If geeks love it, we’re on it

The history of Icrontic

2000-2007

“Keith was the reason I got into all this in the beginning. The site he created, Icrontic.com, was the first forum site that I visited, registered at, and got involved with. That involvement led to Short-Media.com, which is now a large part of my life and is a big reason that my life is richer for having so many new friends all over the globe. The people here have changed my life and have been members of my family. My kids call some of you “uncle”. All this is directly because of Keith. Interconnectedness works in wonderful and beautiful ways, and all I can say as testimony to his tragically short life is that all these good things came out of it. So let these friendships and relationships serve as Keith’s wonderful eulogy.”

—October 24th, 2004

In the early days of August in the year 2000, a boy named Keith Whitsitt got some computers together, talked his mom into getting high speed internet access, and started a little website called “Apu’s Hardware”. With his friend Ryan “Celcho” Boyle, who was originally a co-owner and hosted the site in his house for several months, Keith set the site in motion. He started off writing reviews of hardware that he owned, then he made some money, bought some more stuff, and wrote more reviews. Soon, hardware companies were sending him equipment to review.

He changed the name to Icrontic.com in late January of 2001. For the next two years, Icrontic grew into one of the top five largest hardware and overclocking enthusiast sites on the Internet. Sites like Icrontic, HardOCP, AMDMB (now PC Perspective), Adrian’s Rojak Pot (now TechARP), and AnandTech were at the top of their game during Web 1.0. With help from his friends and family, Keith turned a hobby into an empire.

At its peak, Icrontic was the definitive destination for information about the Abit KT7-A RAID motherboard, which was one of the most popular overclocking and enthusiast boards in its generation. Icrontic became famous for being the web home of world-class overclockers like Mr. Icee and Oppainter. Icrontic was also the home of the world’s first 3DMark benchmarking team.

In what now seems a foreshadowing of the future, in late 2001 Icrontic’s database crashed and the forum data was all lost. It quickly rebounded upon re-opening though. Everyone re-registered and quickly rebuilt a vibrant forum.

As life sometimes goes, Keith moved on to other things. The transitional years from high school to college bring with them many challenges and new opportunities, and it is hard for anyone to maintain their hold on things that were important to them when they were “kids”. For Keith, Icrontic was one of these things. As he went on through his college years, his time and attention slowly got diverted away from the day-to-day operations of icrontic to his college career.

Enter Doug “MediaMan” Kronlund. Doug was one of Icrontic’s most prolific authors. With hundreds of reviews and guides to his credit, his content was the lifeblood of Icrontic’s news and reviews department. Keith slowly handed the day-to-day operations of the site over to Doug, who was only too eager to help. Doug enlisted the help of some of the other Icrontic forum regulars, including Dan “Shorty” Pass and an ever-improving moderating team. They helped run the forums while Doug kept the news and reviews coming. Icrontic hummed merrily along the web, being a home for thousands of computer enthusiasts that spanned the globe.

One of those enthusiasts was Brian “primesuspect” Ambrozy. Brian was a tech guy who kept Icrontic.com as his homepage and spent countless hours on the forums, hanging out with his friends. Brian was the owner of a hosting company and noticed that the Icrontic forums ran pretty slowly. In early 2003 he decided to approach Keith about hosting the site. Keith directed him to Doug.

Doug was very amicable to the idea of moving the hosting to Brian’s datacenter. They discussed terms and waited for Keith’s final approval. Keith, however, gave a surprising “no” answer to the hosting proposal. He never explained to Doug what his reasons were.

A few months went by, and then on May 24th, 2003, Icrontic.com suffered a blow which would prove to be insurmountable.

The site was hacked. The server, which was hosted at Rackshack, was a stock Red Hat Linux 7.3 install and had never been patched. Even worse, the backup scripts that were supposed to be running nightly were never tested, and had never made a single working backup. The entire site database that hosted years’ worth of information was wiped out. The hackers replaced the index page with a graffiti message, lauding their work, and in seconds had destroyed an entire community without compunction.

The community scrambled to find out what happened. Many of the members gathered at AMDmb.com to discuss the news and to try to make sense of the mess. AMDmb.com graciously hosted a temporary “home” for the lost members of Icrontic.

Doug couldn’t get a hold of Keith to find out what his plans were. Initially Doug thought to relaunch the site on Brian’s servers during the downtime. However, his calls to Keith went unanswered.

Doug called Dan. Dan called Brian. Brian called Doug. Emails were exchanged, and a plan was formed. Barring communication from Keith, it was safe to assume that Icrontic.com was down for the foreseeable future. Perhaps it was time to start anew, with someone else at the helm. The plans were made and a few people were brought on board to talk about coding a new site from scratch.

In those intense days between May 24th and June 1st, 2003, an amazing amount of communication, collaboration, and high stress moments took place. Forum members Seth Kwitko and Ross Clark were tapped for their PHP skills to help put something in place. Dan threw together a vBulletin template for the forums. Doug got to work coordinating press releases and a plan. Matt “General Keebler” Russell mustered the community at AMDmb, and sought out missing members and most of the Folding@Home team. Brian and his friend Thom Kondoff got to work preparing the server and hosting platform.

During this time, someone found a message on nvnews.net, submitted by Keith Whitsitt on May 30th:

“I am the owner of Icrontic.com, a premier computer hardware website. Icrontic was hacked and now all that remains is the site code (no database).

I am selling all of Icrontic, the name, the images, the files, and the following domains:…”

An Ebay link was provided.

The community went into an uproar. Keith put the entire Icrontic.com asset package on Ebay without first offering the site to Doug, Brian, or Dan. Bidding started immediately.

Dan, Doug, and Brian decided to pool their personal funds and attempt to buy the site package. However, they were quickly bid past the limit they agreed upon. The seven day auction was a frenzied event, watched by thousands. There were three big “groups” in a bidding war to buy the package, one of them being Dan, Doug, and Brian. Another bidder was former icrontic member Mark “Tex” Withers. A third bidder was soon seen – little did anyone know it was Raffi “Citrixmeta” Manoian bidding against Tex and the others. Ironically, Tex and Citrixmeta had made an agreement to team up and buy the site, but unbeknownst to each other had each acquired bid-sniping services which were working against each other. The price of the domain skyrocketed past $2000 and ended up being won by Raffi.

Tex Withers and Raffi Manoian re-launched the “new” Icrontic along with a segment of the original Icrontic membership on June 5th, 2003.

Meanwhile, giving up on owning the actual Icrontic name, Doug, Dan and Brian continued with their original plan. A domain name was purchased, and a site was born: Short-Media.com

On June 3rd, 2003, Short-Media.com went live. Members trickled in from AMDmb.com and other sites. Soon, the bulk of the active membership from the original Icrontic were happily checking out their new home on the web at Short-Media.

Icrontic and Short-Media grew into two separate entities. There was a minor scandal when an administrator at the new Icrontic decided to deface the Short-Media site. For a few hours, people were frightened that another “Icrontic hack” was happening and that Short-Media would be lost, but the site was quickly repaired and restored from backups. The perpetrator was threatened with legal action, and a public apology was issued. He was subsequently let go from the new Icrontic staff, as well.

During the next several months, Icrontic experienced something of a resurgence, with many new members and a different feel, many thought that Icrontic was experiencing a renaissance.

In October of 2004, tragedy struck. Keith “Mortin” Whitsitt, was found in his home with a gunshot wound to the head. Within days, he was dead. A great many people from the “original” Icrontic showed up at Short-Media to express their condolences.

Over the next two years, Raffi and Mark made a great effort at sustaining Icrontic’s momentum, but the mass-exodus of a large portion of the community was a telling blow. In February of 2006, Raffi put Icrontic.com up for sale again. This time it was purchased by Phil “Aranyic” Douglas, who was another “original Icrontian”.

Phil kept the site for over a year, but the momentum was gone and seemed irrecoverable.

In the meantime, Short-Media experienced its own upheaval. In November of 2005, Doug Kronlund sold his share of the company to Dan and Brian. However, Short-Media proved to be more than a two man operation, and so they brought Matt Russell on board as a partner. In early 2007, Matt Russell packed up and moved to Warren, Michigan – right into Brian’s basement. With face-to-face contact, Short-Media’s momentum was bound to accelerate.

In May of 2007, Dan Pass amicably resigned his ownership in the company. Brian and Matt made the decision to repurchase the Icrontic assets and start fresh. The original name “Short-Media” was less relevant and difficult to convey. “Icrontic” was the most obvious replacement.

Matt and Brian approached Phil Douglas with an offer. Phil accepted, and the rest is history.

Now we are entering a new era – the rebirth of Icrontic.com. Both Brian and Matt have grown up with Icrontic, and each has a deeply personal connection with the name, identity, and community. On June 2, 2007 – the fourth anniversary of Short-Media.com – the sites will be consolidated and Short-Media.com will cease to exist. Icrontic is back.

The future is bright for Icrontic.com. We hope all of you will enjoy the ride.

-Brian Ambrozy & Matt Russell, May 24th, 2007.

Updated Jul 2010 to fix incorrect dates (verified by archive.org).

2008-2012

The first year of the newly-minted Icrontic was a little rough. Many of the original Short-Media members fizzled out, stopped posting, and left the site. Whether it was the name change, the loss of Shorty and MediaMan as site owners, or something else, the fact is several core members faded away during this era. Growing pains in a busy community are part of the process, but some of the losses hit close to home, considering how much of an online family we had become.

However, a new influx of life came to the community from a very unlikely place—an online video game called Team Fortress 2. Matt and Brian began playing Team Fortress 2, and began sharing how much fun they were having on the forums. The posts attracted attention and others started playing as well. Soon there were enough people playing to justify getting a dedicated Icrontic Team Fortress 2 server. Nearly nightly games of TF2, with rowdy voice chat, group singing over the mic, and genuine good-hearted fun led to a great many new community members. It went like this: they’d play on the Icrontic TF2 server, random people would show up (thanks to Valve’s Steam online gaming service, they would sometimes just randomly land on the Icrontic server), and then these random strangers would have so much fun with the group that they would want to know more. Those that sought out what Icrontic was all about inevitably got involved with the community.

The beginning of 2008 represented a breath of fresh air into our admittedly stale little online home. All the new, highly enthusiastic members made the old-timers remember what it was that made Icrontic so great—the people. By the middle of 2008, Brian had decided to quit his “day job” and devote himself full-time to turning Icrontic into a legitimate tech journal and gaming website. With Matt’s support, he was able to bring new members in, develop an editorial workflow, create an outreach system, and start meeting and mingling with industry personalities that would enable Icrontic to be more than just an online community—Icrontic’s goal was to become a respected news source.

By 2009, there were many new content contributors. Some of those same enthusiastic gamers that found Icrontic through Team Fortress 2 came to Icrontic loaded with knowledge and willingness to share it. The team started writing more and more content, attending major trade shows such as E3, CES, and SIGGRAPH, and making a splash on the grand stage of the internet. In addition to massive growth in traffic and userbase, Icrontic also began being taken seriously as a source for breaking tech and gaming news. One year to the day after Brian quit his job to work on Icrontic, Matt did the same thing. Icrontic now had two full-time staffers.

As things go, though, the momentum wasn’t good enough to sustain the team. First, the editorial staff lost Robert “Thrax” Hallock, Icrontic’s most prolific contributor, which was a blow to the content-producing team. Robert went to work for AMD, a company Icrontic covers, which of course meant he could no longer contribute to Icrontic due to potential conflict of interest. Not long after, Robert “UPSLynx” Miller went to AMD as well. After that, Brian took a job as a social media manager at an internet marketing firm. Matt went to work as a web developer at a local web company. The loss of two full-time staff members and two highly productive part-time members was extremely telling; Icrontic’s metrics dipped by every measure—from web traffic to amount of content published, to number of trade shows attended.

The rest of the editorial team stood steadfast amidst this dejected landscape and continued contributing quality content when and where they could. The torchbearers; particularly CB Droege and Nick Mertes, never faltered, and they kept Icrontic’s pulse beating while everyone else sorted themselves out.

Of course, life is all about change: By the end of Summer 2011, Brian went back to working on Icrontic full-time. Matt took a job with Vanilla, developing the next-generation forum software that will carry Icrontic on into the future, and the content team had recovered from the loss of The Roberts.

In late 2011, Icrontic switched from the legacy vBulletin software we started with, to a fully open-source platform called Vanilla, with many custom plug-ins that tie Vanilla Forums in with WordPress software. The new platform enabled Icrontic to engage members on entirely new levels, with participation, badges, awards, reactions, and more. Icrontic also significantly solidified their social media presence with increased Facebook and Twitter community building. Also, Matt started going by his middle name, “Lincoln”, just in case you’re confused…

In early 2012, Lincoln bought a house in Detroit, and much of 2012 was spent renovating it (it was built in 1899 and required significant renovations). This new IcronticHQ received a massive amount of help from the Icrontic community, globally; both donations sent in to help with renovation costs and dozens of people flying to Detroit from all over the country to help lend a hand with their skills and labor. Blood, sweat, and tears were shed for this house that truly, in every sense of the word, was built by a whole community.

Tragedy struck during the annual Oktoberfest in 2012, at the first major event held at the new HQ: long-time, highly involved community member Spencer Hayes was killed in an automobile accident during the event. Three other Icrontians were also injured in the vehicle. The community was hit hard by this, but having so many close friends physically together to mourn and celebrate his life was helpful, as Oktoberfest went from a holiday party to a wake. Still, the community trucks on, in honor of Spencer and his crazy gaming ways.

2013 is here, and Icrontic continues to grow and change, but the most important thing is: we’re all in this together.

-Brian Ambrozy & Lincoln Russell, January 2013