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BBS Life in the 1980ís

by Mr. Pez (or GOLNAR, or Scott)

I honestly canít remember when I first connected my computer to another via
modem, so please bear with me while I start from the beginning.  

My name is Scott, and I have been online for at least 15 years.  I had been
sharing an IBM Personal Computer with my dad for maybe two years when, at my
urging, he bought a 1200 baud modem for some outrageous amount, like $500.  The
first thing I did with the modem was to use my fatherís CompuServe account to
access the CompuServe chat rooms.  When youíre like 13, itís totally hysterical
to harass people in the chat areas, and so I spent way too much time doing this.
I cringe upon recalling this, but I would actually have friends over, and we
would sit in front of the computer, going to chat rooms to find a victim and
hassle that person.  My craftiest move was to turn on the CompuServe chat
feature which would display a personís CompuServe ID after their handle, so 
that when anyone took the bait, I could use the CIS directory to look up their
real name (or, more likely, their parentís real name) and use that to terrify
them.  Unlike AOL, CompuServe was very lax in monitoring the chat rooms, so
this sort of behavior was rarely punished.  Another popular CompuServe activity
was to attempt to get members of the opposite sex to have CompuSex with you, 
which was to have a private chat wherein you would type in various acts that 
a 13-year-old boy would want to do with a 13-year-old girl.  I think I had 
CompuSex once or twice.  Another thing you could do on CompuServe was download
programs from the file libraries.  CompuServe charged based on your connection
speed for this service.  Eventually, the CompuServe bill came, and it turned
out that it cost like $4 an hour + extra for the chat rooms + some amount for
each file you downloaded, and I had spent many hours in CompuServe chat rooms
and downloading files.  I was forced to retire from the CompuServe chat rooms
by my parents.

I then came across bulletin boards.  While on CompuServe, I could find lists of
BBSís that you could call.  I called a lot of BBSís in my area code (914) until
I learned that it cost a lot more to call upstate New York than the next town, 
even though the area codes were the same.  I had to mow a lot of lawns before
my debt to my parents for CompuServe and the phone bill was paid off.  I was
able to use the phone bill to determine which BBSís were local calls, and
narrowed my focus to them.  At the time, the prevalent BBS software was RBBS,
which was shareware that ran only under DOS.  RBBS bulletin boards were
generally totally boring, featuring various shareware utilities and some message
boards.  The good thing was that the bulletin board lists would occasionally
include BBSís that had slightly naughtier names than <town name> RBBS.  Also,
they didnít require that your real name be used as your online identity (a 
common practice at the RBBSís).  I began to call myself Karl Marx, and
registered at several BBSes with that name.  I soon learned that this name was
used by a fairly well-known early hacker, so I took on the name Mr. Pez.  One
BBS I frequented was called The Works!, and was located a few towns away, in
Chappaqua, New York.  It was only a free local call away, so it received much
of my early BBS attention.  It was not like the RBBSís in that there were very
few programs to download, it had active and interesting message boards (though
many confusing messages were posted), and it had a large textfile archive 
containing stuff a 14-year-old boy should not be allowed to see.  This included
misguidedly pornographic fiction, recipes for explosives that probably would
maim someone badly if followed in your kitchen, the insane and poorly written
rants by the Neon Knights and/or Metal Communications (e.g. How To Card Shit
When You Still Live With Your Parents, How To Fuck The Dead by Necrophiliac,
How To Be A Real Drug User), schematics for fictional devices to make payphones
do stuff for you, and just generally weird stuff by Anarchy Inc.  Through
this board, I found a strange community that I was close to for years.

Several people on The Works! found my tale of high phone bills and CompuServe
changes sort of pathetic, but amusing.  They introduced me to codez, illicit
calling card codes which were stolen and then used to make free long distance
phone calls.  Thanks to the codez, I was able to maintain an active, 
nationwide presence on various BBSís.  I became sort of addicted to codes,
which normally did not last long because you shared all your codes with your
online buddies, who would use them so much that the long distance service
provider (I preferred Sprint) would get wise and shut them down a day and a
half later.  It was dangerous to keep a code to yourself, because it would last
a long time and so you would use it a lot, increasing your chances of getting
caught.  Thus, you did yourself and your buddies a favor by sharing your codez
with them; they would use it and share it with their friends, thus diffusing
the likelihood that any one code user could be pegged as the primary abuser.
I was active on the Dark Side of the Moon BBS, in northern California, as well
as Thieveís World in Michigan run by Thomas Covenant.

At some point in there, my dad got one of those then-newfangled 2400 baud
modems.  Ours was only $300, a bargain when compared to the 1200b from two
years before.  It was also much smaller than the 1200b, and didnít make the
room hotter like the 1200b did.  It was still huge, like almost the size of
a scanner but with all those lights on the front.  Some BBSís at this point
were still 300 baud, so I began to frequent them less in favor of Jason
Scottís Works!.  It was at this point that my friend Mike ran, part-time, his
short-lived BBS Woodstock Nation.  He had a Commodore 64 and a 300 baud modem,
and his parents let him run the BBS on his and his brothersí line at night. 
The cool thing about the Woodstock Nation (besides that I garnered my first 
co-sysop title there) was that the message board had a lot of funny fake hippie
postings by Mike, my friends Mark and Zack, and I, but we also carried on an
active dialogue with someone whose handle was Timothy Leary.  I was kind of
convinced that it was the real Timothy Leary replying to our asinine postings,
like I took the blue acid last night and I swear I saw the face of Tiny Tim
leering at me.  In retrospect, I suppose we were pretty stupid.  But Iíd still
like to hear from that Timothy Leary someday.

At one point, I went over to Jason Scottís house.  It was very different than
my living experience: his parents were divorced, and he had three rooms in the
attic of his fatherís house in Chappaqua to himself.  One room was barren but
for an IBM Personal Computer with a 10MB hard drive and two others in the
rarely-seen IBM Personal Computer Expansion Chassis.  Also, he had one of
those 80ís posture chairs, which had shin-pads at a right angle to the seat,
and no back.  I came to believe that he sat in that chair most of the day, 
looking at the computer screen.  The middle room contained his bed and another
monitor mounted on the wall, so he could watch the people dialed in to his
BBS while he was in bed.  The other room had like a couch and a TV, or 
something.  At the time, my room had a closet with a two-foot-high trap
door in the back, which led out to a weird half-attic.  I used it to keep
MAD Magazines and porn.  I had a strange experience 10 years later when I
went with my mother and her friend the real estate agent to that house,
which was being sold by the people who bought it from the people who bought
 it from us, and I looked in the trap door to find my old MADs and porn.

Anyway, I became kind of friendly with Jason Scott, and spoke on the phone
with him frequently.  Other people in our online community had the ability
to create conference calls, which were an (at the time) totally amazing
technical feat which would allow many squeaky-voiced adolescents to carry on
phone conversations at the same time.  (Now, I work in a fairly high-tech
office where I can make a conference call by dialing a number, pressing
Transfer/Confer, dialing another number, pressing Transfer/Confer, etc.  But
it still seems really cool when I do it.)  I had the opportunity to listen
in on many conference calls, but I donít actually recall saying a word.  
Not too long ago, Jason Scott called me at home from work, and proceeded
to conference in various people from my past.  It took me back.

During the later Works! days, I was invited to become co-sysop.  This was
kind of prestigious, and I have to admit that I began posting ridiculous
stream-of-consciousness messages constantly to the Works!.  I honestly 
thought I was hot shit for my position within the famous Works!.  Other
people who frequented the boards were Thomas Covenant, my eventual buddy
in Michigan who worked at KFC and clued me in to the significant (at the
time) online community comprised of central Michigan KFC employees, and The
Cruiser, who was from Cleveland and, to his credit, clued me in to speed
metal, and, even more significant in my life, sent me instructions for
playing guitar in the speed metal style.  It was around this time that,
inspired by the writing of Jason and both TCs, I convinced my friends Zack
and Mike to start writing textfiles under the auspices of 
Red Menace/Mephisto Madware (one group, two names to make us seem larger
and more important).  I wrote several horrible textfiles which are now
available at http://www.textfiles.com/groups/OCTOTHORPE/ (and all other
textfiles.com mirrors) so that I can be embarassed about them until they
finally replace the Internet with something else.  I recall that my friends
Mike and Zack wrote a hilarious puzzle page called the Radiology Fun Pages.  

When I was in 10th grade in 1986, my dad got a job in finance for IBMís 
Great Lakes Area 4, headquartered in Southfield, MI.  I learned that we
would be moving to Bloomfield Hills, MI in the beginning of 1987.  He took
that job instead of one that would have moved us to Tokyo, which at the
time seemed much less foreign than the state of Michigan.  I had my friends
over to my house in NY for a going-away party.  My friend Andrew Swartz
brought over some porn movies, which we watched after V: The Visitors was
over.  I unfortunately missed most of the porno, since Jason Scott came
to the party with our BBS friend Frank Roberts, and brought a shoebox
full of 5 ľ floppy disks containing all 20MB of textfiles from The Works!.
Thatís like almost 60 floppy disks, and we proceeded to make floppy disk
copies of all of them.  It took hours - thatís why I missed most of the
porno.  But I was carrying the torch for the textfile revolution to a new
state - Michigan - and I needed all the help I could get.

<warning, this paragraph has little to do with BBSís> Soon after my 
going-away party, I moved with my family to a -subdivision- in suburban
Detroit, and started school at Lahser High School.  It was initially kind
of shocking, because I had a -study hall- with a group of several rich, 
popular students who sat near me and discussed crazy drug shit that they or
their friends had done.  I was quickly assigned a group of friends by the
conductor of the Lahser marching band.  Ron was my age and lived in my 
subdivision, and Dave and Shawn were a year younger and lived nearby, in 
the -Fox Hills- subdivision.  They introduced me to the music of the
Beastie Boys and the Dead Milkmen, and I introduced them to Run-D.M.C.
and Booker T. and the MGís.  We rode bikes a lot, and in fact started biking
with flashlights at night.  We would shine the flashlight into someoneís
window to try and catch them doing something interesting.  Usually we didnít
see anything.  I was also active in the BBS community in Michigan, and
found two friends from nearby Troy, MI.  One, Mike, would remain important
in my life as he was over 21 and could buy us beer.  This really ingratiated
me with my friends during my junior year of high school.  Plus, he lived
less than a quarter mile from my girlfriend at the time, Debbie So.  Me 
and my BBS buddies at one point -visited- a CO in Troy late at night, and I
got a Michigan Bell helmet and two rotary butt-phones.  The butt-phone plus
a 7/16" hex wrench served as the gateway to free 900-number phone calls, as 
the wrench opened neighborhood switch boxes and the butt-phone could be
clamped to the contacts and used to call 900 numbers.  Ron, Dave, Shawn,
and I spent much of the summer of 1987 engaged in these pursuits.  

Since my dad got a second line for the computer, I started running a BBS
called the PUD, which stood for Progressive Underground Dissidents.  I used
software called Citadel-286, which was written by Frank Roberts.  It was
kind of free-form BBS software that centered on discussion areas.  Since I
had all of the textfiles from The Works!, I had more material than most
textfile BBSís, so my board was relatively popular.  I also had a cool
five-line logo thing that I would stick onto the bottom of all the textfiles,
hyping the board.  I am ashamed to admit that I donít remember much about
the PUD, except that once I chatted with Taran King, the publisher of
Phrack magazine.  I also used DoubleDOS occasionally, which was a primitive
multitasking program for DOS.  My users hated it because it would generally
steal most of the modemís interrupts, which would make using the PUD
painfully slow while I was doing something in the other DOS session.

Eventually, my social life changed so that I no longer was particularly
interested in my bulletin board or my online friends.  This was the most
significant change of my junior year of high school.  I also got a
girlfriend at this time, a psychotic woman by the name of Debbie.  Debbie
and I went on a lot of "dates" to the K-Cafť in the Auburn Hills K-Mart.
At some point during this time, Sprint began harassing me because of
some illicit calls made to the PUD by someone somewhere.  I didnít keep
BBS logs, so I could be of no assistance to the nice people at Sprint,
but they continued to hassle me enough that I eventually cancelled my
second phone line and got out of BBSíing altogether.  I sort of explained
my situation to my parents, who were pretty understanding.  I dropped
my band friends, then the next group of older band friends that I had,
in favor of the people that I still hang out with from time to time -
Brad, Jack, Jamie, etc.  Eventually, my father donated my computer 
to the town public library.  Iím not even sure that the textfiles were
cleaned off it first, and I donít think I thought to save the message
board logs.  Since the PUD ran on an Original IBM PC, I donít think 
that library still has my PC, so I think that its contents are now 
officially lost to the ages.  Somehow, it has long since ceased to 
bother me.

I went to the University of Michigan for Computer Engineering, during 
which time I discovered the World Wide Web.  I was quite a novice user,
and remember seeking out peopleís bookmarks, because there were no
search engines and thus you could only follow links from known sites
to peruse WWW content.  Adam Curryís mtv.com was a particularly interesting
site in those days: eventually, MTV forced him to turn it over to them,
and now it is your typical corporate propaganda site.  When I got out of
school, I had no ISP or modem, so I took a long break from online services.

Now that I am on my second cable modem internet provider, I have been
using the web nightly for two years.  Before that, I was a regular
Internet user over a 28.8, then 56k modem.  Nowadays, I have registered
the domain golnar.com, and use www.golnar.com as a place from which to
provide the music of GOLNAR, along with fake platitudes regarding the
superiority of the fictional "GOLNAR Industries".  

Peace, and chicken grease.


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