Prior to 1997, the only thing I understood about barbecue was that I liked eating it at my local joint, Armadillo Willy's, usually at lunch with a group of friends that I worked with at Hewlett-Packard.
In April 1997, I was sitting in my cubicle at work when one of my BBQ lunch buddies, Duncan Engel, called me over to his desk. "Hey, check out this barbecue website," he said. It was Ray Basso's Kansas City Barbecue Connection, which featured a prominent link to The BBQ Forum. Well, let's just say that HP didn't get its money's worth out of me that afternoon, because I spent the rest of the day browsing the site! It was there that I learned about this thing called the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker...a smoker that was equally at home in the backyard and on the competition circuit.
A few days later, I bought a WSM at Barbecues Galore in Palo Alto and barbecued for the first time on April 19, 1997. Two slabs of baby back ribs. My notes from that first cook say:
Good smoky smell and taste.
Not spicy or salty enough.
Not enough sauce.
Get longer matches or a butane lighter.
Get a small watering can.
Make sure plenty of charcoal is on-hand.
Not bad for the first time!
So The BBQ Forum was my introduction to barbecue and the WSM and my biggest inspiration. I was also aware of the original Big Green Egg forum and the Kamado forum, but didn't spend time on those. By 2000, I had been publishing The Virtual Weber Bullet for 1.5 years and was such a big fan of the product that I thought it needed and deserved its own dedicated forum.
Another friend and HP barbecue buddy Kevin Kawahara had a vanilla PC server in his spare bedroom in Roseville hooked up to Comcast cable, and he installed Ultimate Bulletin Board on that puppy...and TVWBB was born in February, 2000. By 2002, Comcast noticed the giant sucking sound we were creating on Kevin's cable modem and we had to move to a hosted service at that point.
Now, over time, TVWBB grew and became more than just the WSM forum that it was originally. You see, it turns out that anyone smart enough to own a WSM usually owned a Weber kettle or Weber gas grill, too. So it was natural for the discussion to expand to include all Weber products and accessories and the topics of grilling and barbecuing more broadly. And that's how we got to where we are today.