Two things you need to know about for this story: 1) BBSes, 2) JIVE.com.
1) Back in the pre-internet days, there were these things called BBSes. I’m not going to explain it every time I post about it, but it was way more rewarding than the internet.
It was, however, very sparse. There’s only so many people online in your calling area, and when you can only use a BBS one person at a time, it takes awhile for things to happen.
Imagine having to read a forum on a webpage where, 99% of the time, you would get a 404 NOT FOUND error — because someone else was reading it at the same time.
Imagine having to reload that webpage throughout the day, hoping to get a chance when the page will actually load, and give you a chance to read and write on it. That’s what BBSing was like, metaphorically.
Also, imagine the page loaded slower than how fast you could read. Furthermore, everyone you met was guaranteed to be local, so this made it “creepy” in ways the internet isn’t. I got to be assaulted multiple times in real life, at the mall, while sleeping at my best friends’ house, at a concert… I got death threats phoned in. I’ve called police both in Prince William County and at Virginia Tech. BBSes are nice and cozy — everyone is within a few miles of you.
Check out this scare piece on BBSes, probably written around 1990.
So anyway, the year was around 1989. The county was Prince William County, VA. The first multi-phoneline BBS, Info*Share (703-803-8000), emerged. It was a chat board. That’s all it was. Call, and go into channels in chat (there was usually only 1), like in IRC.
You paid per the minute, too. But I believe I got a 1 year, or maybe lifetime membership for $30. That’s how much I wanted to use the computer to talk to interesting people. The people I met in meatspace weren’t nearly as interesting as the people I met in cyberspace. And the best part is, I got all that money refunded to me in the end!
2) JIVE.COM. The other component to this story is JIVE.COM. (No, jive.com is not a website. In 1988, .COM was an executable extension, like .EXE. JIVE.COM and JIVE.EXE would mean the same thing).
So anyway, there was this program called JIVE.COM. It was, basically, a racist comedy program to convert text to “jive”, like the “jive” language featured in the movie Airplane.
If you want to try it out, download it here. The file’s date is 10/25/1986. My computer won’t run it anymore, unless I use DosBox, which doesn’t support copy and paste, so I can’t provide a sample of the output. The closest thing I could find on the web is the Dialectizer, but you need to change the dropdown from “Redneck” to “Jive”. It’s NOT the same conversion algorithm, though. Jive.com would chainge every exclaimation mark to “Slap mah fro!”. It was ridiculous.
So anyway, I happened to have a good understanding (for a kid my age) of input/output redirection, and I knew my modem was on the COM2: port. So I had the brilliant idea of piping the entire chat room through jive.com, by using the command:
JIVE <com2: >com2:
Of course, I had to drop to DOS from my BBS program, because you could only run one program at a time back then. So I didn’t get the luxury of seeing what happened during those 5 minutes that Jive redirected all of Info*Share’s output back into Info*Share, converted into Jive.
I didn’t get to see the flooding of the channel I caused. One of Prince William County‘s first denial of service attacks. Nobody could chat for those 5 minutes, because anything typed would cycle through my computer, come out as jive, go to the channel, come back to me, get converted to jive again, creating an infinite loop.
I stopped after 5 minutes. Some people thought it was funny. A few people were pissed. I got kicked off, and refunded my money, which meant that I spent a whole summer having more fun than I otherwise would have had for free.
And became the first user in Prince William County to be kicked off a pay BBS. This was before the internet or AOL was available to people. This was back in the CompuServe days… I like to think I’m a pioneer in techno-anarchy :)
Music: Megadeth – Tornado Of Souls