'twas 20 years ago today, Sergeant Pepper Taught His Band to Play… online? Posted on January 18, 2010 By Lisa Feierman Greetings Sportsfans And movie fans, but today is NFL playoffs, so Sportfans gets top billing. This will be a long ramble! Get ready. Lay in snacks! Here’s the deal: I’m watching the playoff games today, with a fair amount of light in my room, as I am reviewing the Epson Home Cinema 705HD – a low cost ($749) 720p home theater projector, that claims 2500 lumens! I’m also down for the count, sick as a dog, and on anti-viral medication and Dr. prescribed vicodin, which makes for great, frivolous, rambling. I cannot guaranty any serious level of coherency. OK, so you are asking what’s this about: It’s just a wandering back in history for me, to note a milestone. There may even be a point, by the time I get done. Consider this a hopefully amusing (or at least interesting) how I got to this point with Projector Reviews. And, how wonderful a thing, the internet is, that I can spout what probably qualifies as quality drivel, and know that someone will actually read it. Well it’s actually almost 21 years since I launched my old company, Presenting Solutions! (yes the ! was part of the official name). Ultimaely it started selling film recorders (digital slide makers), scanners, and related, with the market targeting presenters. It was about the time of the first “LCD panels” that people put on overhead projectors for the first “computer presentations”, but I never felt they were prime time products and didn’t get involved. For the first 5 years the biz primarily sold to major universities, medical schools, research companies, and of course to general corporate presenting requirements. (I used to also train on Powerpoint, and teach clients to be better formal and informal presenters). Basically many of my clients were top medical and science researchers who spoke at conferences around the country and the word. (I even got to do a number of presentations myself, at medical conferences, to “teach” them about the current technology and techniques available for quality presentations.) But I digress. And, here’s what a bit of it looked like: Early Homepage of PresentingSolutions.com or visit the Study for Advice and Info, and more here’s one more from the site; my original article on presenting: The Art of Communicating Effectively Sadly the Alexa.com ‘s Wayback machine doesn’t capture all pages, or images. The original product directories seem to be gone now, but following the same early style, I found the same product directory page intact as far back as early 1999, for those that care to see what was out there, and what I wrote? But in 1993 things began to change – dramatically. As a science fiction buff I had been reading for years of the future capabilities of the internet. I’m one of those ancient internet users, I can claim an account going back to 1979 when it was usegroups and sigs, and not a graphic to be found in the whole internet. Or, as I like to put it, I was using the internet, well more than a decade before Al Gore “invented” it.) Actually the first “web” browers go back to 1992 I think but it was 1994 was the very beginning of commercialization at all. I was ready. In Sept of 1994 I started a major project, I started building what turned out to be an 80 page website when launched. This was also about the time of the first portable (LCD) projectors – if you call the almost 30 pound Sanyo, and the legendary 19 pound Proxima DP2800 (110 lumens) portable projectors. I had Proxima and Polaroid projectors in that initial website, along with film recorders, etc. Soon InFocus and Epson would be added. It was a long, arduous project, the web (HTML language) was essentially brand new, there were almost 0 commercial sites on the “web” while I was writing. Twas (exactly) 15 years ago, today, I took Presenting Solutions! online. As I said, 80 pages to start. We went on line – before there was a Yahoo, ages before Excite, ASK, Google, etc. Before Amazon! Still don’t get it? We were online before there was NETSCAPE! That’s right, we used browsers like SPRY. (Actually the company Mosaic, one of the many spinoff of the original browsers coming out of U of Michigan, later changed its name to Netscape, (the company goes back to summer of 1994? but I don’t think the Netscape name popped up until after I launched. And that brings us to the point. It was 15 years ago today that I launched my website! Now don’t go checking online records. To launch my site, I wrote the whole thing, designed the layout and graphics, etc. but I paid a small company that hosted sites, to do the html code. They hosted our site on their servers, but, under their name, as was then, very common, and today, still somewhat common for very small sites. Anyway: our URL was something like www.whateverthat companysnamewas.com/presentingsolutions/ (It was months later that I realized that wasn’t going to work I was trapping myself by becoming dependent on them. In November 1995, I broke away, relaunching as www.presentingsolutions.com. And, the rest, they say, is history. Even back then, my site read like reviews of products, not short blurb descriptions copied right from data sheets. I was in the busines of selling product, not reviewing it, but my product listings made every effort to explain and position products to each other. I didn’t “review them physically” but hey, I was already “expert”, and the product pages and articles in the site, were essentially the forerunner to the current projectorreviews.com. And because (on vicodin, or not) I’m always looking to spew more words, in 1995 I also started attending Infocomm, and started publishing, as part of the site, the Infocomm Portable Projector Report, which I did for about 8 years (though after a couple I had to change the name – the Infocomm folks decided to be a bit offended with the name. That was the start of giving out awards for best products, etc. Ultimately as history shows, we were the first company to focus on selling projectors and other presentation products online, (though there were 2-3 other companies online in the same timeframe, at least one of which I still run across occasionally). Life was great, the internet took off, and my company with it. the company grew from just myself in 1994, and about $250K a year in revenues, to $17 million and approaching 30 employees by 2000 (we even made the INC500 list in ’99 and ‘2000, not bad). Life was going gangbusters, we were making changes, bringing in management, and planning to go public, in early 2000. (hey, it was the Dot.com boom!). Alas, before we were ready, the boom, turned into the Dot.com Bust of 2000. For those with short term memories, that was the start of what would be the 2001-02 recession. Biz growth slowed from incredible to OK (we had almost doubled sales the previous year, that year, only up about 20%, instead of a forecasted 75%. There went the going public idea. Fini – NO one was remotely interested in a Dot.com IPO by late 2000. So, we continued our path. Sadly though, then came 9/11. We may have not been in NYC, etc. but were certainly a company drastically affected by 9/11, from a business standpoint. Most of our sales back then were, ultimately for corporate sales departments and training departments. Companies were buying 4-7 pound projectors in quantity to equip those field forces, and sending them off on planes to present. BAM. 9/11, Corp america stopped flying, and our sales tanked, rather came almost to a halt fom 9/11 for two months. In the first two months after 9/11 our sales must have dropped off more than 70%. With huge advertising commitments, tons of employees, etc. Presenting Solutions basically tanked. We barely survived, ultimately bringing in a management company to turn us around. Tsk, they never did. We struggled (at about half our peak sales levels) for the next couple of years, and then I got bought out in 2003. I worked for them part time until the company (renamed Alliant Solutions – and the website renamed ProjectorSolution.com) until they shut it down in early 2006. Fortunately, in terms of feeding the family, and going forward, I spent the rest of my time not working for them, building up the current ProjectorReviews.com under the company name of Projector Reviews. By the time Alliant was shut down ProjectorReviews.com already had some significant traffic, and by the following year – 2007 was profitable. (whew). Since then, it’s just continued to grow. the company is still just myself, with help from wife and daughter, and 3 outside folks. Mike, who, many of you know as the guy who now does my calibrations (he used to be a customer of mine at presentingsolutions, buying projectors for his customers.), Scott – my original employee from Presenting Solutions! who became my first webmaster, but later left, and Tony, who replaced Scott way back then, and also ran our IT. Tony, btw, has done the production on the video review summaries I’ve recently done for a mitsubishi (HC3800) and Epson (1080UB and 8500ub/8500ub). Tony’s another hard core projector enthusiast, and is also going to start doing reviews for the site (mostly biz) next month. (Say hi to Tony, he’s a good guy, knows his shit, and, is one of the few who can “keep me on my toes”. As I finish this ramble, I think I may even have a point. I’m just loving ProjectorReviews.com It’s much like the way I ran presentingsolutons.com, but its smaller, I no longer have the stress of dealing with dozens of employees, and all that comes with them, I don’t have the huge investment in inventory, and risk, and life is, by comparison, rather relaxed and stress free. It seems I’ve finally arrived at the place I was meant to be, all along. I guess I’ve always been a teacher first (tech weenie second), but finally have figure out how to make a decent living, doing what I enjoy. (Damn, that really sounds great, doesn’t it? Reality check – there are still lots of issues to deal with, and, I guess, anything, repetitive enough must get boring. I’ve complained more than once that this year’s crop of HT projectors have been just that – a lot of small improvements and very few products really new, or really pushing the envelope, this fall. With few exceptions this years’ projectors are just slightly better last years models. Hey, just the process of writing up the reviews is old, it takes two solid days to compose each review after all the fun work is done. Still, I’m not complaining, I’m celebrating. I just didn’t want you all to think it was all champaign and caviar, or there would be 50 new blog review sites next week. And so my story winds down – for now. “Twas 15 years ago, today, (January 18th, 1995) that Presenting Solutions! went online, and people could, for the first time, by film recorders and projectors online. While that is by no means as momentous as Sgnt Pepper teaching his band to play, it’s my song, and I’m sticking with it! Special thanks to a bunch of folks many, long overdue: Lori, the wife. lord knows how much she puts up with. And I’ve forced her to work the business since ’92 when Lisa was born, and I said, hey, you can stay home and raise Lisa, if you help me with the biz, or go back to your old job. Poor wife, within a few years she was responsible for the entire operations side of the company. (and she likes things quiet and simple). So thanks, and “sorry ’bout that”. Lisa. po’ child, oh well, I worked for my dad’s biz when I was in jr high and high school. It didn’t kill me (cheese and pickle distributor – a smelly job). I’m a heartless task master, and though Lisa doesn’t put in that many hours, she does good work, and puts up with me too! Since I’m out of control, I’d like to also note some folks from the old company, from the good old days 1995 – 2001, and thank them! Scott, my first employee , and now still doing some of our webwork under contract. We learned a lot together, and though he went his own way years ago, keeps managing to show up and do good things. (Lisa handles the day to day, Scott, special projects from time to time, and crisis management) Tony, I’ve always been able to count on his competence. Nice to have him doing videos and soon, reviews. I think he’s going to love doing the reviews. He’s the one guy who is willing to argue points with me. I could count on Tony to get me out of a rut, when all I would have is tunnel vision, about some problem or issue. Then a few other people, you probably will never hear me mention again, from the old days: Scott Hausman – for years my top online sales guy, kicked everyone elses butts in the “bullpen” and laid back, to boot, A great guy, and if I had 5 of him back then, I’d probably be rich and retired by now. He still lurks in the industry, but we haven’t worked together in 6? years. John Hardman – I had typically 3 outside sales people selling gear in So. Cal, at any given time Online was my biz, but the manufacturers, insisted in the early days of the web, that I have “feet on the street” explaining “Internet, never heard of it, how many guys you got, pounding pavement” I never worried too much about outside sales, but John was GOOD. This guy brought in the big biz, and it was quality stuff, and his customers praised him. Story time: Among John’s largest projects, was a subcontract with the Navy for command and control centers. We equipped a number of Navy ships with plasmas, switching, etc. for their “war rooms”, and also one Navy base in Japan. Scott put it all together. When 9/11 hit, one of his “ships” was the Bonhomme Richard. right after 9/11 we had finish our work in a rush, barely getting our guys and contractors off the ship as it was pulling up anchor. It was heading to do command and control support offshore Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom for you Wiki freaks, followed by support off Iraq in Operation . The Bonhomme Richard, is an amphibious assault ship (actually a small aircraft and troop carrier – with typically 1800 troops and a complement of attack helicopters and Harriers). It later was similarly involved with Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. My best wishes to all those who serve her! BTW, she was named after a revolutionary war ship, which in turn was named to honor Ben Franklin (Poor Richard’s Almanac). Atta boy Ben! Anyway, we were very proud back then to do that work, and John, he made it happen, and we did it well, and fast, when needed. OK, back to reality. a couple more… to say hi too. Linda Green – She did corp sales for me, the only person I ever had, beside myself, that could reel in the really big deals. Unlike the others, we didn’t our association on a positive note, but still, a person I am truly pleased to have known and worked with. (thank you linda) Angela Andrews – my gawd, there actually was a right way to do accounting. Angela took us from paper to a proper computerized accounting system with checks and balances, and made the numbers add up. It was like going from quicken to Big5 accounting. (She’s out there, anyone in S. Orange county need a killer Accting mgr/controller type? highly recommended – really!) Manny – My GM, awesome, what a disorganized entrepreneur like myself sorely needed. He freed me of many of the day to day headaches. A strange and wondrous guy, most interesting fellow! And Ann too, his wife, who was our first bookkeeper, which is how I met him. Mind you, over the years, there were probably more than 60 different employees, and there are plenty I could say something about, but those are the ones that come to mind. Most of our employees made lasting impressions, these though are particularly great employees who made a real diffeence to the business, and every one of them, good people. Thank you all. Well, this email has taken me a long way from the original intent, whatever that was. Bottom line – you know there always is one with me, it’s only a question whether I remember to get to it. You know know a bit more about where Projector Reviews comes from. It may not matter relative to the reviews, but, actually, I’m rather proud of our accomplishments, and where we are today, so for those curious, you now know a little bit about how we got here. Time to quote the Dead – “What a long – strange trip it’s been.” But, of course, the road continues. Thanks to all of you, visitors, fanatics, crazies, newbies. I’ve been turning out volume of content for about 7 years now as Projector Reviews, and I’ll try to keep you entertained for at least that many more years. (Will there still be projectors or will we be painting our walls with liquid LCD’s, LED’s, or???) No matter, I’ll find something to comment on. Two last matters: 2010 – as we wind down the fall 2009 year of home theater projectors, it has been a quiet year, mostly slightly improved projectors, but some of particular note, are new, or simply made greater strides than others with their models. though not necessarily the best, I thank products like these for helping me maintain my sanity, for their greater improvement: Mitsubishi HC3800, Sony VPL-VW85, Optoma HD20 (basic but $999 1080p), and BenQ W6000. But coming – It’s going to be an exciting year, as 3D potentially shakes up the pecking order in home theater projectors. Look for lots of focus on 3D this year from me. And there are a few other “surprises” that may make things even more interesting. That’s it. Halftime is over, Chargers 7, NYJ 0! go chargers. BTW, ya know, this $749 Epson 705HD does a pretty good job. you might want to recommend one to a friend who thinks you are an insane, techno HT enthusiast. They can stash it in their closet between games, and movie nights. Just a thought. PS. Read a forecast at CEDIA while LCDTV’S are expected to grow in the US by 20+% a year, into the future, home theater projector sales are expected to be about flat (not even getting back to 2008 levels), by 2014. This people, is your doing, not mine! You guys are the “early adopters” the enthusiasts, the hard core crazies. Almost every one of your friends envies your setup. So stop confusing them, stop making it so complicated, stop being so complicated. Help them. They just don’t care about the stuff we hard core enthusiasts do. They want it simple, and quick. Cut’m some slack. products like Epson’s Ensembles, and MovieMates and Optoma MovieTimes. Or tell’m a $999 or $1999 projector and a pull down screen and a $299 HTIB for sound is really easy. We are failing millions of folks who would love projectors. We are scaring them, after an hour listening to most of us, they will run out to best buy or costco and buy the first 40 or 58″ LCDTV on sale, and they likely won’t know of care if they bought 120hz, or 240, or 60, or if it has CFI, or good blacks or… They just want to watch. KISS – keep it simple stupid – a tried and true method to help those projector challenged friends of ours. They don’t need to spend lots of hours of research and order 15 products separately, and spend a month figuring out to run wires in their basement, etc. to get any satisfaction. We make it hard, because what they want is a simple solution. I’m hoping more manufacturers bring out Ensemble like products for the masses. We need one for $1999, or at least $2999. Simply because you you can choose separate components and get some better solution for the same money, doesn’t matter to those folks. They want something that they can have installed and running the same or next day (everytime). Hey: Don’t you worry, once they have their first – like you, they’ll catch the bug, and you’ll have a partner in crime. But, until they catch that bug, their eyes will continue to glaze over as we explain the importance of black levels and convergence. it’s up to us to take this industry from niche to mainstream. Quite honestly, I personally am rather tired of the if you don’t do it enthusiast style, it ain’t worth doing. It’s probably my one pet peeve. Instead of 120,000 more HT projectors sold in the US in 2010, how about we make an effort to make it easy on the uninitiated (our friends), instead of a challenge? Let’s try for a quarter million units this year. You can do it. Just tell your friends this: “It’s easy, you need some wall, $750 to $1000 for a projector or all in one (or more for something like an Ensemble), a Sony PS3 (they can understand that), a couple of cables and a boom box or basic sound system, and a copy of Iron Man, Transformers, Harry Potter or something else “spectacular” for their first viewing Tell’m they can start, with a couple of wires on running temporarily the floor, and can be watching the same evening the stuff arrives. You can help’m staple dark towels over the windows if necessary, if they want to watch in daytime. Once they’re hooked… Well, that’s my point, I guess, though it has nothing to do with the rest of the ramble. surprise! Happy 2010. And its true, btw, the original theatrical version of LOTR is now scheduled for April 6, for $66. per Amazon. this particular (and longest ever) blog: Done, fini, thanks! -art PPS: Favorite books: Lord of the Rings, The FountainHead, Enders Game, Atlas Shrugged, Earth (inspired my early entry to the web), Foundation series, Servant of the Empire series, Movies – way too many – Lord of the Rings, Casablanca, Caddyshack, Galaxy Quest, the new Star Trek movie, the original The Day the Earth Stood Still, Get Shorty, North By Northwest, Forbidden Planet, Run Silent, Run Deep, oh it goes on and on Damn good vicodin!