Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, discusses past in interview

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"1993 — we had a small computer room on the 2nd floor of 8619. There was the front space, which I think was built first...and then there was a back room that was added on BEFORE I got to AOL. Ken Huntsman would likely know when that back room was added on...or Tom Ralston (my predecessor).

I joined March 1, 1993...and the client dev team had just released AOL for Windows version 1.0 — I think in December 1992....and it was starting to really take off, as it was the only online service that really was made for Windows 3.1 (which is the version of Windows that really took off in the marketplace). Jan Brandt started a few weeks after I did — I think April 1993, and very quickly she figured out that Ralston's rule was that marketing could only mail out 3,000 disks a day. Being too stupid to know otherwise, when asked about this limit I told Jan I didn't care — just blow it out. I really figured it would be a great problem to have a lot more customers ...and that we would figure out the technical challenges. My start date from my plaque there were about 2300 simultaneous users. By summer 2003 we had doubled to 5000 — and back then we needed 1 new Stratus system for every 1,0000 simultaneous users. I don't remember if we understood that we'd have a big surge in customers after Christmas — but we were looking at the numbers growing and realized we needed to do something.

In parallel the head of facilities/HR — Walter something (maybe Mertz?)— negotiated with SAIC for AOL to take over the entire building — and with that came the first floor —which housed the SAIC auditorium. We knew we didn't need an auditorium, so we asked for the space to build an additional computer room. The room was sloped so the chairs were banked. Doug worked out a plan (fill me in here) to build a data center, the first step of course was pulling out the chairs.

Jim Kimsey arrives for work that morning, sees the chairs being pulled out (or maybe saw what was ABOUT to happen), and explodes at me. As a new employee, I had stock options — but not actual shares...and all real shareholders had received an invitation along with their proxy ballot to attend the annual meeting...which had been scheduled IN THAT AUDITORIUM a few days later. So we had to put the demolition/construction plans on hold until after the annual meeting. We were running out of space, so every day counted back then.

After the chairs came out, and the carpet was ripped up, we had a cement truck in to pour enough cement to make the slope of the room less shallow — fill in the deepest parts. While it was still wet, we got the idea to write initials in the cement — i don't remember if we used a nail, a popsicle stick or a screwdriver. Marty Lyons thought it would be cooler to take some cement and fill an empty Snapple bottle with it — it took years to dry. I thought it would be fun to write some stuff in the concrete — soft of a time capsule — with the date, the logo, the stock price, the number of simultaneous users....and I recall saying at the time that one day the raised floor would be picked up, and someone would find this and either exclaim "wow, that was when AOL was really small" or "what was AOL, never heard of it". You decide :)

You know the rest of the history of that block better than I do — how it was cut out of the floor of 8619 when we vacated it. Moved to Reston, and stuck in that storage closet outside the NOC. When Reston closed I guess someone transported it to Dulles? I have a relic from Reston here— the glass plate that hung in each lobby "AOL Mission: To build a Global medium as central to people's lives as the telephone or television and even more valuable"...I have the one that hung in the Reston building (did you drop it off here or have it sent to me)? I would be happy to donate/drive it back over if you want something to hang next to the concrete.

Eventually the rest of 8619 was converted into office space. It took Walter too long — the groups were growing so fast — he was history I think by early 1994. Did he hire Natalie? Or she was hired to replace him? Can't remember that. Just remember he spent a lot of time having a flower bed outside refurbished, and planted with flowers in the shape of the AOL logo — while people were sitting in hallways without offices. After he was gone I used to joke that he was buried under the logo outside. I always had a mean spirit, I can confess now in my old age."

Line 1 (Old Timers, even in 1993):

WLD=Warren Dunnavant

KH=Ken Huntsman

DC=Don Carpenter

ML=Marty Lyons

TR=Tom Ralston (I think)

Line 2 (NOC staff):

JH= Jim Hoffpauir

LM= Lisa Mendelson

SH=Shirley Hampton

BT=Bryan Teague

JP=John Phoenix

DB=Denise? Darrell Brown

Line 3 (Stratus Ops):

JH=Janet Hunter

AK=Alan Keister

DS=Doug Steinberg

HW=Hassan Wahdan

JR=Jeff Robelen

Line 4 (CIBS):

BW=Brad W?

MG=Mike Geary

WH=Walter Hughes

JP=John Preziotti

SP=

SF=Steve Fox

Line 5 (Execs):

AG (or AS?)=

SC=Steve Case

MMC=Michael Connors

MRK=Matt Korn


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