Red Shift’s History

This is the history of Red Shift and how its three original principals played their parts from the first Internet related service offered in 1990 to the present day.

Timeline:

  • 1995 – Red Shift is formed by Karl Van Lear, John Clarke III, Tony Cricelli
  • 1996 – Red Shift expands service from Monterey County to Santa Clara County
  • 1997 – Red shift offers T1 and ISDN business service
  • 1998 – Red Shift acquires Internet Monterey Bay
  • 1999 – Red Shift purchases headquarters in Monterey & offers DSL
  • 2000 – Red Shift partners with New Edge Networks to offer DSL
  • 2001 – Red Shift offers its own Wireless Internet to underserved areas
  • 2002 – Red Shift offers DSL in Yuma, AZ for local agriculture businesses
  • 2006 – Red Shift partners with Sonic to provide DSL to all of California
  • 2007 – Red Shift purchases montereybay.com; partners with Hughes.net
  • 2009 – Red Shift purchases tower zoned property above Hwy 68
  • 2010 – Red Shift’s sole owner & CEO is now Tony Cricelli
  • 2011 – Red Shift brings in new Vice President of Operations
  • 2012 – Red Shift installs a Gigabit of Fiber at headquarters

Summary of Red Shift’s History

In 1990 Karl Van Lear started Nitelog Bulletin Board System which grew to be one of the largest BBS’ in the country.  By 1994 it was clear the BBS industry was in decline and the Internet was on the rise.  In 1995   Karl Van Lear, John Clarke III and Tony Cricelli formed a new Corporation called Red Shift Inc. and officially started an ISP in Monterey County.   At the time, there were many other local ISPs in Monterey County.

  • Internet Monterey Bay
  • Mbay Net
  • Monterey Bay Internet
  • Scruz Net
  • Carmel Net
  • Netpipe
  • Ultima Net
  • Monterey Network Center

During this period big national companies were also starting to offer service in Monterey County. Companies such as:

  • Prodigy
  • AOL
  • Netcom
  • PacBell Internet

Red Shift invested in itself by reinvesting all profits back into the company to purchase equipment and market the brand Red Shift.  Over the years, Red Shift purchased Internet Monterey Bay from Tom Biggs, a well-known and respected web design entrepreneur.   Carmel Net had financial difficulties and Red Shift acquired many of its customers.

May 1, 1999, after a four-month review, UCSC Computer Services selected Red Shift Internet Services as their official dial-up provider for students, faculty and alumni.

July 1999 Red Shift purchases it’s own building and has operated from their ever since.

In April of 2007 Red Shift purchased MontereyBay.com from Ralph Widmar.

During the summer of 2008, Red Shift started offering IT services to a few select customers.  Mostly being Law, Medical and  Agriculture Offices.

In January 2010 Tony purchases a hill top property to be used to provide Wireless broadband to un-served and underserved areas of Monterey County.

In October 2011 Tony becomes sole owner of Red Shift.

In August 2012, Red Shift signed a five-year contract with a fiber provider to provide layer 2 from Monterey, CA to Freemont, CA.

In September 2012, Red Shift signed a five-year contract with Hurricane Electric for an additional 1000 Megabit/s

Nitelog Inc. History

In October of 1990, Karl Van Lear, sysop of a Bulletin Board System (BBS) named Nitelog, instituted the first known Internet Email and Usenet news service on the Monterey Peninsula as a service of Nitelog BBS. Back in those days there were about forty ISPs in the entire world: BBN, Alternet, Netcom, Whole Earth in SF, PSI and UU.net were among some of the earliest pioneers.

Karl purchased a UUCP (Unix to Unix Copy Program) account from Netcom and put his mind to setting up Internet email between Netcom and Nitelog. During the process Karl actually got support help from Bob Rieger on one occasion (the original owner of Netcom). Setting up the service proved to be difficult but after about three weeks of frustration and long distance calls to the support staff of Netcom (only one guy at that time) he got it working. The service was clunky by comparison with the quality of email these days, but it worked. It wasn’t real-time either. Nitelog would dial Netcom about eight times per day to send mail it had queued and pick up mail waiting for Nitelog customers.

In 1992 Karl met with John Clarke whom he knew from previous computer work and the two conversed back and forth regularly about the Internet. Like Karl, John had an account with Netcom in their early days. John remembers when Netcom only had a single machine and he had an account on it. Karl and John spoke often about offering expanded Internet access in the Monterey area.

During the latter half of 1992 Karl asked Netcom about a permanent connection so that he could get/receive email and Usenet in real-time. Netcom refused to sell Karl a dedicated line because he was a competitor, albeit small at the time and servicing a market that Netcom said they would never bring access into. They called us “A small island in the south beyond a nearly impenetrable barrier”. This barrier they were referring to is the Pacific Bell LATA boundary just south of Watsonville. This LATA boundary makes it impossible to get a T1 or DS3 circuit from San Jose to Monterey without Herculean efforts involving Pacific Bell on one or both ends, a long distance reseller and the actual owner of the long distance portion of the circuit in between. Netcom did eventually expand to Monterey in the early fall of 1994.

Karl asked John about other options for a leased line that John knew about via his own independent research. Karl found that everyone wanted a sum close to the Gross National Product of Sweden for a T1 circuit. Most providers flat out refused to sell Karl a dedicated line, using the same argument as Netcom. At that time the Internet was still owned by the government and there were many restrictions on commercial providers. The obstacles proved too great for Karl to overcome in 1992 and by November of 1992 he had exhausted all known options. Lack of an interested backbone provider, lack of local market interest and lack of a government sponsor* proved to be barriers of insurmountable height that year. The time just wasn’t right yet. *In 1992 you could not get access to the Internet without a government organization sponsoring your company and you had to agree to a litany of limitations.

John Clarke was interested in the same thing at the same time and found the same barriers and was also thwarted in his desire to become involved in the retail sale of Internet access in some fashion in Monterey that year. John pursued such access from many avenues; working with Nitelog was just one of the companies he had contacted about getting dedicated access to the Monterey area. During late 1993 or early 1994, John spoke with a provider called TLG (The Little Garden) regarding a promising option. They offered to setup a leased line for him for what at the time was a pretty reasonable fee. John was unable to do it on his own and for whatever reason that fate had in mind, John did not mention the offer to Karl at the time.

Red Shift History

In 1991, Tony Cricelli wanted a way to communicate electronically with his friends in Monterey County.  Tony started looking for a way to setup an Internet Service for the local community. Tony worked at the Naval Post Graduate School at the time.  During a meeting he mentioned his plans and a co-worker Stephan Hudson thought it was a good idea and the research phase of the project started as a joint effort.   Throughout the year it became clear that it would be difficult to setup an internet company without a lot of upfront money.   One of the projects Tony worked on was building a useful server using some new OS called Linux.    Tony contacted Linus Torvalds (developer of the linux kernel) and was given permission to download the software from poorsas.helsinki.fi.  Tony earnestly started working on this new OS that could do everything needed by an Internet provider.  Unfortunately, at the time, when it crashed, it wiped out the hard disk and all 20 plus floppy disks had to be reloaded.   It was a fantastic learning experience.   While trying to make X-Windows work so a GUI interface could be used, Tony discovered that his video card was not supported.   While shopping for a specific video card that was supported by Linux version .89, Tony found himself in a Monterey store called Computer Works.  While explaining to the gentleman at the counter why he needed a special video card, a tall red headed man came out of the back room and introduced himself as John Clarke III.  He overheard the word Linux and wanted to chat.  After a few minutes, John and Tony become friends.

Throughout the next few months Tony and John stayed in touch and John showed an Interest in learning about networking and Linux in general.  John volunteered to become an intern at the Naval Postgraduate School.  John already new how to repair computers and printers, but had no experience in a networked environment.   In 1993 John spent about 12 months interning with Tony on his days off from Computer Works.  John introduced Tony to a man named George Sidman who claimed he wanted to start an Internet Service provider in Monterey.  Tony and George started to attend meetings at George’s house.  Tony spent many months explaining everything he had learned and putting on Dog-and-Pony show for George and his investors.    John figured out that George was just wasting our time and left the project that had not made any progress after four months of meetings.  Several months later Tony figured out the same thing and left the project. Tony was promised funding and partnership in a new Internet company, in exchange for all the information/expertise but the funding never seemed to come.  George eventually founded Monterey Network Center in 1998.

During another meeting at the Naval Postgraduate School, Stephan asked Tony if he was still interested in starting an Internet company.   A few weeks after that, Tony was introduced to Stephan’s cousin, Matt Hudson.  Matt had recently come into an inheritance, due to a death in the family, and wanted to use the money to start an Internet company.  Meetings then started in earnest.  During the fall of 1994, Tony and Stephan met regularly at Matt’s house to discuss the formation of an Internet company.  John was invited also, but after the first few meetings he decided he did not like the group.

Things proceeded quickly, Matt, Stephan and Tony  worked out a plan to on how to launch the company,  Tony and Stephan were going to do all the technical support and Matt was going to do the billing and accounting and answer the phone during the day while Tony and Stephan continued to work at the Naval Postgraduate School.  Since Matt was funding the project, Tony and Stephan would not take any profit from the company until Matt was paid back in full of his initial investment.  Things seemed to proceed quite nicely, a name was chosen, Mbay.net, and even an ad in the Yellow Pages was paid for.  At a final meeting where a lawyer was going to be present to draw up the papers Matt’s spouse announced that she was a full partner also. After a few minutes of discussions, it was clear that she meant she wanted to be a 25% owner, and not one half of, what we thought Matt’s one third ownership.

Heated discussion perused, as it became clear that all along Tony and Stephan were under the impression that they would be 33% owners, but in the course of a few minutes, they went to 25% owners.  Tony decided to follow John Clarke’s lead and announce he was out and did not want anything to do with Mbay.net.   Tony abruptly left and that was the end of the second attempt to start an Internet company.  Tony left town and returned to visit his parents in Philadelphia, PA over the Christmas break.  Matt made several phone calls to Tony and in those phone calls, Tony decided to release the domain name mbay.net to Matt’s new company in exchange for a life time email account.

In 1993, independently of John & Tony, Karl came up with the idea of offering dialup real time Internet service in the Monterey area as well and pursued many plans of his own to bring his ambitions to market. He had contemplated starting up an ISP on his own in his garage in Monterey. Again, the obstacles in place at that time proved a formidable barrier to his efforts. Karl knew early on that the Internet would eventually take the place of BBSes and decided that it was now or never to get a leased line. Even though he was unsuccessful in his efforts of a few months ago, he again began laying out plans for a leased line to the Internet. John lent Karl documents to help in finding a source for a leased line. None of the leads led to success. It was a full 18 months later in the summer of 1994 that Karl found two providers willing to sell him a T1 dedicated line in Monterey.

While visiting a Usenet Newsgroup called “alt.internet.access.wanted” in July of 1994, Karl wrote down the phone numbers of every provider he found that offered leased line access. He called them all. Only Scruz.net out of Santa Cruz, and California Online (later renamed West Coast Online) out of the San Joaquin Valley could or would sell the line to Karl. During August and September Karl approached other BBSes and individuals in the Monterey area to gain their interest in sharing the access and expenses of setting up an ISP in the Monterey market. What Karl wanted to do was a very risky venture at the time. The market in Monterey was untested. Any money spent on the new company could very well disappear quickly and forever. This proved too much risk for others in the online services industry in this area and no partners could be found.

Karl signed the contract with Scruz.net in September of 1994 and funded the new venture on his own. He started to build an ISP. He had no idea if anyone would ever use it. Netcom had just put in their access at about this time (Sept ’94, maybe a little earlier) but no one knew how many people were using their service here in Monterey. Karl was only able to identify about six people for sure he knew of who were using the new Netcom POP in early October of 1994. Most people involved in online services as owners or customers expressed doubts about their interests in the Internet. At that time the Internet was just another service among many, just another pebble on the beach. No one could predict if it would truly go anywhere at that time.

During the month that followed Karl needed to come up with a name. He ran a contest on Nitelog, stating a nice prize would be given to the customer who came up with the name he chose. A large number of names were offered and Karl didn’t choose any of them although he was fond of one person’s suggestion (harborlights.com). Names such as monterey.com, mbay.com, montereybay.com, moby.com were some others that Karl remembers considering. He rejected them because he didn’t want to be tied to a geographically based name. Even then he had ambitions of spreading the company out over a larger area than Monterey alone. Karl gave away the price anyway, but cannot remember whom he gave it to or what the prize was, probably the guy who came up with harborlights.com.

Finally he decided on cybernet.com. He named the new computer cybernet.com and he even took out a business license in the name of Cybernet Communications. The next step was to register the name with the Government (there was no internic then). After a month of waiting they told him the name was already taken. Oops! First lesson learned, check with the government to see if your choice is available before you start to use it. Back to the drawing board.

Always a fan of Astronomy, Karl decided he would try to come up with a name related to astrophysics. He came up with a list and ran them by his friend and confidante Ray Johns, who told Karl he’d better keep trying because his chosen names were a little left of center. Finally he decided on five choices he liked and registered all five (registration was free then). Three came back registered; the government lost his other two, which at that time wasn’t unusual. Of the three he eventually chose redshift.com because he liked the connection between Red Shift (a term used to describe an expanding universe as in “a Red Shifted universe”) and the quickly expanding universe of the Internet. Karl didn’t actually use those exact words at the time. It was Tony Cricelli who eventually coined that phrase.

He then setup an Internet based computer called axel.redshift.com (named after his newborn son, Matthew Axel) using Galacticom Internet Gateway software. After eight weeks of toiling with this setup he finally concluded that the software and most of the hardware was too limited. He scrapped the entire system, losing about seven thousand dollars – and he had just gotten started. He decided to move to using Linux (a Unix derivative) instead and built a new server as well. This proved incredibly time consuming and a slow process. Getting the T1 installed was taking forever too, so there was plenty of time to work on it.

During these months Karl was trying to figure out how to build Red Shift while keeping his other company, the BBS Nitelog Inc going.

In December of 1994, Karl, realizing that he would not be able to run Red Shift alone and then turned to John Clarke and asked him to be the system administrator for Red Shift. John was the only other person on earth that Karl knew at that time who also knew about Linux. In fact when Karl was looking for a Unix OS to use, he considered BSD, SCO and Linux. It was John who convinced Karl to choose Linux. John worked on Red Shift in the evenings after he was done working at the computer store.  John did not really know enough about Linux, as in those days there weren’t any books or webpages.  However John knew that Tony had been using Unix for quite a few years so Tony was constantly tutoring John and working on the Red Shift server with him.

During the early months of Red Shift Karl and John (with Tony) worked hard to get basic services functioning and stabilized. While John concentrated on the machine, operating system and software, Karl concentrated on getting the T1, phone lines and modems in place so that service could begin.

On January 1st, 1995 the T1 became fully functional and Red Shift had basic dialup services. Namely they had 8 modems and SLIP dialup protocol working. It wasn’t earth shattering, but it was a functioning ISP on that day. Red Shift was the second ISP to offer dialup services in Monterey. Netcom had beaten them by several months. Scruz.net brought their dialup services online about one week later. All of a sudden the area had three providers to choose from.

It wasn’t long at all after Red Shift began before its customers started asking for new services like PPP (slip was the only functioning dialup protocol), web publishing, etc. John, still being new to system administration, could not take on the extra work of introducing new services. John reintroduced Tony Cricelli to Karl. Tony started setting up services on axel.redshift.com. During the next several months Tony took over the programming, security, DNS, email and web duties. Karl did all the tech support, sales and marketing while John built, installed and maintained all the hardware and the operating system.

In May 1995 Tony was asked to join Red Shift officially. Tony agreed and negotiations commenced and were finalized a few weeks later in June of 1995.

Red Shift began to offer service in Salinas in September of 1995.

Also in September 1995, John left his full time job at the computer store and began working full time for Red Shift. Tony was still working full time at the University and was doing volunteer work at Red Shift in exchange for a free account and other considerations.

Since Karl still had Nitelog, It was decided that a new corporation should be formed. Karl Van Lear, Tony Cricelli and John Clarke formed Red Shift Inc. in the fall of 1995. Each of the three principals was named to the Board of Directors and each was given an officer position in the new corporation.

All three principals of Red Shift decided to add Web Site hosting and sophisticated email services to Red Shift. Tony Cricelli designed and implemented Red Shift’s first business services during the latter half of that year. These new services brought Red Shift into the business of being a full service ISP. (Tony has continued to design and implement new services and features to Red Shift over the years. He has built up one of the most complex ISPs in the industry servicing a large repertoire of customer needs while at the same time making the systems easy to administer and monitor.)

The monies required to start and support Red Shift came from its original founder, Karl Van Lear. Karl funded Red Shift with personal assets from October of 1994 through December of 1996. In January of 1996 Red Shift no longer required outside capital to sustain itself (being profitable by that time), and was able to operate off it’s own retained earnings. Karl, not interested in just maintaining the status quo, input more capital to expand the company faster, with the last funds being input by Karl in March of 1997.

In November of 1996 Red Shift switched most of its traffic over to a new Internet provider, Good.net. Red Shift still maintained a large amount of traffic flow through Scruz.net but started to rely more on Good.net to carry traffic to the Internet.

In December of 1996, the Red Shift corporate lawyer recommended that the two corporations be merged into one. It was decided that Nitelog Inc would remain as the corporate name due to its rich credit history. Red Shift Inc was changed to the operational name “Red Shift Internet Services” or just “Red Shift” for normal everyday use. Nitelog Inc became nothing more than another name for the company that is “Red Shift”.

In the fall of 1996 Red Shift opened a Point of Presence (POP) in San Jose due to customer demand. In December of 1997 Red Shift opened up access at MAE-WEST. Red Shift installed a large router in its own cabinet at this facility in San Jose. At this time Red Shift switched its main Internet feed from Good.net over to Genuity. Genuity was bought a few months later by GTE, who had just recently purchased BBN as well. This move allowed Red Shift to connect directly to MAE-WEST along with all the major backbone providers. Cutting out the middleman allowed Red Shift to offer better performance, more reliability and the ability to scale up its Internet feed quickly as it grew.

On January 1st 1998 Red Shift purchased the company “Internet Monterey Bay”. With this purchase Red Shift opened up a new division, offering web site design, implementation and marketing.

In the latter part of 1998, Red Shift opened up POPs throughout Northern and Central California. Serving an area from Napa to King City, Red Shift has been able to meet the needs of a great number of Californians.

In June of 1999, Red Shift moved into its own building located at 712 Hawthorne Street in Monterey, CA. Red Shift has over 4400 square feet for business and administrative offices. The site is also the location of Red Shift’s own Class A facility.

In August of 1999, Red Shift got it’s OC12 fiber ring hookup at the Monterey facility. At that time 150mbps capacity of fiber bandwidth was lit up for dialup and DSL. Red Shift rolled out its first DSL product, ADSL, in two flavors: 384k/128k and 1.5m/384k. This marked a new era for the company as the industry and Red Shift moved beyond dialup into widely available consumer broadband services. Broadband in the form of T1 and ISDN having traditionally been only affordable to businesses prior to DSL.

In September of 1999 Red Shift installed its first DSL clients. At that time they were using a Cisco 3600 series router via an ATM DS1. In November of 1999, Red Shift upgraded its DSL router to a RedBack SMS-500 and the connection to Pac Bell to a DS3 (45mbps) feed.

On June 1st 2000 Red Shift expanded its DSL services to include additional varieties and speeds of DSL: ADSL 768k/384k, IDSL 144k/144k and SDSL 192k/192k – 384k/384k – 768k/768k and 1.1m/1.1m. The new transport provider being New Edge Networks later purchased by Earthlink.

In the month of September, 2000 Red Shift expanded its coverage for DSL into the following areas: San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Atascadero, Los Osos, Paso Robles, Hollister, Watsonville, Santa Cruz, Felton, Aptos, Scotts Valley, San Jose, Santa Clara, Fremont, Mountain View and Palo Alto.

One of Red Shift’s original principals, John Clarke moved in 2001 leaving only Tony and Karl to manage the company.   Tony purchased John’s shares of the corporation.

Red Shift steadily grew mostly by word of mouth. Over the next 7 years, Red Shift, like the Internet in general enjoyed explosive growth and change transitioning from Dial-up access to DSL, to SDSL and to Wireless Internet access.

Red Shift has been voted “Best Internet Service Provider” by Monterey County Coast Weekly newspaper readers every year that the vote was conducted.

In 2008 Karl became sick and was unable to work full time. Karl continued to monitor the company as best as he could. The burden fell on Tony to take on the duties of Karl. During this time period the economy went to hell and many of Red Shift’s customers started going out of business.  Red Shift continued to innovate and optimize the company through these difficult times.  Tony decided to drop all advertising except for Wireless Internet Services. Tony gambled that Wireless Internet would be the next “Big Thing”.

In October 2009, Karl took a leave of absence.  It became clear that Karl probably would not return to Red Shift.

In October 2009, Tony introduced the Red Shift staff to Ubiquiti wireless equipment.  Tony made the strategic decision to stop using Breezenet/Alvarion equipment and standardize on Ubiquiti Wireless radios to be used for providing wireless broadband.

During 2010 Karl’s health really started to fail.  Karl needed to leave to take care of himself and his family. In October 2010, the Board of Directors elected Tony Cricelli as the new CEO.  Tony purchased Karl’s shares of the company and then became the sole owner of Nitelog/Red Shift.  He quickly made management changes by bringing back the former Director of Operations to handle day to day operations as Vice President and revitalize the staff.

In January 2011, Tony accepted a position at the Haas School of Business in Berkeley.  There, he was tasked with running the Research Cluster.  Tony stayed in touch with Red Shift and often attended meetings on weekends.  Even though the economy has stalled and a recession is imminent, Red Shift continues to thrive under its new leadership.