Krjb Donovan

Before Online

I am largely pretending the universe (and by extension I) didn't exist before there was an online world to hold it.

In the late 80's while working at 13D Research, I came across a company called Trintex, a partnership between Sears, IBM, and CBS, that was preparing for a national launch of an online consumer video-text NAPLS service. At the time, the few national (Compuserve, GEnie, Quantum/PC Link) and local BBS's were still largely restricted to text and a tech geek crowd. After investigating more, I became convinced that this "online thing' was the future and wanted to be part of building that future.


After a few months of persistence, I finally got a Customer Care/Tech Support job at that company which was rebranded Prodigy and now a partnership between IBM and Sears. I was fortunate enough to spend a decade working with very talented people while growing skills and gaining experience in:

- What NOT to Do with 1.4 Billion dollars. Adjusted for inflation, that amount would be somewhat higher.

- Customer Relationship Management - via distributed large scale centers, contact resolutions, escalation procedures, and outsourcing (to SPS: Gray, TN and Layton, UT) and the costs and impacts of outsourcing.

- Communication Protocols - running the gambit from the old Hayes AT command set to proprietary and mainframe protocols up to the more fundamental TCP/IP, UDP, HTTP, POP, SMTP, etc.

- Software Development/Project Management

- C/C++, TBOL/PAL (Prodigy Application Language - basically 95% of Java about 6 years before Sun thinks it invented it), Java, Perl, CICS, Rexx

- Billing - Software, Systems, and Models. And more importantly what not to do with billing models.

- Chat & Gaming: Project Betty - was a joint venture between Prodigy and that specialized in producing server/client solutions for gaming and communication.

- IRC/Chat/Instant Message and Interoperability

- Large Scale Multithreaded Transactional Design/Programming - somewhere out there might be a Dr. Dobbs Tech cast interview of me on the subject still

Prodigy has survived somewhat. Much of its groundbreaking intellectual property and software is currently owned by IBM and in use and licensed to others. The business itself eventually got absorbed by SBS and then subsequently to AT&T after merger and some of the P* folks are still providing core internet functionality and support now for AT&T. And thanks to a few year stint of being basically owned by Carlos Slim, the Prodigy brand still currently enjoys a 90+% market share in the online access space in Mexico.

But I left before the end of Prodigy as a brand in the US, when I knew the plan was to get ourselves sold to a Baby Bell. And I was fortunate again to join another great team at in 1999 where I still am now. is the premier provider of trusted content produced by a network of independent writers that are acknowledged experts in their fields.


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