From The Journal Of...
Copyright (c) 1993, Gage Steele
All rights reserved
[Names of people and places have been changed to protect the innocent
and avoid any nasty lawsuits that decide to rear their ugly heads]
"From The Journal Of..." Part Four
About the time I began working for JEannie, Gertrude began to show
the first real signs of age. At first, I tried to ignore the problem.
So what if my hard drive had a few bad sectors and my "C" key no longer
"fun tioned," I thought. But, truth be known, by that time, Gertie
needed 15 minutes to warm up before booting, and she was seriously
beginning to come apart at the weld. She'd served me well, and maybe I
hadn't seen the performance of a hotrod, but Gertie never purported
herself as such. She knew she was just a Honda - strong and
dependable, but disposable after 100,000 miles; I found myself forced
to face that fact, as well. Her suddenly more drastic degeneration
was, I suppose, her way of telling me, "Mom, it's time. I'm tired."
My first problem was what to replace her with. Another PS/2 would
bring the same intrinsic limitations. A new system was more than
slightly beyond my chequebook. So, after carefully packing Gertie and
her accessories away in the attic, I hauled in:
"Must See - Must Sell! Hardly used at 2 years old!
Full-size tower houses 286/12 board, 150W, SVGA,
100 MB HD, 5.25 & 3.5 floppies! Ideal for later
expansion. $1250.00, OBO."
Now, it took a lot of convincing to get Mom to forward me that
much money from my college fund. I showed her adverts for new 386's,
listing in the middle $4,000 range. I pointed to the awe inspiring
glossy spreads of the 486's - we both laughed at the price tags on
those, wondering who would really drop 6 months' wages on such a thing.
I don't know that Mom understood everything I tried to say, but the
feeling was there. She helped me talk the guy down to $1,000.00, and
cut the cheque.
Oh, why didn't I get rid of Gertrude altogether, you ask? I
couldn't have sold her for more than scrap metal pennies, for one
thing. I couldn't throw her in the bin, either. I just couldn't.
We'd been through too much together.
Everything about the 286 was faster. I felt like I'd been living
in the dark ages! Immediately, I loaded up every game and programme I
had just to see a 100 Meg hard drive and Super-ultra-rad-it-doesn't-
get-any-better-than-this-VGA at work.
The novelty, though, quickly faded. I was soon staring at the
modem, wondering what was going on in the electronic world. I couldn't
go back to JEannie, not with MY Scottish pride and Irish pighead.
Paragon was close to making me ill, especially the users that whined
about not understanding the place (?!). It was time to move on, but to
Now, I'd called private BBSs before, but hadn't gotten into them
much. I heard people chattering on and on about their systems, but at
the time, it all seemed... "hokey" to me, like a fad, I guess. I just
couldn't see what a dinky BBS run by Joe Schmoe could have that might
rival corporate whazoo-run JEannie with her mega filebases and
international chatting. Besides, both JEannie and Paragon had local
dialups, while, last I'd checked, private boards were scattered, the
nearest being a hefty long distance call for me. Last I'd checked...
THAT was nearly 10 months previous!
Resigned to the notion that I'd have to settle for second best
while waiting for something better to come along (hmm, a commentary on
life? That isn't what this piece was to be about), I picked up a local
computing newspaper that often ran BBS ads, and scanned the listings.
It seemed, judging from the column plus of local boards shown, that
while I'd been sidetracked with JE, private systems had spread and
grown. A few were touted as having 400 megabyte or more online. That
did it. If BBSs really were to be flash-in-the-pan fads, at least I
would be able to say, "Been there. Yawn. Did that," and nab a few
files on the way through.
Of course, the first place I connected with (and you'll never
believe this one in a million years as I still have trouble with it and
I was there) was something of a "pirate" board. Okay, so back then, I
couldn't tell a pirate from a pickled pancreas, and why such a board
was listed in the magazine, I don't know, but there it was. And,
rather suddenly, so was I.
I know now that boards much like the one I connected with that day
have security tighter than Jesse Helm's buttcheeks. I also know why I
was allowed access, even though I was a "lamer-newbie" (again).
Because I'm a girl.
Oh, I almost forgot: I flirt just a tiny bit, too.
Now, before I have the bureaucrats beating a path to my door, let
me tell you I outgrew that scene (you can tell the nice men in the
white vans to go home, now, thanks). I was already too old, often 4 or
more years older than the SysOps, when I got there. I never was big on
"zero day" crap, anyway; The "mine is bigger/badder/faster/newer that
yours" mentality I found all over those boards really grated on my
nerves. Penile shadow boxing, I called it.
I was much more interested in collecting odd little programmes
that no-one seemed to have around anymore. My collector instinct led
me to the PD boards, and eventually to the subscription BBSs. It
wasn't long before every floppy in the house was filled with files and
my hard drive hadn't enough space to store my writing.
It was my mother who first vocalised the idea I have lived to
occasionally regret. Tired of the subscription costs and phone charges
I was now racking up, Mom asked, "Why can't you just make your own file
place and have everybody send you stuff?"
So, I did.