 20th anniversary: Rich Santalesa recalls a moment when Ziff-Davis began using the computers it covered to actually publish.

ZDNet is 20 years today. Amazing.

First, I have no idea how the last two decades ripped by so quickly -- and second, I'm very grateful to have been a part of those incredible heady pioneering days.

In 2011, with smartphones, Wi-Fi, and 24/7, limitless, “free” Internet everywhere, it's difficult to truly grasp how far we've come in terms of computing and communications...unless you were lucky enough to have had a front row seat to watch the entire show play out.

When I was tech editor at Ziff-Davis' Computer Shopper back in 1991, being “online”, of course, meant purely dial-up access with low-bandwidth used to tap into a privately-run bulletin board system (or "BBS"), or one of the burgeoning pay-by-the-minute type of services, such as CompuServe and others.

ZDNet was a bold launch into an online arena limited by the then-drastic limits of paltry CPU speeds, expensive memory, crude graphics, minimal storage and sub-56Kb modems.

But there are two items I vividly recall that were never limited in any meaningful way.

First was the real sense that we were on the forefront of an epic change in human communications -- though we had no idea how it would all play out.

Second was the stunning pace of daily developments and the avalanche of software released once companies started to ride the growing tech wave powered by the exponential promise of ever increasing computing power courtesy of Moore's Law.

Snail-mailed press releases were still the order of the day then to announce the weekly blizzard of new software, hardware and services and our desks at Shopper were stacked high with breathless releases unveiling the new, the coming, and the upgraded that would be heading into our offices.

Into this mix, ZDNet opened its virtual doors to serve our savvy readers and the growing computing community, and I'm proud to have been a member of the cross-publication team assembled to tackle the daunting development challenges we faced in an era when the "Internet" we know and use today was by and large but a set of protocols running on DARPA's network. (DARPA is the U.S. Dept. of Defense's research arm. -Ed.)

We've come a long way, and I can only imagine with anticipation what the next 20 years will hold for ZDNet and computing as a whole.

Rich Santalesa was the technology editor at Computer Shopper magazine from 1989 to 1992.

» Return to ZDNet's 20th Anniversary Special

Topics: Hardware, Browser

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