[vcf-midatlantic] The good old days of user groups

Jeffrey Jonas jeffrey.scott.jonas at gmail.com
Wed Aug 26 04:33:40 EDT 2020

When I was an undergrad at the Cooper Union Computer Center [78-82],
we were fortunate to be an early adopter of Unix version 6 on a PDP11/45.
We were INTERACTIVE in a day when most other colleges
were still mainframe batch via punched cards.
But we were isolated. No modem or links to the outside world.

When I consulted to AT&T in the mid to late 80s,
I finally had USENET access.
Yea, there were already "flame wars" but back then
people were /mostly/ accountable for their actions.
Students could lose computer access.
Employees could get reprimanded by their boss.
AOL's "perpetual September" ruined all that
when subscribers could PAY for Usenet & Internet access,
giving them the false sense of entitlement
that Internet access is a "right".
No, like driving, it is a PRIVILEGE.

Back then, there were "net personalities". Kind folks who set a wonderful tone.
Larry Lippman was a noted chemist whose replies were always fun to read
and taught us something. "have your hugged your cat today" was his .sig
Jeff Meyer @ Fluke was famous for his monthly net.comics "Moriarty reviews",
as was jmb (Jerry Boyajian).

The successful systems fostered a sense of community.
I was late to understand that,
thus missing out on some wonderful BBS fandoms
such as Elfquest's Electronic Holt
and early anthropomorphic fandom BBSs.
My main FurryMuck character was Created Jan 1994.
The "old guard" is still there having more fun than IRC
since the system provides environment, ambiance and
programmable characters to foster more imaginative interactions.

replying to others:

Dave McGuire gripes:

> The Internet is presented to people as a "you can GET this, you can GET that!"
> "Get get get!"  ...not "participate", not "communicate" ...

Tom Lehrer said it best
"Life is like a sewer: what you get out of it depends on what you put into it"

The Internet is seen as a source for entertainment,
just like television/radio/cable-TV.
A place to tune in and zone out.
This is furthered by the way ISPs cheat us by taking away personal web spaces.
The demise of systems such as Geocities destroyed countless man-YEARS of effort.
Delphi forums died.  Yahoo groups died.
The burning of the library of Alexandria pales in comparison
to the information and personal effort destroyed
every time a hard drive fails or a major web page does down.

Neil Cherry:
> Except on AOL ... ;-) I even think Genie users
> had more technical background than most Internet users.

I was on GEnie and lurked on the round-tables.
I didn't have much to say back then.
I seem to recall that GEnie used a decent interface
that worked on "dumb terminals" thus giving a full screen of content,
vs Prodigy or AOL's user-coddling barely-almost GUI
that barely give 1/4 screen of content.

Ethan O'Toole:
> The Internet has a ton of people sharing information.
> I mean, look at youtube. How to fix cars, HVAC, build things ...
> It far exceeds the old days millions times over.

Agreed, but it took many years
to reach that critical mass of GOOD content and ways to find it.
Recent YouTube videos taught me how to fix my car, garage door and other stuff.
But it's still outweighed by insipid videos from wobbly cellphones.

On the bright side, it's a channel for tech folks to share
and even earn some money, such as
ladyada's Adafruit, Fran Blanche, Jeri Ellsworth,
Nixie Pixel, Dave Jones' eevblog, Big Clive, Julian Ilett
BradH the Vintage Computer Aussie, Techmoan, Andreas Spiess,
The Ben Heck show, Great Scott Lab, Add Ohms,
Christopher Barnatt's Explaining Computers,
RetroManCave, LGR: vintage computers,
The 8-Bit Guy, 8-Bit Show And Tell, Dr. Scott M. Baker's web site, among others.

and so it goes
-- Jeff Jonas

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