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Jeff Gerhardt describes himself as an inventor and entrepreneur. He worked on the development of a CAD system and on one of the first PC-based point-of-purchase systems. He also worked on the Tandy Color Computer, and on the development of the award-winning “KidCam™” Internet Video Security System.
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Education & Early Career
From the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s Gerhardt was employed in graphic arts, but continued working on software. He focused on developing programs for Tandy computers, and spent several years as part of the loose-knit software development community that grew up around the Tandy products. Eventually Gerhardt progressed to being one of a group of people working for Tandy, custom-tweaking software for business users in the midwest region.
Gerhardt concentrated on Tandy's Radio Shack Color Computer, better known to its fans as the COCO. Originally designed as a cartridge-game system which was also a 64K home computer, the COCO was a great success, having sold over six million units in its first few years on the market. As consumer demand grew for peripherals, the COCO became used more and more as a computer and less as a games-playing machine. Gerhardt created a great deal of software for the Color Computer.
In early 1983 Gerhardt opened his own software development company, primarily to develop COCO applications. Gerhardt was acquainted with the Motorola 68 family of processors (the COCO used the 6809E), and saw an opportunity to develop software that could be developed on the COCO and ported for use on other 68xxx CPUs. In time, he focused this effort on developing code for a CAD/CAM system.
Within a few months, Gerhardt joined a group of developers with similar interests, focusing on the development of portable code for CAD applications. This group, and the companies with whom they were affiliated, released a series of successful technologies that were well known in the CAD industry. However, in late 1985 with the release of the IBM PC-based “Auto CAD”, Gerhardt's group began to lose market share. The group dispersed, and the code base was sold to Computervision.
BBSs & ISPs
One of Gerhardt's jobs at Tandy had been to act as an assistant Sysop at the Tandy COCO SIG (special interest group) at Compuserve. He never lost interest in this on-line business, and even though he left Tandy, Gerhardt stayed active in the SIGs that serviced the users of Tandy computers. After the demise of the CAD code base, Gerhardt redirected his company toward the BBS and telecommunications market. BBSs were scaled-down versions of an on-line service that typically serviced a very narrow niche, and were the predecessors of the ISP community. In fact it was the BBS magazine Boardwatch which motivated people like Gerhardt in later years to set up ISPs. Gerhardt concurrently operated three different successful BBSs from his home office in Bloomingdale, IL.
Gerhardt was active in the early stages of the commercial Internet era. He was involved with the creation or management of three different ISPs, and was on the board of the legendary ISP WWA — WorldWide Access (now Verio), one of the first ISPs in the U.S. While at WWA, Gerhardt was the Director of Business Development, and spearheaded such innovations as 5ESS-VDS (Virtual Dial System), DSL deployment in 1996, and KidCam. He was also executive V.P. in an ill-fated DSL ISP/CLEC: Pinnacle Communications. Although a failed enterprise, this launched the political phase of Gerhardt's life.
Gerhardt is still a regular speaker at Internet-related conferences, and is involved in the development of a new Internet service for small colleges and junior colleges.
In the early and mid-1990's Gerhardt was a regular guest on the Al and/or Ed Show (featuring Alan Lerner and Ed Curran) on WLS radio – “The Big 89” – in Chicago. He took part in a weekly technology segment, talking about anything from gadgets to technology trends. Later he worked with Ed Curran on the production side of a show, and on a web site called “technogadgets” which was syndicated as a bimonthly segment on ABC radio and TV affiliates. Gerhardt was also a frequent guest on “Ken Rutkowski's Week Ender TechTalk Show”, also broadcast on WLS. He continued as a technical-information resource on such issues as UNIX/Linux®, Y2K, Internet Telephony and Video, and Broadband applications, and followed Rutkowski when he moved his show from broadcast to webcast.
In late 1997, when Gerhardt was not legally permitted to be involved in the ISP business (after one of the ISPs he was involved with was sold), Kevin Hill and Gerhardt decided to take the Linux segments they had been doing for Rutkowski's show, and created a stand-alone entity. The Linux Show was soon in testing as a daughter program of Rutkowski's TTalk webcast. By mid-1998 the show appeared regularly on Tuesday nights, and has never looked back. In 1999 Gerhardt and Hill moved their show away from the TTalk network to allow them autonomy (prompted by TTalk's sponsorship affiliation with Microsoft).
The Linux Show
Gerhardt was first exposed to Linux on Intel in 1995 as an alternative to Sun Solaris for web hosting technology for the ISP business. As a user and proponent of Linux ever since, Gerhardt has fallen into the rôle of advocate for the world-wide Linux community. In particular, The Linux Show (or TLS as it's known) attracts large audiences to a web-cast that is essentially targetted at hard-core users and employees of Linux companies. TLS is today the longest running and most successful web-cast in the Linux and Open Source world.
Gerhardt presently teaches for the Youth Computer Technology Program in Chicago, teaching inner-city youth about computer technlogy. In his spare time he teaches college-level technology classes at Northwestern Business College.