Unknown fame

Glennis Siegfried

Kent resident may have been first to publish a Web address

Jon Rinehart said he may have have created one of the oldest Web pages in existence. He is, however, the first person to publish a URL in a magazine. Daniel R. Doherty | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Joe Rinehart seems like any other average Joe. He’s married, has a son and runs his own local business. But he also happens to be hiding something.

“I’m just absolutely tickled that someone found out about this,” Ravenna resident Rinehart said.

The “this” he is referring to is his possible claim to having one of the oldest Web pages in existence. Rinehart is, however, the first person to publish a URL in a magazine.

Rinehart’s company, Config.com, is located in Ravenna in a two-story house. While the company seems to have been there for a while, it first started out in a cemetery.

“(The technology of computers) is an interesting history that people, maybe as they understand it . But in my case, I witnessed them, I lived through them,” he says of how his company and the Web have developed over the years. “Each little event affected my life, for better or worse, and this whole career thing has had a lot of peaks and valleys.”

Rinehart was born in 1957 and grew up in Grandview. When he was 16, he dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Marines Corps. He left in 1976 and later married.

“I was the black sheep in my family,” Rinehart said of living with a bunch of people who had degrees. Using the GI Bill, he went to Kent State University for two years. After he flunked out, Rinehart went to work with his father in a cemetery.

Due to his “lack of edumacation,” Rinehart said he eventually became interested in computers around 1989 when his dad decided to computerize the cemetery records. Rinehart learned how to use it as well.

“The next thing I knew, I dialed into the Kent State library to find out if my father-in-law’s books were checked out,” he said, laughing. “That was where my interest really started, though, was learning how to access information and make it accessible.”

In 1993, Rinehart developed an account to sell CD-ROM drives and then turned to selling CDs. One of his first transactions was a customer in Belgium looking for 40,000 CDs, but his market consisted mostly of universities.

He started mailing magazines as well, but found that, despite so many CDs, he was losing profits to the $5,000 spent on shipping costs. Rinehart then realized that his customers all had computers and they had been requesting catalogs through the equivalent of e-mail in 1994.

“So it occurred to me, ‘Why didn’t I put (the catalog) on FTP?'” he said. Influenced by the Gutenberg Project, Rinehart then also thought to put the URL in a print media using an advertisement. Twenty-four hours later, he sold his entire collection of CDs.

“I went, ‘Holy smokes!’ and then, I knew that this was a vehicle.”

Once the Internet became more commercial in 1996, Rinehart’s business took off.

Nowadays he devotes his time to his business and sponsoring bandwidth for groups in Portage County. A couple of these groups are May4.org and KentOhio.net. His latest project is the Global Peace Fund, which he is working on establishing. The site is geared toward setting up and hosting Web sites for non-profit groups to run at little to no cost.

He is also helping other locals with setting up their Web sites. Mike Stankiewicz, a retired police officer, is one. The Web site for his insurance agency is hosted by Rinehart.

“He’s helped me build my Web page and administer it,” Stankiewicz said. “Every day I’m learning something new from him. Sometimes I come here to learn.”

At this point, Rinehart remains unrecognized for his URL. When he published it, he received more attention for the amount of selling he did.

“I was never recognized in any media, but no one has ever disputed the claim,” he said. “Again, it just absolutely tickles me that someone found out about this.”

Contact technology reporter Glennis Siegfried at [email protected].