What a great time we live in, right? Facebook and amazon at our finger tips. Connections to all of our friends with a few taps on a touch-screen. Instant access to wheather, maps, navigation, news, and movies. All in these little devices we keep in our pockets, purses, and on our belts. Instant gratification for a fast-paced world. Teenagers with cel phones, texting all of their friends. Miniature digital cameras at everone’s disposal. All of it can be yours if you’re willing to hand your (or your parents, or.. the taxpayers…) hard-earned money over to somoene else.
Lots of fun to be had, right?
Guess what… You so missed it.
If you picked up “Computers” after 2000 or so, you missed all the fun. I’m by no means old, but I’ve been a geek for… well.. all of my life. I inherited it from My father. It’s genetic you know. Born in 1980, my dad had my sister and I using a Texas Instraments computer, connected to our living room TV, to learn the alphabet, basic words, and play Hunt the Wumpus when I was still a tiny little guy. Could be as early as 5 or 6 years old. I’m 32 now, and have my own little one. She’s too young to be using a computer yet, but you better believe it’ll be a learning aide in our house. But today that’s completely expected. In fact, if you _don’t_ have a computer, you’re at a disadvantage! Theyre so commonplace now, I guess the technologists with dreams in the 80’s were right. Computers in every home. I used to think that’d be great. Was I wrong?
My first computer was Tandy CoCo. It had no hard drive, just a 5.25″ floppy drive, which I used to store my hand-typed BASIC programs. I could make it display a sine wave, a tree, beep in all manner of tones, nothing all that useful. This was the 90’s, and the CoCo was already old. I got it second hand. While I was doing that, others were breaking in their 386’s, and getting online. Connected to this new thing called The Internet. Or in some cases, America Online, or the other walled garden, Compuserve. And still in existence at that time, the old standby, the BBS. BBS’s were what lead up to online services like AOL, and CompuServe.
What’s a BBS? Ohhhhhh if you don’t know, then this blog is directed at you. BBS stands for Bulitin Board System. And they were such simple, and yet such complex systems. The BBS is what made us want to communicate with these clunky toys that were Computers of the time. Picture this. Lots of hobbists have these computers. They have the ability to communicate between them over the telephone lines. But you cant just randomly call one another, one guy needs to be ready to answer, and the other needs to call when he’s ready. Otherwise its just a missed call. BBS’s though. They were online all of the time. Or at least at times that could be scheduled. Users could call in, and read news, or forum posts from other users, or send e-mail to others, or download software. These things ran under peoples desks, in their basements, or next to their beds. There was no $60/month service contract with a colo provider. No $.25 per compute hour fee’s. Certainly no draconian bandwidth limitations. Just you, and your long-distance dialling plan. If you were smart, running a BBS didnt cost you any more than the cost of the computer itself, and the electicity to power it!
Doesn’t sound like much fun? Oh, you have no idea. See, this is how the Internet that you know today was born! The BBS was the original social network, the original ISP! The BBS sysops mentality, lead to the pioneers of internet technoligies. Running under desks, in bedrooms, and in basements around the world. I, myself, ran this very web site out of, first my parents basement, and then my own basement for years. It wasnt until ISP’s started to block traffic so that wasnt possible any more that I had to consider alternative hosting.
I guess thats where the fun started to die. When I say you missed it, I mean just that. Services are so locked down anymore, that anyone looking to follow in the hobbist of old’s footsteps actaully cant. Try running a server out of your house on a residentaial cable modem, or DSL. you’ll find it almost impossible. You cant run a standard web server without it getting blocked. You cant run your own mail without getting black listed. Now the fun’s at a higher price point. This server runs on a co-located hypervisor, at an honest to goodness host. Not out of my basement. There’s a lot of benefits to that, but there’s also expense, and it takes away the coolness factor. I cant take a curious guest into my basement, and see them ponder of the stack of whirring servers anymore. Now its a DSL modem, and a firewall, and a bunch of cat5. Not nearly as impressive.
So what the heck am I talking about? Just rambling i guess. I miss the old days, when persona’s you ran into online were either newbies thirsty for knowledge, or seasoned hackers flexing their muscles. Now the internet’s full of people only interested in gossip, arguments, and Farmville.
You guys missed it. This used to be a truly amazing place.