This loose timeline is from the perspective of the starting of Pacifier Online Data Service which started as the Pacifier BBS (Bulletin Board Service) and latter renamed to PODS (Pacifier Online Data Service). This article is being written in January 2022 after a very chaotic few months of server moves, consolidations, upgrades and of course a billing system deployment. There is a separate article explaining why Doug Palin came off the bench so to speak to get back in this business after almost nine years after selling Infinity Internet to Seaport Capital in December 2012.
When talking to customers over the last months many have told us they are our oldest customer, we appreciate that and wanted to explain the full history as much of it is complicated and gets lost. While there are some gaps in the timeline given that some of the over 20 companies that were combined acquisitions of acquisitions, some were very small quick integrations that ultimately rolled up to become Infinity Internet and later the combination of Infinity / Easystreet.
Pacifier starts as a dialup BBS in the Palin family kitchen, this was done solely as a hobby at the time where you could exchange emails both with other local users, the focus was a combination of Commodore 64 programs and MS-DOS programs along with of course emails and Fido Net message boards (Echo Mail to you old timers). The BBS over the following few years ended up adding a few phone lines, initially a second one for the local Vancouver PC Users Group for the exclusive use of the members. It was all free in those days with occasional requests for donations for some new shiny object, faster modems or more disk space. Doug at the time had a small but thriving PC hardware business (they call it IT these days) that in reality supported the BBS and having a young family extra spending cash, his day job was a bench technician for ADP Dealer Services.
The first day the BBS came live Doug’s (very patient) wife sees that the computer is left on when he went to work and well turned it off. The first person he told about the BBS at work tried to call in and well couldn’t. They still joke today about “why do you need that thing on” or “why did you need to buy those floppy disks”.
Late 1980’s and early 1990’s
The PC Hardware business continued to grow as a side business for Doug and the need came to get more dialup phone lines, while the exact count is hazy it was approximately 4-5 in 1991
The BBS specs at this stage of it’s evolution were something along these lines.
- CPU: 286 16Mhz
- RAM: 8MB
- Disk: 1.6G – The wife started getting fussy when a hole was cut in the wall to run the SCSI cable to the hard disk enclosure with the six 5.25″ full height hard disks on the floor of the garage.
This was in a house near Evergreen Highschool. Eventually a small room was built in the garage to house the growing BBS and hardware sales/service business.
Doug and family move to a new house off Burton Rd in Vancouver, Doug proceeds to take over the basement and Garage for “The Business”. The BBS is very popular, it was up to 5 phone lines and a very expensive phone bill each night making calls at 9600 baud to send/receive email. Ongoing discussions were happening with a friend in Portland and a 9600 baud lease line is installed using two copper pairs from what in those days was PNW Bell (Later US West). This gives us 5 dialup lines and a 9600 baud connection to a friend, this was one of the very first TCP/IP Connections in the Vancouver area. People could dialup to the BBS or Unix system and download files, email, usenet news. This was prior to the World Wide Web coming on the scene and largely still text based. Shortly after this point a new Graphical BBS software was on the Unix systems call CocoNet, this was an alternative to the AOL/Prodigy which were popular at the time.
Doug is asked to setup a BBS as a consulting project in Kuwait, at this point he is still working for ADP but agrees to go over there for a week and work with them on the project and deploys a BBS over the week he is there. This was an interesting experience five months after the first Gulf War for a young technician from Vancouver.
Summer – 1992
Doug no longer working for ADP returns to Kuwait for a month and expands their BBS substantially, at the time they had 24 phone lines. Many of the features deployed during this month were implemented, a very easy to use graphical interface.
The Pacifier BBS continues to grow in popularity over the next year and adds a rate for more usage time per day. It quickly becomes obvious there is a growing need for more dialup lines. The BBS and much of the associated systems roughly 4-5 computers are moved to an office space upstairs in a building at Evergreen Blvd and U Street in what used to be a gas station. Not a lot of people knew it was there at the time but the local phone company was there some what frequently adding phone lines.
Fall – 1992 – The World Wide Web hits the scene, Pacifier the BBS is growing adding phone lines but people are asking for dialup SLIP & PPP connections. Doug works on a way to offer both connection types using terminal servers from Livingston, users to the BBS would select option 1 on their screen to go to the BBS, 2 to go to the unix shell. More phone lines are added.
Fall – 1994
Pacifier is moved to a new location at McLoughlin at F St, the hardware is in the basement of this building in what becomes our offices for several years. This was largely an unmanned remotely managed location, very few people actually came to this location.
Expansion continues adding phone lines and requests to go to other areas that have no providers or limited choices. Some expansion areas were well served but were done for strategic reasons.
There were times in the coming years that we were adding phone lines or wanting too much faster then the local phone companies were able to keep up. This included Electric Lightwave, Time Warner and several others. The Vancouver building had at one point over 2,000 phone lines, Astoria close to 600, Portland 500-600 other areas while lesser amounts were all growing quicker then both us the phone companies could keep up which was a common problem with ISP’s at the time. Old timers will remember fast busy signals, this meant in simple terms that the phone companies were congested, they could not complete the calls to our equipment. Ironically guess who got the voice calls to our support number.
US West announces DSL deployment in Oregon and Washington and much like the cables companies excludes the ISP’s from being able to sell customers access over the DSL networks. A group of six local ISP’s also competitors jointly hire an attorney to essentially protest this with the Oregon and Washington utilities commission. The group includes Pacifier, Teleport, Europa, RainNet, Transport Logic & Easystreet. All the ISP’s started adding DSL (Broadband) customers and saw continued growth.
Doug starts to receive offers to purchase Pacifier from multiple sources, the roll up was starting and all the ISP’s were getting calls during this time as were many other companies in the technology space.
Ultimately Pacifier is sold to Millennium Digital Media at the beginning of 2000 with Doug eventually running the “Western Region” which in reality was Washington, Oregon and Southern CA.
Pacifier is now part of MDM iNet which later was eventually rebranded as USNet. At this point the company consisted of several ISP’s to be integrated.
NWlink, S.O.S, Snovalley, Europa
E-Z.net – acquired by MDM in late 1999, based in Vancouver
Summer 2000 – Proaxis is acquired and joins the growing company
In the Eastern region were
One Net Communcations
Fall 2000 – TST Onramp in Ponoma CA is acquired and joins the growing company, TST on it’s own had done acquisitions.
Infinity Internet (iinet.com in Temecula, CA)
Doug leaves, largely this was to take some time off and figure out what was next. Still a young family with two kids in middle school and two toddlers running around, still the patient wife at home he is given a honey do list which is wrapped up in short order. The patient wife confused tells him he does not have to do it all at once, having had a pace that was always on the go this was a foreign concept lots of golf was a distraction for a while.
Doug acquires back his old company and most of the rest of the region he managed. The company never was fully integrated into a single platform so to speak, efforts are started to combine multiple billing systems and server platforms for the various “brands”. This included moving several offices.
The new company in the process of branding itself as Infinity Internet, we have been asked why. Well we had the domain and it seemed like a good idea at the time to use one name.
Infinity acquires or really takes over the lease for a Data Center in downtown Portland, almost 11,000 sqft of space. This allowed us to expand and grow our co-location and managed service business.
The data center, managed servers continue to grow very rapidly through 2008. We were adding customers to the data center in various flavors weekly or more often. Not quite as crazy as the dialup days but instead of phone lines being our commodity power and cool take their place.
The economy essentially crashes and all the small startups essentially went away. Ironically the data center business continued to grow through the next several years but at a much slower pace. A building was purchased to be the next data center location near the Portland airport, some work was strategically done on this building to prepare it for an anchor customer and be operational inside of 6 months when needed.
After ongoing discussions with Seaport Capital both Infinity and Easystreet were acquired by Seaport, the transactions were independent of each other but happened minutes apart. Doug leaves again after doing some network design and contract negotiating to play golf and do some consulting.
Easystreet and Infinity are initially rebranded as Easystreet and later Atmosera and begin to focus on the data center and Cloud busines.
Atmosera ends support for it’s DSL customers and converts most of the accounts to email only. The only remaining access service is dialup, yes we really still have dialup customers.
Atmosera sells it’s data centers to Digital Fortress at the beginning of 2021.
Following casual joking by Doug with Atmosera Management over a few years he purchases the remaining legacy business and a series of planned migrations begins to upgrade and modernize the infrastructure which largely has not been touched in 10-15 years, the 2002/2003 design worked well with only minor upgrades. It still resides in the same data center and has been reduced to a couple of cabinets with more planned efforts already under way.
The rest has yet to be written, we are much smaller then we were in the early 2000’s, there are just a few of us at this point. This history or timeline was written to provide some details, we frequently hear from customers that have become friends over the years and we enjoy catching up. We are here to help and know you have been around since the beginning. Occasionally we hear from the BBS users or those that came to the Giant Computer Garage Sales we had in the garage, it seems like so long ago but it has been a really fun ride to this point. Time will tell what the next chapter holds.
This article was written from the perspective of what I was involved in through the years, I have made many great friends over that time some I am still in touch with and others I hear from on occasion and others who I have lost touch with. If any of the 25 or so ISP’s that were combined over time to become Infinity have details you want to share I welcome them. I plan create a separate page on the various brands at some point.