It was a simple search that led me to begin an automotive air conditioning site. It was 1995 and I was looking for suppliers of ultraviolet dye. Local supply house prices were astronomical, so, a quest for a more economical solution led me to the Internet. After hours of wading through search engines—with that slow dial-up connection—I turned up little more than what I started with. In fact, I found only two sites that even discussed automotive air conditioning. This was the excuse I needed to start Aircondition.Com.
I was sure I could offer more information than what was available on-line. I was working as an automotive air conditioning installer, and my simple hope was to attract about thirty-five other installers and harness the power of networking to share tips and tricks of our trade. I envisioned a site where installers across the country would meet to swap electrical diagrams and discuss aftermarket air conditioning installation for the good of all.
That was the plan, but it didn’t work out that way. The trend that emerged was not what I expected. Early on, around spring of 1996, I began receiving e-mail messages from do-it-yourselfers requesting advice for a variety of automotive air conditioning problems. At first, I thought this was great. What started as dozens of e-mails became hundreds. After weeks of staying up late to keep up with all the pleas for help, I decided it was time to put up an Electronic Bulletin Board. Suddenly, my original goal to attract thirty-five installers across the United States was placed on hold. It would go no further until I could find a way to match the questions coming from people around the world to the people who had the answers (and were willing to share them).
That was the birth of the Automotive Air Conditioning Bulletin Board as I know it. Sure, there were Newsgroups in place that were already well established to handle this type of messaging. But, Usenet was not considered part of the easy-to-navigate World Wide Web. I felt it was somewhat obscure to the average Net newcomer.
Contrary to Newsgroups, the simple style of the early bulletin boards made it very easy to engage in broad discussion without the need for anything other than a standard web browser. Aircondition.Com capitalized on this concept for many years. I realized the popularity on July 17, 1997, when I was reading the print version the Wall Street Journal for news, and found my site, Aircondition.Com, written up as a “destination feature.”
That moment came to me as a big surprise, and from that point I began looking for Aircondition.Com mentions in other print media. I was very pleased to see it appear favorably in many other magazines, and by summer of 1998, the unique visitor count exceeded well over twelve thousand people per day. That was a bit more than the thirty-five people I was hoping for.
After the board suffered a massive spam attack while I was enjoying an extended stay in a regional burn unit, I finally decided to retire that part of Aircondition.Com and pass the torch to Warren Willingham. My focus today is simply the preservation and maintenance of the knowledge base, which features many of the common questions we received about automotive air conditioning repair over the years.