Slyfoot (slyfoot) wrote in oldware,

The Good Old Days?

Back in 1981 I fell in love with a computer that most people would laugh at today. It was called the TRS-80, affectionately known as the Trash 80, and while most people preferred the cool brown Apple II because it had better games, I preferred programming in BASIC on the shiny TRS-80. I wasn't exceptionally good, but I wasn't exceptionally bad either. I should have played more games on that Apple because when I went to high school I had no access to a computer for three years, and that didn't change until my college days.

I first started going online in the early 90s, so there's plenty of veterans who have been online longer than I have. I first started chatting and downloading files on two BBS systems called Dynasty and Infinite Space. The WWW was new, and people would wander into the chatrooms asking how to get to the Internet, and they usually meant "How do I get on the World Wide Web?"

Ah, I have such fond memories of those days. The BBS systems used Worldgroup, so we could connect to other BBS systems all over the country using Worldgroup. Those were the days of MUDs or Multiple User Dungeons, which still have a small but loyal following today. I also played great old textmode games called Tradewars, Mutants, Autobots, and others I can no longer remember. If you lived through the same period, you can relive those days with TELNET, and here's a good place to start:

It was also a real thrill to download files, freeware and shareware, ANSI and ASCII art, techfiles on how to get applications running, game solutions and walkthroughs, etc. I remember how absolutely stunned I was when I first tried the original Duke Nukem: It beat the hell out of anything I had played on Nintendo! You could find "underground" and "anarchy" files, which gave everything a really colorful cyberpunk flavor. I imagined that I was a cyber cowboy like Cowboy in Neuromancer, but I suppose I was just an average BBS user in those days, a professional dilettante, just like today. Then I discovered the WWW and IRC and after that the BBS days were almost over for me.

But were the good old days really better than today? Surprisingly I would say "Nah, not always." There was a distinct feeling of camaraderie on the BBS, and we would often have get togethers and talk about "geeking" with the users and sysops, and I met several girlfriends that way (grin), but do I really want to go back to the days of 2400 baud modems when I can download a hundred megabytes in less than 5 minutes today? No way! And is DOS really better than Linux? Not by a long shot, IMHO! But I never forgot that first fascination with the command line, I never forgot those old files, and I've spent the past couple of years browsing through Textfiles and old BBS systems searching for files that I remember using on my first PC. I'm no expert by a long shot, but I've accumulated quite a lot of old games, files, resources, and knowledge about those days.

If you want to see a real slice of computer history, particularly the BBS days, I encourage you to browse There's a wealth of text files (and freeware, shareware, and game files) to download. It brings back many memories, and it does a good job of preserving the atmosphere of early online culture. Check it out!
Tags: coffee talk, links, pics
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