Monday, February 9, 2009

It's 2am, do you know where your restraunt is?

Something everyone needs is a place to hang out.  With the crew of the Motel West it was either Denny's or "HQ".  

Evidently there was a strong Pizza making theme with the crew of the Motel -- and many of them worked late at their job making/delivering Pizzas.  Well, where do you hang out after work...when after work means after midnight usually?  The answer: Denny's!  No ID's, no 2 drink minimum, and almost no drunks hitting on you!  And what made Denny's better was that we had a custom waiter that was always there....MIKEY!  He was a great waiter.  He took care of us, even if all we did was come in and order 5 coffee's and a coke.  The occasional sugar packet fight didn't seem to bother him at all.  Probably because he new we would clean up the mess.

We met many members of the Motel West at Denny's.  That was the neutral location that we always chose to have people meet us F2F (Face to Face).  Some people jumped in and said hello...and I'm sure some people walked in...saw us...and ordered a coffee to go.  Oh well, their loss.    Denny's became the virtual extension of the BBS -- or I guess it would be better to say that the Motel West became the virtual extension of the nights of coffee at Denny's.  What happened at Denny's usually appeared on the BBS later...and things that happened on the BBS were usually argued in detail at Denny's.  

Could it have been Village Inn, or someplace else?  Possibly...but Village Inn didn't have Mikey.  And visits to Denny's when Mikey wasn't there were not always the best.  Some waitresses did not quite understand our group...and were a little hesitant.  But hey, who wouldn't be with our group...  So here's to Denny's the virtual next door neighboor to the Motel West.  

Friday, February 6, 2009

As the BBS software churns...

The nice thing about the Colossus BBS software was that it was very configurable.  But there were some things about it I didn't like.  Namely, you had to pay for it (eventually) - and I didn't write it.

Now, being a teenager, the not wanting to pay for it is something that nearly everyone can understand.  One of the killer aspects of the on-line world was that there were a lot of "free" software that you could download.  Most of the free software was legitimate -- but there were sites out there that allowed you to download "commercial" software.  The biggest problem with downloading software was the speed.  As we've commented before we were cruising around at 300 baud (remember, that's only 30 characters per second).  I significant piece of commercial software could have been 180KB .. which would only take you 6,000 seconds to download. That's 1 hour, 40 minutes of download time. With other overhead ... this was easily going to be 2+ hours.  

Now why was I concerned about not writing the program?  Well I was an aspiring programmer myself.  When I learned that Colossus was written in Pascal, I figured that I was a pretty good Pascal programmer and I could do better than that.  I think I started writing "My" BBS software several times.  Some time afterwords, the upgrade to Colossus came out ... and it was called of all things, Collie.  It was a bit better than Colossus, but more a rename than anything else.  I'm not sure if I migrated Sanctuary over to Collie or not.  Not to long after that, the people who wrote Colossus / Collie converted their project to Wildcat!  I never really liked that software, it was just a bit to weird for me.

Speaking of weird software, the "BBS" software that always had caught my eye was WWIV.  (I'm not sure what WWIV stood for...I always assumed it was for World War 4, but who knows).  I really enjoyed the format for that software...but every time I downloaded was not very friendly and/or nice for me at the Sysop level.  What I wanted was configurable version of WWIV, with a Colossus Sysop interface.

In hindsight, what I always wanted was the custom software that ran on the Motel West.  Unfortunately the Motel ran on an Apple ][ (yes, it was spelled that way).  And even if I had the gumption to finish my custom BBS re-write, I probably wouldn't have been happy with it.  The thing that made the Motel West one of the best BBS software out there --- was the content, or better said: the contributing users.  The best part of the BBS was the community.

Many years later, I ended up buying a BBS software package.  It was written by a guy named Mike Woltz.  The software was called SpitFire.  It too was written in Pascal.  I never did finish my custom BBS software, but I was able to use what I learned to make add-on modules for my Spitfire BBS software.  It was with that software that "Sanctuary" became a 24-hour a day / 7-day  a week full-time BBS.  It ran for quite a few years.  We had users come and go.  We ended up running games on the BBS which drove much of the traffic.  But we never did really have the community that we did on the Motel West.

Many people look back to their High School years and see the time they spent playing sports, or being with their school friends.  When I look back to my High School years, I remember many a night pecking a way at a keyboard, composing the next chapter of the on-line story, ... and hanging out at Denny's at insane times of night.  When I went to my High School senior prom, I didn't ask a girl at school -- but rather asked a girl from the BBS.  We had a blast!  Afterwords we went to Denny's for Ice-Cream and the other members of the BBS had dressed up for "Prom" as well.  

Wow, that reminds me of the story when the members of the Motel West offered to buy TM.Cavalier a date...but that is a story for another time.