About Len

  • Len Devanna offers over 24 years of digital innovation experience at Fortune 500 brands. He helps companies with all aspects of their digital ecosystem, including online strategy, engagement marketing, and social brand management.


  • The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by my employer and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of anyone other than myself.

    Alltop, all the cool kids (and me) BlogWithIntegrity.com

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Ah those were the days. I was one of the first of my friends to buy a computer with a modem, and was laughed at (for probably many other reasons too). I used to be a TA for a computer science class in college called CS001. I actually had students in class who, in response to "just point and click," picked up the mouse like a TV remote control and pointed it at the screen. Part of that class was teaching basics of word processing and spreadsheets, but another part was teaching about browsing Mozilla and doing little scavenger hunts online. Light bulb went off for me when I could search for friends' email addresses at other schools.

I had an epiphany the next semester while doing a marketing internship at Sugarbush (ski resort in Vermont), and I pulled together the best proposal I have ever done on why Sugarbush should have a website and build a presence on AOL 2.0. Les Otten (former owner of the resort) rejected the proposal at the time as a waste of resources. I was a legend in my own mind.

I remember exactly when the novelty of the online world transitioned to the awe of possibility.

I always dabbled in online activity and thought it was fun and interesting. When AOL announced they were now enabling access to "The World Wide Web" with no extra charge, I signed right up. When USAir (that's what they were called then) allowed you to book tickets using your p.c, I immediately ordered the CD-ROM so that I could install the cumbersome apllication that worked with my 9600 modem. And of course, p.c. banking was available through Bank Boston with trip to the local branch where I filled out some forms and got hefy app for my 8lb laptop. It was called Homelink.

Then one day, i was driving down Rte 1 and saw a Billboard "Homelink - Now Available on the Internet" On the internet? You mean MY banking.. anywhere? from any machine? From my office OR my dad's house OR a cafe in London?


The power of the internet and online applications suddenly struck me, it was an immediate paradigm shift. I was sold, hooked and this became me new calling.

My interest has always been in the social opportunities provided by the Web. I come from a very humble background, the term poverty-stricken doesn't miss the mark by much actually. I got online because I started college in 95 as a single mom. I was young, and I was the only one I knew in college, staying in and taking care of my little family PLUS doing homework.

Getting online opened a whole new world for me, very literally. I could connect with people all over the world going through similar problems. I could do some research, email the person who created my reference materials, and discuss the concepts and ideas with them. It was very empowering.

I was able to start looking for a diagnosis for my daughter (it turned out to be Asperger's Syndrome) using message boards, one of the early forms of social networking sites. Before her diagnosis, I got ideas on how to make her experiences at school and home more bearable. That would not have happened if I had never been exposed to different ways of thinking and seeing the world.

Because I come from a different class than I am living in now, the issues of the digital divide and using the Internet to empower disenfranchised people have always been extremely important to me. What interests me is how the Internet (for now) opens up communications. It's hard to hide agendas and the truth from people who know how to evaluate sources. Knowledge is power, and the Internet has the ability to empower everyone to know the truth.

Ok - I'll expose my age here, but my first remote online experiences were in the early 70's using a Texas Instruments Silent 700 portable terminal to login to work from home and other places. It must have weighed 70 lbs. (see http://www.digibarn.com/collections/systems/ti-tymshare-100/index.html for pictures).

The next phase was accessing ARAPNET from Austalia via DG's X.25 Xodiac network. It connect me to a server in Westborough which was connected to ARPANET. I think that's when I started getting interesting programs from Simtel20. Everything was done with telnet and FTP in those days.

The next milestone (which Len will remember) was porting Gopher, Gopherd, WAIS and some other pre-web tools to my DG/UX workstation.

Then came the web, with the Lynx (text-only) hypertext browser and its httpd server.

Only after that did I port Mosaic to DG/UX and begin the fun and games with the real web. Does anyone remember the internet coke machine?

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