Thursday, June 03, 2004

(This was going to be an entirely different memoirs post, but this is what came out instead.)

Geek Memoirs

San Francisco is the wonderful, beautiful city that raised me. I was a computer geek early on, and was all about the internet in a time when modems were a relatively new-fangled device. I was in high school when I got my first modem; 2400 baud, used, and I was so proud of myself for finding the most advanced modem on the market for $75 (they were going for $150+ new, if you can believe that).

There was a sort of underground revolution happening in San Francisco during this period -- a whole subculture of net-heads and smart geeks meeting and almost exclusively associating within the group of members of a BBS called SFNet.

SFNet started out as a BBS mostly based out of local coffeeshops. The terminals aroused much curiosity and interest with San Franciscans, especially since a quarter bought you a good chunk of killed time, having interesting and often funny conversations with other locals. For those not in the know, BBS stands for Bulletin Board System, which back then mostly consisted of email within the system, a chat service, and message boards.

One of the terminals popped up in the coffeeshop on 9th and Judah I frequented, as their great coffee was a mere two blocks from home. Aaah.. this is making me miss San Francisco so. What a great city. In any case, I'd read a little about this cyberspace thing and was really curious. It sounded so cool, and after eyeing the terminal a couple of times, I decided to pop in a quarter and check it out.

It dialed up, and then asked me to create a first name. I thought for a few moments, trying to come up with something different that represented what I liked. Sadly, I could come up with nothing great, and settled on Fimo. After all, I liked Fimo.

But when I hit enter, it asked for a last name, and since I'd exhausted my creative naming abilities with the first one, I simply gave up and picked my last name. I lived with this name (in a world of clever handles like Miss Anthrope) for a year and a half or so before changing it to Meadow Fields (an in-joke with my best friend at the time).

Anyhow, most people used SFNet for chat. The terminals multiplied to more and more coffeeshops (and even a coffeeshop/laundromat). The membership was somewhat fluid, with users coming and going, but there was definitely a core group of users, especially as a growing number of the hooked (such as myself) could connect from home and waste hours that way for less money.

We started having Net Gets, organized get-togethers and parties, where we could all co-mingle and have fun. I was a netter for nigh on five years or so, and I'm not sure I would have had a social life at all, were it not for SFNet. I spent a ton of my time with these folks over the years, and I met some really awesome, smart, fun people.

We had big summer picnics in Golden Gate Park, and bonfires all the time, especially in the summer, when we'd have them on a weekly basis. And sometimes we'd even have them in the winter if we needed something different to break out of the blahs. Of course they were mostly an excuse to drink and hang out, but they were a lot of fun. Many memorable memories, such as a guy showing me his penis for a bartered handful of Sun Chips, were made at Ocean Beach.

I also remember when the World Wide Web first came out, and the first time I saw it. I was working at CyberMind, a virtual reality game center on Fisherman's Wharf, and there was a wired terminal up for public use. Someone sort of showed me how to use it, but I admit to being really confused. In my defense, I don't think the web was quite as polished as it is now. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I know that I didn't really understand the web even in '95 or so, after I talked my mom into joining AOL. Somehow even though I didn't understand the web, I had something one could loosely call a home page. I think it had my name on it and an Under Construction banner and... nothing else.

I love me my internet. I personally could not live without it, for too many reasons to name. And even though my mom thinks it's the devil, I am actually pretty glad to be married to the internet. It's been pretty good to me. In times of deep despair, I've found escape, and a bit of salvation in entertainment, information, and kind voices and soft shoulders. It played a significant part in helping me come to terms with being gay. I have a lot of great memories, of real people, and I probably would never have met half the people I did, had I not been such a net-head.

And have I mentioned I miss San Francisco?

Currently Playing...
Song: James Yorkston and The Athletes - I Know My Love
Book: The Speckled People by Hugo Hamilton, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling.

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