Thanks to Clair, who probably just wanted to relax after a long day of work last Thursday but instead endured an expletive-laden phone call about DVD players and why the $&*@ would they put two red holes in the back when there is only one &@@!@& red plug and what kind of moron wrote that worthless piece of &@!$ user manual anyway.
About being a Luddite–I wasn’t always this way. I joined my first dot com in 1992 and was sending e-mails under the influence while some of you were still in nursery school.
The early nineties were dark years at James Madison University. Students had to write papers using Word Perfect 5.1 for DOS and dot matrix printers. To communicate electronically with friends on campus, you had to find student computing services in the basement of Miller Hall and request something called a VAX account*. There were rumors that you could send these electronic messages to people at other schools, but no one really knew how to do it.
During that time, I unknowingly used the Internet by joining a King Arthur listserv, experimenting with IRC, and stumbling across Gopher, a hierarchical repository of every document imaginable. I exploded a friend’s VAX account by using Gopher to send him the Old Testament, screenplays for the Star Wars trilogy, and the complete works of Shakespeare.
But none of this would have been possible without Instigator B, a fellow saxophone player in JMU’s marching band. In the fall of 1992, Instigator B told the saxophone section (around thirty people) to sign up for VAX accounts. He made a list of our user IDs and turned them into sax.com, a command we could use to send messages to the entire group. It was an amazing technological feat.
Sax.com took off, and soon we were using it to arrange party carpools, finalize the shopping list for band trips, and propagate the latest chain-letter hoaxes about stolen livers and Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookies. We didn’t have stock options, but we were bleeding edge dot commers.
* “I have to check VAX” was a common phrase around campus.
UPDATE: Do you remember your first e-mail address?