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Uncovering the Origins of Coworking: A Look into Its Fascinating History



the @ symbol on a red sign outside and old-school internet cafe
Leon Seibert via Unsplash

Have you ever wondered about the history of coworking? If so, this post is for you. 

If not, maybe check out this one, on our Members favorite local restaurants.  But since you're still here, let's get in to Uncovering the Origins of CoWorking!


Accessing the internet at home is a relatively new thing. In the past, only governments, banks, and multinational corporations needed such a thing. Think back to movies* like WARGAMES and JUMPIN JACK FLASH to get an idea of what the world was like then. Even now, in modern developed cities, internet can be hard to get. New construction homes often are lived in for weeks before the owners can get a phone line in.



CoWorking started in the mid 1960s with what were then called “Serviced Offices”, set up in southern California, specifically for attorneys not affiliated with a practice. Local lawyers could rent an office that was fully furnished, make use of paralegals and other admin staff to help with paperwork, get a phone line installed, have access to printers, copiers, word processors, and the latest communication technology, as well as be able to reserve luxurious boardrooms at all hours. It was wildly successful, and coincidentally, a version of that same company still exists today, called Barrister Suites, with 30 locations on the west coast. 


In the 1970s, Servcorp launched in Sydney. In the 1980s, they were the first to come up with the concept of Virtual Offices, which is basically renting companies access to a street address to use on their letterhead and in other places, to make it look like they have a physical space.  


The next innovation in the early 90s was the Internet Cafe. While not exactly an office per se, internet cafes gave people easy access to computer connectivity back when it was still prohibitively expensive to have your own line. 


Next we jump to Berlin, circa 1995 and a group of hackers who started C-Base. The point of C-Base was to increase computer knowledge and skills, and to serve as an event location for groups like the Chaos Computer Club, and the Berlin chapter of Wikipedia group. 


In the modern era, coworking centers are enmeshed with their local communities, offering communal workspaces, private offices, meeting rooms, event venues, mailbox service, classes, workshops, and everybody’s favorite, free coffee and snacks! 


At NWA WORKPLACES, our version of Coworking includes communal spaces, open work areas, dedicated cubicle space, private offices for individuals or teams, as well as printer access, an internet connection, free coffee and snacks, and something very specific to Bentonville, immediate access to the Razorback Greenway from both our locations. Contact us today to set up a tour and see if Coworking might be right for you.



*Unintended Easter Egg: the late actor John Wood was in both these films!


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