Two Internet and World Wide Web pioneers – and VT KnowedgeWorks member company founders - were featured in Clicking Back Over the Years – Most Wired Town in America, a post by Z. Kelly Queijo on Handshake 2.0.
Andrew Cohill wrote an expansion and follow-up piece on his Design Nine Technology Futures blog entitled Blacksburg Electronic Village – "Most Wired Town."
From Z. Kelly Queijo:
Journey back in time with me, exactly thirteen years ago today, to February 23, 1996, when the headline of USA Weekend magazine posed the question: "This Town is Wired – In Blacksburg, Va., you can buy groceries, hear local bands, chat with neighbors – all online. Is this future what you want?"
We are that future and, thanks to the Blacksburg Electronic Village (BEV) project which officially launched in 1993, our local citizens, businesses, schools, and government were the among the first in the world to buy, hear, and chat.
What began as a public-private partnership involving Virginia Tech, the Town of Blacksburg and Bell Atlantic (formerly C&P Telephone, now Verizon) to wire the town with the necessary telecommunications infrastructure to connect the residents of Blacksburg to the Internet, led the way to many aspects of the World Wide Web that we take for granted today.
Got Online Shopping?
Today, over 75% of Blacksburg businesses advertise online. Andrew Cohill, former director of the BEV and now president and CEO of Design Nine, attributes the launch of e-commerce to Doug Mauer, founder of Biz Net Technologies and Brush Mountain Data Center.
According to Cohill, locally-owned Wade's Flowers and Gifts was very likely the first e-commerce shop in the world and Wade's Foods supermarket was the first online grocer.
Bill Ellenbogen, founder of Bogen's Steakhouse and Bar, laid claim to having the first "cyberbar."
Montgomery County was the first school system in the nation to wire every public school with Internet access. Today, every classroom in every school has high-speed access.
And though Cohill reports that real estate agents swore up and down they would never allow buyers to browse houses online, Raines Real Estate became the first agency in the country to showcase houses for sale on the Web.
It Took A Team
The list of people who made the BEV happen is extensive and includes not just the staff of the teams that managed the day-to-day activities of the project over the years (and those who continue to do so), but also includes government officials, technology leaders, educators, librarians, and even average citizens, young and old, who were willing to embrace new ideas and technology and run with them.
Today, whether wired or wireless, when we access the Internet, shop online, listen to music, or send text or email, we do so because we just happen to live in a small town filled with people who happen to think big.