Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Remember your first BBS?

Because I'm a computer geek by profession, I tend to remember all things silicon quite well.

In 1985, I had just went back to college for the third time. This time, I was deadly serious about it. I'd tried it twice before, and really didn't care for it at all. This time, I was tired of working crappy jobs, and I wanted to go to work wearing a suit.

I started out as an English major. (Yes, I know it doesn't show. Thank you.) However, I was smart enough to figure out that computers were going to be a big thing, and thought I'd better learn something about them. So I picked 2 courses out of the catalog, pretty much at random. The first turned out to be a Pascal programming class and the second a BASIC programming class.

Well, that was a mistake. I got hooked and started taking more computer-type classes. My advisor was not happy. He really wasn't happy when I changed my major to Business so that I could get a concentration in Information Technology. "You'll regret narrowing yourself like this" was his parting comment. (That hasn't happened, cap'n.)

Shortly after, I took out a loan against my car to buy my first computer, Morrow Designs MD-3, along with a Star printer and a smokin' 1200 baud modem. I thought I was somebody.

A guy I knew started teaching me all the things I needed to know, like bulletin boards. I can't remember the names now, but I had a blast. It was a new world.

After college, I, along with a borrowed clone IBM PC, moved to a larger area. I quickly hooked into the local BBS scene, becoming a regular on several boards. It was a lot larger than where I'd came from, to the point of having actual get-togethers on Saturday mornings for breakfast and actual face-to-face conversation.

Eventually, I moved back closer to home. But by 1991, the BBS scene was starting to fade, at least where I lived.The last local BBS folded up shop shortly after my arrival. By 1994, I had tried a succession of on-line services, such as Genie, Compuserve and AOL (at 2400 baud, no less!) and never liked any of them.

Luckily, the Internet, which I was familiar with from college, finally came to town, and of course I hooked up as soon as I could get an account. Of course, so did many people, a lot of whom had been BBS regulars. The BBS scene continued to wither, and eventually pretty much petered out completely. Of course, I didn't notice, being so absorbed in the WWW by then.

Now, I can look back at those days of ASCII text on an amber screen, and remember the Fidonet echos on survival and firearms with more than a little fondness. Of course, at the time we all bitched how slow it was, and about the flame wars, and about the Sysops. Now, we bitch about how slow the Internet is because the kid down the street is downloading movies again, we've given up on Usenet newsgroups because of the off-topic posts, and how sick we are of the latest porn spam.

Some things never change.

(This semi-historical post brought to you courtesy of Wired Magazine and their article on How Humble BBS Begat Wired World. And yes, I've already ordered the DVD set.)

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