Saturday, November 29, 2008

Technology as Leveler

Ray Ozzie Wants to Push Microsoft Back Into Startup Mode :

One incident in particular introduced Ozzie to the magic that comes when people connect via computer. He had taken a part-time assignment helping a professor finish writing some courseware. The prof lived on the other side of town, so Ozzie collaborated with him remotely. Ozzie came to know and like his boss, save for one annoyance. "He was the worst typist ever," Ozzie says. "He was very eloquent on email, but on Term Talk it was just dit-dit-dit, sometimes an error, but agonizingly slow." At the end of the project, the man threw a party at his house, and Ozzie discovered the reason for the typing problem: The professor was a quadriplegic and had been entering text by holding a stick in his teeth and poking it at the keyboard. Ozzie was floored.

I remember an experience myself back in about '95 when someone I was swapping 2600 cart sources with on Usenet turned out to be similarly disadvantaged. One of Darian System's first consultancies for setting up a cybercafe was with a registered blind entrepreneur. Both personal wake-up calls to how technology could change things for the better, and key to understanding why I remain, at heart, an optimist when it comes to this business.

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