unbibium: (future self)
I have in my possession, 8-bit computers that are over 25 years old.

I have actually a massive collection in my parents' garage, twenty miles away. But I also have a fair amount cluttering up my apartment. Specifically, I have a complete working Atari 800XL with Atari 1050 disk drive, and a Commodore 64 with a 1541 disk drive. I grew up with both of these setups. I also have a monitor that works with both computers.

Now, I have the usual excuses for keeping them that collectors tend to have. But there's a unique one, in addition to all that.

Jason Scott made a BBS documentary, and I want there to be a BBS movie.

But, I have to accept that I can't make a movie, nor can I persuade someone else to start making one. I can write one or two scenes in a script, but that's about it. And, indeed, making a movie set in the 1980s is probably impossible for a low-budget movie anyway, considering how much has changed visually in the intervening decades. But one thing you'd need, that would probably cost a lot if you had to do it from scratch, is a pile of 1980s technology.

I can't seem to work up the will to throw this away. But I can't help but wonder if it would not only free up space in my apartment, but also space in my mind for other, better dreams.
unbibium: (Default)
When I was twelve, Tim Burton's Batman movie had just come out, and I just got my first 1200 baud modem. So on Phoenix-area BBSes at the time, I was known as "The Joker".

And now it's going to be a ridiculously common Halloween costume.

Screw that; I'm going as Pac-Mario.
unbibium: (Default)
Not that I'm face-blind, but I can't tell if DO has two horrible female friends or one.

It just occurred to me to compare the character to various Hollywood versions of the geek.

Densha Otoko has apparently grown up to believe that women are mythical creatures, and having a girlfriend is beyond consideration. He's a grown man who dresses like a 12-year-old, and can't control his breath when talking to a real woman. The only time I can remember this archetype being even attempted in a Hollywood movie is in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Because in Hollywood, nerds are not only more handsome than in real life, but they're also more brave. Sometimes, even pushy. Children are allowed to be nervous about asking women out, but adults never are.

But no Hollywood nerd's story was ever based on a real BBS thread. So from this, we can assume that the Japanese image that stems from this series will be closer to reality. And thus, Japan's reputation as being nerdier than America is secure. Little do they know, we ourselves have plenty of guys who dress like 12-year-olds, and know more about mythical anime women than real women, but Hollywood doesn't write about them... yet.
unbibium: (stinko-ellipsis)
In the past week or so, I've learned as much as a Westerner can be expected to know about Monar, the species of ASCII-art cat that keeps showing up, from dirty flash animations like Chinko Anesan, to squeaky-clean derivative Javascript games like Super Maryo World.

It turns out that it's not just any cat with a changing facial expression. Rather, each facial expression is a different cat. The eponymous Monar is always happy smiles, and the one with the freaking-out Cyrillic face is perpetually freaking out. That's a little sad. Even Strong Sad cracks a smile now and then.

It also turns out that the ones in the Numa Numa video aren't the real deal; they're derivatives that were going to go commercial, and those are called "Noma neko", translating loosely to "drinky cat".

And none of them have any connection to that sleeping cat you used to see in Usenet signatures.
unbibium: (Default)
The commentary seems to complete the story in the case of the first CD. Such as, why was the sysop of CBBS/NW doing his interview in a bowling alley?

The sysop of CBBS/NW was upset when they closed down his favorite bowling alley in Oregon. So he bought his own bowling alley, on eBay, in Kansas, and moved there to run it. So that's where he interviewed.

Another evil thing I thought of when considering the Creative Commons license: one could make a version of this documentary that's exactly the same, but all scene changes are star-wipes.
unbibium: (Default)
The documentary episode that chronicles the end of the BBS tells us about the BBSes that are still up and running, some on phone lines, and others hacked together to run on the Internet.

There's a RetroBBS mailing list to which I'm subscribed, but don't participate, because mailing lists are hard to participate in for me.... too much wading through quoted text, etc. That's the one thing I miss about BBSes: no quoted test. You'd just hit 'P' and the previous message would appear if you got confused.

I also remembered, for some reason, the most fun I ever had on a nearly-empty BBS.

It was called Catalyst, and ran on TBBS, a program designed for multi-line BBSes. But the only active participants included me, author Diane Duane, and a 15-year-old probably named Scott who had a zit so big he named it. We all called at least once every two days. I had my computer rigged to read the output aloud with a program called SAM, but I not only forget how, I also forget whether I did it on an Atari or a Commodore 64.

Diane Duane wrote "Spock's World", in which we learn that the Enterprise has a BBS that the crew uses.
unbibium: (jeffk)
Found while combing through textfiles.com:

1. "THANK YOUR PARTNER FOR THE GREAT TIME, AND SMOKE A CIGARRETTE (IF YOU DON'T SMOKE, DRINK A PEPSI!) HAVE FUN!!"
2. "When you talk to chicks, don't talk about boring things. Talk about exciting things: wiping out on your skateboard, surfing, getting totally blasted, you know, stuff like that."
3. "...walk through the same way she goes and it'll get crowded so you'll both have to turn sideways and when she does her tits will be against your chest.Step forward for an ever better feel. Oh what a feeling!"
4. "...get her in [forget to invite others] the pool and swim around, chase her a little bit *accidently* touching her in places. One of these times accidently [G-D forbid] undo her bathing suite, she might or might not notice." Nice touches: hyphen-blanking "GOD" and praising the file linked to in #3.
5. A straightforward list of pickup lines. Read as many as you can, as fast as you can, and don't stop for any reason.
unbibium: (Default)
There was an extra features blurb on disc 3 about a DJ that called a BBS.

In Phoenix, I heard there was a BBS run by KUPD, the local rock station, for a little while. It may have been before my time.

Also, a local anchorman, Roger Downey, used to be a regular on the Atari user group's BBS, and even ran their meetings for a while. I think he still works for Channel 5.

Who's the most famous, media-connected, or powerful person to call your local BBS? Has a state governor ever called one?
unbibium: (Default)
The story of this part is also outside my realm of experience. For one, I was never a sysop, so I never had to purchase BBS software. And second, pay BBSes were rare in Phoenix.

There were four pay BBSes of note in the Phoenix area that I can remember vividly.

The first was APECS, a multi-line BBS that cost $2 an hour in the late 80's. I only got to enjoy about $20 worth, outside a "free week" where they opened up access to all the features for everyone.

The second was D-Base V, which was a homebrew BBS, and you paid for access to special features, such as "nukes" which you could add a message that would kick a particular user off the BBS for the rest of the day. People used those on me constantly. It had a profanity filter that would prevent you from typing swear words. And when you selected "Chat with Sysop" from the main menu, it would start up an Eliza-like program.

In the 90's, that's when multi-line came into its own. There were three boards of note: Sho-Tron (aka the Rock Garden), at 20 lines and 60¢/hr, Smorgas Board at 8 lines and 35¢/hr.

I have vague memories of a board called Crossroads that seemed to vaguely invoke the Internet, and a few others that may have been more business-based than I could comprehend at my young age. I think that I trained myself to just forget about any BBS that asked for money, as I was too young to earn my own money until well into my Internet years, and my computer was usually a few years out of date anyway.
unbibium: (Default)
I think I know why ANSI art was singled out above ATASCII, PETSCII, etc. -- it was definitely more hardcore than anything I'd experienced doing menus for Commodore boards. But then again, I worked mostly for local Monty Python themed boards. Nobody formed groups. It was hardcore not only in the scope of the organizations, but in the sense of the art they produced.

iCE and ACiD, the two large ANSI groups featured in the episode, both have a web presence now. ACiD has a radio show on their site, which stopped producing episodes just a few months before podcasting really started to take off. And while ANSI looks great on dumb terminals, it doesn't work on Usenet or in HTML, which is why you see more ASCII art these days. I used to follow Joan Stark back when she released something every month, but all this time has passed and she's still on Geocities. In the meantime, the top Google hit for the "ascii art" search is Chris Johnson's ASCII Art Collection.

I never followed ANSI, because it never looked right on a Commodore 64, or even an Amiga 500. By the time I got a PC, I was already on the Internet. So I didn't realize that people would create gigantic scrolling murals, 80 columns wide but infinitely tall. Nor did I realize that it continued well into the 90's. This gave a strange quality to the stories, as it made things like conference calls and multi-line BBSes more common.

One thing that I always found attractive about ANSI art, ASCII art, and other character-based art forms, is the idea of constraints. In ASCII, what can you do with 95 tiles and no choice of color? That's why I'm not so fond of ASCII that cheats with computer-generated HTML color tables and tiny font sizes -- the tiles become irrelevant. Give me cats in a dozen lines or less. My favorite is the 4-line sleeping cat with the 4 for a nose, the perfect size for a Usenet signature.
unbibium: (Default)
Episode 2, being less of a technical/historical nature, and more of a sociological focus, is the one I might be more likely to show people unfamiliar with BBSes.

I wonder if they'd ask how that was different from the way the Internet is used today, but it became more apparent as it progressed that BBSes were more locally defined than anything on the Internet.

Even local groups on the Internet don't seem to bind so tightly. I think about the story of the woman who had the affair online, where the husband found out and they got into a fight, and dozens of people showed up to break up the fight and help her move out. Am I cynical, or would that never happen if, for example, the same thing happened to someone in [livejournal.com profile] t_h_e_m, or on Friendster?

The consequence of being a woman on a BBS never occurred to me. It differs from being a woman on the Internet, in that the SysOp could break into chat as soon as you typed a female name into the new user form. That totally baffles me, as it's so incredibly obviously anti-cool that it sounds like the first thing an old SysOp would tell a prospective SysOp never to do.

As an extra added bonus thrown in, title cards are only used for their intended purpose -- titles, not narrative. Splendid.
unbibium: (Default)
I just watched the first episode of The BBS Documentary.

I found it kind of interesting, but only because I lived it. If you've never heard of a BBS before, it will put you to sleep.

Far be it for me to blame lazy directing, since this thing took over three years to film. But, there's too many title cards explaining all the fundamentals, not enough demonstration. In fact, we don't see what it looked like to use a BBS anywhere, except in one Computer Chronicles clip. We get to see Ward Christensen's CBBS machine posed next to the couch, but we don't see them powering it up, or trying to. We hear about people leaving messages, and we see a few printouts of them that are too close-up to read, but apparently none of them were worth reading aloud. The result: lots of talking heads, with a few photos and video clips. I wonder they tried to put more action in, but the result ended up even more boring than the title cards. Text interfaces aren't very exciting, but they're an integral part of the story. Taking ten seconds to go over a typical menu and explaining Read, Post, and Chat with SysOp, would have gone a long way, and this episode seemed like the right place to do it.

The only time we see a computer actually doing anything, is during the closing credits when an Atari 8-bit was booting from disk and making lots of happy noises. If you're going to show a computer booting up, make it an Atari.

But it occurs to me that this thing has a Creative Commons license, so, in theory, I could remix the whole thing and improve on it. The prospect boggles me, because as much at it would help, I don't think it would be polite. But it would allow the rest of the work to shine through as it was intended to. I know these stories are more interesting than they're presented in the documentary.

There was an interesting juxtaposition when a bunch of interviewees started talking about their preferred brand of 8-bit machine, and then were depicted talking about how all the other brands sucked. That gave a good idea of the rivalry, and that little table from the computer ad, paired with the guy calling them "Ford vs Chevy" arguments, really summed up the arbitrary nature of it.

Perhaps the other episodes will have more style; I'll post reviews if they are.
unbibium: (Default)
Know what I miss? The BBS interface. Know why? No fucking scrollbars and subwindows.

This is why I can't keep up-to-speed on listservs. I end up having to scroll through message after message, where nobody trims their quoted material so I have to play hide-and-seek for who said what.

Web message boards are a little better, but they seem to be so strictly thread-based that you can't just Read All New. And I'd like to see a web board that can be comfortably operated entirely with a keyboard.

Maybe I'll have to code it myself.

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