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1986 dial-up bulletin board system has brought the old Web back to life

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Today, many can be forgiven for thinking that the digital communications revolution kicked off during the mid-1990s, when there was simply an explosion of media and consumer interest in the World Wide Web. Just a decade earlier, however, the future was now for the hundreds of thousands of users already using home computers to communicate with others over the telephone network. The online culture of the 1980s was defined by the pervasiveness of bulletin board systems (BBS), expensive telephone bills, and the dulcet tones of a 1200 baud connection (or 2400, if you were very lucky). While many Ars readers certainly recall bulletin board systems with pixelated reverence, just as many are likely left scratching their heads in confusion ("what exactly is a BBS, anyway?").

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I remember in the late 80s and early 90s if you were a consultant and therefore had a business incentive or just had lots of money, you had a CompuServe account.

I didn't have either.  But during one of my consulting gigs at IBM Boca PC Center one of the tasks I had was to help people overcome basic programming hurdles, be it for Dos, Windows or OS/2.  I thought it was so cool because they gave me a CompuServe account to post code snippets in response to questions.  At that point I had never done any programming for Windows.  I had to dig around to find working code so that I could understand how to do whatever it was that was asked.  Then I would write an example snippet and post it after testing that it ran without crashing.

Of course there was always some feedback of the "why do they make you do it that way?  That makes no sense" variety.  Unfortunately I was not allowed to reply "I don't know.  They don't invite me to the board meetings."  So I would just say that I didn't know why these particular flags had to be set when making such and such API call, even though there seems to be no rhyme or reason for it.  All I know is if I don't set them the call returns with an error.  Maybe me catching some of the flack there avoided support calls or something, if it happened to concern an IBM compiler.  :)

It was kind of fun though.  And it got me started with the old fashioned message loop switch statement type of Window processing.

One of the user groups I joined was The C Users Group which gave birth to The C Users Journal.  Getting published in that journal enabled me to break into the business as a Software Analyst with no relevant work experience.  A lucky break.  They solicited articles in the magazine with specifications for the article text and working code.  I submitted an article and forgot about it.  Never thinking it would actually be published.  But a couple of months later I got a call from a CUJ Editor.  Anyway, if I tell everything now nobody will buy the biography.  :)  I call it a biography rather than an autobiography because my plan is to ghostwrite my biography, then hire another writer to put his name on it and take the blame.  :)

By the way, speaking of nostalgia, The C/C++ Users Group has a page on the web here:
C/C++ Users Group

Edit:  Note that The C/C++ Users Journal was purchased by the company that owned Dr. Dobb's Journal.  The CUG site is just an archived page and links to the journal are no longer valid.  However they did archive the articles published in CUJ.  I wish they also archived the cover images for the monthly magazines but back in those days image files must have seemed like they used a lot of storage.  Fortunately for me four of my articles, those that were published in CUJ, still survive there.  I have links to them on if anyone is curious.

When they mention "expensive phone bills" in the article it reminded me of learning my lesson the hard way on a software download.  I was living in Boca Raton and found a BBS phone number in South Florida where I could download the software package I wanted.  Later when I got the phone bill I saw that the "free download" cost me $18 and change.  It turns out calling long distance after 11:00 PM to the West Coast of the USA and getting the download from there was about 10 times cheaper than Southern Bell long distance inside Florida.  I learned to get off the land line and onto the satellite asap!   :)

I remember in the late 80s and early 90s if you were a consultant and therefore had a business incentive or just had lots of money, you had a CompuServe account.

-MilesAhead (April 11, 2017, 10:00 AM)
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I was a sysop on the Atari forums there for several years - my signon was 76703,4061 (and I'm amazed my fingers remembered that :P). I wrote an automated system to collect all the new Forum messages, log off, let you reply to everything offline, then connect up and post it as fast as possible. Reduced the revenue for the Forum owners, since they were paid by the minute, but it increased participation... until that Internet thing started taking off. Good times, good times. ;D

Nice  :Thmbsup: :Thmbsup: :Thmbsup:


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