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According to Wired, Gilbertson had been riding unicycles since he was a kid, and created TinyURL to convert postings on unicycling newsgroups into Web pages (since fewer people know their way around newsgroups than the Web). Google's AdSense links covered operating costs.
Gilbertson, known by friends as "Gilby," lives in Blaine, Minnesota, near Minneapolis. He learned about computers from his father, a software developer, with whom he also rides unicycles as part of the Twin Cities Unicycle Club.