When I think about all the code-of-conduct/governance/etc advocacy that comes from outside the core of today’s big projects, it’s hard not to worry about the similarities.
> In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.
But at the same time, you had to be technically competent to be a higher-up, to be a coordinator of some sort. And if you weren't, everyone below you would simply move to a different upstream node, or demote you from your position. So it was a weird meritocratic sort of feudal system.
I don't find it hard to not worry about it at all.
"It just runs in spite of the idiots." (Tom Jennings)
For those that don't know, the BBS Documentary is something like 6 DVDs and has hours of well produced and documented material and interviews.
As a result, with a few exceptions like Jason Scott's textfiles, there was relatively little archived documentation/stories/archives about BBSs at the time and very little of that has survived. (BBSs pretty much all got shutdown at some point and there's very saved from discussions, especially outside of the relays.)
I was an upstream of one or two BBS for a few years, gatewaying Usenet news and email. We treated them exactly like the UUCP and ACSnet feeds, and the military over x.25 and OSI x.400 mail, but we didn't always feel very charitable towards them.
I now respect this kind of self organised bootstrapping behaviour much more.
Meanwhile I was doing pretty well with my Spectrum Peripherals 14.4k before I got my fancy Zoom 56k...
You didn't have to run a BBS to do this. Using an offline mail reader like Blue Wave  and downloading QWK files  allowed anyone to do it—and helped keep the lines, as downloading was (relatively) quick compared to reading 'online'.
I initially got "on" Usenet by downloading SOUP files from a local free-net .
In fact, when I finally got email, I wrote a QB program to convert my inbox to QWK format. I would then use OLX to read/reply to emails. I don't recall, but I probably used OLX's Save As to store my replies to text files which I then uploaded to my online mail server.
I used OLX for emails until at least 1999.
Seems you can still get it:
Besides pioneering FidoNet, Tom Jennings also started another early ISP in 1992 originally running out of John Gilmore's basement in San Francisco called TLG: The Little Garden, named after a Chinese food restaurant in Palo Alto that was popular with techies:
John Gilmore had a T1 line to his house in the Haight, and TLG customers (I mean the ISP, not the restaurant) would pay for their modem and a phone line to be installed, and for their monthly phone bill and share of the T1 line. Tom did all the wiring in the basement, which was a work of art that really impressed the technician from the phone company when he came over to install more lines. John said they charged the minimum amount necessary in order to set a baseline that other ISPs would eventually have to compete with, at a time when nobody else would sell you a cheap fast connection to the internet.
>There's a kind of cheap theatric irony in the fact that Jennings first took control of The Little Garden (TLG), a San Francisco provider of Internet access, when he was on food stamps; yet now that TLG has more success than he and his staff can keep up with, he's looking for an exit play, to sell out. He wants to stop working the entrepreneur's 90-hour weeks and is talking about buying a piece of safe, income-generating commercial real estate.
>The Little Garden (with John Romkey, David Henkel-Wallace, and Steve Crocker)
>A medium-sized Internet Service Provider in the San Francisco Bay Area. now merged into Verio. We mostly sold T1 and 56K Internet connections to businesses. We were distinguished from many other early commercial providers by our common-carrier attitude: "You are free to resell the service that we provide to you, and we will not censor it." This enabled a whole crop of smaller resellers in various locales to buy from us and offer other services to the public (like modem-based Internet connections). These resellers contributed to our volume of Internet traffic, and enabled us to provide higher quality service at lower prices. TLGnet was sold to Best Internet Communications in July, 1996, and my active involvement in it ended. (Best was then bought by Hiway Technologies, which was then bought by Verio.)
You can see more of Tom's elegant technological artwork on his site here:
He co-founded a skateboarder's rights group called Shred of Dignity, which fought against San Francisco city hall and won.
>Tom Jennings: Shred of Dignity started out life as Duke Crestfield and Shawn Ford flyering to get support to stop a city-wide ban of skateboarding in San Francisco.
>Shawn Ford: I found this article about the proposed skateboarding ban. I was probably 17 or 18 and I had never been politically active. I talked to my skate friends, but they were kind of apathetic. Fucking hippies, you know? For me, the skateboard was a necessity.
>Tom Jennings: Duke made up the name, as a triple-entendre/pun, originally to be a gay skateboarders group. No, I won’t explain it.
>Shawn Ford: Duke was in his 20s and had already been politically active, so he set it up and we started collecting signatures. We met all these kids who had never been politically active, and Duke showed everybody what to do. Tom Jennings put down some money for photocopying, and within a week or two, we were taking ramps to the park and having BBQs and meetings, all with the intention of fighting this thing at City Hall.
>Tom Jennings: We overturned the ban with some of Duke’s political/theatrical maneuvers.
Tom Jennings also published a gay queer anarchist skater zine called "Homocore", which spawned a punk subculture offshoot called "Queercore", and led to Riot Grrrl.
Given that FidoNet only went up to Zone 6, they could just leverage the same technical standards:
I remember there being other "nets", but cannot for the life of me remember their names.
If I hadn't been fascinated with projects like reimplementing WWIV's network protocol to bridge it to my FIDONet supporting BBS, or implementing IEMSI and other things surrounding echomail/etc. I don't think I'd have developed the necessary interest to become a career software engineer, especially not in this space.
I really miss that moment in tech. The social connections were still somewhat on a "natural" scale and showed hope for improving the world instead of clearly damning it. I appreciate many other improvements that have happened, don't think I truly pine for those times overall. But the mass open social networks of now are truly ruining society and being involved in progressing this kind of communication makes me feel at fault, if even only for an infinitesimally small amount.
Now the same people who used to make fun of me for my computer interests are working for Twitter. How the world changes once there’s money and mainstream success in something. I can’t help but feel slightly bitter about it, especially as I see all of the negativity now spreading across technology what with the great firewall, misinformation, and all.
Eventually, that Spring, I installed Windows 3.1 specifically so that I could use Netscape, which was at version 1.1 at the time.
FidoNet was a big part of why I ran that board, and it was my gateway to the world in the early 90s. I met so many people that way.
Sysop meetings at Shakey's Pizza - nothing beats in person meet ups!
EDIT: It just dawned on me - how amazing is it that now that long distance calls are generally free (at least here in the US) that lots of people don't get the significance of "local call". What at time.
Was not too surprised to see Joe Barr (Austin) in there. He died in 2008 and Linux Journal, where a lot of his writing was published, is gone now also.
from the early days of the internet:
a host is a host from coast to coast,
and noone will call a host that close,
unless the host that isn't close,
is busy hung or dead.
My first ever email was sent via a local BBS and relayed via Fidonet to the authors of WinZIP, asking them if they plan to support creating multispan arj archives on disk first so I can copy them and FDDs and be able to copy again a single failed archive and not restart the whole process from scratch if for some reason one of the drives had an error.
During this time I was the REGION 9 cordionar for Fidonet and latter to become the president of IFNA.
I agree Fidonet suffered from politics from the first meeting in Coloradio Springs. As a software development project and public resource it was fasinating to see it work. Even the side stories should be told. SeaDog and ARC data compression (Later to become ZIP). Xmodem and SLIP are also tied into these stories.
I don't miss the $800 dolar phone bills I plaid for myself or the politics. I do miss the people.
My personal contribution was "The Communicator" modem program (Freeware AKA Open Source) and the inspration for ProComm.
DESQview and QEMM on DOS was also popular. It wasn't fully multi-taking, but it worked quite well.
You also had to have a COM port that was connected to a 16550A UART, often done via a serial add-in card, because it had a whopping 16 byte buffer:
АN>> this was the original message
SG> first reply, text _below_ the quotation
With more levels, original initials were preserved, quotes we're kept at necessary minimum, and email correspondence was very organized. Not the mess we have now with replies at the top and the rest of all thread below
"This is why node numbers aren't given out "word of mouth", or at other sysops request. It has to be done directly, as a test."
I remember struggling getting the old WWIV software to handle the message transfers of Fido, but when it finally worked it felt like I cracked the world.
Of course, there were elitists on the Fido side that sneered at WWIV BBSes, but that is another story. lol
Check out the Telnet BBS Guide:
The idea that I could connect not just to people on a local system, but with others around the world, was just amazing.
I wasn't a part of the technical infrastructure, and I clearly missed out on a lot of the politics and discussion... but I had lots of good discussions with others, and even contributed a few articles to FidoNews back in the day. The fact that they were willing to let a teenager write for them was extremely encouraging for me.
Thanks to all of the FidoNet folks for the amazing stuff that they did, and for giving me a taste of an online community before using the Internet when I started college.
Holy crap how the times have changed.
The guy who co-ran the BBS with me leaked our serial number after we had a falling out. Was “fun” trying to get support from Galacticomm after that, despite having the original manuals with the serial number printed on it as proof I really owned it.
FidoNet is a worldwide computer network that is used for communication between bulletin board systems (BBSes). It uses a store-and-forward system to exchange private (email) and public (forum) messages between the BBSes in the network, as well as other files and protocols in some cases.
From what I gathered, Usenet was a decentralised network from the start, whereas BBSes were distinct communities and Fidonet was a solution to connect these communities together.
I believe Usenet also runs on TCP/IP, unlike BBSes which you dialed into.
Can anyone shed some light on the above?
Usenet didn't start out by running over TCP/IP.
Hopefully the current one is making up for it.