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Jeff Gerhardt is an Americanmarker teacher, inventor, and entrepreneur. His work includes the development of a CAD system, one of the first PC-based point-of-purchase systems, the Tandy Color Computer, and the award-winning “KidCam” Internet Video Security System.

Education & early career

Gerhardt attended Illinois State Universitymarker, studying marine biology, and later changed to computer science. While at ISU, Gerhardt joined the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.

From the mid-1970s to mid-1980s, he was employed in graphic arts, but continued working on developing software. He focused on developing programs for Tandy computers, spending several years as part of the software-development community that grew up around the Tandy products.

Eventually, Gerhardt took a job with Tandy, customizing software for midwest business users and concentrating on Tandy's Radio Shack Color Computer, known to its fans as the COCO. Originally designed as a cartridge-game system and 64K home computer, the COCO was a great success, having sold over six million units in its first few years. Gerhardt created a vast amount of software for the Color Computer, and, as consumer demand grew for peripherals, the COCO was used more as a computer and less as a game-player.

Early in 1983, Gerhardt started his own software-development company in Chicago, primarily for developing COCO applications. However, because he was acquainted with the Motorola 68 family of processors (the COCO used the 6809E), Gerhardt saw an opportunity to develop software on the low cost COCO that could then be ported for use on other 68-type CPUs.

By 1984 Gerhardt had focused this effort on developing portable code for CAD/CAM system, many of which used the Motorola 68000 CPUs. Gerhardt and his team joined with a group of developers working out of San Jose California with similar CAD/CAM interests working on the CASCADE project. This group, and the companies with whom they were affiliated, released a series of successful CAD technologies. However, in late 1985, with the release of the IBM PC-based “Auto CAD”, Gerhardt's group began to slowly lose market share; the group dispersed during 1986 and the code base was sold to Computervision.

BBSs & ISPs

One of Gerhardt's jobs at Tandy was assistant Sysop at the Tandy COCO SIG (special interest group) at Compuserve. He never lost interest in this on-line business, and though he left Tandy, he stayed active in the SIGs that serviced the users of Tandy computers. After the CAD code base was sold, he redirected his company toward the BBS and telecommunications markets.

BBSs, scaled-down versions of on-line services covering a very narrow niche, were the predecessors of the ISP community and the BBS magazine Boardwatch is credited with motivating the development of ISPs. Gerhardt concurrently operated three successful BBSs from his home office in Bloomingdalemarker, Illinoismarker. The COCO-Nuts, BBS was Gerhardt's most ambitious and successful BBS.

Active in the early stages of the commercial Internet era, Gerhardt was involved with the creation or management of three different ISPs of recognition. He was on the board of WWA — WorldWide Access (now Verio), one of the first ISPs in the U.S. While Director of Business Development at WWA, he spearheaded such innovations as 5ESS-VDS (Virtual Dial System), DSL deployment and KidCam.

Gerhardt was also executive vice-president and founder for Pinnacle Communications, one of the first pure DSL ISPs, up until 2000.

Gerhardt's original software development company having gone through a number of changes and name changes over the years, was closed in 2005 after 22 years due to a divorce.

Broadcasting

In the early and mid-1990s, Gerhardt was a regular guest on the Al and/or Ed Show (featuring Alan Lerner and Ed Curran) on WLS radio – “The Big 89” – in Chicagomarker. Taking part in a weekly technology segment, he talked about anything from gadgets to trends. Later he worked with Ed Curran as a producer and on a web site called “technogadgets” which was syndicated as a bimonthly segment on ABC radio and TV affiliates in the USA. Gerhardt was also a frequent guest on “Ken Rutkowski's Week Ender TechTalk Show”, also broadcast on WLS. He continued as a technical-information resource on such issues as UNIX/Linux, Y2K, Internet telephony and video, and Broadband applications, and followed Rutkowski when he moved his show from broadcast to webcast.

Late in 1997, Kevin Hill and Gerhardt decided to take the Linux segments they had been doing for Rutkowski's show and create a stand-alone entity. The Linux Show was soon in testing as a daughter program of Rutkowski's TTalk webcast. By mid-1998, the show appeared regularly on Tuesday nights. Prompted by TechTalk's sponsorship affiliation with Microsoft, he and Hill left the TTalk network in 1999 for greater autonomy.

The Linux Show

Gerhardt was first exposed to Linux on Intelmarker in 1995 as an alternative to Sun Solaris for web hosting technology in the ISP industry. As a user and proponent of Linux ever since, Gerhardt has become an advocate for the world-wide Linux community. As an outlet for that advocacy Gerhardt, along with his partner Kevin Hill, created The Linux Show, an internet based radio talk show. The Linux Show, known as TLS to its listeners, attracted large audiences to the web-cast targeted primarily at hard-core users and employees of Linux companies. TLS was a long-running and successful web-cast in the Linux and Open Source world. Officially, TLS is presently on hiatus while developing an NPO network from which to broadcast. However, there has been no news as to the current state of the shows revival since late 2005, except for a few promises made by Jeff that something would happen "soon" in 2006. Legal isses have delayed the return.

But there has been activity in late 2008 with the acquisition of new studio space by an NPO that is organzing the effort to have TLS return to broadcast.

Giving Back

Gerhardt became involved with teaching in the early 90's as a way of giving back to the community. He spent a number of years volunteering as a teacher and eventually began to teach professionally. By the mid 90's he was teaching at colleges and junior colleges in the Chicago area. Gerhardt's longest teaching job was with Northwestern College, formerly known as Northwestern Business College . While there Gerhardt was nominated multiple times and was the recipient of the Teacher of the Term Award.

This professional redirection toward teaching put Gerhardt into the world of Non-profit Organizations (NPO's). Gerhardt taught the Youth Community Technology Program (YCTP) with Rayshawn Nowlin, in Chicago, teaching inner-city youth about computer technology from 2004 through the end of 2006. The YCTP program was a project of the Community Education Department of the Chicago based Non Profit organization KACS.

Many of the people at KACS Community Education Department were very uncomfortable with the management change at KACS in mid 2006. In July 2006 a new executive director came into office and so a new policy on the methodology of grant management. This new policy was not well accepted by the staff and most of the programs moved.

Nowlin has since moved on and is trying to rebuild the YCTP program at the Albany Park Community Center in Chicago.

Gerhardt targeted his efforts on his own Focus On NASA set of programs and partnered with the Neighborhood Boys and Girls Clubs.

Current activities

Gerhardt began developing a series of STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in 2003 called Focus On NASA. These programs had at their root several youth programs that Gerhardt was involved with as partnerships with the Chicago Public School System

Gerhardt and these programs were recognized in 2006 by the BP Education Foundation (formerly Leader Foundation) with one of the five LEADER Awards for 2006. The Focus On NASA programs have gone on to win support or funding from a number of organizations including: After School Matters, the Chicago Public School system, Motorola and the Motorola Foundation, Chicago Mayor Richard M Daley & the Village of Wonder Lake. Gerhardt has presently designed over 9 STEM programs from storm chasing to rocketry to the FIRST Robotics Competition robotics team TEAM CHALLENGER.

The results of these programs speak for themselves.

The UGLC or Underground Gamers league of Chicago, is a youth drop-in center program that has given a group of youth in Chicago the opportunity to relate to like-minded "geek kids" in a safe space. The motto of "gaming superiority through mastery of technology" has taken a group of over 100 youth in Chicago and allowed them to reconnect to the education process in a way that makes sense in their life view.

The B2B or Birds to Bots space science program boasts 10 of its 16 2007 graduating seniors as having been accepted to major college engineering programs.

The Flagship program TEAM CHALLENGER, a robotics engineering program for high school age youth, qualified and competed for the International Championships of the US FIRST FIRST Robotics Competition. In its first year of competition TEAM CHALLENGER won the Xerox Creative Engineering Award for the design and creation of their robot MOTOLOLA, the Rookie All-star Award at the Midwest FRC Regional and was ranked 15th of over 2000 teams.

The team was given a special award by the City Council of Chicago and Mayor Daley for representing Chicago in such a stellar fashion during the 2006/2007 FRC season.

More Current activities (2007 & 2008)

As a Maven: Gerhardt is still a regular speaker at Internet or Linux-related conferences. Gerhardt was on the board of CTCNet Chicago until June 2007. Gerhardt is a regular contributor to the brain trust's that advise Illinois Governor Pat Quinn on technology education and broadband deployment issues.

Gerhardt self labels as a geek and father, and considers his daughter as the best thing he has ever done.

Even More Current activities (2008)

Gerhardt is presently heading up two efforts in the area where he lives, the first being the creation of a community center and library for the community of Wonder Lake IL. Gerhardt is also the first chairman of a brand new organization in McHenry County called the McHenry County CTC Network an organization that will be affiliated with CTCNet and focus on creating Community Technology Centers in Illinois.

Gerhardt is also working on the long anticipated return of The Linux Show. Legal issues have prevented a return of the show for several years. But after saying "soon" many times over the last 5 years, the actual return of TLS to broadcast is anticipated in late 2008 or early 2009, or late 2009, or early 2010, or late 2010, or early 2011.

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