I started Eskimo North as a single line BBS in 1982. By 1985, it was taking as many as 300 calls on a single line. If I unplugged the modem at 4AM and plugged it back in it immediately took a call.
In 1985, I went multi-line. We decided to go with a Xenix platform, Xenix was a Microsoft port of Unix. It was basically the least expensive Unix platform I could get my hands on. Initially I set it up with four lines but that grew to eleven even though the machine was not designed to handle more than eight.
In 1991, I upgraded to a Sun 3/180 with 16 lines. In 1992, started offering Internet services.
In 1995 I incorporated and also left Qwest, the telephone company I had worked for the previous 17 years.
Eskimo North presently has about 1/6th the customers it had at it’s peak. In the last 1-1/2 years, I’ve totally reworked the infrastructure and eliminated the reliability issues, greatly enhanced some of the services such as e-mail and the shell server.
Mail is now reliable, fast, capable of handling multiple devices simultaneously, and very configurable allowing the end user a great deal of control over how they handle their e-mail and filter spam.
The shell server now has a graphical interface, several actually, allowing users far more access than the old text-only interface provided, though the old interface is and will remain available to those who prefer it or who must access over a low bandwidth connection.
This has greatly reduced the rate people leave, but it hasn’t greatly increased the rate that new customers come to us. And this is a problem, because while Eskimo is bringing in sufficient income to pay it’s expenses, it is not generating enough for me to sustain my family or retire some of the debts I have.
So if I can’t find a way to increase the user base, I’m going to have to take a job and make this a part time thing like it was in the beginning.
Part of the issue seems to be that I just can’t find a way to make it relevant to more people today. I’ve really put a great deal of effort into making this a secure reliable platform, but it seems few people even care if they’re being spied upon these days.
So folks, instead of my having to guess, I would very much appreciate it if you would tell me what is important to you today. What do you need to make this service useful and relevant to you? What would you need to make it something you would want to tell your friends about?