I established ShowCall – conceived, programmed and managed by Toby Simkin, working closely with the League of American Theatres & Producers (now the Broadway League), thanks to the support of visionaries Susan Lee (at the time Director of Marketing of the League) introduced to me via Janine Fawcett (at the time head of PR at Toronto’s O’Keefe Centre) and with Price Berkley, the owner/creator of the Theatrical Index newsletter (at the time the best source for Broadway information) in conjunction with Canadian technology provider FutureTron who donated a bank of modems with access to North American 1-800 numbers (in exchange for show tickets) to allow no cost dial-up to theatre industry members.
What was Showcall?
It essentially allowed producers, stage, company and general managers to access daily information on road tour schedules, facility information (including Stage Specs), downloads of Broadway show art, listings of Broadway personnel/contacts, Broadway tourist information including a map, and listing of recommended hotels, restaurants and bars, plus a tiny bit of industry news — about 2 or 3 stories a week.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, one of the most common ways that we connected “online” was to use a dial-up BBS. A modem on your computer would dial over an old-style analogue phone line (aka “a land line”), to connect to another computer, often through an acoustic coupler. That I administered the usenet theatre newsgroups gave me an ability to promote and get ShowCall off the ground quickly, and with (for it’s time) pretty active usage.
The idea of having only a group of people (or even just 1 person) able to connect to my ShowCall server at the same time is somewhat preposterous nowadays. FutureTron gave us a capacity of about 75 concurrent users. Yet that’s the way it was back then. Speeds were limited on a per-connection basis typically to a 2,400-bit/s modem (about 1 minute to download a page of text with no images) or for the wealthy, 4,800 bit/s, about double that speed.