- Published: Monday, 24 February 2020 23:30
Growing up during the early 80's I aspired to become a computer programmer. Not because I knew what a computer or computer programmer was entirely but because they were buzz words used by the Air Force as a recruiting lure. I was going to be a US airman and somewhere in the middle of being a service member and government property, I would be working with computers. Turns out, I wouldn't go on to do either of these things but did manage to sign on the dotted line in 1986, joining the US Army where I would spend the next 11 years.
It wouldn't be until 1992, now in my 20s, that I would own my first computer. My now ex-wife bought me an Amiga 500 after seeing me standing mesmerized in front of a Commodore Amiga Chrismas display. It would be the one present under the tree that year that has had a lasting impact on my life to this day. Oh... did I mention this was my x-wife? More about that later!
My first days with the Amiga were eye-opening. I learned something new each day with a fair amount of gameplay that kept me busy/amused for weeks. Then one day I met a fellow servicemember shopping for Amiga software. We talked briefly about the games that we each owned but then he began to describe all the software he was downloading... using his modem. Once again... I am mesmerized!
Fast forward a year... I now have an Amiga 2000 connected to two US Robotics Courier modems, complements of the SysOp program, running my first bulletin board using DLG Pro; The West Coast BBS in Heidelberg, Germany. I would operate this Amiga BBS through the end of 1993 but I had developed an itch. The BBS software I was really interested in wasn't available for the Amiga.
In January of 1994, I bought my first PC; A Packard Bell 486 DX2 66 tower running Windows 3.11. I'd later select Proboard as my next BBS software of choice which I would use again with the rebirth of The West Coast BBS. Proboard was fantastic to work with but I needed more. I'm now a young and hungry SysOp with a growing spirit for all that is BBS. It was time for Fidonet and the inclusion of Intermail and Fastecho into the configuration.
I continued to operate the BBS until sometime during the spring of 1995 when my personal life essentially imploded overnight. My wife had officially pulled the plug on our marriage which had already been on life support for several months. Separation and divorce ensued throughout the year and in October I would find myself sitting in divorce court; the day after the death of my father. It was official that cold fall day in Germany; I was a BBS widower! After all these years I can't say I blame her for throwing in the towel as I had evolved into a shitty husband.
In August 1996, I would finally depart Germany and return to my home in Southern California where the struggles were about to begin. Now 28 years old, kind of unemployed with no ideas of the next pursuit... what do I do? I piece together all my computer crap and launch a 2 node BBS from West Covina, CA; The West Coast BBS II.
Almost immediately I notice something different. The BBS isn't near as popular as it was in Europe. With so few calls and little interest in the BBS, I started to question whether it was still worth all the time and headache that went into maintaining and running the board. The internet had already begun to take shape and was commanding the ring; the Bulletin Board phenomenon was beginning to fade away. I would once again power-down the BBS and chose to spend all that newly acquired free time educating; it was time to go back to school where I spend the better part of 6 years.
It is now the year 2002, school is in the rearview mirror, and I'm 4 years into an IT career that is looking bright. I've also spent a few of these past years moving around Southern California, not leaving myself much time to unpack. Now, finally, I'm unpacking some of the many boxes containing my aging computer hardware. One such computer is the host to my 1996 version of the West Coast BBS. Within a few days, I have it configured to the phone line but this time something new is added and I'm elated to see it's capabilities. I have my Proboard BBS configured for telnet access. Two nodes and a Fidonet address later and I'm consumed by the BBS again for the next year... Before moving again!
Fast forward to Christmas day 2018, my wife and I are living in Mesa, AZ, where we have called home for a decade. A Christmas like many from the past with visits from family, overeating, and a fair amount of booze. From where it came I can not say, that familiar old itch of a past life and a BBS is back. Here I go again!
Shortly after that 2018 Christmas holiday, we sold our Arizona house and decided to move into our New York State summer home permanently. This is probably our last move in awhile as we are preparing ourselves for retirement in a couple of years. My idea of the BBS came to New York with me where I have spent the past several months polishing and preparing the BBS and parent website; combined with a social media identity. Not sure how long it will last now but I'm older now, my time is more predictable and I couldn't imagine a cooler hobby in my aging years than to be a Legacy SysOp!