Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Old Days Of Information Sharing (Legal And No So Much Legal)

Remember the days of Bulletin Board Systems (BBS's)? Well I do.

It was a time before the internet had taken hold or the vast majority of people had even heard of the internet. We used a Modem to dial up a BBS over the phone lines. For most of us this meant sitting up late at night and dialling in to play some text based game that 6 or 7 others where also playing. We also would leave messages to each other on the message boards or if it was a fancy system leave a private message.

A bit later on in the game we started to trade low resolution scanned in photos and so on (mostly porn or our naked girl friend). First it was a bit map then came compressed image formats that allowed you to save a pile of space on the hard drive. Well the hard drives back then where not that big. A 1 GB drive was not even heard of outside of the business realm.

Illegal information started to spread from one system to the next and from city to city then around the world. This is kind of amazing being that there was NO internet. Information on how to make bombs and how to kill people with house hold chemicals and well the infamous Anarchists Cookbook spread like wild fire. Remember someone went to the trouble of actually typing this book in word for word.

This was in fact a BANNED book at the time and possession of it could have gotten you (or your parents) a nasty fine. The idea was to have and to read something that you where not supposed to have. Literally every computer literate person I know had this thing on a floppy disc and kept it hidden some place in a book or an air vent.

Not one of us actually wanted to do anything like hurt someone. We just wanted to have something that the government told us we can't have. Although we did make a smoke bomb and it did not work so well. We also made a chemical bomb and it worked too well. We made a small hole (3 foot wide) in a field late one night. Honestly that about fixed us for wanting to do that again. The idea of blowing up our house or ourselves shocked us into never messing with that stuff again.

We also had a mass of text files of not so legal porn to read. The child thing did not exist in this format to the best of my knowledge and we would have not wanted it anyway. We just wanted to read about some dude and his mom or sister and so on. But I have to say it really was more of a gross out than a turn-on and we kind of just collected it because once again we where not supposed to have it.

Now there was the interesting world of phone freaking as well. We read how to create the tone needed to make a pay phone think you where putting in quarters and so on. We also learned how to give back change to someone who called us from a pay phone. I am sure in total between the small number of us I knew tried this we lost the phone company at least $4. We never did do the long distance hacks we read about for fear of the phone cops coming to take us away.

My biggest memory is Mom yelling "the phone is making that sound again" while I was on some local BBS. There was a game we used to play called F.O.A.D. (fuck off and die). Now the thing was the person that day who had the lowest score was kicked off from logging in for 24 hours. I find it interesting that no one made any fake accounts.

We also would go to Computer User Meetings and trade games and so on on floppies. That was the best hack and why I learned code. See they got smart after a bit and put on copy protection - so you examined the code of the boot and if you knew enough - you could extract the game or just bypass the protection. The thing is, I don't think anyone who did this actually played any of the games so I don't really know why anyone did it. Accept to get around the protection that is. So the actual impact to "The Man" was about nothing and one of us actually payed for the dang thing in the first place.

But then the 80's where over and so was all of this. I don't know one person who kept it up past that point. Now with the internet you can get emulators and copies of all them games on sites that give you that 8-bit fix. Personally I don't care. I never did like games. Well there was a couple I got good at but they where the only ones I ever played.

The best thing about those times is, we where self policing. If we had any idea that a person was going to do anything stupid with the information we where not supposed to have, the cops would get a phone call from some pay phone some place and some fake name would dime their ass out. No one in my group ever had to do this but a couple of people in Regina ended up getting a visit from the cops I am told. But they where both known to the law many times over.

So why did we do it if we did not actually want to use any of this crap? I really can't tell you off hand other than we wanted to fight authority in our teen years. Almost all of us grew out of it and are now part of the system as it where.

The trend still exists of course. The internet has made it more popular than ever. Think of all the torrents and now TOR. All that information out there to be had and all the people sharing it. The thing is, it's not as safe now. There are people who pass on information on how to make a bomb that will end up in a person getting hurt or killed if they follow the steps. Also formulas for drugs you can find run the risk of being fatal or extremely harmful to a person. Anyone with half a brain would not do it these days.

But think of all the people who download a movie or music? It will never end unless technology changes radically. Personally I don't have one bootleg anything. All my program, all my music are paid for. That being said I DO use Kodi on my android box rather than pay $120 a month for cable. But I tell you if I had the money to spend I would have cable instead as the quality is better by far. That and 90% of what I watch is on Netflix as I tend to have tastes in entertainment that are not easy to find streaming. Hell most people have never heard of some of the movies I watch. And here in Canada Kodi is legal.

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