There was a time not so long ago that the dominant industry in Madison was the Oscar Mayer Corp., affectionately known as "Oscars." It was so dominant that you could smell it over a good portion of the northeast side. Today Oscars doesn't smell, and it's been joined as an employing entity by a raft of young companies that make their way by slicing code, not bacon.
Our cover story this week, "Apple Apps from Madison," describes the new cyber ecology that these firms inhabit and how they have helped put Madison on the road map of cyberspace. The author, Adam Powell, is the vice president of technology at SupraNet, a local cyber purveyor, and someone who has made the journey of discovery into the new digital world.
Powell was born in Arizona but raised in Madison, attending Van Hise Middle School and West High School. He got his philosophy and English degrees from the University of Arizona and has also taken many classes at the UW. He spent the '90s in San Francisco, working for Wired magazine and setting up what were then called "cyberstations," such as WebM.D., before anyone knew to call them web pages.
Supposedly it's a big surprise that this kind of activity would take place in Madison, far from either coast, and a smallish place in the corporeal scheme of things. But cyberspace is a place that you can enter from anywhere and be wherever you want. So you might as well make your home in a physical place that appeals to you.
Powell returned here in 2000, in part because "it was totally impossible to buy a house in San Francisco." And Madison is as good a place as any to write code and a better place than most to ride the growth of a nascent industry. He and his wife now own a house on Madison's near west side, have two kids that go to Van Hise Middle School and are content. There's no app for that.