sawyer.txt

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BBS Name:  USS Enterprise
BBS Number:  (810) 775-0018    (please note that 810 was split from 313
- feel free to list as a 313 along with other "Detroit & Suburbs" BBSes)
Sysop:  Fdisk (that's me)
    CoSysops:  Lord Ith (John Brenda), Andy LaPorte
Software Run:  T.A.G. - latest version run was 2.6c
Years of Operation:  1993-1997
 
The USS Enterprise started out as a fairly meager operation.  In 1991, I
was only a freshman in high school and I bought the best computer I
could afford:  an IBM PS/1.  It was a 286 10MHz system with 1MB of RAM,
a 30MB hard drive and 2400 bps modem.  That was quite a step forward
from my first computer, which was a Laser 128 (Apple II clone).
 
In the spring of 1992, I persuaded my parents to order a second phone
line and I activated my 3-months-free Prodigy membership that I got for
buying the computer.  I enjoyed using Prodigy, but some of my other geek
friends had mentioned that there were other methods of communication out
there:  BBSes.  Rite Way Computers, a computer store near me (that has
since gone out of business), gave me their BBS phone number.  At the
time, I only had Microsoft Works for DOS, which had a very rudimentary
terminal program in it.  It was good enough for me to get onto Rite Way.
I poked around the BBS, being new to the community.  I wanted to learn
as much as I could about how they worked, what was available and who was
on them.  Since I was a kid, I always tore things apart to see what made
them tick.  BBSes were no different.  I was a computer geek in training
and I wanted to know it all.
 
I found an interesting BBS on Rite Way's BBS list:  the Patch Line.
Patch, the sysop there, took me under his wing, so to speak.  He helped
me to understand the concepts of uploading, downloading and using the
message systems.  Being young, I made a couple breeches of
etiquette...Patch helped me to understand what I had done and really
helped me to become a much better member of the BBS community.  In
addition, he pointed me to a fantastic application called Telix.
Whoa...the BBS world got a lot prettier once I could see all the ANSI
graphics!
 
As I grew in the BBS community, I took a permanent identity:  Fdisk.  I
liked the name because it was the name of the program that could quickly
and easily screw up your entire hard drive with minimal effort.
 
I was an active member on over a dozen boards, primarily in the files
and message areas.  I wasn't heavy into the games, although I enjoyed
the games BRE (Barren Realms Elite), SRE (Solar Realms Elite) and Drug
Lord.
 
It didn't take me long to realize that 2400 baud was dreadfully slow.
It took over 1¼ hours to download a 1MB file!  (With today's cable
modems, I don't think twice about downloading a 134MB Windows service
pack from Microsoft.)
 
I launched the USS Enterprise BBS in 1993 after I garnered enough
information that I felt I could launch a BBS.  Being in high school, my
parents (especially my mother) didn't like the idea of me leaving a
computer running 24 hours a day, so the first year or two of the BBS was
kind of shaky, running only 12-15 hours each day.  It was good enough
for most of my users, though...but I still would've much preferred to
run 24 hours for nighttime users and also to participate in networked
messaging such as FidoNet and D*A*R*E Net, which had agents that ran at
night--times when my BBS was offline.
 
Running a BBS chewed through my 30MB hard drive really fast, even
running DoubleSpace.  In 1995, I bought myself a high school graduation
present, a Pentium 100MHz Acer computer with 16MB of RAM and a 1GB hard
drive.  In addition, it had a 28.8 modem.  At last, I was up to speed
with the BBSes in my area.  In addition, the USS Enterprise went to
24-hour operation, despite my mother fretting that I was going to "burn
the house down" running so much equipment.
 
I continued to live at home as I started college.  I went to Wayne State
University on a 4-year scholarship to pursue a degree in Computer
Science.  The USS Enterprise continued to run.
 
The year 1996 rolled around, and I saw my user base was slowly drifting
away.  The World Wide Web and other features of the Internet such as FTP
started taking their foothold.  More and more, students in the computer
labs weren't just there to type up reports, but they were there to surf
the Web.
 
My message bases started to starve.  Calls dwindled to just a couple per
day...then a couple per week.  I upgraded to a 33.6 modem, but it did no
good.  Even adding a new 2GB drive, boosting the OS to 3GB in storage.
In 1997, I made a difficult decision.  I was running Windows 98 beta,
and with that (as well as Windows 95), I could run the BBS and still do
my own work on the PC.  However, it seemed pointless to continue the
operation when hardly anyone was using it.  I decided that if it went
one full month without any calls, I would shut it down.  In August of
1997, that fateful day came.  I deleted the batch file that invoked the
BBS when Windows booted up and archived the entire system to backup
tape.  It was a sad day; I very much enjoyed the days of dialing up to a
BBS to "surf" -- browsing files and reading/writing messages.  It was a
hobby that I loved.  But the Internet had gotten just about everyone's
undivided attention.  Around the same time, most of the BBSes in my area
had discontinued operations.
 
I can remember the days when Sysops would host "BBS parties" at the park
for sysops and users to get together to meet each other in person.  They
were all good, fun people...and die-hard computer geeks!  They were
definitely a tight-knit community.  It was good to know them, although I
have not spoken with many of them in years.
 
I wasn't about to give up being a sysop, though.  I latched on to Web
development and took to learning HTML, JavaScript, Java and any other
technology I could get my hands on.  I started to develop personal web
pages.  It was, and still is, a lot of fun to do.
 
I was hired by EDS in May, 1998 to do Lotus Notes/Domino and Web
development as a student co-op.  In December of 1999, I graduated with a
Bachelors of Science in Computer Science, cum laude.  I was promoted at
EDS from Student Co-Op to Information Analyst and continued my work.  I
am still there today, performing a wide variety of tasks.  Many of them
still involve working with Notes and Domino, but also with Microsoft
technologies such as SharePoint Portal Server and .NET.  I'm also
pursuing my Masters degree, which will enable me to teach computer
classes part time at Macomb Community College near my house.  I've
always enjoyed teaching (I used to tutor at Macomb).  One of the first
sessions I would like to teach is a lot of what I'm telling you here.  A
lot of the students will be fresh out of high school and, sadly, many
will have no idea what a BBS is, or was.  They deserve to know about
them....they are a part of our history.
 
Just like Dr. Václav Rajlich, one of my favorite professors at Wayne
State, likes to refer to the days of punch cards as the "good old days"
of computers...to me, BBSes and 5¼ floppy disks are the "good old days"
of computers.  Heck, when I worked at Macomb Community College as a
computer lab technician, I was exposed to 8" floppy disks, huge
removable disk packs and 14" hard drives that hold less than 1% of
today's new hard drives (the DEC RA-81 hard drive).  And I'll never
forget the old-fashioned reel-to-reel DEC TU-80 tape drives...and the
good old 6250 bpi tapes that ran in them.
 
Recently I dug out the backup tapes containing the USS Enterprise and
did a full restore of the system and brought it back online.  The T.A.G.
software behaves a little goofy because it is not Y2K compliant, but
it's still functional.  I have three computers now...the Acer Pentium is
in the basement, although it is up to 166MHz and 80MB of RAM.  It has 2
x 10K Ultra3 SCSI drives, one that's 9GB, the other, 18GB.  There's also
a small RAID-5 array, which houses the BBS, attached to it.  It runs the
BBS software on Windows 2000 Advanced Server...and it does quite a fine
job of it too, even with IIS running!  My main computer has Windows XP
Professional running on an AMD Duron 1.0GHz processor with 512MB of RAM
and almost 80GB of disk space..  That runs a Lotus Domino Server.  Both
the basement computer and my main computer have DLT 2000 (15/30GB)
drives attached.  And then there's my EDS-issued laptop, which also runs
XP Pro.  It's a P3 1.13GHz with 512MB of RAM and a 30GB hard drive.
It's running all sorts of development software, including Domino and
Visual Studio .NET.
 
As you can see, I'm a full-blown computer geek who has no plans of
slowing down.  But even with all the great technology that we have and
all the powerful hardware I have at my ready disposal for what I do,
there are days when I miss the good ol' BBS days.  How nice it would be
if I could call the Patch Line just one more time...
 
Best regards,
Matthew Sawyer
msawyer91@comcast.net
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