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19 December 2008

I finally joined facebook

Yup.  Filing THIS blog entry under "distractions"
Posted by rickroot at 5:55 PM | Link | 0 comments
14 June 2007

On the Commodore 64 at the Smithsonian

A few years ago, my wife and I went to the Smithsonian museum in DC where they have the computer exhibits.  Old computers, like the ENIAC, PDP-11.. and the Commodore 64.

The information about the C64 said "The commodore 64 was powered by the Intel 8080 processor"

You know no idea how much this upset me.  I mean, not so much that it was just plain wrong - after all, the commodore 64 was powered by a MOS 6510 processor, which was based on the MOS 6502, which itself was based on the Motorola 6800.

But the fact that they were wrong on something that is so easily verified - and probably 90% of the people who owned and heavily used their commodore 64's could probably tell you it wasn't an Intel processor.  We *HATED* IBMs (and Ataris) and the thought of our beloved Commodore 64's being powered by an Intel processor was just horrid.

What else does the Smithsonian have wrong?

I wrote them a complaint letter.  I'll be in DC later this month for CFUNITED, so maybe I'll swing by that museum to check to see if they fixed it.  If they haven't, I'm going to raise hell.

Posted by rickroot at 1:40 PM | Link | 4 comments
20 February 2007

BBSes and Social Communities

Arbornet, M-Net, and Me

The year was 1985.  My uncle had loaned me his 300 baud Vicmodem to attach to my Commodore 64.  I used it for the same sort of thing everyone else did - calling up BBSes.  Only I wasn't very smart, and made a lot of long distance phone calls.  Many of the good BBS systems in the Ann Arbor area were actually in Ypsilanti, and that was long distance for me.  I think I also called some in Plymouth and Canton too.  And let's not forget MOM - the Michiana Online Messenger.  MOM was located in South Bend, Indiana.

Anyway, before I learned about "phreaking", my first phone bill came, and it was $300.

Mom took the modem away, and I was offline for nearly a year.  After I paid off the phone bill and assured my mom that I would be more responsible with it, she gave the modem back, and I focused on BBSes that I could actually call locally.  That meant the ones in Saline and Ann Arbor.  The only Saline BBS was running on a Tandy CoCo3 operated by Brian Stretch (someone I eventually shared an apartment with many years later).  Looking at the 313 BBS list, I remember a lot of those systems (though the years are not always correct).  I even ran a part time BBS myself a couple of times, but nothing serious enough to get listed on such lists.

Anyway, one of the Ann Arbor BBSes that I did discover this second time around was M-Net.  M-Net was unlike anything I'd used before, in that it was an actual multi-user BBS, with discussion forums and a live chat area called "party".  In that respect, it was like some of the online services (Compuserve, Q-Link, etc) but it was free.  Sure you could pay extra to get access to additional dial-in lines (at the time, M-Net had something in the neighborhood of 12 phone lines, 7 or 8 of which were reserved for "patrons", while guests could only access the other 4 or 5 lines.  As a guest, it meant "war dialing" a lot to get on, because people would log on and hang out in party, chatting away.

M-Net offered free shell accounts to anyone and everyone - and they still do today, if you can believe that!  Their 1992 merger with local non-profit Arbornet, Inc. has allowed them to survive long nearly all other "BBSes" out there.

I've been using M-Net nearly every day since I signed up in 1986 under the login id "ric" (someone already had "rick").  I met a lot of friends thanks to M-Net, and had a lot of good times.

In the old days, M-Net was very social.  Before the internet became popular, nearly all of the users were in the Ann Arbor area.  By the late 80s or maybe early 90s, the University of Michigan's state wide computer network had dialins all over the state that people could use for free, and in Ann Arbor, they also maintained "dialouts" so you could dial-in to the Merit network in Lansing, and use the dialout modems in Ann Arbor to connect to M-Net.  

These "local ties" allowed the online community to thrive, as there were weekly "happy hour" events at various locations.  In the 80s, they were frequently at a place on Campus called Dominick's, which featured terrible food and warm beer.  Users would post ASCII maps of where everyone sat and who their login ID was.  After the happy hours, some of the folks would head over to the UofM Diag to play frisbee.  Happy Hours then were primarily a warm weather activity!  They also stopped occuring for a while in the late 80s until I revived them (see below).

Each month, there would often be a larger party called a Picofest.  These would be held at restaurants or people's homes.  "Picofest" was the name because the conferencing software M-Net ran at the time was called Picospan, by Marcus Watts.  The most famous installation of Picospan was at a california BBS called The Well.  But Marcus wrote it for M-Net.

Some time around 1993, I met a girl online named "Garfield" (that was her login)... we chatted online a lot but nothing really happened until we met face-to-face for the first time in August 1993 at an event called KatieFest (a picofest of sorts, hosted by long time user Katie Geddes).  We hit it off in person, and started dating.  She lived in Redford, I was living in Kalamazoo at the time.  For those of you who don't know your Michigan geography, that's about 3 hours apart.

In order to see Kim more often, I revived the happy hour concept, and we started having weekly happy hours again, and I'd drive in from Kalamazoo from time to time, and she'd drive in from Redford.  This went on for about 6-7 months until I met someone new in Kalamazoo, and she met someone new as well.  Long distance relationships were hard to maintain.  We remained good friends, and I still talk to Kim via instant messenger just about every week.

The ball had been started on happy hours again though, and the M-Net social scene THRIVED, with the weekly happy hours sometimes drawing as many 50 obnoxious geeks to some restaurant that generally hated us because half the people didn't have any money to spend, and probably more than half were not old enough to buy alcohol either.  Users would have parties and invite all of M-Net, and some of these parties got pretty crazy.

After I graduated from college, I moved back to Ann Arbor and continued to organize the happy hours until I moved away in 1998.  The regularity of the happy hours decreased dramatically and essentially halted a short while later.

M-Net has no social scene anymore, really, and that's a detriment to the M-Net community, because the social interaction is what made using the online system FUN.  You *KNEW* the people online.  You partied with them, drank with them, sang karaoke with them, and sometimes partook of alternative substances with them.

The most active users of M-Net's conferencing system today have almost all been there for 10 years or more - from the social days.

Check out http://www.arbornet.org and log in today.


Posted by rickroot at 11:03 AM | Link | 4 comments
19 December 2006

My Webcam is back on!

I finally reconnected my webcam.  Downloaded a piece of software called VisionGS Private Edition to handle the uploads.  It seems to work fairly well.

Watch away, freaks!

Posted by rickroot at 11:36 AM | Link | 3 comments
04 April 2005

Rise of the MPire

Learn about the dark side of those little chocolate candies

HOORAY!  Our dark chocolate fantasies are now being realized!

Once you go dark, you'll never go back.

It seems that dark chocolate M&Ms will become available very soon, and to promote this, they've come up with a very interesting web site that is a sort of Star Wars parody, which includes a full blown "movie trailer" previewing these new "dark" M&Ms.


It's pretty damn funny!

Posted by rickroot at 1:43 PM | Link | 1 comment
29 March 2005

I Like You!

No really! Not love you, but like you!

Many of you are here because of the silly "I Like You" animation that I have hosted.  To be honest, it's not mine, and I don't know who made it.

I actually had it stored in a temporary folder on a server at work, which I used to share amusements internally without clogging the email system.  Unfortunately, the little thing has gotten out of hand, and I had to move it.  It was foolish of me to have it on the server at work anyway, I never should've done that.

It's nice to be liked though, isn't it?

Click here to see the I Like You animation

Posted by rickroot at 11:23 AM | Link | 34 comments