Before the Internet, there was the Arpa-net. If you remember it, you were way ahead of the technology curve.
Doug Humphrey was an early convert. "When I first started using the Arpanet, there were 22 computers on it," says the 38-year-old high-tech CEO.
The story is similar for Raul Fernandez, president of software innovator Proxicom: The 31-year-old was the first kid on his block to have a computer.
Julie Holdren, 28 and the CEO of another software success story, remembers taking a class in her school's new computer lab as a sophomore in high school.
As Humphrey, Fernandez, and Holdren grew up, so did the computer industry. When they hit their twenties and thirties, businesses needed people who understood computer networks.
"Someone who was in their twenties who had five, ten years' Internet experience was by default the expert," Holdren says.
It may come as no surprise that twenty- and thirtysomethings who were breast-fed on emerging technologies know more about them than their parents.
What is surprising is that more and more of them, at such tender ages, are starting their own computing and communications businesses. And getting very rich.
Washington is in the midst of a high-tech business boom. This region has long been a hub for telecommunications, biotech, and satellite-based ventures, but in the past five years, more Web-based firms are emerging, such as America Online and UUNet.
"What you have in this region is a remarkably rich basis of content," explains Mario Morino, chairman of Potomac KnowledgeWay Project, a nonprofit organization that is fostering the high-tech community in Washington. In the past few years, government agencies, trade associations, and other Washington institutions have recognized the value of putting their warehouses of data on the Internet. That has meant increased funding for Web work.