Do Not Take this Software Era for Granted (Pt. 1)

Jason Heltzer
Feb 4, 2015 · 5 min read
Photo by David Švihovec on Unsplash

The Catalyst

One of the most important purchases I’ve ever made in my life, second only to my first computer, was when I was 14. I saved up $150 mowing lawns and fixing things at the local pool to buy a Practical Peripherals 2400 bps external modem for $150 in 1988. I wanted a modem to connect my computer to other computers, all in a quest to get more video games. [as an aside, in 2007, I later wound up meeting and co-investing with the founder of Practical Peripherals, Michael Seedman, which unbeknownst to him, was a thrill for me.] This purchase dramatically accelerated my understanding of software, deepened my obsession with video games, and ignited my desire to be a programmer.

The Pre-Internet inter-network

Before there was the Internet, there was a completely different way computers interacted: bulletin board systems or BBSes. BBSes were run by independent operators around the country called system operators or Sysops for short. Sysops would load up their PCs with a BBS operating system, they would connect a modem to your computer, and you’d wait for people to call your BBS. You’d know someone was calling when the phone rang and it had a bunch of unintelligible high-pitched tones (called the handshake) that made a fax machine sound like Pavarotti. Modems convert 1s and 0s into tones, transmit them over phone lines, and then the modem on the other side reversing the process. Modem stands for MODulate and DEModulate. Modems allowed computers to talk to one another before there were networks. The most famous modem was the one in the movie War Games that required a handset to be placed on the modem. Thankfully manufacturers figured out it was better to have the phone jack in the back of the modem.

Venture Evolved

Jason is a venture capitalist, business school professor and former software engineer. Jason is a Partner at Origin Ventures and he has been in the venture business since 2001. He also teaches the venture capital and private equity lab class at Chicago Booth.

Jason Heltzer

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Dad, venture capitalist at @OriginVentures, @chicagobooth professor, Chicagoan. I was a nerd before it was cool to be a nerd.

Venture Evolved

Jason is a venture capitalist, business school professor and former software engineer. Jason is a Partner at Origin Ventures and he has been in the venture business since 2001. He also teaches the venture capital and private equity lab class at Chicago Booth.