Little Known Fact

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February 14, 2006 at 6:09 pm

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This is a continuation of my . Read that, first.

Have I sparked your own BBS nostalgia? Check out , particularly the . I’m a little galled it focuses so much on the histrionics of FidoNet and on the few high profile law enforcement raids on certain BBSs, though. While that was indeed part of BBS “culture,” it was a very small part.

Hmm… That being said, even I had a brief run-in with the Feds (U.S. Secret Service) due to the operation of my BBS! It’s one of those little-known factoids I like to throw into conversation occasionally, usually along the lines of, “Well, I probably do have a Secret Service record!”

My experience was nothing like the incidents documented in the

(Thank God!) In my case, I was fifteen years old and my BBS included a poll/”voting booth” type program that let users post surveys. Innocuous, right? It was, until a minor posted a question about the President that — through some feats of mental gymnastics — could have been construed as his advocating or supporting an assassination attempt.

Somehow (and this is the part that still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end), the Secret Service got wind of the offending survey within a day of its posting, and an agent called my home, leaving a message on the answering machine. I came home from high school one day and checked the answering machine, and there’s this stern-sounding man identifying himself as “Agent Rico” (yes, I still remember his name; it left an impression!) addressing me and mentioning my BBS by name. I called my mom immediately, and I know she still remembers that call. “Mom, there’s a U.S. Secret Service agent who left a message on our answering machine. Should I call him?”

Needless to say, I did — immediately! I had images of agents breaking down our front door and seizing my computer, no questions asked.

In the end, I never even met any agents; what they wanted were my BBS logs showing who had entered that survey, and you’re damned right I gave that information to them (over the phone, as well as on hard-copy. I still have an electronic copy of the cover letter I wrote!) The only real drama to result from this, for me, was that I received an angry telephone call from the minor’s parent, ripping into me for providing his son’s name to the U.S. Secret Service.

Why? It turns out the agents flew to Florida, where the son was celebrating Spring Break, and questioned him for several hours. Nothing came of it, since the kid had done nothing wrong beyond using a poor choice of words/bad judgment.

Needless to say, though, I uninstalled/removed that public poll/voting booth program immediately, deciding it was WAY too much trouble.

Memories, indeed!

The moral of the story? Moderate, moderate, moderate. Oh, and Big Brother really is watching! The incident occurred in 1989 or 1990, long before the world changed on 9/11. If Big Brother was watching computer-mediated communication THEN, right down to a single-line hobbiest BBS run by a teenaged girl (me), just imagine what they’re doing NOW!

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Archives from One Year Ago —

4 Comments

February 15, 2006

@

That was a great story.

Once, on some dark-rainy day a few years ago I ported some C-based MUD Code I had worked on in my college days to Visual C and compiled it for Windows. And..it ran!

I need to find the binaries and run that to get a few screenshots too!

On that note, I was suprised to see a few BBS softwares survive the PPP/Internet conversion. Once such BBS codebase was WildCat (remember it?).

This product lives on and even had an update on February 8, 2006. wow.

February 15, 2006

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I remember, vaguely, looking into the WildCat! capabilities shortly before taking my BBS offline. I seem to recall it was already in use on some telnet-able systems (none local, that I recall, but I was turning into a web geek by then.)

I need to compare notes with a cousin of mine that lives in CA (as opposed to Joey, the one I mentioned who is local.)

He *must* have been into the BBS scene, considering he was one of the first people in his area to get a T1 run into his home (well, his garage — all great geek stories start in a garage, apparently.

)

February 17, 2006

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Regarding the timeline:

It was rather hard, years later, to reconstruct events and dates in an accurate fashion that didn’t make some sort of “news”, such as a newspaper article or a mention in Fidonews. As a result, the timeline is geared rather heavily towards some of the more negative or Fidonet-oriented events simply because that was what was captured.

It would be a bit odd for me to have put in events like “August 19, 1991 – A general sense of good-will and cooperation pervaded the Nashville, TN BBS community.”

I am always willing to augment the work on the bbsdocumentary.com site, and continue to do so, even now; it’s just a matter of being given facts. And much of that has been lost, although I do my best to keep looking.

And yes, the combining of a complaint that law-enforcement related events were small with a mention of your own run-in with law-enforcement is a dichotomy.

February 17, 2006

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Jason,

No harm intended. In fact, you’ll note I splurged on the $40 copy of your documentary, if you check your order records. That, and I’m not in a habit of linking to sites that I don’t think are useful and/or entertaining in some way.

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