In 1990 Intel introduced the 33-MHz 486 microprocessor (AT Technology). A reasonably well equipped computer cost between $1,500 and $2,500 with the average annual household income averaging $26,000. Old technology, the lowly XT, became comparatively inexpensive. With an XT main motherboard costing about $60 you could assemble a single floppy drive computer with monitor, keyboard, 640k memory and 2400 baud modem for about $350. Cheap XT computers, a kooky San Francisco sub culture and a thriving coffeehouse scene (before the corporatization of cafe life) were the ingredients for a community of curious cyber-explorers who referred to themselves as netters (sometimes "nutters" depending on the level of caffeine in their blood stream). This was SF NET.

SFnet was an attempt to use a simple, text-base communication technology to bring together very different social and socioeconomic milieus. The approach; create a public access network that allowed the "comfortable" home user to connect with the thriving cafe subculture of young people who lived and thrived in the margins of society. To do this we, 1) created a simple coin operated public access terminal and placed 25 of them in the rough and tumble cafe scene throughout the Bay Area (as far north as San Anselmo, South in San Mateo and East Berkeley and Oakland) 2) maintain a small geographic foot print so that social interaction was possible 3) focused community energy to a public chat area that used a fast moving text interface that allowed for no visual clues as to who was speaking, 4) charged a nominal fee for cafe use in the hope that the home subscriptions would carry the cost of running the network, 5) allowed for a self-governing community by creating a set of community mechanisms and tools for rewarding positive and engaging communications.

SFnet introduced Internet mail to their mix of services in 1991 allowing cafe users to send email via the internet. This was the first time that an Internet service was accessible in a public venue, hence, SFnet is seen as the first "Internet Cafe".

Below is a portion of the attention that SFnet enjoyed thanks to the exciting community that blossomed around this rudimentary technology. See also wikipedia - Internet Cafe


Local Press

  SF Examiner
August - 1991
San Francisco
Noe Valley Voice
SF Chronicle
January - 1993
  SF Examiner
April - 1993
SF Examiner
January - 1995
Daily Republic
Solano County, CA
Silicon Valley
SF Chronicle
Herb Caen

National Press

  Washington Post
February - 1993
The Economist New York Times
January - 1991
September - 1993
October - 1993
  Entrepreneur Details Spy Magazine Glamour Seventeen

International Press

  focus (German)
April - 1994
Muy Interesante
Screen (German)
Info PC
  Computing USA ID Magazine FX Networks    

Notable Correspondence

  BBC News Show CA Senator Tokyo Talk Radio    

Industry Publications

  Communications Daily
Washington, DC
May - 1993

Cafe Promotional Brochures


Other Promotional Material

  SF Weekly Ad Early Logo SF Weekly Ad TableTop Promo