A Wanderer’s Tale

Kirby Urner
9 min readFeb 10

I launched a career in cyberspace publishing soon after hypertext became a thing. I’d been hoping for just such a technology.

Thanks to my account with the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), I was able to participate in an online newsgroup-like format even before using Usenet, as our network was then a separate experiment, distinct from ARPA’s, which latter was more like what we’re using now (tcp/ip based).

I was living in nearby Jersey City at the time. I’d connect by modem from St. Peter’s College on Kennedy Boulevard. I was a high school teacher at St. Dominic Academy in those days, just down the road from there, across from the Fairmount Hotel. I’d walk to and from from my Magnolia Street domicile (and personal workspace) near Journal Square.

a domicile in Jersey City

The Network Nation: Human Communication via Computer, by Hiltz and Turroff, was one of my bibles. Ted Nelson’s Computer Lib / Dream Machines was another. Did I ever meet Murray in person? I might’ve gone to his office. I’d do things like that, by prearrangement. I got to interview Dr. Arthur Loeb that time a year or two earlier, at MIT.

Anyway, somehow I managed to get an NJIT account and to participate in what amounted to listservs aka “mail reflectors”. Action Linkage, a more Canadian organization, was practicing with a similar pattern via snailmail.

Then I decided to quit my job (a pretty fun one) as a high school teacher, and create my own startup, thinking I was ready to wade into the business world or whatever we called it. Ferment was in the air. Networking was the name of the game.

I still needed more skills though (I’d find out the hard way), and the rough and tumble world of electoral politics afforded me with some opportunity to acquire them. I joined Americans for Civic Participation around the time of the Reagan-Mondale contest.

A job in publishing would provide more skills yet. My parents invited me to their home in Egypt a second time, and I even got in a little horse riding (joke, I nearly fell off, that night we galloped towards some lesser known pyramids).

I’d been a philosophy guy at Princeton (Class of 1980), with everyone questioning the applicability of such a degree. I’d end up in a business partnership with my future wife, whom I met in…

Kirby Urner