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By Casey Cait

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Extra info for Digital Hustlers: Living Large and Falling Hard in Silicon Alley

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It was so early that no one got that this was going to be interesting. In many ways the Web is a much higher hurdle to jump on the entertainment or marketing side than CD-ROMs were. Because in the CD you had a massive thing that you could put all this content on. Trying to put it on the Web was altogether different. On togglethis, we were trying to re-create the CD-ROM experience, or at least parts of it, without having this giant CD-ROM capacity to work with. The Web is a lot harder in some respects, because back then it was mostly non-artdirected Web pages, and no one was thinking about creating a strong emotional experience for anything.

We had those acoustic coupler modems, where you dialed the phone and put the receiver in a little cradle. And it was on old teletype machines, with these giant paper rolls that would vibrate as you typed on them. Like the old military typewriters with the paper tape on the side that punched out little chads. People would dial in and use it as a programming resource, and there were chat rooms and there were multiplayer Star Trek–based games where you would explore the universe and try to shoot the other person.

I took a year off and was a ski instructor for a year, a ski bum. We had limited ambitions; we basically felt there were no attractive jobs. Maybe the best-case scenario was that you get to be a journalist and slave away on a terrible salary, not getting to write what you want, or you worked at a publishing house under similar circumstances, or you sold your soul and basically exchanged your twenties and thirties for a chunk of cash on Wall Street—which I considered, begrudgingly. All the options seemed quite grim.

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