Archive for the 'BBS History' Category

Revisiting Hotline, the 1990s Internet BBS Platform

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Hotline Revisited

Back in the mid-late 1990s, an Internet-based BBS platform called Hotline sprung up and quickly spread throughout the Macintosh community. It was basically a client/server BBS software suite that allowed for multi-user chat, file transfers, and message boards.

By the early 2000s, though, Hotline had mostly died out. Today, only a handful of servers remain. But guess what? You can still connect to them — on Windows or a Mac. A new article I wrote for Macworld, “Hotline Revisted,” tells you how.

Have fun. Remember to be kind to the Hotline veterans when you visit.

[ Retro Scan Special ] Buying from Epic Games in 1996

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Epic MegaGames Shareware Registration Invoice - 1996Epic MegaGames purchase invoice in January 1996.

You’re looking at a rare physical artifact from the twilight of shareware’s golden age.

Way back in 1996, when Gears of War maker Epic Games still went by “Epic MegaGames,” I ordered a few registered copies of its shareware games through CompuServe.

Since it was a special buy-and-download deal (very unusual in 1996), I didn’t receive copies of the games themselves on disk. Instead, Epic mailed an invoice, copies of the games’ instruction manuals (which have been displaced from this set, or else I would have scanned them too) and a shareware demo disk from Epic partner Safari Software.

[ Continue reading [ Retro Scan Special ] Buying from Epic Games in 1996 » ]

[ Retro GIF of the Week ] X-Men’s Colossus BBS Ad

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Colossus X-Men Retro GIFClick to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ]

In ye olden days, BBS sysops often tagged image files that came within their possession with makeshift ads for their BBSes, as can be seen here on this image of Marvel’s Colossus. The BBS in this case is “The Users’s Choice BBS,” which sysop Martin Scolero ran in Indianapolis, Indiana between 1990 and 1996. (That info is courtesy a historical BBS list created by Jason Scott.)

[ Continue reading [ Retro GIF of the Week ] X-Men’s Colossus BBS Ad » ]

[ Retro GIF of the Week ] Atari Jaguar Debut Photo

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Official Press Photo Atari Jaguar Console 1993 Retro GIFClick to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ]

Just two days ago, Sony announced the PlayStation 4 at a press event in New York. It reminded me of the last time I eagerly awaited a new console launch. That would be way back in 1993 with the introduction of the Atari Jaguar (check out the original press release at that link).

I was a huge Atari fan at that time, and I was also very active on the “GO ATARI” forum on CompuServe. From that forum, I downloaded this early Jaguar press image in 1993. It’s an official press image created and uploaded to CompuServe by Atari Corp. itself — quite possibly the very first one.

[ Continue reading [ Retro GIF of the Week ] Atari Jaguar Debut Photo » ]

[ Retro GIF of the Week ] Doom II at the Office

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Doom II Office Fan Art 1996 Retro GIFClick to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ]

This particular image, titled “Another Day at the Office,” is one of the gems of my personal GIF collection. I believe I downloaded it from CompuServe, and I likely downloaded it on the file date, June 16, 1996.

The image itself is a computer-crafted ode to Doom II that merges a real digitized photograph with imagery ripped straight from id Software’s famous first-person shooter.

Such a passion for Doom II in the workplace isn’t foreign to me. In an office where I worked in the mid-late 1990s, certain engineers were known to play late night four-player Doom deathmatches over the company LAN.

[ Continue reading [ Retro GIF of the Week ] Doom II at the Office » ]

[ Retro GIF of the Week ] Cheryl Tiegs: Queen of the GIF

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Apple I Smithsonian 1992 Retro GIFClick to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ] [ 4:3 Ratio ]

I’ve always thought of VC&G as sort of a family friendly blog, so I don’t plan on delving into adult GIFs any time soon. But we might as well talk about bikini photos, because they were some of the most heavily traded GIF images in the BBS days. They provided culturally acceptable PG- or PG-13-level titillation, and male teenagers (arguably the primary users of BBS systems in many areas) flocked to them.

Just recently, I searched my GIF archives for the oldest GIF format bikini photo I could find. I came up with this image of Cheryl Tiegs in a file dated October 29th, 1987, which is only four months after the June 15, 1987 publication date of the first GIF specification (GIF87a, for those keeping track).

The image itself is derived from a photo taken by Walter Iooss Jr. for the 1978 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. The sharpness of the image suggests to me that it was scanned (vs. video captured), either with a flatbed or handheld color scanner, and likely from that issue itself.

I don’t know who scanned it. It could have been Jim Maxey, who originated many GIF files in the format’s early days, but since the image isn’t tagged with his BBS information, I doubt it. Maxey also tended to work with video capture boards verses scanners at that time.

Regardless of who created this image, it’s a nice, relatively tame example of 16-color EGA bikini art. Upon viewing it, you can almost feel its 1970s girl-next-door wholesomeness flowing out of your computer screen. And that’s despite her see-through fishnet bathing suit, which was scandalous in 1978.

(Note that Tiegs’ name is misspelled in the file name as “TEIGS”)

[ Wondering what a GIF is? Read the introduction to this column. ]

Retro GIF of the Week Fact Box
Source File Name: TEIGS.GIF
Source File Date: October 29, 1987
Source File Format: GIF – 87a (non-interlaced)
Dimensions: 640 x 350 pixels (EGA)
Color Depth: 4-bit (16 color)
Origin Platform: IBM PC
Derived From: Scanned photograph taken by Walter Iooss Jr.
Creation Date: 1987
Artist: Unknown
If you know more about the origin of this image, please leave a comment.

[ Retro GIF of the Week ] Digitized Autumn Leaves

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Autumn Leaves MaxiPic Jim Maxey Retro GIF - circa 1988Click to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ]

From 1983 to 1996, James “Jim” Maxey operated a very successful Oregon-based BBS called Event Horizons. Through that board’s file section, Maxey made available thousands of GIF images in many categories, from landscapes to pornography, that he had created using a video digitizer board and conversion software called T-EGA.

Bob Talmadge wrote an excellent profile of Jim Maxey’s BBS years for his site BBSDays.com. I recommend reading it if you’re interested in learning more about Maxey’s BBS. Also, Jack Rickard of BoardWatch magazine mentioned Maxey’s early 1990s image-related BBS activities in an article he wrote for Wired issue 1.04 in 1993.

The early and pioneering nature of Maxey’s color graphics files for IBM PC computers ensured that his digital pictures, which he called “MaxiPics,” spread far and wide to other BBSes at the time. This is one such picture, and it depicts a house and yard in autumn. The 640 x 350 EGA format file dates from 1987 and was likely captured from a video source — more on that in a moment.

[ Continue reading [ Retro GIF of the Week ] Digitized Autumn Leaves » ]

[ Retro GIF of the Week ] Happy New Year 1993

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Happy New Year 1993 Raytraced Retro GIFClick to see other views of this image:
[ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ]

In honor of the impending New Year, I bring you this ray traced image that dates back to December 1992 — 20 years ago — and celebrates New Year 1993.

As per its inscription, this image was created using StrataVision 3D and retouched with PhotoMac by its author, CT. I have not determined who CT is yet, but I will do some more poking around soon and update this entry if I find out. (If you find out first, please let me know.)

Happy New Year!

[ Wondering what a GIF is? Read the introduction to this column. ]

Retro GIF of the Week Fact Box
Source File Name: NEWYEAR.GIF
Source File Date: December 16, 1992
Source File Format: GIF – 87a (non-interlaced)
Dimensions: 640 x 480 pixels
Color Depth
(bits per pixel):
8-bit (256 color)
Origin Platform: Macintosh
Derived From: Unknown
Creation Date: Likely December 1992
Artist: CT
If you know more about the origin of this image, please leave a comment.

Prodigy 20 Years Ago Today

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

The Main page of Prodigy on December 25 1992 by Benj EdwardsAn angle-corrected close-up view of Prodigy’s front page on Christmas 1992.

Twenty years ago today, I awoke with anticipation and ran downstairs. It was Christmas morning, and I could hardly wait to open my presents.

One of those presents turned out to be a connection kit to Prodigy online service, which I had been begging my father to buy for most of the year. 1992 was the year I jumped head-first into computer telecommunications by calling local BBSes. I became fascinated with modems and wanted to explore their every possible application.

That Christmas morning, my dad was on hand to document my first experiences with Prodigy using the family Sony Camcorder. I have captured various stills from that video, and I am posting them here to share a small slice of the Prodigy experience in 1992.

Unfortunately, my computer at the time, the IBM PS/2 Model 25 (which my dad purchased new circa 1987 and later became a hand-me-down to me), came equipped with a monochrome monitor. So the glory of Prodigy Christmas 1992 in color is sadly now lost to history (well, unless someone else out there can find some color screenshots of Prodigy on Christmas 1992).

[ Continue reading Prodigy 20 Years Ago Today » ]

[ Retro GIF of the Week ] The Feminine Eye

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Eye Retro GIF - circa late 1980sClick to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ] [ 3X Zoom ]

This eye is more than meets the eye. You probably can’t see it at this size, but click on the “3X Zoom” link above and you might notice a face and what might be a shoulder (or a six-fingered hand) reflected in the pupil of the eyeball. Neat detail.

Unlike many GIFs that circulated back in the day, this one is signed — twice, in fact. In the upper left, we see a small box containing stylized letters spelling “The Mage.” In the lower right, we see “A.H.”

I’ve seen other GIFs with the same resolution and color depth signed “A.H.”, so I assume that is the artist. “The Mage” might have been the name of a BBS that happened to tag the image, or perhaps is was simply an alias of A.H.

When combined with its 320 x 200 dimensions, its odd 5-bit / 32-color color depth reveals that this image was created on an Amiga. That means it is likely that it did not originate as a GIF file, and that it could be older than the 1992 file date. But until I find an older source of the image, I won’t know for sure.

Retro GIF of the Week Fact Box
Source File Name: EYE2.GIF
Source File Date: August 6, 1992
Source File Format: GIF – 87a (non-interlaced)
Dimensions: 320 x 200 pixels
Color Depth: 5-bit (32 color) (Amiga OCS)
Origin Platform: Amiga
Derived From: Unknown
Creation Date: Unknown
Artist: Avril Harrison (Updated 12/11/2012)
If you know more about the origin of this image, please leave a comment.