I thought about something today that I hadn't thought about in years. That's right, BBS's (or Bulletin Board Systems). How many of you remember these precursors to the Web? Not many, I imagine. Mainly because I'm an old bastard.
In case you don't know, here's a quick rundown of what a BBS was (is?), from Wikipedia:A bulletin board system or BBS is a computer system running software that allows users to dial into the system over a phone line and, using a terminal program, perform functions such as downloading software and data, uploading data, playing games, reading news, and exchanging messages with other users. During their heyday (from the late 1970s to the late 1990s), many BBSes were run as a hobby free of charge by the "SysOp" (system operator), while other BBSes charged their users a subscription fee for access.
The BBS was how we downloaded stolen--err...free--software back in the day. And files. Actually, mostly files. This was back in the early Nineties...I was still in high school and would spend many an evening "playing" on the BBS's. And by "playing" on the BBS's, I mean exactly the same thing as when I say "'playing' on the Internet". That's right--the humble BBS and my 1200 baud modem were my first real access to hardcore porn as a horny teenager.
I remember a lot of files weren't of a very high resolution, so a lot of times, it was like masturbating to an Atari 2600 game. Alternatively, you'd come across (pun intended, of course) a trove of high-res pix that would take forever to download on a 1200 baud modem. You'd set your terminal software to download the image using the XMODEM protocol, then flip over to your image viewer and keep hitting the refresh button, a little more of the image revealed each time. It's weird to think what our little, hormone-crazed adolescent minds would sit through just to see some flesh. But we did it. And it affected me. Bad. After I started having real sex, late in my teens, I found that I could get off without first making my girlfriend lie under a sheet naked then ever-so-slowly draw the sheet down her body, revealing a little more flesh ever couple of seconds. Luckily, that subsided.
BBS's were always inhabited by a lot of creepy users. I always imagined that a lot of them were child molesters. Or maybe I'm confusing BBSs with the rectory at the local Catholic Church. In fact, in one memorable case in my hometown, it was found that the operator of the largest BBS was, in fact, a child molester. No surprise there, because he was also a Star Trek fan, and according to the Toronto Police, the two go hand-in-hand
. But the big tip off that these were odd people were the names they chose for the BBS's. Here's a list of ones I used to dial in to back in the day:
Radio Waves BBS
Beyond The Sunset
The Legend BBS
AFTER DARK BBS
Improbability Drive II
The Black Universe
Off The Wall
The Other Side Of The Hill
The Edge Of The Universe
Sounds like child molesters galore, eh? I'm glad we have the Web now, because there certainly aren't any weird people on it...