In a previous item I mentioned Bulletin Board System (or Servers), (BBS) as if they were on every street corner. I realise that many of you who came into Cyberspace in the 1990s or 2000s, might have never encountered this connectivity.
A Bulletin Board System/Server was a computer one connected to with the use of a modem and a telephone line. One would have the computer dial the number and then there would be a set of sounds called ‘handshaking’ and then one was connected, (if lucky).
On the server was a ‘bulletin board’ where people could communicate. There would also be games and forums to discuss issues. On some there was a way to connect to another server, elsewhere.
On your first visit you’d pick a name and a password. Many people used their own name or their nicknames. And for a password, people picked something quick and easy they didn’t have to write down.
Often a password was four characters but one could have three, as there was no particular restriction.
As the BBS was located in your area you would meet people on it that you could have coffee with. So you could spend all day talking to Forge and Bladerunner on the BBS and meet them for pizza in the evening.
If someone came along to hack or cause trouble you didn’t have much difficulty in finding out who they were. They called from a number, you could find out to whom that number belonged, and arrive at their doorstep.
One High School boy, for example, liked to annoy people The police reached his door and took away his computer.
The significance of BBS was that it exposed you, in baby steps to what would become the Internet. You learned little things; not to have too easy a password, for example.
You met trolls and learned how to deal with them in a fairly ‘safe’ space. After all, you could call Roger, who ran CSS or Dyno from Colis, and complain. Roger would check, get the number, and either block it or tell you who it belonged to.
It always belonged to a high school kid, in our example. When we got onto the great Cyber Highway many of the Trolls were older men or younger losers, and one learned how to play them.
As we had our ‘safe space’ once we got on the Internet we could share information on the BBS and we learned a lot about people. We found a lot of Americans prejudiced. They thought we, Jamaicans, were fools and not worth talking to. When we used American nicknames and claimed to live in one of the states, we were treated with respect.
We learned how to hack into various systems but often we’d ‘guess’ a password. ” 1234″ was obvious.
In a very serious way, having experienced BBS we learned to protect ourselves online.