My daughter found my journal. We just sat at laughed at many pages; one of my favourites is this entry I wrote when I was 13 (1994):

Hello! Life is good! I have be the co-systems operator at Alberta Future BBS for nearly 3 months. I do mostly artwork as well as some other tasks. With my help the BBS has jumped from 35 users to 236 (in 3 months!).

Absolute Future BBS was based in Edmonton¬†and was run by Shawn Logan. It was also one of the first local boards to use a GUI (Roboboard/FX). Bulletin board systems (BBS) were really the precursor to the web the way we know it today: a hobbyist (the “SysOp”) would run BBS software on their home computer, and allow outsiders to connect via a phone line and modem. Popular boards would have multiple phone lines so more than one user could connect at a time. Once on the board you could use message boards, play games, and download files (known as “warez”).

As a teenaged geek who loved computers, being asked to be a co-SysOp was a big deal. I remember working really hard to advertise our re-launch: I posted on usenet groups, on FutureNet, invited people personally on message boards, and did ANSI and Roboboard artwork for other BBSes in exchange for advertising.

Those early days on BBSes meant a lot to me. It was the first time someone older, and more experienced, in the community reached out and welcomed me. Who welcomed you into your community?

6 thoughts on “A 13-year-old on a BBS

  1. This is awesome and made me think about a few things. As you know, I too ran a BBS but it was the distributed messaging that interested me. These groups (with names like Worldnet, Fidonet, etc) were a precursor to technologies like newsgroups & Google Groups. (Except messages took days instead of seconds to get around the globe.) But I worked pretty hard at it and eventually my BBS was promoted to a ‘hub’ which meant that I was shipping batches of messages across Western Canada. So while you were “growth hacking”, I was “community hacking” which seems to have carried on into our present-day lives!

  2. The cross-BBS messaging system was impressive.

    It is funny how I’m basically still the same person: I love building things, promoting them, and serving users.

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