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BT, DT…got this butt ugly t-shirt


Okay, so in the comments, I mentioned that I lurked on the internet for my first two years, but I had a Good Reason. Which I then left hanging like some huge hangy thing, As If You Cared. Well, back up…here it comes.

I got online in the mid-Eighties. “Online” then meant one of the big services: Compu$erve, Prodigy, GEnie. I tried them all, one after the other. I joined more than one service that claimed to be the first real Internet Service Provider (and they’re all telling the truth, depending on how much of the internet you have to provide for it to count). Portal Communications has a good claim, and they were my ISP for years.

Anyhow, we represented the first “civilian” wave of internet users and the academics, scientists and military types who were already there were not at all happy to see us coming.

So Portal made us read a bunch of posts before we were allowed access to Usenet. Mostly netiquette FAQs and stuff, but one document was extraordinary. I wish I had a copy. I don’t remember the details, but the gist was, “hey! You! Peasant! You’re not wanted here! We were forced to let you in. Keep your mouth shut and your hands to yourself or we’ll kick you out with all your smelly friends, roll up the drawbridge and then you personally will have ruined everything for everybody.”

Scared the hell out of me. I was still at the stage where I believed I could hit a wrong key combination and my monitor would explode or I’d totally break the internet or something. I kept my mouth shut for two whole years. To be honest, I didn’t really know what I was looking at, at first. Usenet didn’t seem all that different from Fidonet, which allowed local bulletin boards to hook up to each other all over the world. Except netizens were real tight-asses back then. Yeah, says Weasel, “on topic” this, Poindexter.

Two events made me realize the size and potential of what I was looking at. There was a terrible drought in the Midwest and a woman posted that rabbits had come out of the fields and nibbled her sheets on the washing line to get at the moisture. The power and homeliness of that image — as opposed to all the meteorological blah-blah-blah on the TV news — stuck in my head. And then in August 1991 the attempted coup in Moscow was “live blogged” by someone looking out his window onto Red Square.

“Hm,” I thinks to myself, “this is like some kind of…international network, or something.”

“You know,” I say, thoughtfully scratching my bonce, “these people are like…citizen journalists, or something.”

Then the Web happened in 1990, and the Eternal September happened in 1993 and the party moved on. But the principle remains the same.


Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: June 14, 2007, 5:48 pm

So much fuel, Weasel! Good thing Dawn’s prolific now.

Moscow 1991: I remember that! EW1 might appreciate this –

How many folks out there know what active armor is? All of you? Good, then just for a review: AA is basically large brick-ish shaped chunks of seriously high explosive (you just made some fed’s net-scannner day, Weasel) embedded into a THICK cast metal rectangular pie-pan and bolted all over a tank. You’ve probably seen them on our tanks. And russian tanks.

What they do is – when a tank-killer round or missile strikes – it strikes one of these blocks and it blows the offending projectile away before it can punch through and pulp the tank crew. Kinda bombong a bomb.

There was this video from Moscow – probably taken by one of those citizen-journalists being born then – showing a russian peasant (I guess) beating a tank with a baseball bat. He was BEATING ON THE ACTIVE ARMOR!!! He had no clue what he was pummeling.

I saw the video on the tube and about died laughing. I’ve been trying for years to find it.

Now I took care of that: there’s plenty more Weasel Fuel there so help yourselves!

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: June 14, 2007, 5:53 pm

How ’bout, “..and the *block* blows the offending…) and, “…*bombing* a bomb.”

Fingers and keyboard are not working well together today….

Comment from Brandon
Time: June 14, 2007, 6:17 pm

Umm… You and McGoo go WAY back in the ol’ internet time machine. The history and conclusion are good though – so when are you going to attempt a coup in D.C. so you can blog about it?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 14, 2007, 6:25 pm

I still feel like a newbie; there were so many people already here when I got here!

Comment from Dawn
Time: June 14, 2007, 6:32 pm

McGoo, I am a one blog girl. Before sweasel, it was lgf and here is way more fun. ‘Sides you guys keep me busy, because this blog requires a lot of research. I was still in high school in 1991, by the way. The only thing I remember about that year is Nirvana’s album Nevermind rocked my world.

Comment from Dawn
Time: June 14, 2007, 6:46 pm

Oh and another thing – How come Rabbit gets called smart and pretty and I get prolific? So I’m productive. I can’t even tell if that’s a hammer or not!

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: June 14, 2007, 8:08 pm

Pretty lasts an hour – prolific is All. Day. Long.

Mssr. Dawns-Husband Who Up-Until-Now Lurked: She’s pretty, isn’t she? The intelligence is obvious.

C’mon, dude. I know you’re out there.

I get a kick out of LGF because the flakes mess with him so much and he usually kicks ass.

Brandon: All this history stuff really only became interesting to me after I lived through a bunch of it. Somehow things start to come together after a few decades. I think the experience is common. You lived through the VPI massacre – I remember the first shuttle disaster. Hell, I remember the Cuban missile crisis. Just you wait….

Weasel had a point (way more, actually). The Net wasn’t originally set up for anything like what we use it for today. Surfers were not what you’d call “welcome”.

Comment from whitishrabbit
Time: June 14, 2007, 8:24 pm

It’s nice of you to keep the pretty thing alive, Dawn.

Especially on those days when I feel like a flaring nostril atop an armpit.

Comment from Dawn
Time: June 14, 2007, 8:54 pm

Mssr Dawn is at a business conference in Kansas City this week or else I would be steaming mad at him for not emphatically declaring how stunning I am!

I’m sorry you’re sad Rabbit! If we were in the same area I would invite you for a girl’s night out to get over old what’s his name.

Comment from Gnus
Time: June 14, 2007, 8:57 pm

McGoo, you’re right. History is a lot more interesting once you’ve lived through a bunch of it. I remember my dad enlisting in the army for WWII – the big one. I don’t recall details, but I remember his absence for a while. Makes me a graybeard, eh?

I remember when an aol addie made one persona non grata too.

Funny though, the Cuban missile crisis didn’t make that much of an impression on me until years later. I must’ve been busy at the time. Or something.

Comment from jwpaine
Time: June 14, 2007, 9:01 pm

Geez, you guys were doing (or at least observing) all kinds of important historical stuff via the innertube back then. Me, I spent the early 90s writing bot scripts so I could flood ppl off IRC.

When I wasn’t ascertaining the academic value of Dirty Rob’s newsgroups postings, anyway.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: June 14, 2007, 9:35 pm

You remember the Big One, Gnus? Your dad fought the goose-steppers? V-E day? V-J day? You actually heard the a-bomb announcement? You lived through the Bikini tests? McCarthy?

No – you’re not a greybeard. You’re beyond price. I wish I could pick your brains for – oh – about a decade.

Hang on until the cascading flood of question-drool I’m contending with dwindles a bit.

Why does Dirty Rob’s ring a bell?

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: June 14, 2007, 9:58 pm

Ah-ha. So all I need to do is wait until Mssr Dawn gets back, and then utter the challenge again.

I. Will. Make. Him. Comment.

And I will do it without recourse to the miriad baser, cunning and offensive tools at my disposal – hard as that may be to believe.

Dawn, I shall gently pummel him into Rapturous Voice – pure and emphatic – as he sonorously expounds at length upon your limitless beauty.

And if that doesn’t work, I’ll just give up. No sense floggin’ a dead horse.

Comment from Dawn
Time: June 14, 2007, 10:43 pm

You make me laugh Mr. McGoo!

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: June 14, 2007, 11:03 pm

I’m glad, Dawn. That was my intent.

I do dearly love purple prose. It’s fun to write.

Comment from leeuwenhoek
Time: June 15, 2007, 1:01 pm

Anyone remember having to dload the “Hosts” file ?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 15, 2007, 1:33 pm

That’s right. You had to be your own domain name server.

Remember email address that had bangs in them (!) instead of @? That was one particular network, wasn’t it?

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: June 15, 2007, 3:36 pm

oooohhh. the unfamiliar sound of braincells stirring uneasily in their sleep…

Wasn’t that the bang path business, where you specified the route of an e-mail?

You could, if I recall, force an e-mail to go a certain way, by using ! symbols.

Or maybe not.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 15, 2007, 3:59 pm

I…can’t remember. I just came in as that was fading out. I remember reading an FAQ about it and thinking, “heh heh heh. He said ‘bang.'”

It was still called Arpanet then, though! I remember that much. That was my first glimmer of the warm fuzzies for the US military.

Comment from leeuwenhoek
Time: June 15, 2007, 4:00 pm

I would be speed connecting dial up to the Merit network at 300bps and proud of it lol.

Comment from leeuwenhoek
Time: June 15, 2007, 4:05 pm

I was mostly into L.U.I.S the library system, that was cool. I could check if books were in. There was no WWW btw , then.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 15, 2007, 4:10 pm

I don’t know LUIS, but the Library of Congress had their catalog on early. I loved browsing that. I think you had to use Gopher to search it. Remember Gopher? And Archie? And Veronica?

When I first saw the Web, I totally didn’t get it. I was like, “so…how many people can be connected to that web page at one time? Really? They bought hundreds of modems?”

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: June 15, 2007, 4:31 pm

Hmm… I distinctly recall using e-mail addresses liberally sprinkled with !s

Must have been when I was trying to avoid my first ISP’s extremely unreliable DNS server!

And Archie? Yeah… Google’s great, great grandfather.

Oh, and the modems! Yes, ISPs used to bulk-buy USRs and then wonder why the rooms they had ’em rackd in turned into sweatshops.

Comment from Gnus
Time: June 15, 2007, 5:04 pm

I ‘members a thunderous debate over Hayes v. US Robotics, and paying a load for a 9600 Hayes. I thought I was flying at 9600. Heh.

Comment from Brandon
Time: June 17, 2007, 10:52 pm

A little late on this one – Dawn is beautiful. Love her lots…

Comment from Some Guy
Time: June 20, 2007, 12:14 pm

I was on a local BBS in the early 90’s; I was a kid. In high school (I graduated in ’97) I was on AOL and didn’t know my friend’s emails, but I had a crappy webpage.

Went to college, discovered Usenet (well, I’d heard of it), and got hooked on the Web.

That’s my story. It’s not very good, but it’s mine.

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