What? There was such a thing? Life on the Internet before Facebook? Most assuredly and I’m not talking MySpace either. My first modem, (the apparatus that connects you to the Internet) was 2400 baud, meaning, approximately 240 characters sent per second, and it connected via the landline telephone connection. It was slow, clunky, expensive and noisy when connecting, but that was cutting edge back in the mid eighties.
Compared to the speeds of today we are talking snail’s pace, but I thought it was wonderful and it was. What did we do without Facebook? Were there games, was there chat, were there MEMES? Yes to all. There was IRC for chatting, (Internet Relay Chat) and there were BBS’s, a sort of precursor to today’s social networking sites and much more limited in scope but we didn’t realize it. To us, back in the day, it was the most legal fun you could have without leaving your house. BBS stands for Bulletin Board System and there were several types, Wildcat, Worldgroup, PCBoard, Renegade, and many others, all different types of software with but one goal in mind, connecting people to one another on the Internet. My favorite for meeting people and playing games was Worldgroup because their graphics were so top of the line. They had x’s and o’s you could actually make out when you were playing a game of backgammon. You’d have to type in, Move 3 etc, but hey it was unique for it’s time.
If backgammon wasn’t your type of game you could play text-based games such as Trade Wars, where you vied to rule the universe and the one I played constantly when I wasn’t playing backgammon, Crossroads of the Elements. When you wanted to kill something, say, if you were equipped with a whip, you’d have to type in Whip W, the W or whatever letter began the name of your adversary, in this case I’m thinking wolf. And you would have to type it in over and over again until you’d been killed or beaten the enemy. Unless you knew a little bit about your computer. Then you could program macros in and hit just one key that would spell out your command rather than having to type it. You can still play this game today and can access it from its title I linked above.
You could chat on the BBS’s too, you didn’t have to use IRC for that feature, it was just very popular and had multitudes of channels with all different types of interests. We’ve been asking ASL since before some of you were born. Many of the boards were run locally and you were able to go to meet and greets and see the people you’d been chatting with or playing games with face to face. I’ve been to several and always had a blast. Two of my very best friends were met on the last BBS I was a member on.
There was no such thing as BitTorrents back then but that didn’t mean that there weren’t ways to get the software you wanted by means other than the computer store. That was accomplished via Pirate BBS’s and my favorite was a Renegade board. You had to know somebody then and be trustworthy or you wouldn’t get a login, and you would be stopped from accessing if you downloaded more than you uploaded. It was a give and take situation. I always managed to end up without a limit placed on me though and I’m sure that had something to do with being female. See? Still holds true to this day. It was agonizing though if it was something you particularly wanted because at those speeds it could take days to get one program. We never gave too much thought to whether it was right or wrong, it was just something we did. I of course know better now and would never do such a thing…..
And then of course there were personal websites, where you could post whatever came to your mind and you didn’t have to worry about one of your readers reporting you to the powers that be because it was YOUR web site. Much like this one is Jo’s. If someone doesn’t like something they’re reading here their only option really is to not read because as long as no laws are being broken, a privately owned web site is governed by the owner. You have to follow a few rules and regulations that your server provider puts in place but those are usually nothing more than common sense guidelines any person with a brain would follow, so what’s posted on a personal website or blog pretty much stays on a personal website or blog regardless of varying opinions. No Zuckerberg minions there folks. Readers then were as likely as not to be other site owners and we were a much more tight knit group then than there is today amongst bloggers. We shared stories on each other’s sites and commented regularly on our favorite sites.
We did something else then too. We WROTE. Pictures are wonderful and do an amazing job of aiding understanding and dressing up an article but so many sites today are nothing but images with maybe a sentence or two to lead in and half of the time those are taken in total from another site. Ah well, now we have Facebook and games with actual animated graphics and people displaying all sorts of bizarre content and dispositions. The next time you start to get frustrated with something someone said or did on your status, or posted in a group, remember what I’ve said here and count your blessings. You don’t know how fortunate you are.