Saturday, August 2, 2008

And now a message from our sponser...

Ok, so there is actually no message from a sponsor. I just felt that two consecutive blog postings from me would be just plain unnatural.

So, what does Liquid Paper (a.k.a. White-Out) have to do with my BBS life? Evidently quite a lot. It seems after just one night of boredom waiting for everyone else to get done (so we can go to our favorite restaurant) I grabbed a bottle of white-out off a neighboring desk and start to color things with it.

...the Liquid Paper bottle...
...someone's shoe...
...other objects...

I mean it's perfectly normal, right? Low blood sugar. Lack of Sleep. Lack of something relevant to do. I mean the brush mounted in the cap is just WAITING to be used. Well after that one night, TM.Cavalier and Liquid Paper became one of the running jokes of the Motel West (there were a few I recall). When you get a large group of friends together typing out their life and adventures on a green and black screen each day, little one-liner zings quickly become part of every post. A little jab here and a little jab there to generate some friendly banter.

The BBS scene was very much like Radio -- it is the theater of the mind. What someone says on the BBS becomes a kind of reality...a virtual reality you may say. Every alias developed a persona that had elements of the person behind it, but at the same time was quite a different person. Frequently people who hit it off well with the group on-line didn't mesh well with the group in a real life situation. Why? The person was friendly and outgoing only in the virtual world. In the real world they were a petty self-centered jerk. Almost nobody that I met on-line ever turned out to be how I expected them when I finally saw them in person. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing. I remember user with the alias Your Conscience who was very obnoxious and quite brutal on-line. In real life this guy was hilarious to be around. Once you realized who he really was, the on-line persona morphed into a person hitting you with abstract random information just to throw you off kilter.

So, back to white-out. In the on-line persona of TMC, Liquid Paper became the drug of choice...or more correctly a battle axe in the hands of someone recently returned from the "hospital" who is anxious to tell you that they "are all better now."

Friday, August 1, 2008

Deity Complex, Colossus, and what the Parrot saw.

Well after a few months of the BBS scene, it became clearly obvious that the most important, popular, and powerful person on any BBS was the Sysop. The BBS Sysop with the touch of a key could give you 5 minutes, or take away 5 minutes. (Since the BBS was a single phone line affair, you had to have time limits put on the callers so that they didn't sit online all day and hog the whole BBS.) The Sysop could force you into chat mode (the IM of the day), or ignore your chat requests.

Also, in the early days every one used an Alias online - and only the Sysop knew the real names behind the pseudonyms. Aliases that I have used in the BBS world are:
  1. Merlin - Very original, eh?
  2. Lord Corwin - I liked Roger Zelazny's Amber series.
  3. (my real name) - Hey no one was using real names, right?
  4. (my real name backwards) - Yes it's pronounceable and does sound strangely Slavic.
  5. Gheti Bait - Pronounced "Fish Bait"...isn't English fun?
  6. Minor Deity - Rather short lived...
  7. The Midnight Cavalier - Abbreviated to TMC, TM.Cavalier - origin of this name to be future BLOG fodder.
Anyways, back to the deity complex... So, like all idealistic teenagers, I decided that my computer hobby would soon grow to that of BBS operator. In order to do this I had to overcome some obstacles:
  • My own computer - mom & dad wouldn't let me take over the "family" computer for this.
  • My own phone line - easily achieved after my dad spent 2 hours trying to call the house only to get a busy signal (courtesy of Interplay...)
  • BBS Software (cheap, configurable)
Well, like any good 16 year old, I went to work and saved up some money and when I finally got a $1,000 saved up I purchased a Car...well, no a computer. And not any computer, but the fully loaded awesome PCjr! (Yes, there were now 2 PCjr computers in the same house, scary isn't it.)

Next, BBS computer software: My problem? My computer had 1 floppy drive. I had to find software that would fit on to 1 floppy disk WITH the operating system and any other support programs I need. Remember, this was before the advent of the "Hard Drive" in a personal computer, so for a floppy disk to be bootable, it had to have an operating system on it.

So I searched and finally downloaded the BBS software Colossus. It was relatively easily to set up. Colossus was a "shareware" program if I recall correctly...what that meant was the program was fully functional, but you were encouraged to pay for it if you really liked it. The registration for Colossus was about $50, so I decided to hold off (hey I just dropped a grand for the computer, I was broke!) and continued to use the program for free. I already had the name picked out, "Sanctuary BBS" from the book series Thieves' World by Robert Asprin. I was now ready to start my own BBS.

Now, all I needed was callers...

(full disclosure: there is actually no parrot content in this post)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Time flies when your having fun...

Well, it was my firm intention to write more of my BBS recollections... but it appears that I have been severely negligent. Anyways, I'll write more later this week about first foray into my own BBS world as a Sysop and the birth of Sanctuary BBS.