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What is the History of CR4? Part 1

Posted April 07, 2008 3:58 PM by Chris Leonard

This is one of the most common questions asked of me about CR4; asked only slightly less than "What does the name CR4 mean?" The latest request about this came in on Saturday. So, I'll take this opportunity to "officially" answer both questions as well as specific ones asked in the post. Keep in mind this goes back nearly four years so some of my reminiscences may seem rosier then they really were.

CR4 as a concept dates back to about October of 2004. GlobalSpec, Inc., the parent company of CR4 was receiving lots of questions from its users about technical questions related to engineering projects, theories, concepts, ideas….stuff like "how do I build a robot for Battlebots" and the like. In fact, many of the early challenge questions come from users searching for answers. While many of these questions were outside of the realm of our business mission, they were fun to answer and it felt great to help our users. Unfortunately, the more you answer such questions, the more that you receive – and there are only so many hours in the day to get your work done; and worse, sometimes even with all our experience, we just didn't know.

At this point, a number of us came to the conclusion that as a group, our GlobalSpec user body had infinitely greater experiences than our team. "So is there a way to tap into this knowledge base?" A few of us were involved with entertainment or hobby/affinity online communities and we thought, "Hey that just might work."

With a growing work load, time was of the essence, so we tested a number of software platforms looking for a good mix of forums, social networking tools and blogging in hopes of launching something quickly. We settled on open source software called Slash, which is a low powered version of the software that runs the site Slashdot and began testing it in-house in December of 2004.

By late March, we felt we had worked enough bugs out of the system for it to go live, but we still needed a name. Now, if any of you have tried to name something in late Web 2.0 world, you know that just about everything that means anything is taken/copyrighted. Don't believe me; check out this quiz: Web 2.0 or Star Wars Character.

Anyway, we spent a number of days trying to come up with a name to embody the site that we envisioned. Our original concept was a relaxed place where you could be part of the action or just watch the world go by. Sort of like a Starbucks, but less caffeinated. One night, after bouncing this around a bit and getting a bit punchy as it was getting late, we started thinking about other places that us "corporate types" hang out and chat. The lunchroom in front of the water cooler, the corner office…. This lead to such creative names as "The Engineering Water Cooler" and "Engineers Corner" (I think that's where Pooh and Eeyore went to build things).

Eventually, the conversation turned to meeting rooms from jobs that we'd worked previously. Quickly, we had the mythology of the room with the plush chairs, furthest away from the bosses office…you know the one…where there's always a box of donuts, where your buddies can always be found discussing obscure concepts like how to make a ship out of ice. So we settled on the "Conference Room" idea. But you can't just call it "Conference Room" its got to be something Conference Room or Conference Room something. Well, how about a number:

Conference Room 1 – "No, it sounds like we're trying too hard."

Conference Room 2 – "Why would we want to be two – one is better"

Conference Room 3 – "No that's worse than two."

Conference Room 4 – "Yeah, that works."

Unfortunately, Conference Room 4 (along with almost all the low number conference room ideas) was already trademarked. So we abbreviated it to CR4. Why? It's mysterious (as I said it's the #1 question asked of me) and it's vaguely technical and cool.

I'm getting very long winded here, so I'll continue tomorrow with the launch of the site and its growth over time.

Also, while I have your attention, if you are interested in online communities and how your company can use Web 2.0 techniques to improve your relations with your customers, I urge you to attend Community 2.0 2008. It's in May (12-15), it's in Las Vegas, and I'll be presenting my paper You Won't Be Myspace: How to Manage the Expectations of Your Executive Board While Creating the Most Practical Community for Your Company. More on that later in the week….

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#1

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/07/2008 4:44 PM

It's great that you've found time to start the story off, Chris. It must have been a really strange feeling when CR4 went 'live' - a bit like having an open invitation party and wondering how many people are going to show. I've noticed that when I look up some obscure fact I often end up back at CR4, so it's clearly becoming a wide-ranging source of info ! If you posed the ice-ship question now, I'd give it minutes before people were mentioning Pykrete & Habakkuk. The site has attracted a membership with a huge range of knowledge. Community 2.0 2008 sounds like it could be very useful for a lot of people.

I hadn't heard of a single name on that web quiz (and I'm not sure if that's good or bad), but I just knew donuts had a place in all this.

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#2
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/07/2008 4:52 PM

You can probably trace every good idea back to donuts. Hmm, I've read a lot of food history books - you know the kinds...if x food had never been found then humankind would still be living in caves, writing with fire charred sticks....The potato, codfish (actually this is a great book), bananas, etc. But I've never seen it traced back to donuts.

I think I have the idea for my next major work! I'll see you in a few months.

I'll get to CR4 going live tomorrow, where you'll find out that computer programming is indeed a spectator sport.

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#4
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/07/2008 7:23 PM

If you do some arduous research, there's a good launch date for a new book in about 3 months. Sounds like a legitimate business expense to me !

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#47
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

09/08/2008 2:02 PM

Your "I just knew donuts had a place in all this" reminded me of a story. A guy gets stopped by a local cop for speeding, and he's arguing vehemently with the officer that he NEVER speeds! So, the cops asks: "What is the radar detector doing on your dash, if you never speed"? To which, the guy replies: "Oh, that's so I can find the donut shops when I go to a strange town"!

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#3

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/07/2008 5:12 PM

Chris man, that is a delicious story and it makes me feel much more part of it. It sounds like you guys were having fun in the early days with all them donuts and plush chairs, windows facing over the car park rather than in the director's general direction.

Who says everything is down to donuts?


Looking forward to the next installment.

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#5

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/07/2008 11:54 PM

CR4 is alive,kicking and human and a great friend with plenty of donuts.

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#6

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/08/2008 3:58 AM

I know this is slightly off subject, but how about some t-shirts, coffee mugs or bumper stickers with the CR4 logo? James

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#7
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/08/2008 4:54 AM

Great idea James. I'm with u on that one.

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#8
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/08/2008 5:27 AM

I tried that once !

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#46
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

09/07/2008 1:31 AM

Ummm...

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#14
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/08/2008 12:15 PM

Here's my advance order for 1 coffee mug, two t-shirts (2XL), and a dozen donuts!

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#16
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/08/2008 4:23 PM

Is the donuts marked with CR4®?

I don't want any normal ones

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#9

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/08/2008 5:44 AM

Chris,

If this were a business venture, you guys'd be raking in millions of Naira (my local currency) as ROI. I joined this forum some months ago in 2007 and I can tell you it's been fantatic. What with having people offering genuine help freely and with great sense of humour and people being able to compare notes with enthusiasm.

You have created an addictive bank of knowledge, which can only take creative minds to achieve.

What else can i say, JUST KEEP IT UP.

Cheers,

ethobil

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#10

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/08/2008 6:43 AM

Chris, I just want to thank you and your team so much for coming up with this great resource. I look forward to my CR4 Daily Digest every day.

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#11

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/08/2008 8:06 AM

Hi Chris, Congrats for creating a such wonderfull blog which is of great help to engineers all around the world. I joined in 2007 and found it very usefull. I will suggest that our other members to post the problems solved through this blog with advise of other members, this will indicate the utility of this blog. Also it has widened the knowledge of many engineers by learning so many solutions to the various types of problems. Have nice time in Las Vegas with coinmachines and shows. I would have loved to join you but I live thousands of miles away in India.

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#12

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/08/2008 9:51 AM

I just wanted to say that this is a great tool not only for helping those in need but as a learning tool. I am an application engineer whose specialty is UPS and power quality and I do post on those issues but I also enjoy reading other topics and types of applications.

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#13

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/08/2008 12:06 PM

Chris......

Thanks loads for the "it was conceived in a back seat...not in a bedroom" definition.

As you can see by the wiseacre remark I , when reading questions, come up with a flip answer before serious analysis.

When some of the questions seem so juvenile, I have to stop myself from criticism with the knowledge it is an English format to which many non English first language people seriously are trying to benefit from others experiences.

I very much enjoy the others that project a TIC (tongue in cheek) response when the question is not clearly presented or incomplete on input data, or just raises a chuckle. Some of these turn into an off topic PHUNZ of continuous wit exchange. Love 'em.

To paraphrase.. "comprehension of another's intended wit is joy and beauty forever..... while incomprehensibility is ugly, runs clear to the bone".

Question; Would it be presumptuous to suggest a tongue in cheek response be designated as a TIC....warning everyone "to look out below" in the body of the response?

You did say it is an open format.

I have spent most of my 80 + years as a Mr. Fix-it...Mc Giver...applications engineer...[the non caps/bold indicate no degree.......], principally in my own business.

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#15

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/08/2008 1:31 PM

I am just a simple auto mechanic, but I enjoy this site immensely. Keep up the good work, it lets me know why my ideas won't work, or will, because someone else already thought it up!

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#17

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/08/2008 4:48 PM

My apologies everybody. I ran into a few "must do" projects today and did not get to finishing the tale of CR4. I'll write it first thing tomorrow. Before you burn me in effigy, just remember, all us bloggers need the occasional break.

I better lay off the donuts...

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#18
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/08/2008 5:11 PM

I was recently reading about the growing number who work from home, especially those using the net. Many have taken to using places like Starbucks, since it helps define the boundaries of 'home-life' and 'work'. There was one of those catchy names for it, bit I forget what it was (<something> nomads, I think). I suppose that will give them a Latte induced cardiac, instead of a stress one.

When you mentioned the blog, I thought you were going to add bits now and again. It's not exactly a story with an end, so I see no need to hurry. We're not paying you (except with our souls !). Have another donut, they soak up the coffee.

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#19
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/09/2008 4:01 AM

Yes every working human being needs a break. I was surprised to read the article about death of bloggers. I think they are killing themselves by overdoing the job. My suggestions are limit your time on P.C , take short breaks, dont sit as if half lying down as shown in pic, keep your back straight like a towel hanging on the cloth line i.e just freely suspended vertibra. In this posture you dont damage your vertibra discs.

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#20
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/09/2008 4:15 AM

That's good advice, though the things you mention apply to most office workers in general- need for regular 'eye breaks', repetitive strain injury, posture. People working at home get sloppier about such things. Additionally there's the stress of self-employment, social isolation etc. Planning how you work should be an integral part of any business plan. As the saying goes, "Life is what happens whilst you're making plans", but at least it's a start. Most successful people have plans (even if vague) - I even have a quote for that, "Plan your work,and work your plan". It's time to start worrying if you feel lost without a pocket full of bleepers/phones etc, and you take the laptop out more than your partner.

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#21
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/09/2008 8:21 AM

Along those lines, I have formulated the Three Rules of Planning. Some of which you may know in isolation, but here's the full kit:

1. - If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

2. - The plan is nothing; planning is everything.

3. - Plan 'B' must be in place before Plan 'A' fails.

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#22
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/09/2008 8:36 AM

Plan B must be planned alongside plan A.

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#23
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/09/2008 8:52 AM

Quite naturally so - else you won't have it in place in time - remember, Plan A may fail upon implementation!

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#24
In reply to #23

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/09/2008 12:16 PM

I'm experiencing uncharacteristic self doubt. Whilst planning my next plan, two sturdy chaps calling themselves 'repo-men' began carrying me out in my swivel chair. They declined my suggestion of a consultation meeting, although the fact that they've loaded me + worldly goods into the back of a large truck leaves me hopeful that they're simply looking for an appropriate venue. I'm not accustomed to dealing with 400lb knuckle-dragger's, but I'm assuming the phrase "we don't give a *^ck if your still in the chair, dork" means they're happy to convey me to said meeting. I feel better already - the unexpected change to plan B#7/2a/rev4.2/08 has got me free transport and 2 new chums. Life is good.

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#25
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/09/2008 3:34 PM

So settle back in the comfy chair, enjoy the ride, and hope that where they transport you to (hope that doesn't bring up too many bad memories of the OZ penal colonies, sorry about the wording...) has plenty of free...

Should you need a bottle opener, this should work, just aim carefully...

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#26
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/10/2008 3:41 AM

What can I say......

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#27
In reply to #26

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/10/2008 9:10 AM

Hmmm...I don't see the comfy chair...need a replacement? I can lend you this...

...but if the knuckledraggers weren't persuaded by the bottle opener I gave you, maybe you'll want this instead...

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#28
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/10/2008 9:43 AM

I want the blue one ! I want the blue one !!

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#29
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/10/2008 4:54 PM

So help yourself - right click and save as... Either the knuckledraggers weren't impressed enough, or the blue one is better than your old chair. Any reason for me to not know the difference?

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#30
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/11/2008 2:24 AM

The blue one just looks easier to spin on a horizontal plane !

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#31
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/11/2008 7:48 AM

Then apparently you've never seen any of these folks play!

http://www.nwba.org/index.php

There is/was (haven't seen 'em for years) an exhibition team called the "Chairmen of the Boards" that was probably as good as the Harlem Globetrotters!

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#32
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/11/2008 2:34 PM

"Forbidden

You don't have permission to access /index.php on this server."

Never mind ! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5Yv3g8uvDo

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#33
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/11/2008 5:29 PM

Hmmm...I just re-tried that link and it worked fine. They must be keeping closer watch on you than I thought... Nem'mind, try this:

http://www.socalhoops.com/wheel.htm

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#34
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/12/2008 3:14 AM

I give up !

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#35
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/12/2008 6:11 AM

I think OUR computer department is censoring you as well. They ban everything from our computers at work for stupid reasons. Is there too much "pink" flesh visible in those pages? Maybe offensive or to do with alcohol?

They are the internal gestapo and we call them tweedle dee and tweedle dum, they are father and son. We also refer to the son as mini mike as his dad is called mike, they are a hoot but for the wrong reasons.

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#36
In reply to #35

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/12/2008 7:52 AM

Which pages ? I can't see Enviromans links - not that I'd look if they were naughty.

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#37
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/12/2008 8:01 AM

The ones in blue with lines under them.....duh!

I think those female disabled basketball players doing it from the wheel chair are way too muscular anyway. Maybe that is why you were banned

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#38
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/12/2008 1:44 PM

That's more like it - awesome pecs !

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#39
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/12/2008 5:42 PM

Hahahahahahahaha!


That should keep you busy.

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#40
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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/13/2008 7:18 AM

The tan looks all wrong ! Like CR4, nobody knew how things would develop, though I think CR4 is sexier ! I shall away to do some bench-presses.

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#43
In reply to #40

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/14/2008 1:27 PM

Right! Good lad, don't want wrinkles in them benches...not at all seemly. Never know when they will be around to inspect...

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Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/14/2008 1:23 PM

That'd keep ANYBODY busy...

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#41
In reply to #36

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/14/2008 1:21 PM

Ye'd 'ave ta look ta KNOW if they's naughty, nawoodenye?!?

Not naughty, and not knotty - wheelchair basketball organizational links - do a search with them as keywords, see if you can get there that way instead.

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#44
In reply to #41

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/15/2008 2:09 AM

Tee-hee....I found the wheelchair basketball ages back, but just wanted to see how tangled things could get ! People no longer ask me if I want a cup of tea - they have to go into detail such as "Are your desirous of liquid refreshment, in the form of an infusion of boiling water and vegetable matter ? The refreshment so offered, will be presented in a porcelain receptacle, and the..........ad infinitum". Eventually they just get me a coffee and run away quick.

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#45
In reply to #44

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

04/15/2008 7:05 AM

Ever think maybe they run away quick so as to be well away when you find out just what 'vegetable matter' is the infusion in that boiling water?

Think 'mulch', son...as in 'compost'...

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#48

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

11/09/2008 3:46 AM

Hi, Chris!

Was there a Part II to this thread posted somewhere yet?

Mark

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#49

Re: What is the History of CR4? Part 1

09/28/2010 4:48 PM

Hello Chris,

A recent inquiry of mine prompted Garthh to lead me here. What a great read, thank you for authoring it. I was wondering if there were plans to continue the blog?

I'm sure you're probably busy with more relevant work, but it's nice to have a bit of history regarding a place that I can easily refer to as the best single point research location in the world.

GlobalSpec/CR4 has become my first stop regarding any quest for knowledge in which I find myself having to pursue. And on those rare occasions that I can not find the information here, through interaction in CR4, I always get pointed in the right direction.

If you do happen to find yourself with some spare time, I'm sure the authoring of the continued history of GlobalSpec/CR4 would be well received by many.

Kindest Regards,

JavaHead

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