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34C3 - BBSs and early Internet access in the 1990ies

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    34C3 preroll music
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    Herald: Back in time, back to the 1990's
    where the internet actually made sounds,
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    and you could annoy the whole family while
    blocking the phone line. He was actually
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    heavily involved in these early days of
    the internet. He operated and participated
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    in these early structures, namely Bulletin
    Board Systems and the UseNet. And he now
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    takes us back in time, to tell us all
    about the time when the internet made
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    sounds. Thank you very much LaForge.
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    applause
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    LaForge: Thank you very much for the
    introduction.This is a quite unusual
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    setting for me. Typically I give talks
    about deeply technical topics. Protocoll
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    level details and telecom specs and so on.
    Now the first time I speak in the Art and
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    Culture track. That is definitely
    something new for me. So, why am I here
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    and why am I talking about this topic.
    First of all, I was involved to some
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    extent yes, but for sure I was not
    somebody who had any significant role in
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    that universe. Neither in the BBS scene or
    in the early internet days. I was just
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    basically a youngster, a teenager, who had
    fun playing with technology and was
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    helping others to communicate using
    technology. There are many more people who
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    have, who are much more qualified than me
    to talk about that subject but I ... and
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    that's the reason why I'm here and why I
    submitted this talk is, you don't really
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    see many people speaking about these days
    or about those topics anymore. And even if
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    you want to research it, I think there's
    like one or two books in German on that
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    subject, they're very hard to get and also
    not very complete. So, I think we have to
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    sort of document the history of it for
    those people, who have not been around at
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    the time. So, this talk will not have as
    many acronyms as you are used to from
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    talks that I usually give. Still you have
    typos in the slides, as you can see in the
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    second line already, so that didn't
    change. I didn't invent any of the
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    technologies covered here. I didn't write
    any of the software covered. I was just a
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    user and operator or sysadmin. And that's
    the world I grew up in from 11 onwards.
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    As I said many people lack that history and
    to start with that, maybe a quick poll in
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    the audience. Who has ever dialed into a
    BBS using a modem? Raise your hands. Okay.
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    So, I'm preaching to the converted. Okay,
    maybe I should invite all of you up to the
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    stage and we should make a discussion-
    round instead. Anyway. So, circuit switch
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    telephony. Well, this is the telephony
    from 1876 until about 1988 with
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    analog voice circuits over copper wires
    and dial-up connections between A and B.
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    I guess everybody still remembers these.
    Even if you're young, you should have seen
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    a classic telephone, I think. And yeah,
    you have analog amplifiers possibly in the
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    path, but actually the copper wires are
    physically switched at telephone
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    exchanges. So, this structure looks a bit
    like this: We have a telephone at one end,
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    we have a telephone at another end, and we
    have telephone exchanges or switches,
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    which actually switch the circuit - hence
    the term circuit switched telephony -
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    between A and B. So, you have a copper
    wire from your phone to the office, the
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    exchange, to which you are connected and
    then that exchange again has copper wires
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    to other exchanges and so on. And based on
    the phone number you dial the call is
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    switched to the destination subscriber.
    That's sort of the foundation in terms of
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    technology that we're using here. Also
    something to document for the
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    international audience in Germany at that
    time even local calls were metered and
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    charged by the minute, flat rates didn't
    exist and we had multiple zones so there's
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    not just local calls and long-distance
    calls but different depending on your
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    distance so like up to 50 kilometers or
    more than 50 kilometers and so on. And
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    given on that and the steep pricing and
    not so many people could afford long-
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    distance BBSing at least not for a long
    time. All of this started with a device
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    called the acoustic coupler. It's actually
    also how I started even though I'm young
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    and I only started in I think about 90 or
    91. At 10 or 11 years of age you don't
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    have the latest and greatest in
    technology. I got a used second hand or
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    third hand Olivetti acoustic coupler from
    my uncle it had even a battery it could be
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    operated mobile it had a battery
    compartment with eight Mignon (AA) cells.
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    Actually I still own it and I still own
    related telephone I just thought: yeah
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    don't have to bring it here. But it
    still exists. So anyway, here you have to
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    dial using your normal phone. You dial the
    digits of the phone number and once the
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    other side picks up the phone and they put
    their receiver onto the acoustic coupler
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    and you put your receiver onto the
    acoustic coupler, then data can be
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    transmitted over the telephone line as
    said with manual, dial manual pickup and
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    rather extremely low speed. This all looks
    like this and the next step in the logical
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    progression then was modems, which is sort of you can
    think of an automatized method of acoustic
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    couplers, where you don't have an air gap
    anymore. So in the acoustic coupler you
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    literally have a couple of centimeters of
    air between the speaker and the microphone
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    in the receiver of your phone, versus the
    acoustic coupler. So with the modem
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    there's a direct connection and also you
    have automatic facilities to dial the
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    telephone number and to answer the line
    and so on. So you don't need a manual
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    operator anymore to pick up a phone or
    dial numbers. And this thing gets
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    transmitted over the telephone
    line. This is a stack of various different
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    modems – we will see some others here,
    some of you will remember the brands or
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    the shapes or even the specific models of
    those modems. But that's too much level of
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    detail for the moment. So let's look a bit
    at the speed, or lack of speed, that was
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    available. It started with 300 bps. I
    actually used 300 bps a couple of times.
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    In fact, in like around 1990 of course it
    was extremely slow but still it was what I
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    could start with at the time. Then the
    1200 bps; so this is still rather slow and
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    you can slowly read and follow the
    text as it's being printed. Unfortunately
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    I don't have an animation or something
    like that. I'm not such a multimedia savvy
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    guy. So yes, then the speeds progressed,
    you see the years in which they were
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    created. The lines with the asterisk mark
    years that I found some secondary sources
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    that originally it had been specified
    then. But actually the oldest spec
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    document for all these earlier ones was
    from 1988. So if you go to the ITU
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    website, the earliest documents you can
    find are from 1988 and none of those
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    earlier documents could – at least on the
    internet – be found anywhere. Maybe you
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    can go to a library or something like
    that. Yeah so speeds progressed, different
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    modulation schemes were introduced to
    squeeze ever more bits into these
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    3 kilohertz analog circuit over the
    telephone line. And every couple of years
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    a new, especially in the 90s, if you
    follow this 91 14.400 bps, 93 19.200
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    to 1994 28.000 bits per second. And there
    were of course also proprietary protocols,
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    then you had to have the same manufacturer
    of modem that the other side whom you're
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    calling and so on, but these are the
    official standardized protocols and speeds
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    that were used. Which brings us... so okay
    we have a telephone system; we can dial
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    numbers; we have a modem that can dial
    numbers; we have modems that can send bits
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    in exceptionally fast speed. What do we do
    with this? And this brings us to be BBSs:
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    where could you actually dial, and what
    could you do there? So what's the BBS?
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    Fundamentally, it's some computer – any
    hardware, any operating system, any
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    software. Some computer that accepts
    incoming calls attached to a modem and
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    offers some kind of interactive service to
    the people who dial into that BBS. And if
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    you wanted to operate a BBS, you had to
    have a separate dedicated computer for
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    that. Because, at the time, most of the
    BBS software – and most of the software
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    that people used in general – predated
    multitasking operating systems. So when
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    you ran the BBS, the computer was busy
    running the BBS; you couldn't do anything
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    else at the same time. So you had to
    invest quite a bit into a separate second
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    computer, or third or fourth, to actually
    operate that BBS. You had to have a
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    separate telephone line. Because if you
    operate the BBS into which people dial
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    into, of course any time of the day or
    night people will dial in there, so you
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    cannot use your normal phone line that you
    use to make phone calls but you had to
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    have a separate dedicated phone line. And
    of course the system had to run more or
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    less 24/7 so people could dial in and
    reach it. Luckily, on the user side there
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    was not so many requirements in terms of
    technology that you needed. Your computer
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    of course you only power when you use it,
    and you can share the regular phone line –
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    with the side effect, as in the
    introduction has been mentioned, that your
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    family might have gone angry if you
    occupied it too long – but otherwise no
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    additional infrastructure other than a
    modem required. Now you dial into the BBS
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    – what kind of content do you get? What do
    you do in that BBS? And the name BBS in
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    English is a Bulletin Board Service,
    that's actually the acronym expansion. So
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    there were Bulletin Boards, message boards
    where you could exchange messages and
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    texts with other people, other users of
    that BBS or the so-called sysop, the
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    system operator, the guy running that BBS.
    You could also chat with the system
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    operator, which, well, didn't exist before
    – the ability to chat with somebody else
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    remotely over a text-based terminal. There
    were also multi-user games, text-based, as
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    well as so called file areas where you
    could download files. And downloading
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    files, given the speeds back then and so
    on and so on, of course it was primarily
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    text documents or small programs or
    something like that. Mp3 didn't exist of
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    course, at least until 95 or whenever it
    came out, so maybe some mod files for your
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    module tracker, something like that. And
    of course, last but not least, ASCII and
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    ANSI artwork, which basically is an entire
    subculture and scene and community in
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    itself, creating artworks and drawings
    using the character set that was used by
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    ANSI.sys, which was the DOS, you could say
    display driver, in quotes, in a certain
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    character set and you could draw graphics
    like this. We will see some more. And
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    people were putting a lot of effort into
    this, and sort of competing who could who
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    could make the best representation or the
    most expressive artwork given the limited
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    resolution and the limited characters and
    colors available in this domain. So, what
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    kind of software did one use? Or what kind
    of technology was used? Well, we already
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    had the computer and modem, you needed
    some software. So on the BBS side, BBS
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    software, there's an unlimited number of
    different BBS software programmes, and
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    extensions, and modifications thereof, a
    lot of them are freeware or shareware.
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    Some of them are public domain, some
    actual free software, some are
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    proprietary. For any operating system, for
    any computer architecture, people were
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    writing BBS software. Whether you had an
    Amiga or Atari or you had Apple or DOS PCs
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    or you name it, software was written, by
    hobbyists primarily. One concept that you
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    will find in BBSs is the concept of so-
    called doors. You can think of it as
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    similar to CGIs in web. So basically, the
    BBS software could call an external
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    programme, which would then take over the
    input and output to and from the user. So
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    you could have sort of plugins to your BBS
    software which would add additional new
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    games or add chat software or messaging or
    whatever. On the user side you had a
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    primarily so-called terminal program. It's
    called terminal program because actually
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    it emulates a serial terminal, which is a
    dedicated hardware device with a keyboard
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    and a screen and a serial line, but not a
    general-purpose computer and in order to
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    make a general-purpose computer behave
    like a terminal you had a terminal program
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    on dos which I was using at the time. It's
    primarily telex and telemate I think were
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    the favorite ones at least on this side of
    the planet and you started that program,
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    you had a serial port, the serial port
    attached to your modem and from there you
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    dialed and the terminal program then was
    responsible for displaying the texts and
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    the ANSI graphics and so on and exchanging
    files of a variety of different protocols,
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    which we will also cover later but before
    we go on let's do a quick demo of how this
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    looks like. Now as a note I don't have a
    modem here I'm not emulating a modem I'm
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    not emulating a serial port, these days
    you can get the same experience by using
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    telnet over the internet but you can
    actually telnet into BBSs, I just want to
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    basically show how it looks like. So this
    is the terminal program and we have now
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    connected to the BBS this is sort of a
    introductory graphic that we see before
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    even logging into the the box yeah some...
    of course the scrolling was much slower
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    back then, so now we can scroll back up to
    actually see what was there. Yes, some
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    more graphics. You still haven't seen the
    login prompt yet, as you can see a fairly
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    graphics heavy BBS. Then you can choose
    the theme of the BBS, a user interface,
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    I'm going to go for the classic ANSI here.
    Finally, I come to a login screen and I
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    can log into the system where I have to
    enter my handle and the password which is
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    now in clear-text over telnet. For those
    of you interested in this, not that
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    there's anything useful I just registered
    this morning at the BBS so there's nothing
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    associated with this account. Yeah some
    more graphics. Finally, we are at a
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    message board and we see as I said I just
    logged in or registered this BBS today. We
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    see there is a message number one from
    Hawk Hubbard, "Welcome", so if I want to
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    look at that message I could basically say
    "I want to read it now". This is the
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    message reader I go in here, then here,
    "Welcome to forge" and so on.. So he
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    welcomes me to the BBS now let's go to the
    main menu of the BBS, which in this case
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    looks like that and you have different...
    the file areas, where you can download
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    files, you have the door games that I
    mentioned, you have an ANSI gallery, a BBS
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    list, you can look at the last callers who
    has called this mailbox and you can see
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    this... Well, yeah three test calls from
    me this morning, but you can see actually
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    other people are still logging into this
    BBS and it's 2017, so it's not... to me
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    this is mostly history but during the
    preparation of this talk I discovered that
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    some people, for some people it is still
    the present and I'm very happy to see
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    there's still such an active community
    around BBSs and which enables me to show
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    all of this without firing up some
    emulators and so on. So yeah, we also can
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    look at one-liners, here's some messages
    that people can leave to other people,
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    other users in the BBS, again with some
    quite a graphical... We don't want to
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    leave any additional words here, but what for
    example we can look at the ANSI gallery
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    just very quickly, can try to select
    something here, I have no idea what I'm
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    looking at so... Ok... so here you have a
    sort of a viewer that, yeah... So it will
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    show you the sections of a sort of longer
    artwork in this particular case... Yeah...
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    well... And the artwork... to me there
    always was a lot of similarity between the
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    sort of, between the ANSI art artists and
    the people doing... Now I'm lacking the
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    word, street art basically I think there's
    a lot of similarity between that. Okay
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    good, that was just a very quick demo of
    course I could now look at more messages
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    and write messages and play blackjack and
    do whatever I want, which I don't in this
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    case, so we will log off. And again some
    more graphics and you can leave a comment
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    to the sysop if you want or you can just
    basically... Log of... Ok, that for a very
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    quick demo of the look and feel. Now since
    I'm such a technical person and looking at
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    protocol stacks, I tried to draw a
    protocol stack diagram for BBSs, which
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    ended up at this. So basically at the
    lower layers we have the pots, the plain
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    old telephony system or ISDN, which we
    will get to in a few slides. We had modems
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    on the analogue telephone system, we had
    other things on ISDN. In the end at some
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    point you always have rs-232, a serial
    port, either emulated or real, and then
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    either you had a terminal program directly
    on top of that or, for example to transfer
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    files, you have used X modem or Y modem or
    Z modem, which added error correction and
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    retransmission and block transmission so
    you could safely transfer files without,
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    or at least with less, corruption. The
    checksum algorithms were not so scientific
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    in many cases. Here we then have well some
    other things, FTN, Point what does that,
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    UUCP we will cover that later. Basically
    you could run different protocols and
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    different systems on top of that. One
    curiosity that I still want to mention is
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    that, which I actually I forgot until on
    Twitter somebody reminded me a couple of
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    days ago that this existed, and I went "oh
    yes, RIPterm, I used that quite some time
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    ago", so instead of having these text-
    based user interfaces some people, company
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    called TeleGrafix came up with a language
    called RIPscript which was a fairly
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    compact language of textual commands, by
    which the BTS could control a vector
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    graphic renderer on the client side in
    your terminal program, and you could
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    actually draw VGA resolution graphics like
    the one that's presented here on the slide
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    from the VBS on the screen of the user,
    which was quite a big change compared to
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    the ASCII art or ANSI art that you've seen
    before. Yeah, so we're still at BBSs and
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    BBSs that are isolated, so you can
    participate in those bulletin boards and
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    you can read and write messages and
    exchange ideas and recipes and thoughts
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    and cheat codes and whatever you want to
    exchange. Users log in at different times,
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    the BBS is busy if it has only a single
    line while it's being used by some other
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    user. Of course you can add as a BBS
    operator, as the sysop, you can add more
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    modems and more phone lines, which is of
    course expensive, together with the multi-
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    port serial cards and and everything that
    was required. You can have time limits for
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    each user, but in the end it's sort of,
    there's a limit to how far you can scale a
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    single BTS sort of - not a BTS, a BBS,
    jeez, a single BBS... Well also there's a
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    scalability limit for BTSs, but that's
    another talk, so, yeah. Which brings us to
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    one method of more efficiently engaging
    with BBSs for exchanging messages which is
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    a concept of points or offline message
    reading. So as we have just seen in this
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    example we log in to the VP... the BBS and we
    have an online interactive session with
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    the BBS while we read and write the
    messages and of course it means we occupy
  • 22:30 - 22:36
    the telephone line for an extended period
    of time and it's not used very efficiently
  • 22:36 - 22:41
    because humans typically read slower than
    at least a fourteen point four or twenty
  • 22:41 - 22:48
    eight kilobits per second. So people
    invented something called points or
  • 22:48 - 22:52
    offline message reading and different
    concepts different systems different
  • 22:52 - 22:57
    standards different technologies. What
    they did in the end is they compressed and
  • 22:57 - 23:05
    batched all the messages for you into
    files and you on your client-side you were
  • 23:05 - 23:09
    writing your messages offline and also
    compressing and batching the messages that
  • 23:09 - 23:13
    you've written and then you make a call,
    you quickly exchange those files in both
  • 23:13 - 23:19
    directions even in full duplex if the
    system supports it and then you terminate
  • 23:19 - 23:23
    the connection again. So during a very
    short call you can exchange much more, many
  • 23:23 - 23:28
    more messages and you have all the time to
    read through those messages without having
  • 23:28 - 23:33
    to look at the phone meter or your phone
    bill all the time. So, more scalability,
  • 23:33 - 23:38
    more users, shorter connection time, lower
    cost for everyone involved. Definitely an
  • 23:38 - 23:45
    interesting technology, but still sort of
    scalability is limited of a single BTS
  • 23:45 - 23:52
    which, eh, BBS which brings us to BBS
    networks, store-and-forward networks which
  • 23:52 - 24:00
    basically extended the ability to exchange
    messages beyond a single BBS, but so
  • 24:00 - 24:05
    basically the bulletin boards or the
    message groups that you had at a BBS were
  • 24:05 - 24:10
    replicated over different protocols that
    were invented by various different people
  • 24:10 - 24:16
    over time, so not only one BBS had all the
    messages of a given bulletin board but all
  • 24:16 - 24:22
    the other BBSs participating also were
    receiving these messages and replicating
  • 24:22 - 24:29
    them all over the network. Also for
    personal mail, which is like email, right,
  • 24:29 - 24:35
    between two participants, you could route
    those messages across the network. The two
  • 24:35 - 24:40
    users exchanging messages didn't have to
    connect to the same BBS anymore. So much
  • 24:40 - 24:45
    more scalability and also you could use it
    efficiently for message routing to reduce
  • 24:45 - 24:52
    the need for long distance calls and so
    on. So let's look at a couple of these BBS
  • 24:52 - 24:59
    networks and the technologies they used.
    One large and very popular example of
  • 24:59 - 25:05
    course is the Fido Network which consists
    of two parts, net mail and echo mail.
  • 25:05 - 25:13
    Net mail is the private personal mail and echo
    mail are public message boards or message
  • 25:13 - 25:20
    groups. Fido had some, the technology used
    by Fido called FTN Fido technology
  • 25:20 - 25:24
    networks were used also by other networks.
    They were using the same protocols, but
  • 25:24 - 25:30
    they were not the same group of BBSs or
    the same content and so on. Treknet for
  • 25:30 - 25:36
    Star Trek fans was one, Gernet in Germany
    was an example for that. And there also
  • 25:36 - 25:42
    were other technologies and other networks
    such as Z-Netz, where they called it
  • 25:42 - 25:49
    "Bretter" actually, so boards, the
    individual message groups. And again they
  • 25:49 - 25:54
    had other offsprings that used the same
    technology but have different groups and
  • 25:54 - 25:59
    different policies and different
    structures such as T-Netz or CL-Netz. And
  • 25:59 - 26:08
    then there was the big faction of people
    who did UUCP, the UNIX to UNIX copy, which
  • 26:08 - 26:13
    we will look at a little bit. And MausNet
    is another german example here originating
  • 26:13 - 26:21
    from the city of Muenster, which was used
    to up to 120 BBSs here. Let's look at Fido
  • 26:21 - 26:29
    a little bit more. Started allegedly in
    1984. Of course I was not involved at that
  • 26:29 - 26:38
    time at the age of 5. It reached a limit
    of 250 nodes in 1985 because apparently, I
  • 26:38 - 26:42
    suppose probably, a single integer UINT8
    was used for the node number or something
  • 26:42 - 26:46
    like that and then about 250 should be
    sufficient for everyone. I don't know what
  • 26:46 - 26:51
    the other 5 are for. And then they
    introduced in '86 hierarchic regional
  • 26:51 - 26:58
    routing and addressing that was more
    scalable and in the end at the peak of the
  • 26:58 - 27:06
    Fido net propagation it was 39,000 nodes;
    that's BBSs not individual users but
  • 27:06 - 27:12
    39,000 BBSs were interconnected with an
    estimated 2 million users worldwide and
  • 27:12 - 27:19
    that's for a you know hobbyist amateur
    network is I think quite impressive.
  • 27:19 - 27:24
    The addresses looked like this. That's
    actually a node number that I used around
  • 27:24 - 27:33
    '95 in Nuremberg at the time. Z-Netz
    started as Zerberus-Netz - and I'm not
  • 27:33 - 27:37
    sure if padeluun or Rena or any of the
    people involved in the audience if then I
  • 27:37 - 27:46
    hope I represent the history correctly -
    which is a network technology created in
  • 27:46 - 27:51
    Germany. The standards are inspired but
    different than the Usenet and UUCP
  • 27:51 - 27:55
    protocols and there were all kinds of
    flame war about who understood the specs
  • 27:55 - 28:00
    wrong and whether there's an improvement
    between ZConnect compared to the Usenet
  • 28:00 - 28:06
    standards or not. But anyway it was
    different and there was one program called
  • 28:06 - 28:10
    CrossPoint which was the most popular
    point software at the time I think at
  • 28:10 - 28:16
    least on DOS for Z-Netz and also for other
    technologies. The screenshot here at the
  • 28:16 - 28:21
    bottom actually is a cross point
    screenshot. And cross point in the early
  • 28:21 - 28:28
    90s already had features that I'm still
    missing today in any email client that I
  • 28:28 - 28:36
    have found. Right? Imagine you have a
    thread that crosses multiple folders,
  • 28:36 - 28:42
    multiple news groups, multiple whatever
    and you have threading like the tree of
  • 28:42 - 28:46
    the thread across folders and news groups
    and so on. I mean that's something that
  • 28:46 - 28:50
    you cannot do with any of the
    software still today. Maybe you have you
  • 28:50 - 28:55
    have an answer which software today
    supports this but for sure nothing I have
  • 28:55 - 29:00
    found has the kind of features and
    functionality. Unfortunately it was
  • 29:00 - 29:07
    written in Pascal and it had a line length
    limit of 255 characters per line which
  • 29:07 - 29:11
    made it not very compatible to Usenet
    standards where lines could have different
  • 29:11 - 29:18
    lengths so one couldn't continue to use it
    in today's time and age at least not
  • 29:18 - 29:30
    easily. Usenet is another network of these
    BBS days where messages were exchanged by
  • 29:30 - 29:35
    a system called UNIX to UNIX copy. UNIX to
    UNIX copy predates the Usenet it was used,
  • 29:35 - 29:39
    well as the name implies, to copy
    something between UNIX machines - file
  • 29:39 - 29:44
    copying - and some of those files that
    people were copying were internet mail at
  • 29:44 - 29:51
    the time. And then the Usenet news format
    was invented. The format is quite similar
  • 29:51 - 29:56
    to internet mail, which we still know
    today, but it's not a personal mail
  • 29:56 - 30:01
    between person A and person B, but it, you
    could post it to a so-called news group
  • 30:01 - 30:06
    and there was a hierarchy of news groups
    which replicated and flooded messages
  • 30:06 - 30:11
    across the entire network, across the
    globe. And it was a flooding mechanism
  • 30:11 - 30:17
    involve to make sure that the messages get
    replicated and the duplicates get detected
  • 30:17 - 30:23
    and duplicates are not basically
    transmitted again or rather shown again
  • 30:23 - 30:33
    and so on. The routing was originally
    defined in route maps in UUCP which is a
  • 30:33 - 30:40
    quite a bit odd over time because it's
    basically a static source based routing
  • 30:40 - 30:46
    for the UUCP mails. News as I said
    they were flooding anyway. Usenet was
  • 30:46 - 30:53
    quite popular until well into the 90s. I
    was news master of two news servers for
  • 30:53 - 30:58
    some time basically doing system
    administration of those boxes. And just to
  • 30:58 - 31:03
    give you an anecdote again; into this
    context we will get to Kommunikationsnetz
  • 31:03 - 31:08
    Franken, which is a nonprofit organization
    in the area of Franconia in southern
  • 31:08 - 31:15
    Germany, where I was active. And at the
    time internet - like when we actually got
  • 31:15 - 31:21
    to IP, at some point, IP traffic was so
    expensive that it was rather difficult to
  • 31:21 - 31:26
    get a full newsfeed over IP because you've
    wasted a lot of your expensive bandwidth -
  • 31:26 - 31:31
    wasted in quotes - but you used it for
    news and so what we did actually is, we
  • 31:31 - 31:36
    put up a satellite dish at a building in
    Nuremberg and we had satellite feeds from
  • 31:36 - 31:42
    the US. So there were US companies that
    were streaming compressed Usenet batches
  • 31:42 - 31:48
    up to a geostationary satellite which has
    a downlink over Europe and then we got two
  • 31:48 - 31:55
    megabits of compressed batched news net
    news in, I would say, let's say 95ish or
  • 31:55 - 32:00
    something like that, so that was
    definitely a big improvement. So we we had
  • 32:00 - 32:08
    a full news feed coming directly from the
    US without having to pay for all the
  • 32:08 - 32:12
    International data transfer. Another
    curiosity is the Floppy Poll/Point. Now
  • 32:12 - 32:19
    nobody is laughing yet. Well not everyone
    had phone lines in the 90s, particularly
  • 32:19 - 32:24
    in eastern Germany. Phone lines were still
    a rare commodity after reunification
  • 32:24 - 32:29
    happened in 90. It took some time until
    people could get connected to the
  • 32:29 - 32:33
    telephone network. And so what people did
    is actually they exchanged daily floppies
  • 32:33 - 32:39
    by postal mail. So basically rather than
    sending your compressed batches of
  • 32:39 - 32:46
    messages over modems, because well for a
    modem you need phone lines, you put a
  • 32:46 - 32:53
    floppy - I would assume 3.5 inch at the
    time, not so much four and a quarter inch
  • 32:53 - 33:01
    - but you put a floppy in an envelope you
    send it to your BBS and the guy
  • 33:01 - 33:06
    opens the envelope and puts it in the BBS
    and he sends you a floppy in return. So
  • 33:06 - 33:09
    you add one day or something to your
    transmission but then well the
  • 33:09 - 33:14
    transmission speed of messages in those
    networks at the time was sort of one to
  • 33:14 - 33:18
    two days or maybe even three days anyway
    so if you add another day what does it
  • 33:18 - 33:24
    matter? It was such a big advantage that
    you could get messages like worldwide
  • 33:24 - 33:31
    messages at all in such a short time and
    for basically no cost whatsoever. Okay
  • 33:31 - 33:38
    getting to the internet, yeah. How did I
    start to access Internet, how did people
  • 33:38 - 33:42
    start to access the Internet at the time?
    Well mail and news was sort of the
  • 33:42 - 33:53
    Internet in the beginning via UUCP, which
    is nice and fine, but it's not IP, yet. So
  • 33:53 - 33:57
    what you could do is you could, instead of
    dialing into a BBS, you could of course
  • 33:57 - 34:03
    use your modem to dial to the serial port
    of the TTY of any UNIX machine that's
  • 34:03 - 34:06
    somewhere else. If you have a UNIX
    workstation somewhere, that's connected to
  • 34:06 - 34:12
    an IP network using 10base2 or whatever
    was the network technology at the time or
  • 34:12 - 34:21
    FDDI or whatever, x21... then you could
    attach a modem to a serial part of such a
  • 34:21 - 34:26
    UNIX box and you just get the login prompt
    when you connect with the modem to that
  • 34:26 - 34:30
    box. Like you sit in front of your Linux
    system today, you have your login prompt.
  • 34:30 - 34:36
    And then on that workstation you basically
    you could remotely use that workstation
  • 34:36 - 34:41
    and then you could run FTP clients or IRC
    clients or telnet, gopher, whatever on the
  • 34:41 - 34:49
    text console. That was mostly available to
    people in the academic sector of course
  • 34:49 - 34:54
    because they had some UNIX machines at
    universities. I was too young to be at
  • 34:54 - 35:00
    university, so I had to use FTP mailers
    for quite some time. So what's an FTP
  • 35:00 - 35:04
    mailer? Well it's basically some FTP
    client that runs on a remote machine
  • 35:04 - 35:08
    somewhere that's connected to the Internet
    and that has email access and you can use
  • 35:08 - 35:13
    input/output over email. So if you want to
    FTP to some FTP server you send an email.
  • 35:13 - 35:20
    It says "ftp ftp." and an "ls" and
    then some hours later you get a response
  • 35:20 - 35:26
    with the list of the files, yeah? And then
    after you've got the list of the files you
  • 35:26 - 35:30
    do the first CD to change into a directory
    and then you get again the response. And
  • 35:30 - 35:35
    then finally you know which file you want
    so you issue a get command over the file
  • 35:35 - 35:42
    and then you get this long series of
    UUencoded mails. UUencode is a method of
  • 35:42 - 35:50
    sending binary 8-bit messages over mails
    before MIME existed. The MIME format which
  • 35:50 - 35:54
    we use today for email attachments and so
    on. That didn't exist at the time, so it
  • 35:54 - 35:58
    was UUencode before, so yeah. So hours or
    days later you got that and it
  • 35:58 - 36:04
    worked perfectly fine, I mean, I was quite
    happy to be able to use that at the time.
  • 36:04 - 36:10
    Now, then, if you had dial-up access to
    UNIX boxes, you could also do something
  • 36:10 - 36:19
    called SLIP, which is a serial line IP. So
    you could transport IP over the modem line
  • 36:19 - 36:27
    and as a result you have IP at home in
    your apartment! Unbelievable! it was later
  • 36:27 - 36:31
    superseded by PPP which introduced
    features such as auto-configuration,
  • 36:31 - 36:35
    authentication, compression and so on -
    well there was a compressed SLIP, but yeah
  • 36:35 - 36:40
    not quite as compressed as PPP - and
    popular software stack at the time - and
  • 36:40 - 36:47
    I'm talking about early 90s, mid-90s - is
    basically Trumpet Winsock on Windows with
  • 36:47 - 36:52
    NCSA Mosaic as a browser, because Windows
    back then didn't have TCP/IP, so you had
  • 36:52 - 36:59
    to install another package to actually
    have TCP/IP on Windows at the time. If
  • 36:59 - 37:04
    you didn't have Windows, I will get to
    that, and I'm talking about the pre-Linux
  • 37:04 - 37:09
    days here. So what did you do if you
    wanted to do internet on a PC before Linux
  • 37:09 - 37:14
    was around? I didn't have a 386 initially,
    I had a 286. And on a 286 of course you
  • 37:14 - 37:18
    couldn't run any multitasking operating
    system because it doesn't have a real
  • 37:18 - 37:24
    protected mode. So no Linux, no BSD, but
    there was something called KA9Q NOS. And
  • 37:24 - 37:30
    now I want to see hands: who has ever
    heard of or used KA9Q NOS? Yeah! Ok...
  • 37:30 - 37:34
    laughs
    Audience member shouts: It is a person's
  • 37:34 - 37:37
    callsign.
    LaForge: Yes, "It's a person's callsign"
  • 37:37 - 37:42
    was the comment from the audience, this is
    correct. KA9Q is Phil Karn in the US and
  • 37:42 - 37:47
    he wrote a network operating system the
    KA9Q NOS, the network operating system.
  • 37:47 - 37:52
    And it is an implementation of - he
    started actually in the 80s with this on
  • 37:52 - 37:57
    CPM and then later ported it to DOS - and
    it implements TCP/IP, SLIP, PPP including
  • 37:57 - 38:02
    POP3 server, SMTP server + client, IP
    routing, telnet, ARP and so on. And you
  • 38:02 - 38:08
    could do all this on DOS. I used it quite
    a lot at my home. You could do routing and
  • 38:08 - 38:13
    you had multiple applications at the same
    time all on top of DOS. It was a fantastic
  • 38:13 - 38:20
    piece of software. And then you could
    build a router to ethernet and you could
  • 38:20 - 38:24
    have multiple other machines in your home
    and you have more and more cable in your
  • 38:24 - 38:30
    home. And more and more connected machines,
    yeah, actually, yeah we will get to that, ok.
  • 38:30 - 38:37
    PPP superseded that. At some point ISDN
    came around, particularly in Germany. ISDN
  • 38:37 - 38:41
    is the digital version of telephony
    system, so instead of having analog
  • 38:41 - 38:48
    circuits you now transfer digital bits.
    That could be audio, digitized audio, but
  • 38:48 - 38:53
    of course it could be any other
    transparent digital data. In Germany ISDN
  • 38:53 - 39:01
    was first put in operation in 1989. Until
    '93 it used a German protocol standard
  • 39:01 - 39:06
    called 1TR6, and from '94 onwards the
    European E-DSS1 protocol standard was
  • 39:06 - 39:13
    available. It was hugely popularized from
    1995 onwards by subsidies. So at the time
  • 39:13 - 39:20
    if you actually ordered an ISDN connection
    and at the same time you bought a, let's
  • 39:20 - 39:26
    say a small PBX or a phone or a modem or
    something like that, you could [get]
  • 39:26 - 39:34
    subsidies from Deutsche Telekom. So, I
    think it went up to 700 marks - not sure
  • 39:34 - 39:40
    if somebody remembers the exact figures -
    and so you've got quite a bit of money to
  • 39:40 - 39:44
    buy equipment to switch to this new
    technology. So when ISDN you don't have a
  • 39:44 - 39:49
    modem because there's nothing to modulate
    or demodulate, it's digital, so it's
  • 39:49 - 39:57
    called a terminal adapter, and it adapts
    the bitstream, the synchronous serial
  • 39:57 - 40:05
    bitstream of the ISDN to your operating
    system or your computer and there was
  • 40:05 - 40:09
    something called V.110 as a rate
    adaptation to do asynchronous serial like
  • 40:09 - 40:17
    RS-232, sort of, over a synchronous ISDN.
    Okay and how did we get internet access?
  • 40:17 - 40:23
    Well, it was, if you were not in academia
    or something like that, there were a few
  • 40:23 - 40:28
    commercial ISPs like XLink or EUnet. They
    were very expensive and of course you
  • 40:28 - 40:34
    didn't have local dial-in in all the
    different cities around Germany, but you
  • 40:34 - 40:39
    had grassroot groups of enthusiasts that
    established themselves in some
  • 40:39 - 40:47
    associations to make sure the members can
    get internet access. In my region in
  • 40:47 - 40:52
    Nuremberg Kommunikationsnetz Franken was
    particularly active. They started with
  • 40:52 - 40:58
    dial-up UUCP services and later IP for
    non-commercial users - and I have to say
  • 40:58 - 41:04
    with an extremely high technical standard
    which I'm still fascinated by today.
  • 41:04 - 41:08
    Kommunikationsnetz Franken had points of
    presence in various different cities in
  • 41:08 - 41:12
    the region because not everybody could
    call to Nuremberg as a local call and
  • 41:12 - 41:18
    every user got six static IP addresses,
    routed to wherever he dialed in. The use of
  • 41:18 - 41:23
    OSPF in the mid-1990s to make sure you
    have static IP addresses wherever you dial
  • 41:23 - 41:29
    in. Some people still don't have that in
    2017 and I'm not even talking about the
  • 41:29 - 41:35
    static IP addresses, but anyway. So about
    800 users peak at that association at the
  • 41:35 - 41:42
    time. And there was an umbrella
    organization called "Individual Network
  • 41:42 - 41:49
    e.V." (IN). This was established.
    Individuals could not become members in
  • 41:49 - 41:52
    that association so it's - the name is a
    bit interesting - it's called Individual
  • 41:52 - 41:56
    Network, because it's about networking for
    individuals, but the members were the
  • 41:56 - 42:01
    regional associations such as
    Kommunikationsnetz Franken, who then
  • 42:01 - 42:07
    basically used this umbrella entity to
    negotiate decent rates to get internet
  • 42:07 - 42:13
    connectivity and so on. And apparently the
    IN members served more than three hundred
  • 42:13 - 42:18
    thousand users at some point - so it
    scaled quite a bit - was dissolved in 2000
  • 42:18 - 42:22
    when lots of commercialized ISPs were
    around and also when the remaining member
  • 42:22 - 42:27
    entities, which many of which still exist
    today such as Kommunikationsnetz Franken,
  • 42:27 - 42:32
    they didn't need this umbrella entity to
    get decent internet rates or tariffs
  • 42:32 - 42:38
    again. So, with packets which TCP/IP we
    just need one number that we call at some
  • 42:38 - 42:42
    point We're not dialing into hundreds of
    different BBS's anymore but we're actually
  • 42:42 - 42:47
    connecting always to the same number which
    is our ISP, and then when we have that
  • 42:47 - 42:52
    connection we exchange packet data with
    systems worldwide which brought new
  • 42:52 - 42:58
    purpose to lease lines. Analog leased
    lines were basically telephone lines that
  • 42:58 - 43:03
    were permanently switched, or actually
    permanently wired at the exchange. So you
  • 43:03 - 43:07
    had two wires of copper between one
    location and another location and they
  • 43:07 - 43:11
    were physically connected you could apply
    a DC voltage and the DC voltage would come
  • 43:11 - 43:17
    out at the other end. You could get this
    from Deutsche Post or Telekom at the time.
  • 43:17 - 43:24
    When I could finally afford one in '98 for
    900 marks installation cost and in my case
  • 43:24 - 43:31
    180 marks per month, was sixty marks
    per hop. Hop means: telephone exchange. So
  • 43:31 - 43:35
    if between the other end where you want to
    connect to and where you are, are three
  • 43:35 - 43:40
    telephone exchanges, you had three times
    sixty marks or 180 marks per month. And
  • 43:40 - 43:44
    then I connected to a system that looked
    like this, which is called the Hub
  • 43:44 - 43:49
    Nuremburg of this Kommunikationsnetz
    Franken, which is in the basement of one
  • 43:49 - 43:55
    of the members. You have basically a PC
    running Linux of FreeBSD, no it was BSD
  • 43:55 - 44:01
    actually, with like a 16-port serial card
    and various modems stacked on various
  • 44:01 - 44:06
    shelves to interconnect all these
    different leased lines and which then had
  • 44:06 - 44:12
    one ISDN leased line with 128 kilobits to
    some internet uplink. Yeah that's the
  • 44:12 - 44:20
    obligatory ISDN network termination and
    telephone sockets, which brings us to ISDN
  • 44:20 - 44:28
    leased lines. There was a product called
    SPV "Semi-Permanente Festverbindung",
  • 44:28 - 44:33
    which is not really a leased line - it's
    semi-permanent - and it's basically a
  • 44:33 - 44:38
    flat-rate call to one specific destination
    telephone number, which you could get in
  • 44:38 - 44:42
    national 1TR6 ISDN and which was rather
    inexpensive and what many people used who
  • 44:42 - 44:48
    wanted more than the ISDN speeds. Okay I
    have to speed up a bit, time is running
  • 44:48 - 44:53
    out! The first step of abusing analog
    lines, which we did, is by deploying a
  • 44:53 - 44:58
    device called an ICU-T, which is the
    inverse of an ISDN NTBA. So in ISDN you
  • 44:58 - 45:02
    still have the telephone exchange and you
    have a network termination, the NTBA, on
  • 45:02 - 45:09
    your line. And basically the the ICU-T was
    a single line telephone exchange side of
  • 45:09 - 45:13
    this protocol. So you could use an analog
    line which you normally used for analog
  • 45:13 - 45:17
    modems but you remove the two analog
    modems you put an NTBA on one end, you put
  • 45:17 - 45:22
    the ICU-T on the other end and suddenly we
    can get 128 kilobits over that line which
  • 45:22 - 45:26
    previously you could only do 33.6 without
    having to pay any additional cents or
  • 45:26 - 45:31
    money to Deutsche Telekom, of course. And
    then there was some special ISDN routers
  • 45:31 - 45:36
    which could use the signaling channel, the
    16 kbps signaling D-channel on ISDN also
  • 45:36 - 45:42
    for data, so you get 128 + 16 kilobytes of
    data, because well, there's no signaling,
  • 45:42 - 45:46
    you're not dialling anyone so you can as
    well use that. Now this is sort of the
  • 45:46 - 45:50
    hierarchy of the leased line
    infrastructure at this entity. I'm not
  • 45:50 - 45:55
    showing every leased line here, but
    basically I was at the upper left corner
  • 45:55 - 46:01
    here connecting with 33.6 kbps to this hub
    Nuremburg, which connects to 128K to a
  • 46:01 - 46:05
    machine in a Nuremberg building of the
    University of Erlangen, which then
  • 46:05 - 46:09
    connects over X21 to the University of
    Erlangen, where then all kinds of other
  • 46:09 - 46:14
    leased lines come together. That was the
    the architecture of what we deployed
  • 46:14 - 46:18
    there. Some more pictures: this is in
    Fürth, a neighbor city of Nuremberg. The
  • 46:18 - 46:25
    collection of telephone outlets and the
    collection of modems and the machine - oh
  • 46:25 - 46:29
    there was, I'm missing one picture sorry
    for that - anyway you can see a pile of
  • 46:29 - 46:34
    modems here and some more modems here and
    the machine over there. And then we went
  • 46:34 - 46:39
    into phase two of abusing analog telephone
    lines, when the first DSL modems came out.
  • 46:39 - 46:46
    So we imported some Ascend DSLpipes in '99
    from the US and with some firmwares you
  • 46:46 - 46:50
    could operate them back to back without
    the DSLAM so basically you operate one DSL
  • 46:50 - 46:54
    modem at one end of the leased line and
    another DSL modem at the other end, and if
  • 46:54 - 46:58
    you are close enough like with a single
    hop at the single telephone exchange you
  • 46:58 - 47:04
    could get up to 2.3 megabits symmetric
    over your analog line. And that in 1999
  • 47:04 - 47:10
    was quite a lot of speed, especially if
    you're not paying for traffic or anything
  • 47:10 - 47:14
    like that. Some less alternative, less
    expensive one alternatives came out. Okay!
  • 47:14 - 47:24
    Before I wrap up, a short detour or one
    thing still to mention. Another phenomenon
  • 47:24 - 47:30
    back then - I'm not sure if this happened
    in other cities too - and in my area in
  • 47:30 - 47:35
    Fürth we had an entity called Falcons
    Maze, which was called an online bistro.
  • 47:35 - 47:42
    I became a regular there around '94. They
    initially had four DOS PCs, each of them
  • 47:42 - 47:47
    with a modem and with a dedicated call-
    charge meter. And you could basically go
  • 47:47 - 47:51
    there, it's a cafe, you can have, you know
    you can eat and drink and so on, and you
  • 47:51 - 47:56
    can sit at the PC and you can then from
    there dial into BBSs and basically do
  • 47:56 - 47:59
    things if you didn't have a modem or a PC
    at home. But the interesting part of
  • 47:59 - 48:03
    course was that there all the other peoples
    were hanging out, the other BBS users,
  • 48:03 - 48:09
    sysops and so on. At some point the PCs
    were networked with 10base2, so people
  • 48:09 - 48:14
    could play doom when it came out, I think
    in - not sure when it reached us in
  • 48:14 - 48:20
    Germany - '94 maybe or so, and yeah. The
    internet became more popular. It started
  • 48:20 - 48:26
    subsidiaries and we set up ISDN SPVs, the
    "semi-permanente Verbindung" as an
  • 48:26 - 48:33
    internet uplink from there, so that also,
    I mean, you can find some sources that
  • 48:33 - 48:37
    this apparently, allegedly was the first
    internet cafe. I'm not sure if anyone else
  • 48:37 - 48:41
    has contested that. Something like that.
    Anyway, after lots of anecdotes I want to
  • 48:41 - 48:47
    give you some time for Q&A. To summarize:
    the first decades of wide area
  • 48:47 - 48:52
    communications were powered by a community
    of enthusiasts or rather communities that
  • 48:52 - 48:56
    were disjunct and not connected, largely
    motivated by non-commercial motives. Of
  • 48:56 - 49:02
    course there were commercial BBSs but by
    far not without much corporate or
  • 49:02 - 49:07
    government influence, right? There was no
    Google and there was no ministry that was
  • 49:07 - 49:13
    putting censorship or something like that.
    And the BBS community is a distinct
  • 49:13 - 49:18
    subculture so it has different norms and
    it has different values, different from
  • 49:18 - 49:23
    the ham radio guys, different from free
    software guys, of course some overlap, but
  • 49:23 - 49:28
    still a separate community with separate
    norms. What I personally think is the big
  • 49:28 - 49:37
    loss, other than the loss of picture on
    the screen, is that back then the networks
  • 49:37 - 49:40
    were distributed. There was no single
    point of failure. The infrastructure was
  • 49:40 - 49:45
    owned and operated by its users, by
    individuals. The connection speeds were
  • 49:45 - 49:50
    symmetric and there was no, like, data
    center versus consumer separation that we
  • 49:50 - 49:55
    have in the internet day and age of today.
    And that's, yes, I really think this
  • 49:55 - 50:03
    autonomy and decentralization is a big
    loss to society or the community as a
  • 50:03 - 50:08
    whole. Ok, some pointers: if you want to
    read up more or look at some ANSI artwork
  • 50:08 - 50:13
    or log into BBSs, the telnet BBS guide I
    can highly recommend that. You can also
  • 50:13 - 50:20
    find the BBS I looked into. Ok, good.
    Which brings us to the point where we can
  • 50:20 - 50:24
    have some questions.
  • 50:24 - 50:35
    Applause
  • 50:35 - 50:41
    Herald: The microphones here in, 3, 1, 2
    and 4, but first we have questions from
  • 50:41 - 50:44
    the signal angel. So what's the question for?
  • 50:44 - 50:47
    Signal Angel: The internet wants to know,
    "What was the highest phone bill you ever
  • 50:47 - 50:52
    got back then?"
    LaForge: To be honest, I don't remember
  • 50:52 - 51:01
    but for sure it was four digits. I'm quite
    sure it was. It was quite devastating,
  • 51:01 - 51:05
    yes.
    Hearld: There is another question from the
  • 51:05 - 51:06
    internet.
    Signal Angel: And there's another
  • 51:06 - 51:13
    question, "You mentioned that there are
    very few books around those topics. Which
  • 51:13 - 51:17
    ones would you recommend regarding BBS,
    Usenet and so on?"
  • 51:17 - 51:22
    LaForge: I cannot respond to this directly
    I don't remember that. I can put it
  • 51:22 - 51:27
    together and people can reach out to me
    or I put it in the slides when I submit
  • 51:27 - 51:33
    them into the frap system, sorry for that.
    Herald: So we have a question from the
  • 51:33 - 51:38
    microphone number two please.
    Mic 2: Yes, back in the 90s most of the
  • 51:38 - 51:43
    voice was uncompressed and actually
    direct. Modern technologies usually, I
  • 51:43 - 51:48
    think, voice always compressed transferred
    over IP. Do you know for any modern
  • 51:48 - 51:53
    modulation formats the text can survive
    several codecs voice codecs or data
  • 51:53 - 51:57
    transmission?
    LaForge: I'm not the expert on that
  • 51:57 - 52:03
    subject. I know there are some codecs,
    yes, but they are extremely slow. So you
  • 52:03 - 52:10
    are happy if you get something like 1200
    or maybe 2400 bps of data through a modem
  • 52:10 - 52:15
    that survives multiple codecs and then of
    course always the question of which
  • 52:15 - 52:20
    codecs.
    Herald: Okay microphone number four
  • 52:20 - 52:23
    please.
    Mic 4: Okay I don't have a question to
  • 52:23 - 52:26
    Herald actually, but thanks for the talk.
    I would like to ask the audience because
  • 52:26 - 52:30
    many, I think, users and operators of BBSs
    are here. Who wants to meet this evening,
  • 52:30 - 52:35
    at I would say nine o'clock, in one of the
    seminar rooms for talk about the back old
  • 52:35 - 52:42
    times? Yeah, so I will try to lock a self-
    organized session at the seminar room
  • 52:42 - 52:46
    1415, I think it's called, at 9 o'clock.
    LaForge: Ok, thank you very much.
  • 52:46 - 52:49
    Mic 4: So, see you there and talk about
    the good days of and some more stories I
  • 52:49 - 52:52
    think.
    Herald: There are still more people
  • 52:52 - 53:00
    queuing up. Microphone number 4, please.
    Mic 4: I've got a question about the
  • 53:00 - 53:05
    political bulletin board systems. Could
    you tell us a bit about the CL-Net and the
  • 53:05 - 53:11
    fascist clone the Thule-Net? What was the
    dynamics back then and the fights? What
  • 53:11 - 53:17
    were the conflicts in those boxes?
    LaForge: I have to admit I cannot say too
  • 53:17 - 53:22
    much about it. I know, of course, CL-Netz
    was a network mainly for left-wing
  • 53:22 - 53:27
    political activists and groups and yes
    there was Thule-Netz, a right-wing
  • 53:27 - 53:30
    Network, and I knew there was discussions
    and so on and there were people trying to
  • 53:30 - 53:36
    hack each other's mailboxes and so on,
    but I was not participating or involved
  • 53:36 - 53:43
    in these discussions to an extent that I
    can really comment on it sorry.
  • 53:43 - 53:46
    Herald: Microphone number one, please.
    Mic 1: Hi Harald. I still remember when I
  • 53:46 - 53:51
    started with an acoustic coupler. I did
    that because there was a severe threat of
  • 53:51 - 53:55
    punishment if you used an illegal modem at
    the time from the Deutsche Bundespost. So
  • 53:55 - 54:00
    I was actually never aware that a little
    bit later you could actually do an end,
  • 54:00 - 54:06
    back to back DSL modem connection over an
    analogue exchange. So at that time you did
  • 54:06 - 54:10
    that, what was the the punishment
    situation from the Bundespost or whatever
  • 54:10 - 54:14
    it was called at the time if they would
    have ever caught you doing that? Do you
  • 54:14 - 54:17
    remember?
    LaForge: I have no clue. Yes, it sort of,
  • 54:17 - 54:25
    and I mean the... How can I say? The the
    criminal offense, I think, stopped in '92
  • 54:25 - 54:30
    when Deutsche Post was privatized. So
    until '92 it was a criminal offence to
  • 54:30 - 54:35
    operate a non-approved modem at the German
    telephone network, because was government
  • 54:35 - 54:40
    owned. It was a crime, not a minor
    offence. But afterwards I don't really
  • 54:40 - 54:45
    know to be honest. I don't think anyone
    bothered at the time and nobody, I mean
  • 54:45 - 54:50
    the, we never had any trouble with these
    DSL things and so on, that we did over
  • 54:50 - 54:54
    analog circuits.
    Herald: Microphone number two, please.
  • 54:54 - 54:59
    Mic 2: Okay, hello I'm from Taiwan and I
    just want to share something interesting
  • 54:59 - 55:05
    for everyone. In Taiwan is a small country
    in Asia. We are still using BBS. The
  • 55:05 - 55:12
    largest is named PTT and exported to use
    SSH or WebSocket you can edit, and the
  • 55:12 - 55:17
    source code is open available on GitHub.
    Everybody can search it. Thank you.
  • 55:17 - 55:24
    LaForge: Thank you very much. It's
    actually not just for Taiwan, but you can
  • 55:24 - 55:28
    find many, I mean maybe it's more popular
    there still, but you can find many BBSs
  • 55:28 - 55:33
    that are still in operation today in many
    different countries even also with BBS
  • 55:33 - 55:38
    software that's free software that's
    maintained now on GitHub or on other
  • 55:38 - 55:43
    repositories with contributors and so on.
    So the community still lives, but I think
  • 55:43 - 55:48
    at least internationally it's very small
    and I'm happy to hear if it's larger in
  • 55:48 - 55:52
    some countries.
    Herald: You have still time for questions.
  • 55:52 - 55:58
    Microphone number four, please.
    Mic 4: So you talked about restoring
  • 55:58 - 56:05
    decentralization. So, what old systems
    would you like to see coming back?
  • 56:05 - 56:09
    Something like the Usenet? I mean it's
    still there, but you can't access it
  • 56:09 - 56:13
    without paying a lot of money to some big
    gateway. So, which technologies would you
  • 56:13 - 56:17
    like to revive or do you think are
    realistic to revive to have
  • 56:17 - 56:22
    decentralization again?
    LaForge: I don't think the technologies
  • 56:22 - 56:26
    necessarily need to be revived because
    they are, to a large extent, old and
  • 56:26 - 56:33
    people are smarter and the, how can I say,
    the capacity and the computational
  • 56:33 - 56:37
    complexity of what you can do today and so
    on is much better. So we can have much
  • 56:37 - 56:43
    better technology. But the thing that I
    would like to see revived is more
  • 56:43 - 56:48
    decentralization and more people operating
    their own technology and that's just, I
  • 56:48 - 56:54
    think, I don't really have a plan and I'm
    not saying I have a vision I'm just saying
  • 56:54 - 56:59
    it has a problem, this development, that
    basically it's a consumer / producer model
  • 56:59 - 57:04
    and especially with content delivery
    networks and with attacks on network
  • 57:04 - 57:08
    neutrality and and all these topics, it's
    always moving in one direction. It's
  • 57:08 - 57:13
    basically turning the user into a stupid
    consumer and and making sure all the
  • 57:13 - 57:20
    control and all the content, and so on, is
    in the hand of large corporations.
  • 57:20 - 57:29
    Applause
    By the way, one interesting anecdote about
  • 57:29 - 57:34
    the... I talked about the asymmetry of the
    speed, right? And with DSL at this ADSL
  • 57:34 - 57:38
    and the popular technology is always the
    downlink is bigger than the uplink. I know
  • 57:38 - 57:45
    in Brazil a lot of people, basically in
    small, like small size ISPs, they did it
  • 57:45 - 57:50
    the opposite way around! So they did one
    modem with basically a large downstream
  • 57:50 - 57:55
    and small upstream and then they, on
    another line next to it, they inverted it
  • 57:55 - 57:59
    by using a master modem on one side and a
    slave modem on the other so then again he
  • 57:59 - 58:04
    had symmetric speed. So, some people had
    creative ideas to work around some of the
  • 58:04 - 58:10
    technological restrictions.
    Herald: So microphone number two, please.
  • 58:10 - 58:16
    Mic 2: I also from Taiwan and I want to
    add something for my friend. Like, there
  • 58:16 - 58:26
    are still like half million people come
    here to BBS called PTT, yeah, today. And
  • 58:26 - 58:34
    like, there's a, there are 100,000 people
    online now, yeah. So, I think the
  • 58:34 - 58:39
    community is now like...
    Herald: What ist your question? Can you
  • 58:39 - 58:42
    please phrase the question?
    Mic 2: I just want to add something for my
  • 58:42 - 58:47
    friend, yeah.
    LaForge: Okay, thank you.
  • 58:47 - 58:55
    Herald: Microphone number one, please.
    Mic 1: cough You talked about content of
  • 58:55 - 59:02
    these mailboxes. Isn't it that the
    Freifunk community today is a possible way
  • 59:02 - 59:12
    to get this freedom back from what you had
    in your mailboxes? The services they were
  • 59:12 - 59:19
    offered there, the Freifunk could do the
    same today with user own structures and so
  • 59:19 - 59:22
    on.
    LaForge: That's very correct yes. Freifunk
  • 59:22 - 59:26
    definitely is much more in the spirit of
    the community owned and community run
  • 59:26 - 59:31
    systems, and I see lots of similarities
    between the BBS community and what
  • 59:31 - 59:35
    Freifunk is doing today. It's correct.
    Mic 1: Are you are you doing something
  • 59:35 - 59:38
    with Freifunk?
    LaForge: Me personally? No, I'm not
  • 59:38 - 59:40
    involved.
    Mic 1: Okay.
  • 59:40 - 59:47
    Herald: I think microphone number two is
    waiting way too long.
  • 59:47 - 59:53
    Mic 2: Hello, thanks for the talk. You
    mentioned that most people didn't have a
  • 59:53 - 60:00
    TCP/IP capable operating system at this
    time and I started to read recently about
  • 60:00 - 60:06
    an operating system called Xenix, X-E-N-
    I-X, that was actually developed by
  • 60:06 - 60:15
    Microsoft and published in 1983 that could
    run on IBM PC compatible machines on the
  • 60:15 - 60:21
    x86 processors, and I hear that in the
    Russian BBS systems at least it was very
  • 60:21 - 60:26
    popular. Did you encounter any Xenix
    operating systems at that time?
  • 60:26 - 60:31
    LaForge: No I personally did not encounter
    Xenix. I read about it, yes, and I know it
  • 60:31 - 60:36
    I could have possibly run it on my 286
    machine, but I mean, I don't think it was
  • 60:36 - 60:40
    something that was readily available for
    affordable price to individuals, but maybe
  • 60:40 - 60:44
    I'm wrong. No, certainly not, okay, some
    people are heavily shaking their heads.
  • 60:44 - 60:47
    Mic 2: I think this is why it was popular
    in Russia...
  • 60:47 - 60:49
    Laughs
    LaForge: Possibly. I do not want to
  • 60:49 - 60:52
    comment on that...
    Herald: We have time for one more
  • 60:52 - 60:57
    question. Microphone number 4.
    Mic 4: I just wanted to note, in the wiki
  • 60:57 - 61:01
    the meeting is up. Search for BBS and this
    evening at 9 o'clock I think we can talk
  • 61:01 - 61:05
    about all the details of running DSL on
    modem lines. I've also got some more
  • 61:05 - 61:10
    details on that and a lot of these modems
    left if you need some. But I think, so see
  • 61:10 - 61:14
    you Harold at 9 o'clock
    LaForge: Yeah definitely! Thanks!
  • 61:14 - 61:16
    Mic 4: Ok, everybody welcome.
    LaForge: Thank you!
  • 61:16 - 61:17
    Applause
  • 61:17 - 61:20
    Herald: Thank you very much for the talk.
  • 61:20 - 61:25
    34C3 Music
  • 61:25 - 61:43
    subtitles created by c3subtitles.de
    in the year 2020. Join, and help us!
Title:
34C3 - BBSs and early Internet access in the 1990ies
Description:

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Video Language:
English
Duration:
01:01:42

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