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 R
, and C
hat 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.