I was feeling nostalgic reading through old diaries from the 90s, when I ran across this entry about my explorations of bulletin board systems (BBS) while I was living in Washington DC. For those too young to remember, we used to have to dialup with our 14.4 mbaud modems to connect to these somewhat clandestine text-only discussion and file-exchange areas called BBSs.
After the fold is an excerpt from my journal from November 3, 1993.
Journal Entry, November 3, 1993:
Remarkable experience today. After work I was messing around on a few local BBSs when I got onto one called "Groucho’s Grotto." The startup was pretty lengthly and technical. You actually have to send proof of ID to gain full member status on this BBS.
Well I finally got in and am wandering about, when my screen blanks, and text starts scrolling:
"Hi this is Groucho. Welcome to my grotto. Does your screen look okay?"
I think, wow, pretty smart BBS program. The text continues:
"Do the words only go halfway across your screen?"
I slowly realize that behind these words is an actual person somewhere typing away. I notice his or hers spelling mistakes and watching as he goes back and corrects them. I get this creepy feeling that someone is watching me.
After a few lines, "Groucho" goes away and I continue exploring. He pops back in every once in awhile to explain something or fix something with my setup. He is very helpful, but I kind of wish he would go away and let me wander uninterrupted.
A new experience in human contact. Kinda scary, kinda sexy.
And so it began my obsession with using technology to connect to other humans.