History of the Telecaster Discussion Page Reissue (TDPRI)
At the beginning of "Internet Time" (approximately 1995) guitar websites were pretty much nonexistent. However, after the introduction of the 1st graphic browser — Netscape’s Navigator — guitar fan sites started to be created. A Telecaster enthusiast named Ken Goldstein bought a Tele in the mid 90s and fell in love with it. So much so that he launched a page on the internet he called the Telecaster Appreciation Page (TAP). His intent was to hook up with other Tele owners/lovers, exchange stories, pics, etc.
In short order though, Ken was being flooded with questions and emails, as folks just assumed he was a Tele expert since he owned the page. The fact that he didn’t consider himself an expert coupled with his job causing him to travel more and more led him to install some free discussion board software and he called this link the Telecaster Discussion Page.
It ran this way for a very short time, certainly less than a year, before our original group of 10 or 12 became dozens and Ken couldn’t handle the board any longer. He asked for a volunteer to take it over and a young man (15?) named Noam Pikelny stepped forward. In no time the board really grew in popularity. At one high point in Spring, 1999 a number of members got together and put in donations to buy Noam the webmaster an expensive Custom Shop Fender "Nocaster" guitar. The guitar was given to Noam in Nashville when a number of TDP members got together with Fender’s Nashville Artist Rep, James Pennebaker and session players like Reggie Young and Bill Hullett. Happy days, indeed!
As Noam’s Telecaster Discussion Page (the TDP it was called) grew it became more and more difficult for a High School student to handle. Frequently, flame wars and fights would erupt. Many times it was a "civil war" between those that wanted the TDP to be ALL TELECASTER and nothing else and those that wanted to talk about all kinds of guitars and players.
Finally, in an attempt to control the situation Noam posted new rules: Telecaster Discussion ONLY! This caused a stir but calmed down until one day someone posted a thread about Jeff Beck. Now Jeff Beck is a Telecaster player, but that didn’t matter to some and they jumped the poster’s case pretty hard. This created a huge flame war with everyone on the page giving their opinion of the rules, the posters, Jeff Beck and you name it.
Suddenly the next day, on Saturday, May 1, 1999 there was no TDP anymore. Just a note saying it was closed and that Noam was graduating and going off to college and he couldn’t or didn’t want to deal with the TDP fighting anymore.
A Reissue of a Classic
That day when the earth stood still and the TDP went away was a shock to hundreds of folks all over the world. Suddenly, emails were flying among "former" members. On the few other guitar websites out there you’d find dozens of people lamenting the loss. What to do, what to do?
Paul Green was one of those people. As a new Tele owner, he had just purchased his first Telecaster (a 1993 Custom Shop Silver Sparkle Tele) in late 1998 and joined Noam’s TDP sometime in Oct or Nov 1998. When the TDP went away Paul was shocked and hurt. He figured that he’d just "get over it." But by Sunday afternoon he was cooking up another idea.
Paul owned an Advertising Agency. He has a website for his business and he was designing websites for clients. All this web stuff was VERY new. However, his knowledge of website building gave him the knowledge to recreate the TDP on a webserver that Paul was running for some clients. And, he knew just enough about cgi scripting to get the simple bulletin board software like Noam’s running. He worked on the site for about 8 hours in secret. Paul wrote to Noam and asked for permission and any help he could get. Noam gave his permission but was not able to help.
After some testing on Monday morning, Paul contacted one or two former members of Noam’s TDP and had them do some testing. He needed a name and had actually put TDP-2 on the headers in the program. But TDP member "Silvertone" suggested "TDP Reissue" because the most popular Telecaster at the time was the Fender ’52 Reissue Tele. So, at 11 am, Monday, May 3, 1999 Paul unveiled the TDP-RI.
Word spread super fast about the TDP-RI and old members showed up all day long. That first day, over 1000 posts had been made on the TDP-RI.
It didn’t take long until Paul’s TDP-RI was as busy as Noam’s old TDP. And it was growing fast. One of the first things Paul did was to tell everyone that non-telecaster posts were A-OK with him. Of course, this caused some fights, but everyone was too glad just to have the TDP back up and running again. It wasn’t long until Paul figured out the Domain Name thing and wanted to get the domain www.TDP.com. Even then that super popular 3-letter domain was taken, so Paul registered www.tdpri.com. And that’s when the name changed from TDP-RI to TDPRI.
Here’s what the page looked like back then:
Paul put the TDPRI though a number of changes. Adding new forums so that there was a Tele Discussion Page but also a Strat Discussion Page and a Technical Discussion Page, etc. During the first year a large fight broke out among people that were shocked when Paul proposed selling T-Shirts and accepting donations in the first Fundraiser. Many purists didn’t want to commercialize what was quickly become a very expensive labor of love for Paul hosting the TDPRI. When Paul received a $2,000 bill on his credit card for Extra Bandwidth Usage one month, that’s when the Fundraiser idea was born.
But the TDPRI survived it all along.
The TDPRI also became the impetus for other large guitar websites. TDPRI Member Chris Greene (no relation, see spelling) decided he wanted to talk about other Fender guitars and started the Fender Discussion Page (the FDP). Other TDP members have gone on to found other guitar websites too. Former TDPRI member Tim Baxter runs of the GDP (Gretsch Discussion Page).
New Software Points the Way
From that quick beginning in 1999 the website moved from its initial bulletin board software called, MATT’s WWWBOARD which ran on CGI Scripts and HTML flat files to PHPBB which is PHP/SQL software on March 3, 2003 unofficially and officially on March 17, 2003. This was an important change. A web community is the sum total of the combined knowledge contained in all the member’s posts. Yet, with the TDPRI’s initial software thousands of posts had to be deleted every year. The software being used created massive files too large to store and to search. With the change to PHP/SQL software posts could be saved indefinitely and search engines could catalog every word of them.
Then on June 14, 2006 the TDPRI changed software again. From PHPBB to vBulletin. Our previous platforms were open-source freeware. But vBulletin software is the number one Forum software in the world and one that is purchased. This change added hundreds of new features and opportunities to improve the TDPRI — soon the TDPRI was adding photo galleries, classified ads, articles and gear reviews. The site moved from one shared server to many other larger, more powerful dedicated severs every 2 to 3 years to accommodate the ever growing thousands of people concurrently online at the TDPRI.
Fundraiser Becomes Giveaway
Back in 2000 when the TDPRI needed a fundraiser to help pay off it’s founders $2,000 credit card bill for bandwidth the site depended solely on the generosity of it’s members. But in 2001 it occurred to Paul to spice up the Fundraiser with some guitar goodies. He sent emails to half a dozen companies asking for free samples of their goods. To his surprise they said, "Sure" and the Fundraiser/Giveaway was born. Each year since more and more items have been donated for the Fundraiser and then given away to those that have donated. To date, approximately $80,000 worth of items have been given away in the eight giveaways staged each year.
The Future and Beyond
As of mid-2013 the TDPRI has over 5 million posts, 100,000 registered members and 65 million page views every year. And, now the TDPRI has eight sister guitar gear websites as part of GearTalk Network — a network of guitar gear websites operated by the TDPRI’s founder.
No matter how much the TDPRI grows, it will always be a website where tens of thousands of all ages from all over the world congregate every day to share their love of Leo Fender’s first and simplest guitar… and to celebrate their friendship and care for each other.
PS. Original TDP founder Noam Pikilny grew up, switched to banjo and has become one of the premier banjo players in modern roots music. You can find his solo CDs on Amazon and iTunes and after a stint in the band “Leftover Salmon” he joined Chris Thile of “Nickel Creek” fame to become a key part of “The Punch Brothers.” You can catch Noam on various radio and TV performances and playing with his friend comedian and banjo player Steve Martin. More about Noam