The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

5 October 2006

Dispatches from the Gas Chamber

By some standards, I (or my lovely doppelgänger, about whom too much has been said already) achieved Fixture status in the local BBS scene in the middle-to-late 1980s. However, it must be said that while there were plenty of users in my chronological cohort, most of the headlines were inevitably made by, so to speak, punks half my age.

Except for Jack Flack, who was one-third my age.

Flack's memoir Commodork: Sordid Tales from a BBS Junkie, published under his ostensibly-"real" name of Rob O'Hara, is now out and about, and it's about as unfiltered a history of this era as I'm ever likely to see: yes, there were some, um, illicit activities going on, and O'Hara knows copyfests and krackage as well as anyone in this time zone. Today, of course, is (sorta) different:

I pay for the software I need, the music I listen to and the services I use. But this book isn't about now. It's about a time when pirated software ruled the land. Those with the most, newest, and best programs had the power; those who didn't groveled at their feet. It's about good friends, good times, good memories, and good warez.

And woe betide he who pronounces that last word as though it were a city in Mexico.

(Find Commodork at And do read this: it's an overview of that very subculture, written by Flack himself.)

Posted at 6:21 PM to Almost Yogurt , PEBKAC

Heh. Somewhere I'm sure I still have a pirate flag we made Once Upon a Time back in, oh 1985 or so, that has "A.C.U." in glow-in-the-dark letters on it. I believe it stood for "Almighty Commodore Users", which is what we laughingly called our local group of, ah, software traders.

I remember I somehow talked my parents into letting my 16th birthday party be a pirating copy party, with the living room full of C64s all patiently copying files with FastHack'm.

Nowadays, we certainly buy our software (although admittedly having friends employed at Microsoft has been a godsend), but as I recall one of the main reasons for donning the eyepatch back in the day was the outragous software prices at the time. $50 for a game now is a stretch, but not horrendously so (I generally won't pay until it reaches $30 or so, though), but $50 in the mid-1980s was insane.

Posted by: Jennifer at 11:53 PM on 5 October 2006

Pirate flag? LOL I still have one of those somewhere. I really miss BBS' but you can still find a few to telnet to. Every now and then I go and look and see if I can find one that has Crossroads of the Elements. I used to be SO addicted to that game.

Posted by: Diane at 8:07 AM on 6 October 2006