Evergreen Magazine

Techie Entrepreneurs

by Carolyn Shea, photos: Carlos Javier Sanchez '97

techie entrepreneurs typographic

In the early 1970s, when Evergreen was new, the idea that an individual could own a computer, let alone one that fit into the palm of a hand, was as implausible as the idea of a portable gadget that could be used to make a phone call or an appliance that could cook food with radio waves.

At that time—long before the dawn of public Internet access—the college had just two refrigerator-sized central processors. Located on the third floor of the library, they were wired to several terminals scattered around the campus, which were shared by students, faculty and staff alike. In a 1971 document about the objectives of computer services at the school, a discussion about where to place this hardware warned: “A rain soaked trudge, with no guarantee that the unit is free, hardly generates high morale or favorable attitudes towards computers.”

Today, the college has hundreds of networked workstations. Virtually every square foot of the campus is covered by open wireless access—an absolute necessity in the age of “nomadic computing,” when students arrive with PDAs, MP3s, laptops, digital cameras, and multifunctional cell phones.
 

In the face of the rapid technological change that has taken place over the past few decades, Evergreen alumni have skillfully harnessed the latest digital tools and used them as a springboard to realize their entrepreneurial dreams. Some, like Lynda Weinman ’76—who has taught tens of thousands of people how to use different software programs—never touched a keyboard while they were in school. Others, like Young Harvill ’76, helped to shape the tools now at our disposal. Still others, like Chris Baggott ’83, are applying those tools to shift the prevailing paradigms.

As the technology progresses, Greeners—who have been steeped in an integrated learning environment that fosters flexibility, openness, personal responsibility and collaboration—will no doubt be among the best prepared to manage the future.