July 16, 2012

Cleveland Free-Net

Twenty-six year ago today, Cleveland Free-Net was officially started. Originating at CWRU, Free-Net was the nation's first free, open-access community computer system. Designed by former faculty member Thomas Grundner, Free-Net grew out of the Department of Family Medicine’s St. Silicon’s Hospital and Information Dispensary which had emanated from the department’s computerized message network.

The system allowed anyone with a computer or terminal with a modem to call in and have access to a wide variety of electronic services and features. These services and features included: a post office where free electronic mail was available for anyone in northeast Ohio who registered in the system; a school system where Cleveland area schools could communicate via computer and where common databases could be accessed by teachers, parents, students, and administrators; a hospital, St. Silicon’s Hospital and Information Dispensary, where a wide variety of medical information and services were available including the opportunity to ask medically-related questions; a public square where people could make speeches from an electronic podium, be part of an online computer user group, join interest groups, and other services.

Originally Free-Net ran on an AT&T 3B2/400 computer with 4 megabytes of RAM and 72 MB of hard disk storage. The CPU was a WE 32100 chip with a 10 megahertz clock operating under AT&T’s Unix System V operating system. Software was written in “C.” AT&T donated $50,000 worth of computer equipment and software.

Ohio Governor Richard F. Celeste and Cleveland Mayor George V. Voinovich gave the system its official start at the opening of a summer festival in downtown Cleveland.

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The advent of the World Wide Web and other technologies eventually rendered Free-Net obsolete. Chat and News services for community users ended 9/1/1999 and Cleveland Free-Net was discontinued 9/30/1999.

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January 05, 2011

Youth and The Searcher

Did you ever wonder about some of the figures that appear on campus buildings? Do these figures mean anything? Two such figures appear on the Smith Building and Tomlinson Hall.

When entering the Albert W. Smith Chemical Engineering Building, above the original 1939 entrance is a figure of youth. There is a brazier at his feet evolving into a flame supporting an evaporating dish. In his left hand is a test tube and in his right, a stirring rod. This building was originally built for the Chemistry and Chemical Engineering department at Case School of Applied Science.

Another even more asked about figure is the one above the main entrance to Tomlinson Hall. Some have called this figure a Viking, and campus myth has that it was there to counter the gargoyle on the tower of Amasa Stone Chapel. This figure is actually called “The Searcher.” The architect, Frank Rhinehart of Walker & Weeks Architects, stated, “In modelling this figure, we have endeavored to tell a story of ‘The Searcher’ ever searching for new things in the world and in science that make for a better world in which all society may live and prosper.”

University Historian Richard Baznik included both figures in his Campus Markings contests. The youth figure appeared in the first contest and The Searcher appeared in the second contest.

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