Way back in the early 90s, I had a 1200 baud modem and a 2-meg hard drive, and a boyfriend whose BBS alias was Cogitor. He taught me how to dial up a BBS, which for you young folks out there, was sorta like a website at the end of a telephone line. One user at a time could dial in, as it was basically hosted on one computer in somebody's house. (some BBS's certainly were bigger and more complex, but this was the basic configuration).
I named myself Jezebel on account of we spent a lot of time debating fundy christians on 504-area-code WWIV boards and a name like Jezebel just put them right out of sorts from the git-go. The Guild was my home away from home, and I still miss it. But also there was the Ugly Truth and Cat's Cradle and a bunch of other boards I used to call all the time. I was never a hacker, never into code, so my visits to a BBS were social and political in nature. I never got long distance codes and dialed long-distance boards for free, but a lot of my BBS's had networked discussions, so you could find yourself in long debates with users from all over the country. Topics ranged from politics to education to book clubs and music, you name it. There were flame subs, poetic war subs, pagan subs, wiccan subs, recipe subs, and I'm sure a zillion others I've forgotten because I didn't fool around with them. Lots of tech/code oriented subs, I'm sure.
Every christmas newbies with new modems would flood into the boards and make a nuisance of themselves by acting a fool and TYPING IN ALL CAPS and all the other crap that newbies do. One christmas I got a 2400 baud modem and I tell you whut: I was ROCKIN the BANDWIDTH. Woot. So I made friends with people online: Cerridwen, HappyDogPotatohead, Steveo and Minx, Dee, and Shinobi and Slasher and more. The Ugly Truth started hosting crawfish boils/barbecues/beerfests in City Park and a lot of these friends crossed over from BBS friends to real-time friends or at least acquaintances. The Ugly Truth in particular was a sort of tattooed scruffy alternative bunch of geeks.
I'm still Jezebel(la) but once the internet - AOL and Prodigy and Compuserve - got more widespread, the BBS community got smaller and smaller. Eventually the sysops gave into the inevitable and took their boards down. WWIV wasn't the only BBS platform, there was at least one other I can't remember the name of, but I stuck to those. Most WWIV boards had lists of numbers for other BBS's - I guess like today's blogroll, yeah?
Now I find the occasional online community on a blog somewhere, where there will be a thriving community of regular posters, but these tend to be cults of personality. One person rules the roost, and determines and directs the topic of conversation. A good BBS sysop was truly a moderator, teaching newbies, banning fools, and directing conversation while keeping subs maintained. Chrysalis at the Guild was in my view the perfect sysop. I bet she's still got an email address somewhere with the name chrysalis in it. There are people who still call me "Jez," after all.
So here it is, over fifteen years after I first dialed up the Cat's Cradle & the Guild & the Ugly Truth, and I'm finding blogs and livejournals written by people I met online back then. One BBS friend, Cerridwen, recently became real-time friends through LiveJournal with a mutual friend I went to high school with. She's Zeldakitty now, but when I read her posts I was sure it was Cerridwen. Sure enough. Cerridwen was the final sysop of the Ugly Truth, which was so beloved that it was passed from one sysop to another (Naked Jester, Steveo, then Cerridwen).
It's a strange little world these days.
What's in a name?
7 hours ago