In 1983, Apple Computers was in a slump, holding its Christmas party in an abandoned warehouse, bringing in Port-a-Potties while somehow managing to drum up a live rock band.
It would be a year before the Macintosh hit the market, revolutionizing the personal-computer industry and setting the stage for Apple's resurgence.
Ashland residents Alan and Priscilla Oppenheimer met for the first time that night.
"Alan asked me to dance," recalls Priscilla, an expert in networking who now works for Cisco Systems.
But the couple had more on their minds than dancing. She remembers they were both passionately interested in networking — though not the social kind.
It's a passion that has lasted for more than 20 years as they continue to work on ways that computers and hand-held devices can better communicate.
They also shared a strong desire to move to the Rogue Valley, attracted to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the scenery and the lifestyle.
Along the way, the Oppenheimers discovered other Internet pioneers who had also moved here. They have since joined forces to ride the next big wave in the personal computing world — the Apple iPhone.
Jim Teece, from Project A, and Alan Oppenheimer, of Open Door Networks Inc., have started We-Envision.com to develop applications for the Apple iPhone. Paul Collins, of Gracion, another Internet pioneer, is their software developer.
The software applications they have created allow you to make almost instantaneous slide shows of, say, famous artworks or displays of Ferraris, all gathered from the Internet in a few clicks.
We-Envision.com has created 30 programs so far for the iPhone, including a way to beam your business card from one iPhone user to another. Each program sells for between 99 cents and $3.99.
For the holidays, they created an application — or "app" — that allows you to shake your phone to make it appear snow is falling on the screen.
The Oppenheimers moved here in 1994, before the dot-com boom. "We saw this house and fell in love with it," says Priscilla, referring to the 1889 Victorian near downtown Ashland.
But with the Internet revolution mushrooming around the same time, "We kind of wondered if we did the right thing," remembers Priscilla.
"We bought a house up here," her husband says, "but we couldn't figure out how to be gainfully employed."
Before the Internet fully formed, Alan worked on projects that allowed Apple computers to talk to one another. He was co-creator of "AppleTalk," the original network system for the Macintosh.
With the Internet, he realized he could do the kind of development work he had formerly done anywhere. The only thing missing was a fast Internet connection.
"We were lucky," he says. "The Ashland Fiber Network made it all happen. It helped the whole Valley get into the Internet. We had a very smart and forward-thinking government."
Priscilla, who has also written software for We-Envision, proudly points to a fiber-optic cable that pops out of her floor, attached to a little box on the wall that gives the couple Internet service at roughly 20 times the speed available to most consumers.
Teece says he knew immediately after graduating from high school in 1981 that computers were his future.
The 45-year-old Ashlander started writing software for Apple, Taco Bell and a commercial real estate company, running essentially a two-person shop in Arizona with his wife, Dena Matthews, but they wanted a change of scenery.
"One day my wife handed me an Oregonian and said, 'Let's move to Oregon,'" he remembers.
They drove the entire state, but he had some pretty specific criteria in mind. Wherever they moved needed to have an airport, a university, freeway access, FedEx and a phone service with voice mail. With voice mail seemingly unavailable in the state, he says, they were close to abandoning the move.
"We stopped off in the last town and decided to toast goodbye to our dream," he says. "We discovered this town was called Ashland."
After a little checking, they learned Ashland didn't have voice mail, but it soon would have.
When they moved here, the town more than met their expectations.
"We were at a Taco Bell eating lunch when the FedEx truck came up and delivered a package to us — that was a small-town thing," he says. "It was a check from Taco Bell."
They created Project A in 1990. The company has now been in existence for 19 years and they are designing Web sites all over the world.
Teece, who is involved in several local businesses, says We-Envision is already showing a profit, selling more than 100,000 downloads of its applications.
Paul Collins, who built his first computer in the late 1970s using a soldering iron, says he came to the valley about 10 years ago, a little later than the Oppenheimers and Teece and his wife.
But he discovered quickly that he shares their enthusiasm and experience with networking and computers.
In the 1980s, he worked for General Electric on projects that would connect computers together.
Then he and his wife, Cathy Carrier, moved to Ashland, attracted to OSF and Southern Oregon University.
"I wasn't expecting to find a lot of technology here," he says.
Because he was a Macintosh software guy, it wasn't long before he realized he was in good company, finding other like-minded "techies."
"Right away I met forward-thinking people like Alan and, later, Jim Teece," says Collins, whose own company develops Internet and security software for the Macintosh. Collins runs a Mac-users group on the Internet.
Even though the Ashland Fiber Network has been costly, Collins says it helped the entire valley move more quickly into high-speed Internet access. It also helped develop a cottage industry of software and network developers. The first wireless Starbucks in the country also was in Ashland.
"For a town this size, we got the Internet earlier," he says.
The number of applications for the iPhone — about 15,000 so far, according to Apple — is difficult to keep up with, says Collins. Many of the applications are almost difficult to imagine, he says.
One program, for instance, turns the iPhone into an ocarina, a flute-like instrument, where you blow into the microphone. The application shows a globe with sparkling lights that indicates where someone is playing the ocarina in different places around the world.
"I was listening to somebody in Indonesia playing the 'Harry Potter' theme," he says. "It was very spooky, and it was produced with a bit of an echo."
After a day of working on programs for the iPhone, Collins isn't the least bit tired of his own little technological wonder.
"It's like an extension of my arm," he says.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.