I had always wanted a roadster. When I was in high school, I lusted after E-Type Jaguars, but it was all I could do to muster up enough cash to get a 1970 Karmann-Ghia. It lasted a couple of years.
In college, I wanted an MG, but the bumpers in the '70s were so butt-ugly, and coupled with classic British reliability, it was more than a starvin' student could afford. So I lived with an old 1971 Plymouth Fury III with a big honkin' 383 4-barrel under the hood. It was orange. It had leather seats. It was big.
After college, I could afford my first new car, but by then, there were no more roadsters. The screamin' safety weanies scared the bejeesus out of the industry, and there really was nothing out there. I still couldn't afford to buy or maintain the E-type. I liked the Alfa Spyder, but it was pricey. So I bought a Toyota SR-5 Sport Coupe. I put louvers over the hatchback window. I thought it was cool. It wasn't. Fortunately, that didn't matter to Michele, my fiance.
Then I changed jobs and I needed a sedan. Not sure why, but they convinced me that since they were giving me a few hundred bucks a month for a car allowance, it had to be a sedan. And they wouldn't allow it to be Japanese. The US semiconductor industry didn't want to send any money to Japan. So I bought a Volvo 240 GL. Very "establishment", but I fixed that by putting in a rockin' sound system that was state-of-the-art for 1984.
But I still wanted that roadster. With the Volvo still in the driveway, I started shopping for that Alfa Spyder. It was the mid '80s, and there still weren't a helluva lot of roadsters out there. But I really liked the Alfa. Until I test drove one. I couldn't live with the stick coming out of the dash where the radio is supposed to be. Shifting is supposed to be forward and back, not up and down.
Around this time, I recall telling Michele that if the Japanese ever came out with a roadster, I'd be all over it. She agreed. (Its always good when there is a high Wife Acceptance Factor.)
1988 (or thereabouts): I'm reading a friend's Playboy magazine (no really, it was a friend's copy), and in the back, they had a page of cool new stuff that's on the horizon. And there, in red, was this hot looking little Japanese roadster called a Miata. Scheduled to come out in a year or so, I decided right then and there that I would have one.
In early 1989, we moved to Los Angeles. Shortly after arriving, I was walking down San Vicente Boulevard, and what drives by? A red Miata! It was the first one I had seen in person. I'm not even sure if they were at the dealerships yet. I want one. I need one. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, I'm not sure), we were living in an apartment that only allowed us a single garage. The Volvo lived in there. There was no room for a Miata. Funds were a little tight as well since we were saving for something else at the time. But it was high on the list, and it was just a matter of time.
In May of 1990, we moved back to New Jersey. On the plane ride back, we had a discussion, and ended up nixing the plans we had for the savings. Within a week of moving back to NJ, we went to the Mazda dealer and bought a 1990 Miata.
A club - there had to be a club. Porsche had a club. Corvette had a club. There
must be a Miata club someplace. Finally found a small ad in Road &
Track about Miata Club of America, so I joined. However, it would be two more
years before I could find a local "chapter".
OK, so now I'm a member of this "club" called Miata Club of America, and itching to do car stuff with other like minded Miata enthusiasts. Only, there are none in the area. They listed a club in North Jersey, but I called the number only to get a "this number is not in service." I mean, its only 1990, and already there are defunct chapters of this club.
About a year later, I received a flyer for a regional event to be held in central Jersey, hosted by the Delaware Valley club. Even though I learned about it 2 days before the event, I got my butt down there anyway. There were around 30 Miatas there - I had never seen more than 1 other. I was very excited about it and quickly became engulfed in the enthusiasm. Still, the local club was based in Delaware and Pennsylvania, and living in North Jersey, they were just too far away for me.
About a year later, I received some info about a weekend event to be held in Lake Placid. Michele and I jumped on that one. This was the one that really hooked me as I spent 3 days with 20 or so other Miata owners. I got *so* hooked, that at dinner one evening, the club newsletter editor told me that she wouldn't be able to do it anymore.
"I'll do it", I jumped in, not realizing what I was getting myself into.
So for the next year, I became heavily involved in the Delaware Valley club, writing the newsletter, attending most events, driving 2 1/2 hours to board meetings in the next state spending a lot of quality seat time in my Miata.
I also had a subscription to CompuServe and was active in the Automotive special interest group. There were a couple of dozen Miata enthusiasts active in this online community, and eventually CompuServe gave us a section called "Miataville". That's where I first met folks like Bob Krueger, Mas Kato, Bob Hall, and a few other Miata-owning propeller heads. We would attempt to explain to others about this cool virtual community, but the response was usually along the lines of a deer-in-the-headlights blank stare. Most of the planet still didn't have a home PC, so the concept of a "bulletin board" was as "out there" as a manned mission to Jupiter. But we didn't care. We established long lasting relationships at the breakneck, state-of-the-art speed of 300 bits per second - just a little faster than typing speed!
At the same time, in real-life, I was part of a technology organization, and a fairly involved user of Internet newsgroups and email lists. One day a colleague gave me a copy of a program called "Mosaic" - one of the earliest browsers - and showed me this thing called the World Wide Web. Now remember, this is 1994, and the web was in its infancy. There were only a few thousand web sites at the time - almost all of them being in academia or in technology companies. The web was so small, that once a week, CERN in Switzerland would post a list of all the new web sites that had been started that week. And the list was only a few pages long. (By contrast, today there are millions of new sites that are started every day.)
OK, so now there's this thing called the Web, and I'm doing this newsletter for DelVal, and I'm thinking "Hey, I can put these newsletters on the Web!" I needed someplace to host it, and there were no web hosting providers yet, so the only way to do it was to get the help of a University. I made a small donation to the University of Denver, and in return, they gave me 500k of disk space on their web server where I proceeded to put the newsletter.
Brian Dore had also built a web site at Louisiana State that held a small set of Frequently Asked Questions about the Miata, but he was leaving school and wouldn't be able to do it anymore. So he asked me if I wanted to take it over.
That was in October of 1994, and the beginning of Miata.net.
From 1994 to 1998, Miata.net consisted of stories, photos, articles, FAQs, and other static content. The social aspect was handled by Andy Poling's email based Listserve. There were a few hundred Miata enthusiasts from around the world that participated in this archaic, email based social life.
Other social media was attempted, such as chat rooms, but they quickly failed due to lack of interest.
In early 1999, I was approached by Troy Roberts - founder and owner of Corvette Forum. Troy not only owned a Vette, he also owned a Miata, and at the same time he created Corvette Forum, he also set up Miata Forum. Except he really wasn't all that into Miatas, and preferred to focus on Corvettes. So instead of trying to run Miata Forum on his own, he asked if I would take it off his hands - which I gladly did. Miata Forum very quickly gained traction, and became the primary social media forum, overtaking the CompuServe and email based listserver. Troy eventually sold Corvette Forum to Internet Brands, and used the proceeds to found the Siesta Key Rum distillery in Sarasota, Florida. The Miata Forum continued to grow, and as of April, 2019 has over 100,000 registered users.
Some other facts: