Saturday, April 4, 2009

Side track - The Mace

A side track from my ramblings on IT setup. Why is this blog called "The Mace's Musings"? What/Who is "The Mace"?

This goes back to high school in the days where the internet barely existed and computer bulletin board systems (BBS) were the gathering spots of the geeks like me. Basically they were computers with modems attached to phone lines that one person at a time could call from their computer to that BBS and post their comments/download stuff and log off for the next person. Some more advanced ones had multiple lines but that was pretty rare in the early days. Back then they were places to chat with people, but more often than not they were used to distribute "Warez" or software. For the most part, in those days, there wasnt much freeware/shareware and the bulk of software getting downloaded was commercial/stolen. Those were the days of 300 baud apple cat modems (with a later huge upgrade to 1200 baud) and software applications that fit on a floppy. Still downloads took forever and new file transfer protocols like xmodem and zmodem were being pushed to help speed things up and recover from broken connections etc. There was a huge culture around all of this and it was mostly an Apple II/Apple Cat world.

Anyway, I started with my Apple II and a modem and started dialing into the BBS's. Back then everyone used a handle so nobody knew who really was downloading the software etc. The handle was your bulletin board identity and people and groups like the Legion of Doom had them and became well known in the community. 

I was in my basement one day with a good friend and we both were getting started in the community and figured we needed handles. He was into comic books, especially "Thor" and picked Odin, a Nordic god associated with war. We both liked the war and fantasy games like Wizardry. My choice was a weapon, a mace, personified to The Mace. The choice was both due to the weapon(ness) of it as well as an indirect reference to my last name.

From there I used this new handle and visited many BBS's across the country and eventually ran my own, starting with a single one and eventually franchising out to multiple states and I became fairly well known for a while. I dropped off the grid when I turned 17 and decided to follow a more legal path in life. I heavily modified some base BBS software to give my own stuff its own unique feel and draw and this was the beginning of any real programming with a purpose for me.

So thats where The Mace came from. 

As an amusing aside, about 20 years after I picked "The Mace", I was chatting with someone who worked for me at work many states away from where I grew up and we were talking about the early days in computers. We eventually got around to BBS's and he found out I was "The Mace". He had frequented my system and knew who "The Mace" was. Small world.

Those formative years in remote connections, tunneling through AT&T's computers, hacking/crack systems, distributed work, and programming have shown their influence on me for the last 20 years. While i'm not proud of some of it, I wouldn't be who I am without it.