Online communities reach middle age
February 16, 2018 12:01 AM   Subscribe

Before Usenet and MetaFilter but after email, and launched 40 years ago on February 16th 1978 in Chicago after development that avoided committee inertia, the CBBS (Computerized Bulletin Board System) was created by Ward Christensen (creator of XMODEM) and Randy Suess. It consisted of a homebrew computer with 40k of memory, was managed by a "sysop", eventually contained 20,000 lines of code, and worked well. Announced in Byte Magazine, the sole modem and 300 baud card meant members took it in turns to use, the system restarting with each new call. textfiles.com has some BBS logs and captures: [1][2][3][4]. Problems with the system?? Phone the developers. (2008 FPP, and a busy 2006 "Did you run a BBS?" AskMe)
posted by Wordshore (86 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
 
The final link - that AskMe from heck twelve years ago(!) entitled "Just out of curiosity - Were you a BBSer? Did you run a BBS?" - is one mighty comment-read. Really enjoyed going through that.
posted by Wordshore at 12:21 AM on February 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


I was there, and even dialed in to CBBS a few times.

Few will ever understand the frustration of trying to dial into a busy k-rad underground single line BBS before it switches into FidoNet and maintenance mode for the night. There was always a mad scramble of users trying to get in to post messages before reset so they'd hopefully make it out of the store-and-forward messaging queue that evening, instead of, oh, the next night or the next. (Imagine waiting a week for an email. An actual week. And sometimes it doesn't show up at all.)

Ever listen to a busy signal over and over again for a few hours, and feel a bit of panic and desperation every time it didn't ring? I have.

Fun things I used to do with the portable terminal/laptop combo I'm talking about in the AskMe: Mainly I'd take it everywhere and plug it in to whatever phone lines were exposed and I could get a dialtone on. And by exposed I mean "can it be opened with a screwdriver, plugged into, clipped into with alligator clips or even acoustically coupled?"

Long before cellphones or even pagers were affordable and commonplace my friends and I were using that thing as a mobile communications device to hit up our local BBSes to be able to talk to and plan meetups with friends. Places I dialed out from illicitly included the access halls behind stores at a number of malls (every Radio Shack has/had a fax/modem testing line that's almost never used), high school, libraries, arcades, fast food joints and hundreds of pay phones.

Heck, I'd sometimes intentionally get in trouble and sent to the principal's office because I knew there was a power outlet and phone line in the waiting area, and I knew it would usually take hours to be seen, so I'd just be sitting there happily online my favorite BBSes from school on their phone bill.

In hindsight this was a parent's worst nightmare. It made it ridiculously easy to do things like plan parties or worse without a single spoken word, or even a human-identifiable phone number on the phone bill. And unlike today, there were no logs of anything. Once I close my terminal window it was gone. No browser history, no chatlogs, no Facebook wall or timeline or privacy issues.

If it wasn't for the fact we were all huge nerds too smart for our own good we nominally should have gotten into a lot of trouble.

Heck, even without the relatively normal shenanigans, a lot of the stuff we were doing (like "theft of services" from using someone else's phone line for toll calls) we should have gotten into a lot more trouble, but frankly they didn't even have laws written for most of the weird, dubious shit we were getting up to.

I vaguely knew an old school hacker and phone phreak (and BBS operator!) who was essentially single-handedly responsible for the creation of several new laws related to wardialing and the theft of telco services via the results of wardialing.

Because back then free phone calls is what made you a god in hack/crack/phreak. Everyone had slow pipes, and there was a maximum speed you could get out of an analog phone line. No, free long distance calling card numbers allowed you to call anywhere, from anywhere, back when phone calls from anywhere to anywhere else could cost a lot of money, as much as several dollars a minute for the right long distance call.

And, well, this dude was a god among gods. He essentially harvested new calling card numbers every night and only ever used each one once. Then he handed out the numbers on BBSes all over the world to cover his own tracks.

With unlimited free long distance calls this means you were essentially your own prive network provider, and you could dial into remote BBSes in, say, the Eastern Bloc or Europe to get files and wares you couldn't get from local BBSes. And that samizdata and raw data could be bartered for access to other files or more elite BBSes, or priority access to the BBSes, or even backdoor unlisted dial-in numbers reserved for group members.

These calling card numbers or other long distance calls are what fueled the warez scenes, especially the fast release 0-day warez scene. The data files of cracked software that spread and appeared as so-called 0-days were sent over direct long distance connections, most often on stolen accounts. That's how they were actually transferred from one side of the globe in 24 hours or less. They were sent over a slow-ass direct modem data transfer from one computer to another over plain old phone lines.

You could also trade this data for access credit time. It didn't even have to be pirated software. It could be text files or howtos or FAQs from far off lands, anything rare and hard to obtain. (Remember that? Rare and hard to obtain data?)

Something else to remember is that most of these BBSes were actually paid services, or were supposed to be paid services.

While many BBSes had a daily or weekly demo account, the limitations were usually as severe as 30 minutes of logged in time per day. After that, you had to pay for credits. On most BBSes, 1 credit = 1 hour, and could be as much as 50 cents a credit.

While there were a few BBSes that actually made fucktons of money from paying users, most BBSes were hobbies and whatever fees the SySop managed to collect tended to barely cover the phone and electric bills, much less plan for new hardware, expanding the phone lines or upgrading the BBS host computer.

Most BBSes had a grey market economy for credits of some kind. This usually involved the SySop giving a number of credits to friends or favored users, and then those friends or favored users would dole out credits to others to keep the chatroom or file sharing from being too boring.

There were also people who would just buy credits for others for the same reasons. There just weren't that many people on the local smaller chat/community boards sometimes.

Something else to remember is that many of these BBSes had local meetups, since they were inherently local services. I still know and talk to some of the friends I made during my BBS days. There's a whole bunch of early pre-internet families out there from the BBS scene.

I've often wondered if this model would still work today in some form, because it had an inherent gate to pass in that you were nerdy enough to know what to do with a computer and a modem.

Hrm, perhaps we could do something nerdy like radio packet networks on low power software defined radios, while still avoiding full on HAM territory. Or maybe optical links from user to user.
posted by loquacious at 1:22 AM on February 16, 2018 [68 favorites]


Ah, XModem, YModem and ZModem.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:51 AM on February 16, 2018 [10 favorites]


WWIV/Fidonet 4 LYFE! (Exsysop here.)

At a blistering 2400 baud! (In case any of you lived in Lompoc, California in the late 80's (88-89, IIRC), you MIGHT remember Blah Blah Blah Blah aka B^4 (the result of an argument with my cosysop about what to name it): The BBS for People That Like to Stay Up Late and Talk To Other People Who Liked to Stay Up Late? I was an official Phrack distributor and an unofficial other mag distributor. And what is this money thing you speak of?

(I and [counts quietly for a moment] and 4 of the 5 other local sysops (the fifth one was an Air Force dweeb that had a stick up his ass the size of a Minuteman missle) had a massive "Learn About BBSes" party for the general public, with prizes, and we had the author of Rocket Ranger from Cinemaware come in and give a speech and a demo.

On the DOWNSIDE of BBS meetups, I changed jobs at one point. So, one of the other sysops had a competition to get a picture of The Stainless Steel Rat in a tie. You could win a free giant pizza from the local good/bad pizza place in town. One of the big users came to my job and got a pic. A week later, after showing up at the latest get together, I walked in the door to see my betied mug on everything from 286's to Ataris to Amigas to a TRS-80 Model III. (No idea how they got it scanned, as I didn't know anyone with a scanner.) It was funny, everyone who knew me in town would just refer to me as Rat or Steelrat, everywhere I went.

MeFi generally makes me think of the old school BBS community feel (minus the inevitable and non-existant elite - I think. You never know with the Cabal! - file section - I made my anarchist and hacking files free for everyone). Just the general camaraderie and the sense of identity. Now, if they would ever get a link to FidoNet with a gateway BBS, we could get internet mail!

I even remember hanging out with one of the users at 2 o clock on morning trying to record a call to my BBS so we could see if we could resync it for a playback attack.
posted by Samizdata at 2:11 AM on February 16, 2018 [16 favorites]


Oh, up to about 5 years ago (last time I checked), I can still whistle 2400 and 9600 baud connect tones. (Also I used to have a lineman's set I found in an unlocked switchbox.)

Oh, and I was a giant ass. They had just really rolled out Call Waiting in town. We had a Galacticomm 4 line BBS in town which was frequently full. Also, the way it was handled at the time would boot a modem offline. So I had a special script in my terminal program that worked like this.

DIAL BBS
IF NOT CONNECTED CALL PERSON FROM LIST "PEOPLE I KNOW WITH CALL WAITING"
HANG UP
INCREMENT LIST ENTRY COUNTER
DIAL BBS
IF CONNECTED THEN END SCRIPT
ELSE GOTO IF NOT CONNECTED
posted by Samizdata at 2:15 AM on February 16, 2018 [12 favorites]


loquacious that whole comment reminds me so much of Neuromancer and what I love the most about any cyberpunk or scifi.

The arcane and byzantine tech stuff, not just typing a query into Google.
posted by sio42 at 3:42 AM on February 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


I was never a sysop, I could barely afford my own computer much less one to devote to a BBS, but I was a user of many BBSes in Amarillo TX. I guess I got in late, my first modem was a blazing fast 2400 baud, not a 300 baud device.
posted by sotonohito at 4:02 AM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Samizdata: I forget the name of the board I ran a point on when teenage me lived in Santa Maria but I remember two things: the owner was far enough out that he ran on battery for days after a storm while PG&E struggled to get the power back on after a storm in 1995, and he also had a U.S. Robotics 9600 bps modem which could be unlocked with an AT command to enable the 16.8kpbs mode they released officially in the next generation. 16.8! After years at 2400 – now I just needed more people to actually send echo mail…
posted by adamsc at 4:24 AM on February 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


You needed to upgrade to the telebit and get 19.2 bps.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:26 AM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


I remember in the spring of '78 a sysop at the DePaul University computer room showing me a live ongoing terminal printout of a CBBS communication event (I'd guess you'd call it). I had no idea at all at what I was looking at, but the sysop's reverential attitude towards what we were witnessing convinced me that Something Very Important was happening.
posted by Chitownfats at 4:30 AM on February 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


You needed to upgrade to the telebit and get 19.2 bps.
Two things kids won’t believe: network speeds that low and that delivering newspapers was a viable way for a teenager to get that kind of money.
posted by adamsc at 4:35 AM on February 16, 2018 [9 favorites]


I had a Hayes Smartmodem 1200 connected to my Apple ][e starting in 1983 and dialed many boards, especially Fidonet when that became popular. I think I had about 60 BBS’ that I would dial pretty much every week after everyone else got off the phone. I remember one board (Duckpond?) was run out of a college dorm room at Christian Brothers College (now CBU). I think he had a grand total of 4 members. Others had hundreds of members, with paid access to member only areas. I remember playing games, sending echomail, etc.

As a result I admit my first exposure to Bitnet was a bit (pardon the pun) disappointing. It wasn’t really much better than Fidonet. I connected to sites via gopher or Archie or Veronica and downloaded lists of files via FTP.
posted by grimjeer at 4:36 AM on February 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


Remember sysops who pronounced it to rhyme with ice-pop?
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:39 AM on February 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


Did they call themselves BoardMaster too?
posted by thelonius at 4:59 AM on February 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


Gotta love that sound.
posted by valkane at 5:09 AM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


There was a guy in the Atlanta suburbs that had I think 16 lines coming into his BBS, Index BBS IIRC. I think I paid $5/mo to be a member.

Sadly, he died in a skydiving accident around the time web browsers started taking over online life.
posted by COD at 5:09 AM on February 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


BBSes were essential for me as a young nerd.

I got my first modem as a gift from a neighbor; it was a blistering-fast 2400bps Aprotek Minimodem. I poured over BBS listings and became intimately familiar with Ameritech/Illinois Bell's "zone" dialing and costs. I learned quickly that not everything in my area code was a free call. Zone C was far away and a per-minute charge, zone B was closer but still charged per minute, but zone A was totally free. Alas, there weren't many BBSes that close to me.

I did find one in zone B that I came to really enjoy, a Commodore BBS where I got to know the SysOp really well. He'd often interrupt my download sessions or viewing of doors to say hello, and we'd end up chatting. Turned out he was a kid around my age, and eventually we met in person. Didn't hit it off, but I still remember the immense amount of convincing I had to provide my parents to let them know that "someone I met online" was OK. (His dad dropped him off for a playdate, and we geeked out about computers and tech.) Incredibly, thanks to the internet, I remembered his name, googled it, and located a BBS list that told me its name... good times.

I absolutely remember calling in to CBBS, but it was out of my zone, and I didn't find much of interest there at the time. Never put together that it was the first BBS.
posted by hijinx at 5:16 AM on February 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


And tossing in this great 1994 Chicago Tribune spotlight on Chicago SysLink, that started up in 1979. The opening sentence is a dated masterpiece.
posted by hijinx at 5:23 AM on February 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


Gotta love that sound.

A post from two years ago with links to various modem pictures, sounds, and other materials.
posted by Wordshore at 5:27 AM on February 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


WWIV op for maybe 3 years. We had 3 phone lines to the house (house line, sisters, and the little league "field status" answering machine). Once I graduated from little league, I inherited the line, and then setup a BBS.

No real shenanigans, just a pre-www day for me + friends to shoot the shit, play games/doors (space dynasty, operation overkill), trade games and such. Scroll-lock on to tell everyone logged in you were available to chat.. hah.
posted by k5.user at 6:03 AM on February 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


My local city had a pretty thriving BBS scene despite being a kind of run down mess. I had my own BBS as a teen, but once the multi-line Galacticomm Chat BBS came to town my own BBS functionally ended because I spent all my time on the chat board. I wrote my MA thesis on BBS culture, so I always love seeing a BBS history post!
posted by absalom at 6:11 AM on February 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


A post from two years ago with links to various modem pictures, sounds, and other materials.

All my old BBS ephemera is on paper.
posted by mikelieman at 6:17 AM on February 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


I ran a CNET-Amiga BBS on Long Island called "Metallic Dreams" from 1990 to 1994. It ran on an Amiga 2000, initially on a 68000 with two floppy drives at 2400 baud, and by the end the same computer had a 68030, 8 MB of RAM, a Fat Agnus and a 14.4k modem. It was my life. Just a few years ago someone who frequented it decided to resurrect it, much to my delight.

The best thing about running that board was reconnecting with my oldest childhood friend with whom I'd been babysat when I was very, very young. We remain close to this day.

The worst thing about running that board was learning about coprophilia from a user with a need to overshare, though I did manage to turn that into a rather controversial presentation in health class.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:43 AM on February 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


Calling the US from Mexico in the late 80s and early 90s was stupidly expensive, and most of the calling card numbers and phreaking techniques available in BBS only worked from within the US.

So I did the only logical think, stole a phone (you could not buy one, they all belonged to the phone company) and made a linesman's handset in a cigar box.

I found a telephone pole a few blocks from home, right next to a big ficus tree, with some available lines. I would climb the tree, run some long alligator clipped wires to a nice fork in the tree, and lay there for hours accessing voice message services to get the latest gossip and leave messages asking for collect call numbers I could use from Mexico.

I got banned from the phone at home after I kept the line busy 14 hours straight, sometimes I would take my Amiga 500, Hsyes modem, TV adapter, and a portable black and white TV up in the tree, connect an extension cord to lamp post, and spend many hours downloading text files into floppies.

The TV adapter would accept interference. For me the BBS era looks like fuzzy text on a tiny black and white monitor with a background of ghostly and badly v-syncd local news shows and soap operas.

Las time I visited my mother's, a few weeks ago, I went for a walk and could see my old alligator clips and wire still wrapped around a branch, the tails trailing almost to the ground.
posted by Index Librorum Prohibitorum at 7:15 AM on February 16, 2018 [40 favorites]


posted by loquacious at 4:22 AM

Fucking flagged as fantastic. Thanks for that. I came in at the tail end (and the less technologically blessed (because rural Alabama)) of that era but I really appreciate the perspective.

I remember the old dial up modem sounds (AOL of course) but not the pay by minute / distance woes/phreaking that you cite.

I played the shit out of a MUD for hours at a time, despite latency and low skill with scripting causing me to get my butt stomped in nearly any PvP scenario. That about as close to a 'no log, no memory, BBS' type experience as I came. That's probably what ruined me on MMORPGs in some interesting ways since that particular MUD was both so beautifully crafted, deeply engrossing, punshingly painful when you died, and also reliant upon a community and technology (solid link) that few things today compare (even EVE) and it's a dangerous drug to dabble with regardless.

Wow, thanks for the comment and post. Good stuff.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:20 AM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Las time I visited my mother's, a few weeks ago, I went for a walk and could see my old alligator clips and wire still wrapped around a branch, the tails trailing almost to the ground.

That whole comment is so freaking cyberpunk I felt my mirrorshades crack.

Good one.
posted by valkane at 7:20 AM on February 16, 2018 [12 favorites]


TradeWars 2002, how I miss thee.
posted by BeeDo at 7:23 AM on February 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


i ran a BBS on a Macintosh IIsi. it ran Hermes, which was basically a mac clone of WWIV. we had two lines, one 14.4 and one 9600 baud (i got the modem for a song at a garage sale!)

the 14.4 kbaud line was frequently busy downloading porn off of usenet on my roommate's university account.

also, system 7 didn't have pre-emptive multitasking, so if someone was dinking around on the mac and held a menu open, the BBS would freeze until they let go of the mouse button.

good times.
posted by murphy slaw at 7:27 AM on February 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


I was active on the Illuminati BBS run by Steve Jackson Games and was there for the transition to the internet. I was also subsequently a builder on the Metaverse MOO and was paid with free access to a shell account...
posted by jim in austin at 7:40 AM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


There was as BBC in Brooklyn that I used to dial into from my NEC Powermate 286/10 with its staggeringly fast 2400 baud modem. All I remember is that the sysop's name was "cat," and she was pretty much always available to shoot the shit and talk computers. As an isolated nerdy teen, that and the chat rooms the local big BBS had, with its insane 16 lines, was a God-send.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:41 AM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


I made some of my best friends through a MajorBBS in Davis/Sacramento called TCR in the mid-90s. I miss that damn BBS (and the BBSes that came after it when TCR went down in 96) all the time.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:42 AM on February 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


I've been using this name in one form or another since my very first BBS back in 1992 or so. Oh god so old.

A few years later, I met not-yet-Mrs. Example on a Freenet BBS. We started hanging out at the regular social gatherings for members, and the rest is history. (We tried to get the sysop to preside at our wedding, but he turned us down.)
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:02 AM on February 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


In like 1992 my mom's job gave her a laptop to use at work and home, and at night she let me and my sister play on various local BBS. My favorite thing was that iirc green dragon inn game. I would sneak in before the end of day and kill all the players that didn't seek shelter for the night and leave taunting messages in the sand.

I made a friend with a guy my age and we became pen pals which lasted into my sophomore year in college.

Great fun!
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 8:26 AM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


BeeDo Tradewars 2002 is still available for play online. As are a number of old BBS door games, including Legend of the Red Dragon.

I ran a PBEM VGA Planets game for a while after the BBS's went down and my friends and I switched to that funky new internet thing.
posted by sotonohito at 9:07 AM on February 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


So many hours on local BBS lines. Calling through my favorites list until I found one that wasn't busy. My local area most bbs were PCboard / RIME but there were also plenty on the FIDOnet. Hard to believe we were communicating online 35 years ago.
posted by ShakeyJake at 9:29 AM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


I miss &TOTSE. I didn't spend much time on it because it was a toll call. There's an archive-mirror website, but... not the same.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:38 AM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


There were larger BBSes with geographically diverse user bases, of course - but many of them were local affairs. So it was entirely possible to meet your fellow users in meatspace - at user groups (remember those?), the local computer shop (remember those?), or just by saying "hey, let's meet up".

I made a lot of friends this way. It was especially useful in an era when personal computers were still esoteric and mysterious to the general public.

And the focus on a small, local group of people (along with, like, actual moderation) meant there was a different tone to the online interactions. There was squabbling and flamewars, of course - but
I never saw anything approaching the outright toxicity that's de rigeur online today. You knew the person you were talking to would probably be at the next meetup or party - and those reading probably would be, too. So there was a real social penalty for being a jackass.

And the fact that it was all a grassroots, DIY thing made it that much cooler. No ads, no profit motives, no corporate-manufactured "culture". Just a bunch of nerds hanging out.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:53 AM on February 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


I poured over BBS listings and became intimately familiar with Ameritech/Illinois Bell's "zone" dialing and costs. I learned quickly that not everything in my area code was a free call. Zone C was far away and a per-minute charge, zone B was closer but still charged per minute, but zone A was totally free. Alas, there weren't many BBSes that close to me.

Woot, here's a tech detail I can talk about that I almost forgot.

So, most everyone here is probably old enough to remember local toll calls, but if not, here's a recap, because it just seems so foreign and ridiculous now.

In the US this was usually known as ZUM dialing. The way that it generally works is that calls in zone/ZUM 0 are local calls that pass through your local exchange. Zone/ZUM 1 would be, theoretically, one hop to another nearby local exchange from your local exchange. Zone/ZUM 2 would be two hops, etc.

It wasn't always based around physical local telephone exchanges, sometimes a large exchange had multiple zones they covered. In essence, though, a ZUM 1 toll call through a large exchange with multiple zones is still a hop from one exchange to another.

In hindsight I'd guess that this has to do with the limited number of connections between exchanges and outside line to long distance trunks. Your local exchange is essentially charging for access to other exchanges, and it has to pay/bill for this access because of pseudo-independent telcos worked after the AT&T and Bell Systems breakup.

Soooo, bringing this back to the multiline BBS. Local toll calls were expensive. If, say, you wanted to spend 8+ hours a day online and it cost anywhere from 10 cents a minute to as much as almost a dollar a minute for a ZUM 3 call, things could get very expensive very fast.

I, uh, once ran up a nearly $800 phone bill in a month in my early days by totally failing to look up prefixes on the ZUM tables in my phone book. I didn't even do anything cool, either. I was just dialing some newer BBS, and if I recall correctly I was downloading some stupid text file pack or recipe book or something. I think this was when I still only had a 300 baud modem, which would explain why it took me forever to download a frickin' text file.

So multiline BBS operators eventually discovered a solution to this problem, and it's sheer genius and it pissed off the phone companies so bad that they tried to make it illegal. AFAIR this one actually went to court in some form and was declared or settled out of court to not be considered fraud at all, but a legitimate use of offered paid services.

The service I'm alluding to is call forwarding, something we take for granted today. Back in the late 80s and early 90s it was still really new for most local phone networks.

The way multiline BBS operators would use it is setting up a whole bunch of phone lines in a geographical ring centered on the physical location of the BBS and it's associated phone exchange. The phone lines were often installed at one of the BBS user's homes in exchange for free access. A large BBS might actually have 3-4 rings with something like as much as a dozen phone lines and numbers per ring.

The BBS SysOp would then configure those numbers to all forward to the next nearest number in the chain, or directly to the BBS if that forwarding action was a ZUM 0 call. You were still on the hook for toll calls on any number, so if you forwarded a line to another ZUM 1 line, you paid for it from the associated phone number's billing.

The way this worked is that instead of dialing the main number for the BBS, you would dial whatever number closest to you that was a toll free ZUM 0 call. As soon as you called that number, it would forward your call to the next number, and that number would forward you to the next until you reached the BBS itself, got an answer and a carrier handshake tone.

You could actually hear this on the line as a interrupted ring tone. It would go Brrrr-click-click-click until you reached the modem. Brrr = a partial length ring, and each click is the sound of your call being transferred and forwarded internally inside the exchange.

Well, the phone companies absolutely hated this. At the time they were starting to make fucktons of money from local toll calling because of things like modems and FAXes in business usage driving up local call volumes and durations. They considered the use of chained forwarded numbers like this to be an attack on their payment infrastructure and actual theft of billable services.

They actually started to go after BBS operators and would track who was a SysOp and refuse to sell or install phone lines for them. Which is obviously ironic and shitty, because these same SysOps were doing weird shit like getting 32, 64 or more phone lines ordered to their residential house and paying for every last line. If anything, BBS SysOps probably kept local telcos more profitable for longer because of the sheer number of lines they'd buy and lease.

So SysOps would have users put the phones in their own names at their location, and pay them cash or BBS credit. I had a few friends that were forwarding locations, and it was as simple as having a second phone line and a jack installed in the corner of a garage or something, so the SysOp could patch a phone in to the line to program the call forwarding.

After that there was just an empty, silent line at the location. You didn't even need any equipment there at all. In fact, you could just cut the line at the interface box to the house and it wouldn't even matter, because the call forwarding was handled by the central office.

And by the time this decision was handed down AFAIR it was as late as 1995 or so, and essentially pointless. BBSes were essentially already defunct and rapidly being replaced by the internet. (A few larger BBSes ended up becoming ISPs, often by starting with offering email or Telnet access.
posted by loquacious at 9:59 AM on February 16, 2018 [14 favorites]


I think I am still in reasonably regular touch with more people from the New Jersey BBS I hung out on in college than with people from actual college.
posted by praemunire at 10:04 AM on February 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


For a trip down memory lane, feel free to watch this Computer Chronicles from 1985 and remark on how much things have changed and how much things haven't changed.
posted by ckape at 10:15 AM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


I, uh, once ran up a nearly $800 phone bill in a month in my early days by totally failing to look up prefixes on the ZUM tables in my phone book

A lesson learned, the hard way, by every BBSer. The byzantine chart of exchanges and per-minute rates was a necessary evil of the time.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:21 AM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


So, most everyone here is probably old enough to remember local toll calls, but if not, here's a recap, because it just seems so foreign and ridiculous now.

And this is why everyone I knew was a phone phreak too. Either blow off an operator with 2600 and route it yourself, or use a local-office loop for a telco-telco "collect" call.

Ma Bell is a cheap mother------
posted by mikelieman at 10:25 AM on February 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


CBBS morphed into Chinet.com after the great BBS purge, and I was a member in the early 90s mostly because Randy had a solid UUCP/Usenet link - which he somehow was able to get access via a connection at Bell Labs Naperville (ihnp4!chinet, if you remember the pre-DNS days).

I know there are some other ex-or-current-CBBS/Chinet folk here. I recognize a few names. Those memories are certainly hazy, but very fond.

And, oh yeah, Randy is a freaky dude. But I'm glad it started with him and Ward and not someone more normal.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:26 AM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


I never saw anything approaching the outright toxicity that's de rigeur online today. You knew the person you were talking to would probably be at the next meetup or party - and those reading probably would be, too. So there was a real social penalty for being a jackass.

Things were generally more civil on general purpose chat boards and their meetups. Even for those I remember a lot of weird drama of the high school kid variety, but ramped up and amplified in weird ways. Not unlike, say, a Rocky Horror monthly showing where people form cliques and be shitty to each other.

But there's kind of always been some of this toxicity. Back in the day some of the nerds that took things too seriously in the hack/phreak/warez scenes would get into what in hindsight is the world's nerdiest turf wars. You'd hear about stuff like people getting their phone lines cut or someone taking a stun gun to their phone lines and blowing up their modem. "Doxxing" someone wsan't even really a crime yet, and people did it all the time.

Another known physical griefing attack was using a bulk tape eraser on someone's floppy discs or HDD. I heard about someone doing this to someone else using a really boss industrial grade bulk tape eraser they got at some surplus yard. The target was in an apartment, and their computer and disc files were right up against an external wood framed wall, and there was power available nearby, so all they had to do was plug in the eraser and wave it all over the right wall. And you don't have to wipe the whole discs, you just have to flip enough bits to break things.

Well, they broke things and the guy flipped the fuck out and had some kind of psychological breakdown. He was already pretty borderline and probably on the spectrum, and wasn't interfacing well with the more criminal elements of the BBS scene in my area by doing that thing that kids do when they start talking too much. You just don't make bullshit claims and get involved with criminal HPAV scene elements without getting found out or called out on it, 'cause you start making bold claims about hacking big targets on those kinds of BBSes, the people who can actually do that kind of thing will find you and want to have a discussion about it.

Or sometimes things went as far as actual guns and violence. There was an incident in my local BBS community where some HS kids got involved in a pretty heavy fraud and theft ring that ended up in a straight up execution and shallow grave and national media attention.

And some of the people that had the money and interest to run a HPAV or whatever BBS were able to afford it because they were engaged in straight up fraud. I know some of the people from those days went on to become full blown criminals. I knew of at least one underground BBS that operated on completely stolen phone lines. Like, they would actually provision, order and patch their own lines at the CO through social and physical engineering. They would also go out to the trunk box in their neighborhood and boldly tie in to other people's lines both for making free outbound calls, or even eavesdropping and voyeurism.

I know another that got involved in domain squatting very early on and became a multimillionaire in about a year and vanished.

So there was some actual no foolin' seriously toxic shit happening that makes the safely removed 4chan scriptkiddy stuff look relatively tame. I mean, apart from helping throw Presidential elections and virulent racism and misogyny, but all that was there back in the BBS days, too.

My first exposure to extreme libertarianism was through members of the HPAV BBS scenes, and they were super fucked up. Hell, at the hacker house I mentioned in the linked AskMe, I used to come home and regularly find one of my paranoid housemates pointing a 9mm down the stairs just in case I was actually the feds.

Also, I just ended up on a list of BBSes from my area code and I can't help but note that nearly half of them are weird fundie religious themed names or prepper/survivalist names and themes. In my area code there was definitely a ton of conservative nutjobs, and there is/was a huge crossover between conservative, guns, ham radio and BBSes.

It definitely wasn't just a kinder, gentler time at all. It was just a lot more quarantined and less obvious, because BBS users were some fraction of 1% of the given population.
posted by loquacious at 10:33 AM on February 16, 2018 [9 favorites]


Loquacious, please tell me you remember the B.A.D. vs TSAN wars.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:36 AM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


FidoNet was some serious future magic shit. I'm kind of a fan boy of its creator, Tom Jennings, who was also famous in that era for producing the Homocore zine. He's still a fascinating guy working on various interesting computer and art projects.

Me, I was in the BBS scene in 713 back in the late 80s. Still friends with a couple of people from then, including my old sysop and another guy my age. I spent a whole lot of time on a real-time chat dialup, some crazy thing where you had two Apple ][s with 6 slots filled with modems and the 7th slot a bridge card to the other computer. 12 people chatting at once on a 1.023 MHz processor, it was magic.
posted by Nelson at 10:37 AM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


I played with the 300bps modem that fit into our cartridge slot on the C64 very early on, but it wasn't until the late 80s that I had a 2400bps Zoom modem of my own and my own XT clone to dial out with. From that point on, I was just inseparable from the Seattle-area Citadel scene.

Citadel was an extremely streamlined BBS program, and seems ideally suited to the low-bitrate connections of the day. A lot of late-80s/early-90s BBSes would waste time printing full-screen full-colour menus of options, but Citadel just assumed you were willing to learn three basic commands: g, n, and e. These were "Goto", "New", and "Enter".

Goto would go to the next room that had new messages, New would show you those new messages, and Enter would post. They also had parameter-accepting modes: if you began your command with a dot (or sometimes a comma would work too), you could chain modifiers on. So like .rrom would Read Reverse Old Messages (showing you messages you'd already seen, in reverse chronological order).

I attribute the time I spent with this to why I'm such a died-in-the-wool vim user now. When I edit text, it feels natural for me that c3( would be "Change the previous three sentences".

I remember when the Web showed up, a number of sysops of various Citadel flavours tried to make a "Web Cit", but they fell into a trap which I wrote about for what must have been one of the last issues of Citanews: You can read my copy of it here.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 10:40 AM on February 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


One thing we had in the 206 was GremLink. One of the authors of a local variant of citadel (the Gremlin, who wrote GremCit which later became Citadel+) had his former BBS set up with two lines, one in each zone somehow. He set up an old XT to bridge them, so people in Bothell could call central Seattle numbers without paying fees. This got abused, so it got a list of approved BBS numbers. People would advertise their BBSes as being "On GremLink!"

You'd just dial up gremlink and type in the hayes commands to dial the BBS you wanted. Simple!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 10:44 AM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Oh to have lived in a country with free local calling! For me in Scotland, dial-up services were about how fast I could queue up characters in the transmit buffer to log in, send messages, download messages and get off the phone ASAP. Even doing that I could rack up £100s in phone charges a month.

Glad to see that telnet BBSs are a thing. Here's one running on an Apple IIe with dual floppies: 80's Apple II BBS
posted by scruss at 10:51 AM on February 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


loquacious that whole comment reminds me so much of Neuromancer and what I love the most about any cyberpunk or scifi.

I was, uh, awkwardly not unaware of the comparison and definitely cosplaying me some Gibsonian Sigue Sigue Sputnik shit. In hindsight I should have covered my little CP/M laptop terminal with cool stickers and graffiti, but that wasn't really a thing yet.

I remember thinking how clandestine and badass I felt clipping alligator clips to phone line punch down boards and how much of an adrenaline rush I'd get off of it.

But, no, whenever I actually did get caught... it wasn't actually getting caught. It was just "Hey, kid, unplug your stupid computer and let's go!" if I was at high school, or if we got caught in the service halls at the mall or something it was just "You're not supposed to be back here, get out of here you kids!"

Never "OH SHIT WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THAT COMPUTER, PHONE LINE AND DODGY LOOKING PAIR OF ALLIGATOR CLIPS!?" which is the first damn thing I'd ask if I saw some kid with a beige box or laptop, but the adults and non-techs had no idea what was going on.

And in hindsight I would have gotten into a lot more trouble. One of my nerdy regrets is that my HS had an old school serial X.25 packet network and mainframe/terminal system for student records. What does that mean? It means that accessing that database and front end was as simple as plugging a serial cable directly into my little laptop.

The first time I tried it and opened a terminal program I was quite alarmed to see the database front end pull right up with full read/write access. And I had access to the entire school district, not just my campus.

I could have changed my grades. I could have changed anyone's grades. I could have read anyone's transcript and whatever data they had on file in the mainframe. Home phone numbers, parents names, parents work numbers - basically everything that wasn't in a paper transcript.

And apparently I was too lawful neutral to use it for anything. I even ended up showing it to a guidance counselor walking by, because I was sitting in the guidance counselors office waiting area, where there was a thick rats nest of open ended serial cables stuffed behind the chairs and furniture.

So like a good nerd I tried raising a stink about it and explaining how fucked it was to have all this data exposed to anyone with a serial port and a terminal. Their reaction. "Oh. Hey, kid, should you have your computer at school? Let's put that away."
posted by loquacious at 10:51 AM on February 16, 2018 [14 favorites]


My first modem, my senior year of high school, was a 300-baud MPP-1000c, the first (and maybe only?) modem designed to plug into the joystick port of an 8-bit Atari computer, obviating the need for the then-expensive-and-also-hard-to-get Atari 850 interface that added 4 RS-232 ports to the machine. Eventually worked my way up to a Zoom 2400 baud modem before moving to a Mac and higher-speed stuff.

SO MANY HOURS spent on BBSes in 301/202/703, but now I can only remember two of them - Crunchland, the 1337 downloads board that provided a lot of leisure-time activity, and Nameless BBS, which had a pretty decent user community. I *wish* I could remember the name of the BBS I found a few years later (probably around '89-'91) with an amazing user community and regular physical meet-ups, but I am An Old and memory is fleeting.
posted by hanov3r at 11:41 AM on February 16, 2018


Loquacious, please tell me you remember the B.A.D. vs TSAN wars.

I do not. I wasn't ever directly involved with any beefs or files, ANSI, demos or warez in general. I did some basic phreak stuff and txt writing, mostly about social engineering and soft hacking.

My computer/terminal had no mass storage beyond the limited 31k battery backed RAM, so I was pretty much limited to txt files or direct access for chat. I also used a lot of my friends computers, too.

Most of what I did was either chat, trading disgusting low-res gifs and play TeleArena or Major MUD.

Oh, and the UCI campus used to have a free dial-in service for their library called MELVYL or something, and it was a known thing you could exit the program with a simple ctrl-break terminal string and get dumped to an anonymous but limited shell prompt. Where you could telnet, gopher, archie and veronica all over the net for free from an institutional grade backbone on the internet.

The MELVYL dial in lines were part of the full pool of dial in lines operated by the campus, which was something like hundreds of lines. They essentially ran their own ISP for faculty and staff for remote access, and so MELVYL functioned by segmenting a block of their lines that would launch the MELVYL program on login instead of the default shell prompt and login offered to remote users dialing the other lines.

Many years later I ended up working at the same campus in central computing. Turns out that that loophole or backdoor was entirely intentional. The admins and gurus of the campus net reasoned that if you were smart enough to exit the program and know what to do with an entirely non-descript shell prompt, you deserved limited access and were, well, not explicitly encouraged but allowed to explore the internet.

Even if it meant you could try passwords via telnet logins on computers you probably had no business knowing existed in the first place.

What was also interesting is that a whole lot of my coworkers also had used this back door shell prompt when they were younger. It's almost like the gurus knew they were just lazily training their future employees and techs by simply giving them a safe shell, and not telling anyone about it.

Like, seriously, the first Unix strings I ever typed were on that dialup service. Later, my first emails were via PICO on the same computers as a non-student volunteer at the radio station. A few years later I was a grunt level tech and doing Kerberos password resets and had keys to the machine rooms that held these same systems.

I still trip out about this story arc, and how it felt walking into the central plant machine rooms and telco buildings, and being excited that I had "been there" before as a nerdy kid, and that I got to see the exact phone line frames and modems that made up the dial-up pool I used to misuse.
posted by loquacious at 11:45 AM on February 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


sotonohito, VGAP is also still around! Planets.nu is the current hub, with a web based client and hosting.

A couple years ago I made some comics you might find amusing.
posted by BeeDo at 11:45 AM on February 16, 2018


Oh, and another side note about phone phun in BBS days.

There was a cool period in the early 1990s when very small phone handset gadgets became a thing, and the end use was essentially to replace a normal phone cradle and handset with a little handheld keypad and headset.

I had one that was about the size of a zippo lighter and a little headset to go with it, as well as a cool little self-retracting portable phone cable that gave me about six feet of lead in a little box. Oh, and an RJ-11 socket and breakout with clips to attach to the end of the retractable cable. With the headset the whole kit easily fit in a pocket, a bit larger than a pack of cigarettes. It also had a set of full duplex in/out RJ-11s on it, so you could patch it in between your modem and a phone line to use as a dialer, or to be able to discreetly listen to a line for dialtone, carrier tone or even evesdrop just like a beige box or lineman's set.

So, throw the right ohm resistor across the line (was it 10k ohm? Can't remember) and you can patch into any line and go off hook without the characteristic pop of someone connecting a third phone to an open circuit, party line style. I didn't use this for eavesdropping, but so I could check for dialtone and connect to a circuit without alarming anyone who might be mid-call. When I found an active circuit I'd just move on and hunt for dial tone.

Pre cell phone days that thing was incredibly handy, both for BBS/modem monitoring and dialing and just being able to make actual voice calls from anywhere I could find an open dialtone.

And when we started getting pagers, things like this or redboxes to fool payphones essentially gave us free two way wireless communication that didn't rely on expensive cell phones, or limited range tech like HAM radios.

I knew a bunch of BBS nerds that had custom little redbox quarter-tone generators, and plenty more that had the modified Radio Shack dialer redboxes. For a while I even had my own super analog version, in which I cut a custom microcassette tape loop and recorded someone else's redbox. It... kind of worked. Sometimes. But if I had any battery droop at all on playback it wouldn't work at all due to the tone falling out of band.

The more I think about that era, the less questions like "How did we stay in touch before cellphones?" make sense. We were so wired up and connected back then through the combination of BBS offline messaging/mail, realtime BBS chat, pagers and telephones and payphones everywhere that, in hindsight, we had more realtime communications options than most high level doctors or lawyers.
posted by loquacious at 12:36 PM on February 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


I was there as well, as a 13 year old who got a list of BBSs from an article in the Washington Post c. 1987. We ended up settling on The Void, based in suburban DC (Kensington? Wheaton? I can't remember now). Went to a meet up at a mall, ended up talking with people twice my age about music - against all odds, they were really friendly and kind to a couple of socially awkward, middle school aged kids whose moms had dropped them off. Totally sold me on the utopian promise of computers, and the internet once that rolled around.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:51 PM on February 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


We were so wired up and connected back then through the combination of BBS offline messaging/mail, realtime BBS chat, pagers and telephones and payphones everywhere that, in hindsight, we had more realtime communications options than most high level doctors or lawyers.

My favorite was submitting print jobs to MCIMail for delivery to my friends via USPS hardcopy.
posted by mikelieman at 1:00 PM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


I had one that was about the size of a zippo lighter and a little headset to go with it, as well as a cool little self-retracting portable phone cable that gave me about six feet of lead in a little box. Oh, and an RJ-11 socket and breakout with clips to attach to the end of the retractable cable.

During my younger hooligan days, I knew people who raided service vans and got hardhats, butt sets, climbing spikes and belts... Basically their halloween costume was "Bell System Employee"
posted by mikelieman at 1:03 PM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


During my younger hooligan days, I knew people who raided service vans and got hardhats, butt sets, climbing spikes and belts... Basically their halloween costume was "Bell System Employee"

Yeah, these are the guys I mentioned above that could provision illicit phone lines.

One dude collected payphones. Whole booths.

Between this and the wardialing calling card guy they were definitely being followed around by the so-called phone cops and telco detectives and it wasn't just paranoia. It's pretty obvious when a bunch of suits are sitting in an NGO, civilian plated white fleet issue Ford Taurus outside of an arcade where there's a usermeet happening.

And it was definitely one of those things where they were waiting for someone to break the rules and cross over into proveably breaking a law, and the phreaks just knew all the rules and laws better than they did.
posted by loquacious at 1:22 PM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


I remember once calling up Rusty n Edie's for fun since an ad for it was on every .nfo file and I came across the latest version of PKZip 2.04G. Everyone local was on 1.93a, so I fired up S-Zmodem (from the creator of LOD) and uploaded it to all the local North Marin BBSes.

I was like Moses coming down the mountain. Got some mad U/D credits for that score.

Also once sent a FidoNet message to Amit Patel asking a question about SRE and got a very nice reply back.

Ran a TAG (Telegard fork) BBS myself, with a flyass ANSI load screen.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:22 PM on February 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


I remember Broderbund had a free 32 line chat BBS. Met some interesting folks online and someone decided we should all have a IRL meetup at the local Lyon's restaurant. Strange times...
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:30 PM on February 16, 2018


Some classmate of mine (I wish I remembered his name so I could thank him) introduced me to BBSes (and gave me a BBS directory printout) and showed me Wolfenstein 3D at the same time. Talk about formative experiences.
posted by neckro23 at 1:46 PM on February 16, 2018


I used to frequent a BBS back in the 80's, and recall being amazed that I was able to chat on the computer with someone who could be ANYWHERE in the same area code as me.
posted by batou_ at 2:40 PM on February 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


One dude collected payphones.

I have some friends who run Futel, a free payphone network / hipster art project in Portland, OR. They install working payphones with a whole software backed series of phone services. Including 911 of course, but also operator assistance and voicemail and free phone calls. They use scavenged payphones.
posted by Nelson at 4:02 PM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Dang, the worst I ever did was some wardialing and once, just to see if I could, I put together a redbox and phoned the Hilton in Honolulu. I feel so straitlaced.
posted by sotonohito at 5:26 PM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


> Obscure Reference:
"Remember sysops who pronounced it to rhyme with ice-pop?"

They stopped?
posted by Samizdata at 7:03 PM on February 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


They stopped?

Quiet, you, or I'll ask you to pronounce GIF.
posted by loquacious at 7:19 PM on February 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


Since my early computing days were as an adult, I didn't do any long distance callibg because I had to actually pay for it. Fortunately we've always been in the Seattle area and there were lots of BBSs in the 80s to call, including a couple owned by members of my Commodore computer club.

I started with the Commodore plug-in 300 bps modem, but our club had several phone company employees, and we were able to get surplus 1200 bps modems. I still had to dial with a dedicated handset, but didn't have to plug into an acoustic coupler.

As president of my club, I got 5 free hours a month on Q-Link, the commercial Commodore service that became AOL. I swear I spent a lot more than five hours a month there, but they never charged me a penny.
posted by lhauser at 7:23 PM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


> mikelieman:
"So, most everyone here is probably old enough to remember local toll calls, but if not, here's a recap, because it just seems so foreign and ridiculous now.

And this is why everyone I knew was a phone phreak too. Either blow off an operator with 2600 and route it yourself, or use a local-office loop for a telco-telco "collect" call.

Ma Bell is a cheap mother------"


Man, I used to MURDER the loops back in the day.
posted by Samizdata at 7:36 PM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


> loquacious:
"They stopped?

Quiet, you, or I'll ask you to pronounce GIF."


Fine, pally. You want to go there? THERE?

FLAME ON!
posted by Samizdata at 7:43 PM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Wow, I searched my old local pirate BBS and came up with this page of the ANSI files it used to tag anything that passed through. Never thought I'd see those again.

(408) YEA-RITE
posted by deadbilly at 8:16 PM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


My library had the same kind of shell prompt loophole, Ctrl-Z I think. I managed to compile a SLIP emulator on a Solaris box somewhere and upload it to the server, maybe through kermit or xmodem or something -- boom, free internet access.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:13 PM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


I used to use library terminals for general Internet access as well. They had gopher, and I'd do what I needed to get any telnet link, and then hit the key combo to edit the link before proceeding on. Bingo, I'd be at one of my shell accounts and ready for mischief!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 4:33 AM on February 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Awww yisss, a "we are The Olds now" post! -- I was only tangentially, and very belatedly, involved with Chicago BBS folk, through working for a local ISP* that came out of that scene. I only know [of] Randy as the chi.il.us guy, and from chi.internet. Man, I never thought I would look back on Usenet participation with warm nostalgia but hey.

My introduction to BBS'ing went backwards; I got access to the Heartland FreeNet (heartland.bradley.edu) through a terminal at the Peoria Public Library in 1992, and there, on the Teen Forum, I made some friends and after I eventually got a used PC XT clone at home, I was able to dial in to other BBSes, though the FreeNet network remained my first love (and eventually led to my career). For my senior year in high school, I got a 486 with a 2400 baud modem and tried my hand at running a Renegade BBS, but since (1) it was only online after 10PM since I didn't have a dedicated phone line, which also meant only one user could be online at a time, and (2) I was bad at remembering to turn off the phone ringer before BBS hours, it was a short-lived experiment.

Y'all's phreaking exploits would have amazed wee sldownard, for whom the height of scripting was a fab Telex script that would change each character to a different color, as the XT slowly drew the screen on my CGA monitor at 1200 baud.

* I wrote the original WWA wikipedia page, basically as a braindump to preserve some history before it was forgotten. The page got deleted once as not significant enough to warrant its existence, but I'm glad it was restored, even if, as a recent editor complained, it's written in a "terrible, terrible" style. Sorry, folks. I never claimed to be good at NPOV. Anyways, consider this a thinly-veiled plea for other locals to contribute their knowledge...
posted by sldownard at 8:00 AM on February 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


Fine, pally. You want to go there? THERE?

Go where? I live here. You seem to be lost.

*flicks open a switchblade carved out of 30 pin SIMMs and backplane plates*
posted by loquacious at 9:29 AM on February 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


> loquacious:
"Fine, pally. You want to go there? THERE?

Go where? I live here. You seem to be lost.

*flicks open a switchblade carved out of 30 pin SIMMs and backplane plates*"


[quickly lifts a megatower case from the ground]

"Stupid 300 baud user! Go get back on AOL."
posted by Samizdata at 1:03 PM on February 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


"Stupid 300 baud user! Go get back on AOL."

I've never dialed AOL in my life. I don't even route 64.12.96.0, luser. I live in the backbone.

*secretly presses a button on switchblade triggering a HERF gun which induces a massive current in the tower, causing your hands to turn into smoke and erasing all your bits at the same time*

Man, how you gonna punch deck with ashes?
posted by loquacious at 1:18 PM on February 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


sldownard: WWA was my second ISP ever, right after RipCo and right before EnterAct. Good times.
posted by hijinx at 2:04 PM on February 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


> loquacious:
""Stupid 300 baud user! Go get back on AOL."

I've never dialed AOL in my life. I don't even route 64.12.96.0, luser. I live in the backbone.

*secretly presses a button on switchblade triggering a HERF gun which induces a massive current in the tower, causing your hands to turn into smoke and erasing all your bits at the same time*

Man, how you gonna punch deck with ashes?"


Simple. My crew just hacked your servers while I distracted you. All BAD ASCII porn ALL the time.
posted by Samizdata at 3:22 PM on February 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Don't make me come in there and smack you two with a Model M keyboard!
posted by mikelieman at 3:31 PM on February 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Threaten me with a good time!
posted by loquacious at 6:25 PM on February 17, 2018


> mikelieman:
"Don't make me come in there and smack you two with a Model M keyboard!"

> loquacious:
"Threaten me with a good time!"

Yeah, don't want to kinkshame, but there are better uses for a Model M.
posted by Samizdata at 6:40 PM on February 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Vaguely related: I looked into IBM emulation on my Amiga just so I could run TheDraw.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:54 PM on February 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


Started refreshing my memory on TheDraw (I was more an ACiDDraw guy) and fell down the RIPScrip rabbit hole.
posted by Samizdata at 9:06 PM on February 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Lunch time stories my Dad has told me.

He had a Commodore 64 in the late 80s/early 90s. He talks about connecting to local Toronto BBSs with a modem measured in baud. At one point he upgraded his modem to be twice as fast, and all of a sudden he had to use the page up key for the first time, as he could no longer read messages as they downloaded.

I recall text only internet in the early-mid 90s. Our library computer could be connected to by a text only interface. It was REALLY fast even over dialup, as if you new the commands you could just type the numbers without reading what they were. I was REALLY annoyed when they discontinued that service as made it graphical only, as it was SO much slower then the text only one.

I used a program called Crosstalk to connect to the library computer, does anyone else remember that?
posted by Canageek at 11:53 AM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I know that I am capable of reading at 2400 baud. Or, at least, I could, circa 1988-ish.
posted by hanov3r at 2:03 PM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I remember getting my first 2400 baud modem and thinking that would be as fast as I ever needed, because it painted the screen as fast as I could read. Why would I need anything faster?
posted by Nelson at 4:23 PM on February 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


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