My BBS Alter-Ego Turns 45

November 12th, 2005 by Benj Edwards

Red Wolf ANSIBack when I started BBSing in 1992, I was only eleven years old. I was very young, innocent, trusting. I told the truth, giving out my real name, address, and age to every BBS I called. But certain devious teenage SysOps took advantage of my youthful tendency towards trust and shattered my confidence, betraying me and making me look like a fool in the BBS community. My innocence as I knew it had been lost. No longer would I be Red Wolf the Boy Wonder SysOp, the celebrated youngest SysOp in the Triangle area — no, that boy went to school every day, played in the woods, and rode his bike with his friends. Online, I would be Red Wolf the confident 34 year old computer professional — the kind of guy no power-tripping teenage BBSers would dare mess with. I went so far as to engineer a fake “real” name, birth date, and background for this alter-ego to give it realistic consistency throughout the years. His name was John Scagon (a silly name, I know), and he often traveled to Chicago for business meetings (a convenient excuse to not answer chat requests, reply to emails, or for the BBS being down a few days). His birthday was 11/12/1960 — an obviously fake-sounding date that was chosen by me because it was easy to remember. I had an address and phone number made up for him too, but I don’t remember what they were. John Scagon even had a friend in his neighborhood that would come over sometimes and look after the BBS while John was “on vacation.” I did this especially when I felt like having some fun with my callers. Make no mistake; this was not some manifestation of multiple-personality disorder. The line between fantasy and reality in my mind was always firmly drawn, and I am very sane. Rather, John Scagon was a simply role I took on when I was online, like an actor playing a part in a TV show. Although sometimes it was a bit deeper — more like an actor living a part in a TV show.

After a few years of masquerading as John Scagon online, nobody remembered that I was only 13 years old anymore. I tried my hardest to act older, and surprisingly enough, people actually thought that I was 30-something instead of pre-puberty. I established my Scagon act so firmly that when I once tried to tell some people (as Red Wolf online) that I was actually only 14 (at the time), they didn’t believe me. And to this day there are probably dozens of people out there who still think I am a lot older than I really am (sorry to break it to you so late, if you found this entry on a Google search). So much more credibility and esteem is yours for the taking as an older guy if you’re making your rounds in an online community composed of mostly teenagers and college students. Strangely enough, over time I became a kind of father figure that many BBSers, ironically my own age or older, looked up to.

My BBS life was a secret life I never mentioned to anyone my own age. Only one friend in school knew of it, and he was sworn to secrecy. A few of my parents’ friends knew about it, but not many. Not many relatives knew either. It was my own private world that I figured no one else could understand. Besides, if I ever even tried to explain a BBS to someone, it would usually be greeted with a “huh?” and a look of profound confusion from the person I was trying to educate. A completely different layer of reality, the online community, existed on top of the one in which mere “normal” people lived, and it was quite shocking for such people to learn of its existence, and very hard for them to grasp for some reason. That’s why I kept it quiet. Only when your very average Joe started using the Internet around 1999 did I even mention to my classmates that I played with computers as a hobby.

The dichotomy of being that arose from my BBS usage created some interesting situations when my offline life would cross over with the BBS one. That is, when some people I knew in person discovered BBSes and would talk to me about them, not knowing that I ran one myself and had been calling them for many years. Of course, I didn’t tell them that I was Red Wolf and ran The Cave BBS — that was part of the fun. But I’ll save those stories for a future entry.

My alter-ego and I separated long ago. I thought about killing him off in a car wreck in Chicago when I shut down my BBS for good. It would have been a cool story to tell, but it didn’t happen; I couldn’t bear to kill an innocent man. So instead, the two of us just went our separate ways. Today I am very much a different person — I am definitely not John Scagon at all. Years ago, a completely new Red Wolf (in fact, RedWolf — the lack of a space in the name came from the Internet world) grew up to fill the hole left by my alter-ego, then no-longer needed after I had attained sufficient age to be confident in my true identity online. But I feel like John Scagon is still out there somewhere now, although I don’t know where he is or what he’s doing. I find myself wondering what his life is like at 45. Does he have a wife, or even kids? Does he still work with computers? I almost want to email him and ask him how he’s doing, to wax nostalgic over our BBS days together as if he’s a long lost friend. But of course, that would be impossible. Still, I’d like to drink a toast to the man who never was: the mentor inside of me, and my personal guide through a tougher world, long past. Happy birthday, Red Wolf.



12 Responses to “My BBS Alter-Ego Turns 45”

  1. Jay Battle Says:

    BBS’s were the first time I ever needed a username for anything.. and being a 8-9 year old kid, I was Wolverine.. I was Wolverine in every BBS in San Diego, then Colorado. I can still remember clicks and whirr’s of connecting.. and then logging in to play the greatest game ever, Legend of the Red Dragon.. and then the special file areas with warez.. great days

  2. RedWolf Says:

    So you were a young BBSer too — that’s awesome. The sounds of the modem connecting were great. 2400 BPS especially sounded good. Things got a little more noisy around 14.4K BPS. I ran a few games of LORD and those were the most popular games on my board. That and TradeWars 2002. I could barely get anyone to play any other game once LORD came out. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Jay Battle Says:

    Wow.. TradeWars.. I’d forgotten that one..

  4. RedWolf Says:

    Yeah, TW2002 is awesome. I was just recently running a Telnet BBS that had a few TW2002 games on it. We had to abandon the games because we didn’t have enough players. If you’re interested, maybe we can get enough people together to play a game and I’ll put the telnet BBS back up. You can play LORD too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Jay Battle Says:

    I’d be game.. as long as I don’t have to remember all the Telix commands again, that’d be cool.. Too much partying makes memory… uh.. bad..?

  6. RedWolf Says:

    Hehe..I love Telix, still use it to this day. But you won’t need that — there’s a great telnet program called CRT that is perfect for telnet BBSes and for playing TradeWars on the Net. I could send you a copy. But we’ll need more than three people to play for a good game. Got any friends who might want to join in?

  7. Jay Battle Says:

    Sadly, I was the only person that I ever knew that used BBS’s… I did meet a friend off of one ten years ago, but I know no one else.. heh

  8. Brian Jepson’s Weblog » Blog Archive » On the BBS, Nobody Knows You’re Not a Wolf Says:

    […] RedWolf: “Online, I would be Red Wolf, a confident 32 year old computer professional รขโ‚ฌโ€ the kind of guy no power-tripping teenage BBSers would dare mess with.” […]

  9. DarkBringer Says:

    I just found this site tonight while surfing around for retro games. I got into the BBS scene kind of late, around ’93 at the age of 24, which is when I got my first PC, a 486SX-25 with a 210MB HD and 2MB ram. My cousin convinced me to get a modem, so I got this internal Zoon 2100 baud job and I learned how to overcome the nightmare of com ports and modems and serial mice, lol. About a week later I was running a single node RA BBS call The DarkLands. After a month of that I got Synchronet, a 16 node license and 4 brand new phone lines and 4 brand new 14.4 modems. Ahhh those were the days. Anyone run a Synchronet BBS? It was so cool, using Baja to make your own custom screens and crap. Remember THE DRAW? lol. How about loading up Quemm and Deskview so that you could multitask?
    LORD was cool, TW was cool, LOD was cool……but I loved one of the last games that came out right as the BBS started to die to the internet, Exitilus.

  10. RedWolf Says:

    DarkBringer. That’s awesome — thanks for sharing your BBS memories with us. Actually, I currently have a Synchonet BBS online via telnet. It’s not much, but it has some games and you can check it out here:

    telnet to “cavebbs.homeip.net” port 23

    Thanks again.

  11. jas Says:

    just wanted to let everybody know that bbsing is still alive in some form, via telnet.

    there’s a list of bbses here http://telnetbbsguide.com/

    you have to weed through a bunch to find decent bbses, but it’s worth it.
    Also check out http://www.myspace.com/bbses for more bbs information, especially for those
    people that are using vista, you have to enable the telnet client.

    a good client is mt32, you can get it at http://ozone.eesc.com

    i’d like to see more GOOD people in the bbs scene, so i’m working on getting people involved again!

    have a good one!

  12. Brian Says:

    dialup to an old school ‘retro style’ bbs with music – demos – games and more!

    TMS BBS @ (201)-471-2205

    Note: Board maybe busy, keep dialing in

Leave a Reply