I’ll never forget the first time I saw the World Wide Web. It was in late 1992, when a fellow grad student at the University of Utah, Andrew Hwang, called me to his computer exclaiming "You won’t believe this." He clicked on a text link in a rudimentary browser and up came a video of a plane flying through a mountain valley. This new technology was absolutely astounding to us, and it started turning the wheels that ultimately became Ergoweb.
The University of Utah was one of the very earliest nodes on the Internet (#2, as I recall), so by then we had been using earlier protocols for information and file sharing for quite some time, including email, FTP (File Transfer Protocol) — which is still used extensively today — and now less familiar protocols like Gopher and Usenet. WWW and URL (Uniform Resource Locator) were new terms back then, and it was exciting to be on the cutting edge of something that could, and ultimately would, change the world.
We began developing web pages and applications in earnest in 1993, creating simple pages with basic linking and formatting — about all we could do at the time. Mosaic, the browser of the day, emanated from a research project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a link to the email address for the grad student behind its development, Marc Andreesson, was built into the browser so we could communicate bugs and ideas for further improvements. (Marc was later recruited by the father of one of our fellow students at the University of Utah to form the company Netscape, one of the first successes, and failures, of the Internet/Web explosion). I couldn’t foresee where we would end up so many years later, but I knew this technology could change the world — and the world of ergonomics — and have worked to expand the ergonomics knowledge base, and access to it, ever since.
Sadly, after multiple moves and our ever growing desire to become "paperless," we no longer have many records from those early days, but I did find this black-and-white printout of the Ergoweb home page from 1994. We commercialized our work and moved off campus in 1995, and the rest is history. We’ve come a long way! (You can also find some snapshots of our earlier site designs, from 1997 until now, at the Wayback Machine internet archiving project)
We’ve made many pioneering contributions to the web and the field of ergonomics since those early days, including:
- Our flagship product, the Job Evaluator Toolbox™ (JET™), first released in 1995, was one of the very first software products sold on a subscription basis (now a very common practice, generally referred to as software as a service, or saas), and it’s still going strong;
- Our second product, Computer Based ergonomics Training (CBeT), first released in 1996, was one of the earliest Internet/Web based training systems, and it too is still going strong;
- We offered online advertising as early as 1996-97 through customized banners and a "marketplace" where companies could list their products and services. (This was well before Google taught us all how important advertising would become as a revenue model). It later evolved into the Buyer’s Guide, which still later evolved into the
Ergobuyer® Store, which we spun off in 2008.
- We started an ergonomics-specific email discussion list in 1994, then called ergoweb-l ("l" meaning listserv, as the technology was then called), which has continued with only minor interruptions ever since — now known as the Ergoweb Forums.
Anchored by those Forums, we fostered a strong ergonomics community
with the introduction of our Ergonomics Today™ and The Ergonomics Report™ publications in 2001.
Over the years we’ve funded much of our pioneering efforts and contributions to the ergonomics community through "sweat equity," direct personal investment, and revenues generated from our training and consulting services. It’s been a great ride, and we wouldn’t change a thing.
Every once in a while, though, our entrepreneurial spirit gets restless and we lift our heads to look around, remembering where we’ve been, the lessons learned, and wonder what direction we might take next. Now is one of those times, and I’ve shared this history not only as a trip down memory lane (some of you have been avid participants and Ergoweb supporters from the very start — thank you), but also as some background you might consider as you help us chart our course for the future. Whatever we do, we want you to be a part of it; we want you to help us understand the needs of the profession and market; we want you to benefit from the value we create.
So, we’d like you to think about the things you like (or don’t like) about Ergoweb and the world of ergonomics and help us determine where we can improve, and how we might serve you in new ways. We will soon begin polling you, our customers and community members, so that you can pull us in the directions that create the most value for you. In the mean time, feel free to share your thoughts and ideas publicly in the comment area below, or privately by email. We very much look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks for your support and your input. We look forward to your input, and to serving you well into the future.