Over the summer of 1995, I was working on a project with Jerusalem Perspective (JP) magazine to develop an interactive CD that would showcase their magazine. I first heard about the “World Wide Web” that summer, but living in technology-locked southeast Missouri, I couldn’t grasp the WWW concept and certainly didn’t know how to access this “Internet.” I had an account on CompuServe (and several other bulletin boards) but we all paid by the minute for the long distance phone access over a 9600 baud modem (9.6k).
In August, 1995, I had learned enough by reading (though I still hadn’t seen a web page myself) to know that JP would be better served “online” than on a CD. As I priced the ability to put up a web site, I found that registering a Domain Name was $250 per year, putting up a web site cost $100/month and I still wouldn’t be able to view it without paying by the minute since there was no available Internet access in our area.
Over Labor Day weekend, Toni and I traveled to Kansas City to visit a friend and speak with a technology company who had transformed their bulletin board to an Internet service. I learned a lot that day about how companies were putting their information online and about IP addresses, which is how the network knows who you are when connected. But I still didn’t get to experience a web page.
That night after the meeting, we went to see a new movie, “The Net.” The movie fabricated many things about the Internet, but I have to admit that I learned more about IP addresses, telnet sessions, in those two hours. And it was the first time I actually saw a web page, though still not personally.
On our drive home, every time we discussed the possibility of starting an Internet service, Toni would say, “You need to do this…I don’t understand it all but you need to do this.” Her wisdom and encouragement was a key to starting Poplar Bluff Internet.
During September and early October, I made all the arrangements to open an Internet company including securing Roger Hogg and my father, Jim Becker, as additional shareholders. We were set to open the last week of October.
Two weeks before we were ready to open, we found out that I wasn’t the only one with this idea of bringing Internet to Poplar Bluff. Both IMS and LDD announced they were bringing Internet service to Poplar Bluff.
The shareholders were discouraged. After all, how could there be enough people to support three Internet services. It was also about this time that I experienced the WWW for myself and clicked on my first web page. That was key for me and I instantly knew that an Internet business was a good idea even with competition.
A week before we opened, a young man from Qulin, Jerry Aldrich, who ran a popular local bulletin board, called and asked to have a meeting with me. Admittedly, I was taken a back at first, as Jerry’s idea of business casual is a pair of overalls.
Halfway through lunch at HRH Dumplins, Jerry informed me he had been researching all three startup services and offered his services and abilities to my company. Jerry proved to be a God-send. He handled designing the first semo.net web page and the two of us worked together to better understand the technology I had purchased.
Jerry also introduced me to James Neal, another bulletin board genius. James helped customize the “Trumpet software” needed to install on customer computers to connect to the Internet.
All three of us didn’t get much sleep during those first weeks as we raced to get everything working. I installed 8 phone lines & modems, one portmaster, one server, and an ISDN line back to St Louis (128k bandwidth) at our location in the attic closet above Today’s Computers on Maud Street.
Our first customer, if memory serves me, was Jim Dille. He paid cash so that we could frame his payment. But, like the Geiko commercial, someone pulled the bill out of my drawer and used it in the spring of 1996.
I was hoping to get 20 customers by the end of 1995 and 100 customers by that summer. But that wasn’t the case for the fledgling company. By January 1996 we had 100 customers and by the end of 1996, we hit 400 customers.
It was clear that this was going to be a full-time job for me and I needed to find people who could translate GEEK into common sense when helping customers. I hired Derek Jeffries, Eric Arnold and Matt Rhodes in January 1996.
A bit short-sighted, the original web site was pbmo.net and focused strictly on Poplar Bluff. We began getting calls from Doniphan asking to expand our service. It was then that I realized there was a fluke in the calling patterns between Southwestern Bell and Alltel.
Fairdealing was able to call Poplar Bluff as a local call and Doniphan was able to call Fairdealing locally. We installed a phone line at a home in Fairdealing and with call-forwarding, a local call from Doniphan to Fairdealing rang at our Poplar Bluff modems. People in Doniphan were able to connect through this “service exploit” with no per-minute long-distance charges.
It was soon after bringing on our first Doniphan customers that we re-branded our service to semo.net, Southeast Missouri’s Online Community in mid ’96.
And, yes, JerusalemPerspective.com had a home on the world wide web.
To Toni, Roger, Dad, Jerry, James, Derek, Eric and Matt…thank you for such wonderful help and support in that first year.
If I had to define one reason why Poplar Bluff Internet succeeded early on and continues to this day, it would be our employees. Though we’ve gone from a family of four to more than fifty and now back down to just over a dozen, it still rings true that this business is about service. I couldn’t be more proud of those around me who provide that service to our customers.
We still have many of those original 400 customers from fifteen years ago. On this day of “looking back and looking forward” I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support, your patience, your input and your patronage.
God bless you all.
After graduating from Mizzou with Computer and Electrical Engineering degrees in 1985, Brian Becker spent a decade singing Christian Rock and being a labeled artist with Benson Music Group of Nashville. In 1995, he and several investors started the area's first Internet Service called PBMO.net and by 2000 the company was serviing Internet access in over 50 communities throughout Southeast Missouri as SEMO.net. In July 2014, Becker again made a major pivot and became Publisher of the SEMO TIMES: a weekly print and daily online news and entertainment source for the region.
Oct 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31 Nov 1 Friday Hours will be 6pm to 11:30pm Sat hours will be 4pm - 6pm Kid Friendly (no [...]
Oct 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31
Friday Hours will be 6pm to 11:30pm
Sat hours will be 4pm – 6pm Kid Friendly (no monsters)
Sat Hours will be 6pm – 11:30pm
Sun hours will be 6pm – 10pm
Tickets will be:
$10 per person for adults (non-discounted)
$8 per person for adults (discounted)
$5 per child 10 and under (non-discounted)
Presented by Kiwanis Club – Poplar Bluff MO and Kiwanis network of school aged children enrolled in Key Club, Builders Club, K Club and other eager volunteers – ALL hoping to survive the nightmares of Kinyon School. Poplar Bluff is coming at you in full force with the science, the urban legends, the slight of hand and of course monsters of all shapes and sizes.
Come join us for a month of weekends filled with ever-changing Spookiliciousness. And we do mean ever changing. Come one week and have fun. Come the next week, get your mind blown by how different it is now. Come another time and you’ll start to doubt your own ability to remember what is real and what isn’t. This school doesn’t teach anything anymore. ITS LEARNING FROM YOUR FEAR AND ITS GETTING BETTER AND BETTER AT SHOWING YOU WHAT SCARES YOU MOST!
If you’re in school and want to participate – you must be a registered member of one of the Kiwanis groups this fall through the The Boys & Girls Club of Poplar Bluff called The Builders Club and K-Kids. High School students must be a member of Key Club. There will be lots of opportunities to be mentored as we build and design and promote this huge event opening the first weekend in October.
Watch for casting calls this summer for key players in the Haunted scenes. Lots of great ideas and warped “out of the box” thinking going on these days. We are all starting to feel a little mutant.
We’ll stay in touch. Even when you don’t know we’re there, heh heh – we’ll be there – silent but deadly!
October 4 (Saturday) 7:00 pm - November 1 (Saturday) 10:00 pm
Kinyon Kinyon School
910 Vine St, Poplar Bluff, Missouri 63901
Kiwanis Club - Poplar Bluff MO
The Grotto Presents:
The Haunted Grotto
October 24th thru 31st nightly open at 7pm.
Rain or Shine
3102 Kennedy Lane
Poplar Bluff, MO 63901
24 (Friday) 7:00 pm - 31 (Friday) 10:00 pm
3102 Kennedy Lane Poplar Bluff, MO 63901
Come join us for a ghostly fun time! Candy drop, haunted hayride, trunk or treat, haunted museum, haunted homestead, food, games, contests, vendors and more. Come help make this the [...]
(Friday) 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Doniphan Neighborhood Assistance Program