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My Brother, the Prescient Presner

BBS. If this acronym means something to you, you might also remember the screeching sound that used to herald the modem’s connection to the pre-web online world.

BBSes with multiple phone lines often provide chat rooms, allowing users to interact with each other. Bulletin board systems were in many ways a precursor to the modern form of the World Wide Web, social networks, and other aspects of the Internet.

(cc) Wikipedia

Bulletin board systems were a way of chatting, playing games, and performing a limited range of other early online pastimes. My mom, brother, and I were all part of the late 1980s/early 1990s BBS scene (the family that BBSes together stays together?), and my brother Jeremy was an avid reader of Boardwatch, a print magazine devoted to this early online world.

Jeremy recently dug up a couple of 1993 letters to the magazine’s publisher Jack Rickard, which I find fascinating.


Internet People

Hi Jack.

Just checked out the April 93 boardwatch.. not bad! a lot of useful information packed into a well-put-together magazine, albeit traditional.. (3-columnns standard typefaces, etc.). but the national bbs listing is nice {I like the horizontal lay-out}..

I was wondering if you would consider devoting more pages to Internet stuff and Internet related message bases/irc channels/telnet and FTP stuff.. I’m sure the 10-15 million Internet users out there would appreciate it, as would I.. I really liked Kevin Savetz’ article on the Oracle; I just checked it out today and am awaiting a response.. Few magazines are able to discuss something and have the reader go out and do it right after reading a(b)out it, but this one has some practical things in it..

Anyway, keep up the good work, and I hope you consider my suggestion.

Ciao for now.

-Jeremy Presner-

And the publisher’s somewhat unconvinced response:

I’m going to guess that there are a little over 4 million actually ON the Internet with sufficient IP connectivity to do telnet and ftp. Internet people have a habit of subsuming everything they touch when touting statistics. But it is a growing force that I think holds the seed for a future of common connectivity. And we’ll be covering it in some detail. One of our main goals with each story is for our readers to be able to go contact the service and find out for themselves.

Jack Rickard

And another missive to the magazine from the same year:

An Interface for Internet

Is it possible that there is a product out there that services as an interface for Internet? I’m looking for something that will mask the unfriendliness of Vax-systems and let me wander around Vnews and FTP and Telnet sites by clickin on icons or pulling down menus.

If y’all know of such a program, can you send me some e-mail telling me where I can get it? {ie if it’s a program in the public domain, is there an anon-FTP site where I can pick it up? Thanks a lot.


Hmm, a more visual, user-friendly way of navigating the online world. I guess Jeremy was just a few years ahead of his time.

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