Now Why Didn’t I Keep That?!




February 14, 2006 at 5:15 pm

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After reliving some , I went hunting in the closets for my PCBoard install diskettes only to discover that, in a fit of “packrat cleansing,” I must have thrown them away. I know, I know, I can’t believe I did it. And yet the conversation in my head seems vaguely familiar, “Shannon, you haven’t even used a modem in 10 years. WHY do you need to keep these six 3.5″ diskettes of PCBoard 15.x? Yes, you paid a shitload of money for it back in the early 90’s, but really, girl, you’ve got to move on!”

So, yeah, I think I remember ditching them in the trash one day a couple years ago.

Which, of course, sets off my packrat panic mode. “What if I really, really want to mess around with PCBoard just to remember what it was like? Clark Development Co., the makers of PCBoard, don’t even exist any more, and they haven’t for over a decade!”

Praise the Internet — .

Granted, it’s a hacked 100-line copy, but I also found copies from licensed former PCBoard SysOps — complete with their registration numbers.

So, I’m of the opinion this beastie is basically released into the “wild” of public domain. Someone would have a hard time proving who does and does not have a legal license to the software, 10 years after the company went bust; and even if they could, they’d find one “Shannon Blackburn” did in fact hold a legal license to a 4-line copy of PCBoard 15.x, back went it still mattered.

Particularly for a teenager, I was quite good at legally licensing every BBS program and door program I ran on my BBS — it was one way to set myself apart from some of the other teen-run boards, I guess. Who knew that come 2006, I’d have a brief desire to fiddle around with the old programs, for old time’s sake?

I’m clearly a failed packrat, since along with all the licensed software I ran back in the “BBS days,” I have also long since lost all of my Tranquilty Base BBS backups. I have one or two short chat logs on yellowed and faded Epson dot matrix paper (the kind with the tear-off prong strips on both sides), but those are for my eyes only — they’re some of the first chats I ever had with Justin online.


everything else was lost over the course of many years; each sucessive computer upgrade increased the likelihood that I’d delete or lose the backups. It’s sad, really. How incredibly cool would it be to wander through my old BBS, or Justin’s, right down to the message boards, file (download) directories, and FidoNet newsgroups? These days, one can relive memories far past their “best by” date thanks to Google and the Wayback Machine, among others. But back in the BBS heyday, if you didn’t have backups your BBS truly did cease to exist until you manually recreated it as best you could, and apologized to your users for the empty message areas. I remember tenuous moments during my conversion from one BBS software to another, hoping the migration utilities would work flawlessly so I wouldn’t have to experience the hell of a nuked BBS. Thankfully, I recall it all going relatively well.

At least a tiny facet of my walk down memory lane can be achieved, thanks to reinstalling PCBoard to poke around its once-familiar SysOp screens and local login. That’s better than nothing!

Memories … Here’s a screen capture of the , from a contemporary installation of PCBoard (the hacked 100-line version I mentioned). Sadly, I have no way of recreating my original Tranquility Base BBS installation.

Continued in




Archives from One Year Ago —


February 15, 2006


Heh… you may be sad that T-Base is lost in the recycle bin of history, but, uh, well, I’m not.

Looking at your old usenet posts makes me very, very glad of one thing – the fact that I got all* my online immaturity and idiocy out of my system on a certain pair of private BBSs.

Part of me will always miss what, in my head at least, has come to seem like a simpler, cooler, more innocent time… though I suspect that, much like seeing my early “poems” or naked baby photos, seeing the reality again would be no end of mortifying!

(* = okay, let’s say MUCH of it… gawd knows I still have my fair share.

Still, I’m forever grateful that my teen years were ending just when the web as we know it was beginning.)

February 15, 2006


You bring up an interesting point, Noah. Even if I *did* still posess the backups, resurrecting those in any accessible fashion would most certainly raise some privacy concerns. No one during the BBS heyday had any real reason to suspect that what they wrote late one night in a sleepless stupor would be viewable/retrievable a decade or more later.

I remember DejaNews/Google having some legal issues when they put the USENet archive online, though I presume nothing came of that beyond some (very convoluted) opt-out options.

There definitely seemed to be more of a personal “connection” to be had on BBS’s, particularly one’s own local BBS scene (vs. out-of-state systems). I know some of it is the romanticizing of one’s youth, but I think there is an element of truth to it. I liken it to the reason many people still tune in to their local news, vs. just the cable news networks — there’s something more personal about knowing the people “talking” to you are in your area and deal with the same or similar issues you do each day (weather, traffic, local politics, entertainment/arts scene, or whatnot.)

Really, though, I think the attraction was the shared sense of “space” — when you heard your modem begin connecting and glanced up to see whose system you were logging into, you immediately formed a mental model of that place, of the people you might interact with there, of the things you could do there. The popularity of blogs and MMORPGs like World of Warcraft is really no surprise when viewed in that light — it’s the logical evolution of that shared sense of space we originally experienced on small, hobbiest BBS’s and their SIGS (Special Interest Groups, for any youngsters or non-BBSer’s reading this).

PS: None of us ever really grow up. We just learn how to hide our immaturities a little better. At least, that’s my current theory.

PPS: Just where exactly *are* you these days? Ireland? Texas? Someplace in between (on a sat-phone enabled raft in the North Atlantic?)

February 15, 2006


Yeah, long-term privacy wasn’t an issue then – even Usenet (what little I used it back in the day) didn’t “feel” like some vast edifice I would be scrawling on *for all bloody time*, let alone lil’ BBSs such as what we had.

Of course, even nowadays as there’s no excuse for anyone to ignore the fact that when you send something out over the net, there’s no real getting it back, that still doesn’t stop the umpteen million teens who are now “growing up” online in full view of the world on their MySpace, Xanga et al sites (and still quite a few that use Greymatter, even)… it’ll be very interesting to see what happens when these teens have kids of their own and dig up Mom’s old LiveJournal!

I think you’re right about the sense of space, as well… you felt that the presence of the SysOp *could* be there, whether s/he was or not, it was “live” in a way that websites, by their nature, can’t be, for better and for worse.

Never mind that you knew 99% of everyone on a BBS was going to be right in your town, making everyone you talked to a kind of extended neighbor, while the ‘net puts everyone at the same distance, in a way… after all, here I sit in Dublin typing a comment on a

site by someone in my hometown, itself hosted on a server probably in another place altogether – but no site in the world feels any closer or farther away than it did when I was in Texas or L.A.

The world *is* just getting a helluva lot smaller… and that’s still kinda disorienting to some of us who grew up when connecting to one other computer on a local phone number was such a big frickin’ deal.


(Not that I ever have, or ever will, claim to have “grown up”!

I’m still a toys r’ us kid… I just have more expensive toys now.)

Anyhow, sorry for rambling… and yep, I’m happily situated in Ireland now as of one month today.


February 15, 2006


Ramble away! I’m just glad to know I’m not (always) talking to myself here.

And congrats on the trans-continental relocation!

You know what I miss most from the BBS’s, or at least, the SysOp side of things? Seeing people type. How someone typed told could tell you a lot about their computer savvy, their mood (tired, excited, preoccupied, etc.) and so forth. I’ve never really gotten over the fact that modern instant messenger programs (at least, those I’m familiar with; I’m not a heavy IM user) don’t let you *see* someone typing. At best, you get a “{handle} is typing a message.” It’s just not the same. I remember chats where someone would pause to think, and the logical typed way to indicate a “thoughtful pause” was to slowly type several periods “…” or “. . .” or, if we were starting to get a little loopy from too long a chat, to start attempting vertically-drawn ASCII art, line by line…

(Yes, I actually tried to recreate some, but apparently the

 tag doesn’t function as it was originally intended, so I can’t get a fixed width font that doesn’t muck up the character layout. ;))

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