Sunday, August 26, 2007

A World Transfigured

The BBS DOCUMENTARY is a fascinating and careful examination of a world long gone; its author, Jason Scott, has also set up a website called TEXTFILES.COM which is a repository of the often crass and irreverent writings of that sub-culture. I frequented BBSes from middle school on until early 1999; mostly as a lurker and leech. The boards I dialed-into were much more of the public domain, rather than underground, variety. The Engine One and Engine Shop BBSes served as my Internet portals in Chicago, free of charge, until I moved away.

Link to the BBS DOCUMENTARY homepage.
There are eight episodes available on Google video. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8. Viewing the streaming version is legit because the documentary is under a creative commons license.
Link to the TEXTFILES.COM directory.
INTERNET ARCHIVE has 20 of the interviews from the documentary, uncut (link). I watched the one with Dead Lord of the Legion of Doom. He's a mild mannered fellow who unwittingly dodged Operation Sundevil and went on to run Manhattan's first ISP (link to the interview). The Legion of Doom plays a large role in Bruce Sterling's HACKER CRACKDOWN (link).

The Archive also has the two television shows that covered computerization from 1983 on, both by the same fellow, Stewart Cheifet. THE COMPUTER CHRONICLES (link)ran from 1983 to 2002, and THE NET CAFE (link) ran from 1996 to 2002. The second show has a very telling social & cultural bent.

There are many things worthy of notice on the
INTERNET ARCHIVE.; entirely unique, though, is the inclusion of material from the Prelinger Archive a "a collection of over 60,000 ephemeral (advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur) films" (link), many of which lay bear the mid-20th century American psyche. Amid all the pyscho-social conditioning is a wonderful account of the construction of the Watts Towers in Los Angeles, built single-handedly by Simon Rodia over the course of thirty-years. (link to to the short movie, link to Wikipedia entry, link to 2,000+ Flickr photos of the Watts Towers).

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