So what happened next? I had been working on a business plan for an Internet café. Was that @Café? My understanding is that @Café was one of the first Internet cafés ever—or at least in New York. Well, I would call it a tie with Cyberia in London but @Café was the first place that opened as a dedicated Internet café. We opened in 1994 with 24 systems, and we charged $5 per half-hour to surf. What systems were you running? At first, they were all Apples, but then Bill Gates came into @Café and did an interview with Kurt Loder and MTV in front of a Mac. A week after, it was an even split between Apples and Windows machines. Through all this, the media attention was amazing, but the business side was no fun: it was seven days a week, 20 hours a day. It was basically a restaurant mixed with a computer network back in the early days! It was a nightmare—just ketchup in the keyboards. Did you have a server at the café? Oh yes, we wanted to do everything, and that was part of the problem. We were an I.S.P., we had modem banks, we had user accounts, dial-up accounts all running on equipment packed between the dishwashers and the bathrooms. But it was my boot camp for technology. To give you a sense of the time, the Internet was so much in its infancy that we asked for a trademark on the “@” symbol and actually got it. 95
The Art World and the World Wide Web. Essays, Interviews and Case Studies.