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Location: Singapore, Singapore

A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Jun 21, 2014

Days of Dial-up Internet

This is a "memories of sound"  blog, so please turn on the speakers when you watch this YouTube video.

Sound (not noise) could be pleasant or unpleasant depending on the listeners.   My old-timer friends who were members of the special interest group of Bulletin Board System (BBS) over 30 years ago,  this signal to get the phoneline connected was the best sound for the dial-up to the server.

If the computer speakers were switched on too loudly, it would wake up the family and the neighbors late at night when most of them were asleep.  Folks like us were nocturnal creatures to surf the dial-up internet after midnight when shared phonelines were not busy or used by the family in the house.

How a familiar series of sounds could simultaneously be so grating and so gratifying is a mystery that may be irritated or disturbed when others heard them.

In the early days before telecommunication technology became common everywhere with wireless, cableless, cordless devices today,  some of my pioneer generation friends would remember with fond nostalgic memories of the days of the dial-up Internet.

I grew up in the age of a "wired world", ways done in the past to get connected here .

Over a century ago, nobody ever imagined to get connected wirelessly through the air.  The wavelength in the air is invisible, but the evolution of telecommunication technology with invention of technical devices and electronic equipments today is awesome.

Ancient technologies ares still a part of everyday life and it can take a surprisingly long time for technologies to really fall by the wayside.  There were 10 million people access the Web at 56.6 kb/s or slower in those days.

The circle of life, however, remains constant: When a new high-tech creation is born, something else may die as a result. Sometimes, the loss is a good thing - who wants busy signals or phonelines, but at other times, the departure stirs bittersweet feelings (remember saying farewell to your trusty old C:\ prompt?).

The SysOp - short for system operator was a figure of power beginning in the late 1970s and continuing into the early 1990s. As the creator and overlord of the local bulletin board system (BBS), the SysOp watched over the users who dialed into his pre-Internet electronic communication system. He chatted with visitors, kept the system running smoothly, and occasionally hit the disconnect button when someone remained logged in for too long.

A sysop is an administrator of a multi-user computer system, such as a bulletin board system (BBS) or an online service virtual community.  It may also be used to refer to administrators of other Internet-based network services.

Historically, the term system operator applied to operators of any computer system, especially a mainframe computer. In general, a sysop is a person who oversees the operation of a server, typically in a large computer system.

In 1982, Andrew Fluegelman created a program for the IBM PC called PC-Talk, a telecommunications program, and used the term freeware; he described it "as an experiment in economics more than altruism". About the same time, Jim "Button" Knopf released PC-File, a database program, calling it user-supported software. Not much later, Bob Wallace produced PC-Write, a word processor, and called it shareware. Appearing in an episode of Horizon titled Psychedelic Science originally broadcast 5 April 1998, Bob Wallace said the idea for shareware came to him "to some extent as a result of my psychedelic experience".

I was a guinea pig together with my long-time friend Chew Kee Boon in this special interest group to experiment a few of the games developers to test the software, mostly for DOS games in the 1980s.

Prior to the popularity of the World Wide Web and widespread Internet access, shareware was often the only economical way for independent software authors to get their product onto users' desktops. Those with Internet or BBS access could download software and distribute it amongst their friends or user groups, who would then be encouraged to send the registration fee to the author, usually via postal mail. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, shareware software was widely distributed over online services, bulletin board systems and on diskettes.

Once telecommunications became more widespread, this service also expanded online.

As Internet use grew, users turned to downloading shareware programs from "File Transfer Protocol" (FTP) or web sites. This spelled the end of bulletin board systems and shareware disk distributors. At first, disk space on a server was hard to come by, so networks like Info-Mac were developed, consisting of non-profit mirror sites hosting large shareware libraries accessible via the web or FTP. With the advent of the commercial web hosting industry, the authors of shareware programs started their own sites where the public could learn about their programs and download the latest versions, and even pay for the software online.

A related video to share as an introduction to BBS here.

Thanks for the memories of my pioneer generation of BBS users in Singapore.



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