Almost ten years have passed since this conversation with Brett and Rick took place. Hyperscale was relatively new then, although it had already attracted hundreds of followers online. Many episodes, issues, models and controversies have since washed up on scale modeling’s shores. Take a brief look back on how things used to be.

I met up with Brett Green, owner and mastermind of Hyperscale, during the 2007 IPMS National Show in Anaheim, California. Brett had agreed to sit with me in a quiet place for an interview during the show. My friend Rick Ewing and I met him in the hotel lobby early in the second day. My plan of sitting in a quiet corner of the lobby was frustrated by the constant flow and chatter of the modelers and visitors, the awful muzak everywhere present overhead and my realization that as soon as Brett was spotted by a group of modelers, they would descend upon us and there would go the interview. Eventually we found a quiet corner in the vast contest room. A few models were on the tables and modelers were drifting in and setting up for the show. We commandeered three chairs, I opened the Macbook, turned on the recording and we got into it.

bg: – Brett Green; ms: – Michael Scott; re: – Rick Ewing
ms: “We already talked about “dekkels” versus decals and your response had to do with airbrushing?”

bg: “Yes, it’s an interesting point, isn’t it? The minor cultural differences between western nations, that’s what makes it interesting. Probably the biggest comment I’ve had today, actually, is about the way I hold my airbrush.”

ms: “Really? That is interesting.”

bg: “Yes, surprising, really. The way I use my thumb to operate the trigger and cradle it in the palm of my hand. Probably a quarter of the people I’ve seen have made a comment about that. It emphasizes that the things people are interested in are the differences. And that principle I try to apply to Hyperscale in a positive way. For instance, we are looking for the new, for something that’s going to grab our attention and on Hyperscale I try to make sure that the content of the webzine side of the website reflects that, that there is something interesting to look at on a daily basis.”

ms: “When I got back into modeling, I’m a classic case of someone who modeled extensively as a kid, then sort of dropped out for years and returned to the hobby as an older adult, when I got back into it I first started looking for modeling information on the internet, and I believe Hyperscale was one of the first sites I found. It’s been around for a while, I understand.”

bg: “Yes, Hyperscale is in it’s tenth year now.”

ms: “I like the features and galleries and news, but I find most interesting the ability to search Hyperscale content for things that interest me at the moment.”

bg: “You’ve touched upon one of the ongoing frustrations I have with the site, namely, that the search facility doesn’t work as well as I would like.”

ms: “Do you use a Google-based search?”

bg: “No, I could never get the Google-based search to work properly, partly because Hyperscale is spread across a number of domains. At one stage I had a total of twelve different domain names, which was purely a financial decision because each of the domains was a separate account, each having their own bandwidth limits and the extra bandwidth was killing me at one point. But that has turned into a bit of a curse because it’s made it difficult to have a good site-wide search. I’m starting now to bring all of the content back under Hyperscale.com and once I’ve done that I will be able to implement a better site-wide search.”

ms: “So, you are consolidating all of your data in one spot?”

bg: “Yes, I have two dedicated servers in Dallas, Texas.”

ms: “Texas is a long way from Melbourne.”

bg: “The cost of download and hosting was far cheaper in the United States than in Australia. And, as far as I can tell, about seventy-five percent of Hyperscale’s visitors are from North America, and the response time is better for that.”

ms: “What led you to the crazy idea of creating and managing a scale modeling website?”

bg: “It was actually my local IPMS club in New South Wales. I had just taken over the local club magazine, the News and Views, for volume thirteen in 1996 or 1997. I found myself quickly frustrated by being the only one who was providing the content, typing it in, photocopying and processing the images. I was getting my family to help me staple it and put it into envelopes. I saw that the pool of club members was not big enough, and we had about a hundred members, to draw in enough content. We had regular reviewers and some help, I wasn’t doing it all by myself…”

ms: “But, you were doing all of the production.”

bg: “That’s right. At that time I was working as a systems engineer for a telecommunications company and I shared an office with an early internet geek and he knew all about the dial-up internet and the complex software necessary to get it going. He introduced me to the internet around 1997 and I discovered a site called Track-Link, an armor modeling website, and I thought I’d put some of my armor model reviews on Track-Link, and I was hooked, basically. So, you put those two things together, my frustration with getting content and producing a newsletter, and the whole Track-Link online enterprise, and the light bulb just went off. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if someone did something like this for aircraft modeling? At that stage I hadn’t seen a single website for aircraft. In fact, I put it to my club, ‘would you like me to put the newsletter on online?’ and, well, they didn’t seem all that interested, so I thought, well I’ll just do it myself.”

ms: “Not too different than the club Rick and I used to belong to.”

bg: “Remember, the context of this was 1998 and the internet wasn’t on the radar of most people. But I thought it was worth doing and I came up with a domain name of Wings on the Web, but then I thought that name would be too restrictive. I also decided that any website should be international, it shouldn’t have a national character and for that reason I was careful to select a name that couldn’t be spelled differently in American english or English english.”

re: “That’s a big factor.”

bg: “Yes, it is a big factor, in fact there are quite a few web sites that suffer this problem, where it’s American spelling or English spelling. People have trouble finding it. I also wanted something that was short and related to both the internet and scale modeling. I chopped words into little pieces of paper and shuffled them around and the combination I liked the best was Hyperscale.”

ms: “That was a good fit. At the time, the internet was also known as ‘hyperspace’. I visit a lot of websites and in my opinion is that Hyperscale is one of the best. It’s clean, it’s organized and when I click on a link on a different site, say for a review, as soon as your format pops on my screen, I know it’s Hyperscale.”

bg: “The branding wasn’t accidental. I knew from the beginning there should be some sort of branding and the format as well. I knew that the navigation had to be good, so that you could navigate to anywhere from anywhere on Hyperscale. You can’t have too deep of a hierarchy. Always giving the people the chance to quickly drop back to the main page.”

ms: “Have you considered an RSS feed? As I understand them, if you offered a feed and I subscribed to it, when new content hit Hyperscale I would be notified via the feed right away.”

bg: “There are lots of recent innovations, but one of the limitations of Hyperscale is that although I have a technical and engineering background in telecommunications and wide area networks, IP was pretty much new when I was getting out of it. I have no formal training in web design what-so-ever.”

ms: “So who was responsible for the design?”

bg: “Oh, I did it, but it was trial and error.”

ms: “Well, you did a good job if you ask me.”

bg: “Thank you. I designed it on paper first because I knew how I wanted it to look. I knew where the links were going to be and I knew roughly what I wanted it to look like. And I designed the thing in Microsoft Publisher.”

ms: “Oh my god…”

bg: “It didn’t work. I bought Front Page ’97 and it was gobbledy-gook to me, I didn’t understand it at all. I read a review when Front Page ’98 came out that it was a genuine wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) product, I bought that and the penny dropped and I found could do everything that I could see in my head.

I didn’t make significant design changes, but some people said they didn’t like the purple scheme – some people do, some don’t – so I changed it to the blue scheme. And I changed the logo so it was more identifiable than just the name, and I changed the theme as well so that it was instantly recognizable.”

ms: “I encourage you to not make any big changes. You have a working, identifiable, well-thought-of site.”

bg: “My instinct is the same. I get suggestions from people about making drastic changes from time to time, but it ain’t broke and I really don’t want to fix it. The biggest number of comments I get are in regards to the forum. I think it’s probably a 50-50 split. Some people want to go to the same structure as you’ll find on other forums these days, where the latest posts on threads are pushed to the top of the page. But I like the intuitive and conversational nature of a purely chronological discussion. You’re at the top of the page, and that is the most recent post.”

ms: “I think the layout is fine. I open a page and I can see the topics and threads associated with them. I have the option to open and read a topic, or just move on down to others. I don’t mind scrolling back a few pages to catch up on the conversations.”

bg: “Because the form is so busy, if you are away for a few days, you’re going to be scrolling back through a number of pages. I acknowledge that’s an issue, but I don’t think it’s too big a sacrifice.”

ms: “I agree with that; it’s a conversation, a discussion among modelers, not an information repository or a research tool.”

bg: “No, and that’s what people have to understand. To a certain extent, Plane Talking in particular, is show biz. It’s got a cast of characters. And, a lot of the time it is a soap opera when you see what’s going on. You see the conflicts individuals have among themselves; you see the humor. You see the human side of things when we have global tragedies. It sometimes brings the best out of people you might not necessarily have expected.”

ms: “Rick and I met via the world war one list, a collection of World War One modelers using a forum-like site built on a mail server out of the University of New Hampshire. It hosts a group focused on WWI modeling and such things really serve to foster a good international community focused on modeling. I think we are better off with these kinds of internet communities.”

bg: “The point you make about a focused group, I think a focused group is a happy group, because the moment you stray from beyond the plastic, those little differences that are interesting in some ways become points of contention.”

At this point we noticed a small group of modeler contestants setting up some large aircraft models near us.

re: “I wanted to ask, have you noticed that 1/32nd seems to be getting smaller?”

bg: [Laughs] “I have noticed that and I’m not happy about that at all. In fact I’ve had to get two new pairs of glasses. One pair of multi-focals for the computer screen and for modeling, and another pair so I can see at those times when I am actually walking in a straight line.”

ms: “Are you still working as an engineer?”

bg: “No.”

ms: “Are you being supported by Hyperscale?”

bg: “My wife would say I’m being supported by her. But, that’s only partially true. Toward the end of 2003 the work load was just too high. I had the corporate job, I had Hyperscale and I had already written a couple of books for Eagle Editions, …

ms: “And, you were trying to build a model every now and then.”

bg: “That’s true. I wasn’t building much in those days because my attention was focused on trying to get everything I needed to get done, done. At that stage Osprey publishing came to me with a proposal for a series of modeling books. I did the sums and I said to Debbie, look, if I have time to look for more ways for Hyperscale to earn income, and if I can do a couple of books a year, yes, I’ll earn half or less of what I was earning in sales of wide area networks.

But, I could also see the writing on the wall for what I did; I was building customer networks, drawing diagrams on the wall and specifying resources from Cisco…”

ms: “You were an architect.”

bg: “Right, I was architecting networks but at the same time I was looking at what was being introduced as new IP [Internet Protocol] products and the packaging, and the fact that networks my company might sell for $100,000 would soon be available as a package for a couple of hundred dollars. And that’s what’s happened in the meantime. And I didn’t know if there would be a place for me in that environment.

The other side is that although the money is much less, the family side is much better, particularly after school, that time between about three and seven or eight o’clock. I can pick the kids up from school, I can give the young one a bath, I can cook dinner. My wife works long hours, supporting me, of course. This job gives me the ability to work when I want.”

ms: “Coming from the high-tech world myself, I would venture to say that this work is much closer to your heart.”

bg: “It is. It was interesting, don’t get me wrong. I was in the telecommunications industry for, I think it was, twenty-five years, but it’s not like doing something you’ve created. How many people get the opportunity to follow their idea through to the stage where you can do it as a full time job? Sometimes it drives me nuts. Sometimes the shenanigans on the forum drive me crazy. Sometimes wondering where the money’s going to come from drives me crazy. Waiting for a book contract to come through drives me crazy. But I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

ms: “That’s good. You are obviously doing the right thing. Now, I have a different question for you. Tell me about your early modeling experiences. How did you get into this, as a kid?”

bg: “Yes, as a kid. My mom bought me, I think the first model kit she bought me might have been as compensation for having gone to the dentist. And it would have been an Airfix Series 1 kit in a bag, before those new-fangled blister packs came along. In Australia in the early nineteen sixties we had Airfix, Matchbox and Frog kits, but Airfix was the most common. It didn’t take long for me to be hooked. I had a friend living across the street who was into models. We would take the train into the city on, say a Saturday morning, we’d buy a couple of model kits and we’d go home and build them on a Saturday afternoon. This was in the days before acrylics so the enamel paint would still be wet as we were flying them around the room. The other thing we loved to do was fill the fuselage with fireworks, drill a hole in the fuselage so the fuse could come out.”

re: “I don’t know any guy who has not blown up his airplane at some point with a firecracker.”

bg: “Our problem was that the 1/72 kits weren’t big enough to get a lot of explosive into the fuselage. So, we made our own three-dimensional paper airplanes to put more in, blew them up and took Super-8 movies. Even back then I was taking sort of forced perspective photos. The only thing that spoiled the illusion was the blonde brick wall in the background.”

ms: “When I was a kid, I had a job from my dad which involved counting cars and trucks that came by this one service station. After six ungodly hours of sitting, clicking the mechanical counting device and drinking innumerable Dr. Peppers, I was paid the then princely sum of $20. To my mother’s disgust, I spent the whole amount, eventually, on plastic models.”

bg: “My pocket money was, first 20 cents then 40 cents per week, but that was enough to buy an Airfix kit. Then I eventually discovered girls and cars.”

ms: “Well, we’ve all had that interlude in our modeling life – girls, family, legal problems… We’ve been talking now for about twenty-five minutes, and I have a question to ask about trends in modeling. For example I’ve seen big changes in the short time I have been modeling as an adult, like Eduard for example going into new subjects, new tooling and designs, fantastic advances in color photo etch parts. You, being close to the industry and trends, what do you see as happening in the next few years in scale modeling?”

bg: “There is not one answer, there are several answers. In general I see two parallel paths for the hobby. And they are sort of mutually necessary. We are under this roof with another seven to ten thousand people over the next four days who are like-minded. We are hobby nuts. We want detail, we don’t mind if a kit is complicated; we are interested in reference, in general terms. But there are not that many of us in relation to the general market.

Fortunately, the technology has come to the stage in the year 2007 where we can be catered to better than in any time in history. We are seeing more niche subjects, more resin, more technical innovation. Can you believe what Eduard are doing with their color photo etch? And now the color placards and instruments are self-adhesive. And, traditional things we tend to associate with limited run kits that take less experienced modelers out of the market, such as lack of locating pins, lots of flash, and rough parts are beginning to disappear. You look at an MPM or Classic Airframes kit today compared to ones ten years ago, you wouldn’t believe they are from the same organization.”

re: “Look at early Eduard WWI kits, like the Siemens-Shuckert, and compare that with their new Bf 110 kit today and it’s like night and day.”

bg: “And, the reason I didn’t put Eduard in that limited run category is that they are just not.”

re: “True, not any more.”

bg: “They are pitching for something beyond the normal kit manufacturer. I think they are acknowledging the fact that their kits are going to be too complicated for your common, garden-variety, entry-level modeler.”

re: “We all started as kids and I got my son started when he was a kid, building kits like the Bandai series. But with all this stuff that’s going on with the youth of today, if you look around here, it’s mostly middle-age men. You don’t see many young people modeling any more.”

bg: “That’s why I mentioned there are two streams. The second stream is what we are starting to see coming out of China, but importantly, out of America with 21st Century Toys. People tend to typify 21st Century as a Chinese company; it’s not. It’s an American Company that does its manufacturing and tooling in China. They are coming out with $10 kits which may have soft, wide panel lines and lacking in some detail but are very nice, and big which means they have box appeal to a younger market and they are relatively easy to build. My tip is they are going to get crisper and they are not going to get any more complicated to build.”

re: “The thing is the money. Kids don’t have a lot of money to spend on a kit; it’s a ten-dollar kit that kids can buy and get that interest going. I have no problem buying a couple of these kits to build with my grandchildren. They are big enough that their hands can work on them.”

bg: “The point you make is equally important: grandfathers and fathers are going to bust themselves getting their kids into this, they are going to enjoy this themselves. The Hobby Boss kits are great for this too. Now, kids are going to take this big intermission, as we did for girls and cars and such, then get back when they are thirty, and that’s who you are seeing here. If we have that entry-level position, then I think our hobby is safe.”

re: “I took my son to a show and he had entered one of his Bandai models he had wired up with lights. I heard two adults looking at it saying that his father had done this for him, and I said, ‘No, I didn’t.’ Then they started talking with him about how he had done it and you could tell how important it was that two grown men were talking seriously with him about modeling. I think that’s what needs to be done, to show interest with our youth.”

bg: “I think that means the models are o.k. The eastern european manufacturers are o.k., because it’s all happening over there with the limited run kits, and in the far east obviously the Chinese entries are going to go pretty well. The challenge is for the western manufacturers is to find a place for themselves. They have to find an appropriate place for themselves, so they have to think creatively about what their role is. What do other parts of the market do better? China, manufacturing, sure; eastern Europe, detail, sure; but somebody has to come up with the research, the packaging, the marketing, and there is still a place I think for our mainstream western model companies, cherry-picking the best of what others are doing in the model industry.”

At that point we ended our talk. I got a photo of Brett and Rick then Brett had to go off to an appointment. Later on in the show, Brett held a Hyperscale seminar which was standing room only. Many of the people who one “sees” on Hyperscale were present and it was gratifying to put some faces together with names. One of the best things about this was that Brett did not hold a seminar as such, but kicked off what I might describe as a Hyperscale forum in the flesh. Everyone got the chance to introduce themselves and say a word or two about where they were from and their interests, then things moved easily into a lively, friendly talk among a room full of modelers. It was easily the most interesting and informative gathering of the show and completely reflected the character and depth of Mr. Green himself.

 

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