VRML Maui a High Tech Love Affair
Paul Hugel, EzineArticles Basic Author

Click image to view movie of VRML Maui

1993  Its hot in Kihei, Maui, Hawaii as the grand opening of The Maui High Performance Computing Center is taking place. I sign up for an account to use the new supercomputer. Its cold inside to keep all the equipment functioning thats one of the environmental factors you have to live with in the world of supercomputers. In the early days they were giving just about anyone who registered at MHPCC a login account.

I had been researching Mission to Planet Earth and the early predecessor Sequoia 2000 Program and wanted to somehow take part and create an alliance with MHPCC.

I met by chance the executive director for the US Army’s High Performance Computing Program and asked for his support. He asked me to submit a white paper proposal and he would review, wow this was exciting now.

1994 I jumped on a plane from Maui to LA to attend the SIGGRAPH Convention, the worlds largest computer graphics conference. At the conference I used the pay phone and someone overheard the conversation and told me to contact a friend who could help me. Flew from LA to San Francisco and train to Mountain View to meet with a very special woman who was in charge of environmental research funding program at Silicon Graphics Computers. She also asked for a single page white paper outlining my project proposal. I flew back to Maui and met with the liaison at MHPCC and they offered to house a server if SGI loans me one, wow what a sweet deal if this can materialize. Here at MHPCC lots of military guys walking around and here’s me an environmental optimist who wants to do something thats never been done before.

Months later while working on a terminal at MHPCC several big boxes labeled Silicon Graphics Computers come in addressed to me.

Its an $18,000 Indigo workstation on loan and the staff at MHPCC set it up on the T-3 network and I begin. Fly back to Mountain View for training in VRML and using new Cosmo Worlds software my team with SGI’s and MHPCC tech support create Virtual Maui a VRML Fly Through and receive recognition for creating one of the worlds top ten virtual reality Internet sites in 1996. At this point I had card access to MHPCC my own lab space, T-3 network it was a dream come true but as all dreams must come to an end so did this one.

1995 It turns out word had spread far and wide of the resources MHPCC had extended to our project and now there was lots of heat on me to move out and MHPCC was pulling the plug unless I could dish out $1,500. per month & I would only have remote access to the server no more living large in the lab.

1996 Well I lost the account and everything connected to MHPCC, moved next door to Maui Research and Technology Center and grabbed access to three T-1 lines and started a server farm of SGI’s.

Learned how to run a corporate network of servers web, news, mail, dns, video just about everything that runs under unix. VRML was fading and what was coming up fast was the idea of Internet streaming video so that really turned me on, I had the software and hardware to test the best not yet released to the public.

Yes beta testing live streaming Quicktime, Real Video, MPEG-2, MPEG-1 all the possibilities and it was exciting until the military yanked the three T-1 lines.

Years passed lost all the cushy Research facilities, SGI lost all its money and eventually Google bought their buildings.

But not all hope is lost because today an average person with an iPhone 3GS and an Intel Macbook Pro can do the things only the dreamers like myself could do ten years ago today with sites like http://livestream.com/paulhugel  and http://ustream.tv/paulhugel

Check out this YouTube movie made from the original VRML Maui Fly Through on a UFO