minn.txt

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                            Adventures in BBSing
                    BBSing Nostalgia in the Twin Cities
                                     or
                       "Internet killed the BBS star"
                                      
   Back before Internet boomed, there was a beautiful era where BBSes
   ruled the land. There was no AOL, no poorly designed web pages, no
   spam. There were just home grown bulletin board systems that were fun
   as all hell to interact with. Nowdays you can't get anyone to call a
   BBS if you put a gun to their head. Oh well. Expect this page to be
   updated with more and more stories as soon as I get around to
   organizing all the text together.
   
   In the Beginning..
   
   While I started BBSing in 1989 with a TI-994/A, I was told of the
   earliest days of BBSing in the twin cities. I didn't have a phone line
   in my room, so I had to haul my whole setup down into the basement,
   right in the rec room. I had the stereo on, and the song I remember
   they played over and over again was "Beat the Bullet" by Vain. Some of
   the stories Primus told me(he got his name before the band from an
   AD&D manual), there were just three BBSes back in 1981. Each month all
   the SysOps got together for a meeting. One was called On-Target.
   Anybody have more historical information?
   
   Back in 1989 the two big mack daddy systems were TCCN(Twin Cities
   Computer Network) and Gizmode. They had silly little forums, and even
   an ASCII art section! What's funny about TCCN was that about 6 years
   after I stopped calling it, they mailed my home address with a flyer
   announcing their new Internet access service. Both those systems were
   pretty bland, but one of the very few multiline boards you could dial
   into. Of course, there was no chat.
   
   One other multiline system I remember calling was Minuet. Many people
   were addicted to this. It wasn't really a BBS, but just a free MUD
   people can dial into. The only notable combat I did was steal some
   powerful character's  magical weapon, ran away several rooms and
   eventually got killed by its rightful owner.
   
          Around 1990 or so I purchased an Atari 800XL in hopes of
   abandoning the grim world of TI-994/A computers. Of course Atari 8
   bits were also obsolete, so I didn't make much of an improvement. So I
   decided to get involved in a bit with the local Atari user group,
   SPACE(St. Paul Atari Computer Enthusiasts). Through contacts on TCCN,
   I met a fellow by the name of The Emperor Dalek. He was die hard
   Atari, with the bastardized Atari 1200XL at his side. Now the Atari
   1200XL was supposed to be so much better than the previous
   models(until the 130XE and 65XE came out), but it had so many 
   problems. But he didn't care, insisting it was the best 8 bit out there.
   
   Notable BBSes I used to call
   
   Callahan's Place - I was on some other system and saw the number to
   this Citadel, so I said what the hell. Needless to say at 13 the
   content on there shocked me. The users that frequented the system were
   pretty much all adults with their adult discussions. Needless to say
   they didn't like me, and I was twitted off there several times. My
   first encounter with this BBS was 1989, and to this day I think
   they're still up.
   
    Haven III: The Revenge - I called many BBSes listed in Computer User,
   being a free hardcopy of a BBS list for the 612. Sometimes you ran
   into a number on there that actually worked, and one of them was Haven
   III. It was an Amiga-based Citadel, run by Mysterious Stranger. For
   the first 4 months this board up, it was dead. It got about less than
   10 posts a day. But then, I think around Christmas, things fired up.
   You see, there was a common phonomenon back then what we called
   "Christmas ruggies". Basically, some kid gets a brand new computer(or
   a new modem), and starts calling all these new boards to him or her.
   It's basically what I and many others went through. They do not really
   know any sort of BBS etiquitte(and many long-time BBSers still don't
   know). So, they come on and start acting like some jerkoff, which
   annoys the rest of the BBSing community. Of course, it is enjoyable to
   make fun of them, and play with their minds. Perhaps it is a hard way
   to learn a lesson of BBS etiquitte, but it's a neccessary one. Usually
   they only call a few times, realize they are not liked, and give up.
   Maybe they call other boards looking for friendly faces, or give up
   BBSing altogether. Of course they now skip BBSes altogether and be
   morons on America Online.
   
   Anyways, Haven III finally picked up after a while. It started with
   loads of abuse from ruggies calling constantly and leaving stupid
   messages. The board seemed to get more abuse than normal, but nothing
   serious. All Mysterious Stranger ever did was delete the offending
   posts or just ignore them. The ruggie attacks were more amusing if
   anything. A crowd of Macintosh users came to be with names like Man of
   Few Words, Reichstud, Joe McCarthy and a few others. A user named
   Adolf Hitler came on(ruggie), and made his own room(message base)
   called Concentration Camp. And every time a Concentration Camp room
   came to be, Mysterious Stranger renamd it to Kiddie Camp. There must
   of been at least three Kiddie Camp rooms until Adolf Hitler decided to
   give up.
   
   All the active users of Haven III proposed a small GT at a Pizza Hut
   in Dinkytown. Now Mysterious Stranger had different plans. He proposed
   we all go to the Science Museum of Minnesota to get together. He
   couldn't even make it to the Pizza Hut get toghether. Needless to say,
   nobdody showed up to Mysterious Stranger's plans, and Mysterious
   Stranger didn't even make it to our little get together. But that was
   alright. It wasn't like he  really even cared about his BBS. It was a
   fun get together regardless.
   
   The NUG - One of the first users that came across my board went by the
   name of Big Eddie. It was before I ran Citadel at the time. I broke
   into chat with him and we had a long converstaion. He was about to
   start a warez
   board, and after a while we got together and exchanged a bit of warez.
   He had an even slower system than mine, being an original IBM PC. The
   only mediums we could exchange over was on a 720K disk, one at a time.
   He brought his whole system to my house, where he had the IBM PC wth
   the 1.44 and 360K drive. I was still using the Tandy 1000HX at the
   time, so there really wasn't much for me to game with, but we traded
   anyway.
   
   He eventually he started the board board up, the NUG. What did NUG
   mean? Nothing. Users were asked to submit what the NUG acronym stood
   foor. Some of the best ones were Nintendo Users Group, and Naughty
   Under Garments. Big Eddie must of ran at least 5 different BBS
   programs over the course of its existed. It started with Remote
   Access, then WildCat(his logoff banner said "Thanks for calling a
   WildCrap system!"), and a few others. There was a BBS program he
   actually purchased, which required the BBS to have at least a 14.4
   modem running it. It was called SiliCosis, and from using it, it
   seemed like somebody was trying to make some money off of yet another
   hacked Vision BBS program. I'm not sure what the original BBS program
   was, but there was at least 20 knock-offs of it each pretty much being
   the same. After several months of running this program, things went
   downhill. Suddenly all these bugs started to show up, screwing up
   messages and so forth. It got a nickname of SiliBugSis, and Big Eddie
   switched to yet another BBS program. He looked at buying this awful
   BBS program as an investment gone bad, instead of hunting the author
   down.
   
   Eventually a scene called lameNESS started up.Regular users like The
   Madman, TNSLB(The Not so Lame Babe), Video Slime, Lord Toad, and
   others were involved. One of the best features of the board was Big
   Eddie's Oldies Emporium. It was a file section that contained games
   from the early 1980s. Acquiring these "classic" warez was easier said
   than done. Have you tried to scrounge around to look for games that
   have been long out of production? Fortunately, the collection was a
   decent size. When I first acquired my Tandy, I managed to get some
   games that were just the right speed for it, like Spy Hunter and a few
   others.
   
   Today Big Eddie is in a band which shall remain nameless.
   
   Absolute Zero - This was another one of those free for all BBSes, not
   too different than Haven III. Here is wherre my war between me and
   Toxic Nerd continued, and I met a bunch of unusual people at a related
   GT. I never actually met Toxic Nerd in person, but I heard recently
   that he was a programmer in his 40's.
   
   The Realms of Valor  - This was a fun one. It had HackerNet, which was
   netted with Angus Young's board(in some other state) for a while, and
   was one of the many lone-standing h/p BBSes out there. It ran through
   most of 1995.
   
   The Crackhouse - I think this was the name. This was before
   "crackhouse" was known as a name where junkies hang out in. This was
   just another, but still fun Appleslime BBSes I called. It had a
   massive text file section explaining how to crack or cheat in various
   games for the Apple // in the early 1980s.
   
    Boards that really sucked for one reason or another
   
   Chez Spaz- The sysop, Your Father, was basically a dick towards me.
   Now your Father wasn't only an jerk towards me. When Larry Laffer
   first logged in he got on his case. yF said he didn't like the Leisure
   Suit Larry game, blah blah blah. But eventually he was let on. Then
   there was BellaTrix. Here's a guy who comes on to Bad Sector and Chez
   Spaz, and acts obnoxious, like any other Citadel user. After awhile,
   BellaTrix gets aide priveleges on CZ and things are going okay for him
   on there. Then several months later(it could be a year, I dunno) your
   Father kicks him completely off of Chez Spaz for deleting a bunch of
   rooms. Nice guy, huh?
   
   Aimee's Palace/The Peach Pit/(and several other names) It just, well,
   sucked. It was ran by this 14 year old girl who I was introduced to
   through a friend. This was the total sum of all bad WWIV boards. The
   SysOp, Fly Girl ended each sentence with an exclamation mark. The
   warez on it didn't work(as if that mattered), and the discussion
   forums had nothing intelligent to say. Her and I got together once,
   which was a complete disaster. She really pissed me off, so as soon as
   I got home, I put that Co SysOp access to good use. I deleted the
   entire BBS, some directories, and, oh yes, the root directory. After
   my work was done, she couldn't boot up her computer,and didn't know
   how to fix it. Then she called me up with her "new" boyfriend, wanting
   to know my last name. Why? She wanted to take me to court over the
   fact I deleted a bunch of directories on her precious little computer.
   Somehow several months later we patched things up.
   
   National Police Department - This was the BBS >>I<<  tried to run, and
   looking back at all of it, it really sucked. I was more powermad than
   Your Father was, but oh well. From that experience I learned through
   the headaches a SysOp goes through just to support such a crazy hobby.
   See below for the full deal on this.
   
   The Atari BBSing scene
   
   Back then there were only 3 BBSes I knew of that ran on Atari 8 bit
   computers. It was generally one community who spanned across these
   three BBSes. There weren't too many Atari 8 bit users, so they had to
   stick together. One of them was SPACE, which represented the local
   Atari 8 bit users. It stood for Saint Paul Atari Computer Enthusiasts.
   It was nothing special unless you were a hard core Atari 8 bit user.
   
   Warp 10 - This was the biggest Atari 8 bit board around in the 612. It
   was run by a guy named Mr. Data who was obviously a Star Trek freak.
   He had plenty of message bases, games and files online. This was a fun
   board to call, and plenty of people were on it. There were plenty of
   message bases to go around(like "Gotta Beef?"), regardless of the high
   amount of busy signals. To think I would write email back and forth
   with Chebutykin and meet her several years later at the U of M. After
   a bit of time, it seemed that Mr. Data put too much of a priority
   of running Warp 10 into his life. If you simply dropped carrier(hung
   up) on the system with out simply logging out, it took the board a few
   minutes longer to reset itself. This did not meet Mr. Data's approval,
   so he supplied a punishment for it. Suddenly there were messages and
   system news informing you your access level would be lowered if you
   dropped carrier instead of logging out. I think that was proof enough
   he was simply too involved in running his BBS, to the point where if
   you make a small step out of line, you get punished for it. And even
   later on his BBS turned from free to fee, even though it was a single
   line system. If your BBS only has one line on it, paying the SysOp to
   be on it is simply absurd. After awhile I simply lost interest in
   calling it, and went on to other boards. I don't even think it is up
   anymore.
   
   Running my own BBS
   (this is a small except from a book I someday hope to publish,
   chronicling all the days of being on BBSes and the net from
   1989-present)
   
   After about a year of BBSing, I decided to run my own board. I
   imagined all the fun you could have by running your own system. Having
   your own BBS was the ultimate ago trip. It was your* system. You could
   make it anything you wanted, You were God on your system. You could
   kick anybody you wanted off that you didn't like, and spread anything
   you wanted on there. I upgraded from the TI-994/A since then, to a
   cheap Tandy 1000HX computer. Yes, I  bought a computer from Radio
   Shack. It was the cheapest available at the time, and I desperately
   wanted to get out of the TI-994/A purgatory. It was a cheap XT, with
   only 640K ram(acceptable at the time) with only a 720K floppy drive.
   
   The first mistake I made with running a board was making it only part
   time. It was up from 10pm to 4pm every day. Needless to say, I got
   plenty of
   calls from people(who obviously don't listen to their modem speaker)
   on off -hours. Trust me. If you're going to run a board, make it 24/7.
   
   The name? I decided to call it the National Police Department. Don't
   ask me why. It was yet another in-joke with a friend. The name of
   course probably scared off a lot of potential users, but oh well.
   
   The BBS program I first ran the board off of was a cheap public domain
   getup that no other BBS in the area code even used. It was
   user-unfriendly and the like. It ran on that for only a few weeks, but
   I met new people like Big Eddie. I decided it was time to change BBS
   programs.
   
   I asked a few people if it was possible to run Citadel off of only one
   floppy drive. Everybody, including the author of Citadel said it was
   not possible. With a few tricks I pulled, I made it possible. Amiga
   Citadel boards(Cit-68K) have been run before off of floppy drives, but
   running one on a PC platform was unheard of. I pulled a few
   tricks(like swapping disks around) and setup a RAMdisk for a few
   downloadable files. The message base size was considerably small(300K)
   compared to other Citadels, which had roughly 10 times the size.
   
           Shortly before the board went up, I changed my alias to Dark
   Thief once again making a name from my own imagination.  It was mainly
   to escape my extremely bad reputation of being Sir Exodus, in hope of
   a new identity.
   
   Back then I was really into "interesting" text files that have been
   floating around on BBSes since the early 1980s. The text files I'm
   talking about cover topics such as how to build explosives, hacking,
   and phreaking. You know, questionably stuff.There was very little room
   on the board for these, but I managed to squeeze in a few text files
   for other people's reading pleasure. Even had a game or two on there
   from time to time.
   
   For safety reasons, I made the files only available if I invited the
   user to a special directory room. I didn't want some angry mother
   calling
   me up with her son blowing his hand off from a textfile he downloaded
   off of my board.
   
   This security precaution of course had its downsides. Often I chatted
   with many of the users on the board, out of boredom. A good deal of
   the users only called the  board for one thing, and it was those
   files. Many of the questions I was asked was "where are the, uh,
   anarchy files?". Suddenly I questioned if these files are even worth
   my time having on there.
   
           Looking back at a it all, I really did a shitty job running
   the BBS. With the system only running on a floppy drive, it completely
   crashed several
   times. The message bases, user logs, EVERYTHING died on that one
   precious floppy disk. At one time I got so frustrated, I took out and
   threw one of the floppies against the closet door. The little metal
   tab was bent outward a bit, and stupid me put the disk back in. The
   disk eventually got jammed in there, but the metal tab was still
   lingering in the drive. The drive broke, and it set me back about $140
   for a replacement.
   
   One time I remember it was late night and I turned on the screen
   seeing who was on. A user named Dr. Glade was very eager to chat with
   me. He left aborted messages saying "CHAT WITH ME. I KNOW YOU'RE
   THERE." when in fact, I wasn't. So I decided to chat with him anyway.
   He was eagerly warning me about some guy who was going to trash the
   BBS. Then a few days later, he left mesages like "Did you know I can
   run macro files on my computer when I'm away at school?" Roughly
   translated, he was bragging about he can trash my BBS for hours at a
   time and he wouldn't have to be at the console. This mystery person he
   was talking about didn't show up. Suddenly after starting up a BBS
   I had all these mysterious enemies plot some sort of conspiracy
   against me.
   
   The surge of oh-so-friendly users didn't end there. A user named
   Eris(it could of been Elrissa. I forgot) came on being a total snob
   towards me. Any spelling mistake I would make or any mistake for that
   matter came to her attention and she always was there to correct me.
   She liked rubbing anything she could into my face. She even took the
   ways I messed around with her account in a snotty fashion. I decided
   to take a look at her account in a user editor, and sure enough, her
   password was "fuckuforpeeking". Slick, huh?
   
           Most users tolerated the constant crashes, and just logged in
   as new again. And then there was the intentional destruction that was
   brought
   onto the BBS. You name it, they did it. Among some of the types of
   abuse were:
   
           1. Some new user comes on and leaves a message saying this
   board sucks with an assortment of swear words. Not really abuse at
   all, but it hurts your pride just a little bit, seeing how much work
   you put into it. So you just delete the account and go on. It happens
   on all BBSes.
   
           2. Several times my message base was flooded. My knowledge of
   Citadel at the time was low, so I didn't know how to configure the
   board to boot off message flooders. So it let people just scroll over
   the message bases. One time I set up the board off of regular hours
   just to show my friend. Less than an hour later, some asshole logs in
   as "Dark Burgler"(not even spelled right) and flooded a few of the
   message bases until I hung up on him. I learned how to add in the
   command line parameter to hang up on a user who posts 3 times in a row
   on the same base. Of course a persistent asshole could just call back
   again and again.
   
           3, Perhaps the most elaborate one was this one asshole who
   logged in as "Dark Theif" and told almost everybody in mail warning
   them that they will be deleted if they act up. I forgot the exact
   wording of it, but it was a really rude messsage, and the
   not-so-bright users fell for it and
   swore at me and such. I had to go on other boards to tell the whole
   story so I could get some activity on the board again.
   
           On the brighter side, I had a small group of regulars who
   called the BBS who all knew each other. The person I knew the best was
   Wulfgar,
   who I gave Co SysOp access to. Some of the other regulars were Neon
   Man, Corinth(who everybody didn't like much), Neon Man, D-Man, Card
   Shark, and a few others.
   
           Wulfgar told me an interesting little story on one of his BBS
   experience. There was some board ran by a guy named Tenjumin. It ran
   the exact BBS software as Darksword did. Wulfgar's character(account)
   seemed to be the most powerful account on the whole board, surpassing
   even Tenjumin's stats. Tenjumin did not like this, so he deleted
   Wulfgar's account. So Wulfgar and his buddies got back at him. They
   kept starting up new accounts by the truckload with names like "Tem's
   a fag" and so forth. Their revenge tactic worked.
   
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