A Little Reminiscing

By | February 29, 2024
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A Little Reminiscing

Just over 26 years ago (wow can you believe it?) Darcy and I began our journey as we dipped our toes into the nascent waters of a brand new thing called the Internet. The waters were pretty shallow then. There was not a lot going on yet. No big gazillion-dollar ships were sailing on it – just a bunch of people like Darcy and me in our little rowboat – well…more like a dinghy

I was nearly 50 then and Darcy was creeping up on 40. When we’d talk about “The Internet” with our friends they’d all look at us as if we were two steps from the Looney Bin. I can remember those days so clearly. One of my best friends called me “Captain Internet” and didn’t mean it favorably.

Neither of us could wait to get home from work, explore the Internet, and pursue a nebulous dream – unfocused but as real as any dream could ever be. I would get home from work in the afternoon and browse the internet until the wee hours of the morning even though I had to get up for work at 4:30 AM. I was living on two or three hours of sleep… and loving it.

My youngest son was in high school and in a rock band that played a few small local gigs. People were just discovering websites like Yahoo, Amazon (the online bookstore), and sites like DaveCentral and Tucows where you could download programs for your computer. Everything was free. Google wasn’t even born yet. Amazon was a bookstore with a dream.

Without the slightest idea of how to create a website, I told my son that I, Captain Internet, would build a website for his band. That was easier said than done. Darcy and I met in a chatroom that I stumbled upon. I used to go there to argue with her. She was one of the founders of that chatroom called Michigan^Tavern (she’ll laugh at that – inside joke) and to me, she was the website guru – because she had a website and I wanted to make one.

My attempts at creating a website failed. I was a wannabe web know-it-all who knew very little. Darcy was the website-building guru. And even though I antagonized her and never admitted I was wrong and that I knew nothing about building websites, she, for whatever reason befriended me and offered to build a website for my son’s band. And she did it. She had (and still has) the patience of a saint. She showed me how to use tables to organize web pages. Until then, a table was something I sat down at to eat lunch or dinner. She never took credit for creating that site, my son thought I was the guru!

We became friends and the rest is, as the cliche goes, is history.

Back then, everything was free -there was no trialware or software you had to pay for. Well, except for Norton AntiVirus and later McAfee AntiVirus that you could buy at a Walmart on CD. I used to download every free program I could – need it or not. And once in a while, I’d discover something really useful – like RoboForm – the only password manager available back then.  It took me two full years to convince Darcy to use a password manager and now she’s a big advocate of password managers, as am I

Netscape Navigator was the Google Chrome of the day.  Internet Explorer was horrible until Microsoft finally fixed it. After that Netscape faded away and Internet Explorer was used by 98% of people. Yahoo was the big search engine of the day but it was not very good – rarely could you find what you were looking for. I can remember telling Darcy about DogPile and AltaVista (off-the-beaten-track search engines of that era). I was the king of web searches… that’s what Darcy called me – and I was so proud. I went from a know-it-all know-nothing to a web search king in less than a year!

We bought a web domain (Thundercloud.net) and in 1998 built our first website “Thundercloud & Eightball’s Christmas Graphics, which you can still see here. Why Thundercloud? Well, when I was in my teens and early twenties I played in a rock band and dressed up like a Native American and called myself “Chief Thundercloud” for a stage act we did at that time as part of the B.W. Krook Experience…and I will not dig deeper into that!

Why “Cloudeight”? Well, Darcy’s nickname was “Eightball” because she loves to play pool. I think she was a pool shark at one time – which she now wisely denies. And when you take the Thunder out of Thundercloud, and the pool “ball” out of Eightball and put them together you get Cloudeight, which we thought was only a small step away from Cloud Nine.

And then came the fateful day when Darcy sent me an email with music and a scrolling background. We started Cloudeight Stationery and our stationery site became #1 and we were listed in the top 100 websites at the time. That was a big deal back in those days. But nothing is so sure as change.

Most of you reading this are reading this because at one time you subscribed to our Cloudeight Stationery newsletter… and we so appreciate that you’ve been on the ride along with us – over all the hills and down in all the valleys.

When Windows 7 did away with Outlook Express/Windows Mail, it drove a dagger deep into the heart of our stationery and our stationery site. To survive we had to use our skills differently – helping people. And helping people is what we’ve done (or tried to do) since the decline of our stationery site. Darcy came up with the idea for Cloudeight Direct Computer Care. We can help people all over the world with our service.

And over a year ago we started providing free extensive computer help via email. We’ve helped hundreds of people by creating personalized answers to their computer problems and computer questions – complete with personalized pictorial tutorials when necessary.  We can offer this kind of free computer support because of your generous donations.

You probably already know that many of these answers and tutorials end up in our newsletters and/or our Cloudeight InfoAve website.

The internet has changed in ways we never imagined back in 1998. The only way to access the internet then was using a computer.  Now more people access the web using smartphones and tablets than using computers. Android is the world’s most popular operating system. When we started over 90% of those who accessed the internet used Windows computers. A quarter of a century later the landscape looks like this: 49% use Android, 25% use Windows, 18% use iOS, and the rest use Linux and other operating systems. Of course, many who use Android or Apple devices also use Windows too.

While many Windows help sites have turned their focus to Android and iOS, we continue to stay focused on Windows. It’s what we know. And do you know that over a billion people still use Windows?  Yes. We do keep up with the times. I have an Android smartphone and an Android tablet. Darcy has an iPhone and an iPad. But we both use Windows much of the time and still maintain our love/hate relationship with Microsoft 🙂

Finally, we want you to know that we consider all of you our friends. All of you who’ve been on this quarter-century ride with us thanks so much. Your friendship, your support, and the financial gifts you give us are the only reasons why we’re still here for you. We love helping you and we will continue helping you as long as we can.

Thank you all so very much for all you do for us and for coming along with us on our continuing journey.

I just felt like doing a little reminiscing today…

10 thoughts on “A Little Reminiscing

  1. Chr is

    Great essay. I have been with you almost from the beginning and have learned so much from you. Thanks for everything.
    Kind regards Chris (UK)

  2. Lainey

    Great essay! I really appreciate you both and all the help and hints over the years. One thing I really miss, though – Calendar Pal. Best calendar program I’ve ever used!

  3. Rona Crosbie

    Dear Darcy & TC
    From a grateful friend who lives at the bottom of the country at the bottom of the world – THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for being there for us in the increasingly complex and scary world!!!
    Without you, I would not have the knowledge I now possess to enjoy working on my computer and being able to occasionally help a friend or two.
    Warm Regards

  4. Geejay

    I have really enjoyed my journey with you through most of those years. Most of my computer knowledge has come from your friendly help and tuition. As you say i had no idea 25years ago what a remarkable, wonderful and some times scary place the internet would be.
    Thank you so much for all those years you have given to us.
    I hope we can share many more.

  5. William L Dinkins

    Thank you for allowing me to go along with you on this ride through the past 25 years. I’ve enjoyed your newsletters and other informative articles. Let’s go for another 25.

  6. Dotty Peacock

    I think I’ve been with you for at least 25 years. I was a couple of years away from turning 50. My kid got me a new computer for Christmas. I was still using an old Commador and floppy disk. (lol) They showed me the basics and more or less left me on my own. I came across your website from a friend who sent me a Christmas card, a picture of a beautiful angel, and a heartfelt Christmas message, using your Thundercloud & Eightball’s Christmas Graphics. I can honestly say that you, Darcy, and TC have taught me so much and saved me a lot of money. I remember the Norton and McAfee on CD. I used RoboForm too. I remember Netscape and Internet Explorer. I loved Cloudeight Stationery and have also used The Christmas Graphics. I also remember you giving me heck about using ‘IncrediMail’. I love your websites and everything that you have to offer. I would be lost without you both. Thank you both for everything you do. I would highly recommend to everyone who reads your Essays and takes the time to write their thoughts to jump on over and make a donation. That is what I am going to do. God bless and thank you.

  7. Sharon Langdon

    I am so glad I came across your wonderful scrolling stationery about 24 years ago. You have grown with the times and my knowledge has grown because of you both. I would love to know much more and be as knowledgable as you but that no doubt will not happen. I feel much safer being on the web because of your constant safety reminders. I too, remember incredimail and even tried it for a short time but got rid of it and then suggested to several friends that it was not a safe thing to use. You two are the ones who deserve all of our thank yous. I look forward to being friends for a long time.

  8. Donald Bohnsack

    I am glad that I finally found this post. Being a long time fan was so glad to learn about the founding of thundercloud where I was able to get a lot of information about the beginning of thundercloud and all the great information I got from you. Thank you very much and I don’t think I would have made it without thundercloud.
    Happy Anniversary! and many more.


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