Miscalibrated Internet Receptor Stalks
Miscalibrated Internet Receptor Stalks
Illustration for article titled Before There Was The Webmaster, There Was The SysOp

So my night of watching movies has been ruined thanks to a CPU fan failure on my HTPC. Sure, I can still do Netflix or actually get up and browse the library of shiny DVDs, but instead, as if the power had gone out, my mind has wandered to more "primitive" hobbies. For some reason, I started thinking about the dawn of my online experience, which was basically the sunset period of the BBS Age. I don't remember what prompted me to want a modem and to connect online (to what?) in the first place, but once a few high school friends and I found some BBSes of interest, we were definitely hooked. As we were all gamers, it was no surprise we gravitated to the torrent sites of the time, otherwise simply known as pirate boards, where you could spend all night downloading Need for Speed just to have it interrupted by call waiting or your mom picking up the phone and introducing a bit too much noise on a less-than-stellar POTS line. Needed more error correction, indeed.

The pirate boards were also more than just a hub of anonymous connections with mostly leeches, they were also a community of early forums, blogging, and Gawker Media-style commenting and even some flaming. While there wasn't really much trolling and/or flaming as is observed today, resources were precious and no less expensive, so what trolling there was was not tolerated for long. On the flip side, quality contributions, either in binaries or prose, was recognized and sometimes rewarded. I got to be a co-sysop of one of these boards and I had never even met the sysop in person (although there was a phone call to confirm I wasn't a bot, I suppose); that was kind of amazing at the time.

One of my first genuine email addresses was from a Mtn. View-based board running on Waffle called The Dark Side of the Moon. The binaries there were inconsequential compared to the content posted in the threads, unless of course you wanted file content similar to the Anarchist's Cookbook. The sysop there was Tom Dell, who I suspect — but cannot confirm — had something do with producing rotten.com, the Internet's primary repository of all things real and revolting before it became commonplace.


So what are your BBS stories?


I would love to know if Joe Parrot or Fanny's Fishstick Farm rings a bell with anyone.

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