A BBS Legacy
A BBS Legacy
No. This isnt a lengthy letter of excuses, like it couldve been.
I was once young.
What happens when youre a kid and you get into computers is that you want
to absorb everything. Kids dont necessarily care about the bleeding edge
of technology - the latest and the greatest new thing - so long as they are
enjoying themselves. So, BBS:es had an appeal even as the dialup BBS era was
drawing to a close. But everything happened at a very rapid pace then - in
hindsight, it seems, at a far more rapid pace than one could have
anticipated. Kids, especially, dont seem to have much of a concept of the
future. Add to these factors the fact that Ive always been very insular,
and you may have some explanation as to why I decided to dig into and to
stick with these things - at least for a while. The other draw factor: the
idea of establishing some sort of world of your own. I began BBS:ing at 13.
The internet was no doubt interesting and it did have its uses, but it was
vast and without direction. The web looked kind of pale back then. BBS:es,
for the most part, had some sense of purpose. They were more personal and
more fun. They could also be annoying, all depending on the particularities
of the sysop. They took quite some time of mine in those days.
For me, the true battle was always with distractions. To find something to
focus on and to stick with it long enough to become good at it. In order to
maintain a focus something has to feel like it is interesting and important
enough to warrant such a focus. Restlessness, in the absence of purpose and
meaning, leads to a search for distractions, and for me those have been
plenty, coming, going and returning again in what seem like cycles, and they
were not always to do with BBS:es. No with BBS:es in particular, it seemed
like it was a losing battle to begin with.
Whats the purpose in sticking with BBS:es if they are going away?
One thing, though, is that I always wanted to make an impact with ASCII art.
That never really happened to a great degree back in the dialup days. It has
followed me as a nagging reminder in the back of my head, that somehow I
ought to make something of it. Or like an open wound that needed to be
mended. Or like the manuscript to a film or book left unfinished. It was of
my youth. At times, this has seemed a very distant - if not unattainable -
opportunity, due to the fact that the dialup BBS era did end. But the
internet superceded it. Once you start thinking about what was lost with the
BBS era, and once you realize that some of this archaic stuff can be adapted
for contemporary usages, it is able to retain a purpose and meaning beyond
digital archaeology - in the present.
I was very distracted around 2001. It was a crucial point in time in my
personal life with many difficulties. On the scene side of things, I was
caught up with too many responsibilities at the same time, including running
a BBS, running an ANSI/ASCII division and contributing to other groups. I
was attempting to refine my skills as a newschool ASCII artist, at a time
when less and less of it was needed and requested. It seemed that what I
wanted to do was at odds with what most of what everyone else was asking
The purpose of both ANSI and ASCII art seemed for a long time to have been
relegated to .nfo files and FTP sites - no place for the colorful kind of
ANSI/ASCII art of the BBS days.
Self-improvement and self-reinvention has happened a few times since.
Ive dipped back into the scene now and then, and in recent years Ive been
very involved with it as the scene has converged and also gone through
something of a revival. I wasnt the only one who left. Almost the entire
ANSI/ASCII/BBS scene was decimated.
The internet did change at a rapid pace in a commercial direction to what
it has become now. BBS:es on the internet seemed like they had little to
offer but to those who had already outlasted their demise in the dialup
days - except for the the art that accompanied them. And the art seemed like
it belonged on BBS:es. Especially the ANSI art.
I do not have insane ideas, and Im not sentimental about these things.
Its 2021 and ANSI/ASCII art is being created. Neither one of us is going
to turn back time - not individually, and not collectively. There are never
going to be enough of us, and technological progress is irreversible. Not
all progress has been good progress. But technology itself is neutral its
the people behind the technology and the people who use it that are to
blame. We can show what things were like to those who never knew, if we want
to. And we are able to enjoy it because its familiar to us its what we
know. And if it means something to someone else, it is an accomplishment.
The art belongs wherever there is a use for it.