Boy, does this one ever take me back… to the salad days of the emerging CompuServe culture that congealed around the “CB Simulator.” The quality of discourse was rich then, with a number of effective filters in place (only 140,000 subscribers to this largest of the online services) and considerable self-examination (“What does this mean? Who are we?”). This little article is about a party in meatspace back in June, 1984…
by Steven K. Roberts
August 2, 1984
A number of dramatic differences distinguish life in suburbia and life on a bicycle. Some are refreshing: the pure joy of travel, the daily accumulation of bizarre experiences, fresh air and exercise.
Others can be harder to take, like the difficulty in maintaining a stable social life. This might have become a serious problem with my nomadic lifestyle were it not for the CompuServe network.
Friendships are born daily as CompuServe’s subscribers — nearly 140,000 — sign on to converse via their personal computers and telephone lines.
Through this nationally accessible information service, and the Hewlett-Packard portable computer I carry on the bike, I stay in regular contact with a far-flung circle of friends.
On-line socializing takes place through a much-publicized part of the system known as the “CB Simulator.” Like an electronic pub, it is there day and night as a meeting place (few show up to chat during “prime time” business hours).
Such a resource is a natural boon to my long-distance bicycle odyssey: From any phone, I can meet friends old and new, get the mail and so on. But who, really, are all these people? What do they look like?
I’m not the only one to have wondered about this, and, inevitably, some of the more active users decided to throw a party. Held in Columbus, Ohio, (the home of CompuServe) on a weekend in June, the event drew 130 people from 19 states to meet face-to-face for the first time after months, or even years, of electronic friendship.
The event was alluring enough to inspire my first vacation from the trip. Leaving the bike in Austin, Texas, I flew to Columbus to spend a weekend in the network community.
“You’re Wordy!” shouted someone from across the hotel lobby, bustling through the crowd to pump my hand. “I’m Psydoc!”
“Psy! How U B?” I cried in network lingo, and then a wave of new arrivals descended upon us, and the room was a confusion of hugs and handshakes. Name tags revealed the handles people use on the network: Farquor. Munchkin. Yankee Nighthawk, Cupcake, Easygoing, Polish Prince, Lady Jane and more. All the faces were strange; all the people familiar.
Hotel personnel looked quite mystified as they overheard snippets of partygoers’ conversation: “I found Cups on a stat the other night, but by the time I got back with a control-O, she was already slash-talkin’ with somebody.”
I overheard a reporter quizzing someone about the “X-rated” activities on the system, something that has been blown way out of proportion by the press. “Sorry,” the subscriber replied with a withering glance. “I didn’t buy the Compusex attachment.”
Activities ranged from drinking and socializing to system seminars and tours of CompuServe’s computer facilities. Groups met to discuss refinements to the system; others partied late into the night. LooLoo, the hostess of the whole affair, gave a rousing talk complete with an appeal to God for a successful party. A deep voice boomed from the back of the hall: “Request Recorded. One Moment Please.”
After the Saturday night banquet, a Columbus band called Phil Dirt and the Dozers cut loose with a Beach Boys medley. It quickly turned into a sing-along: “She had fun, fun, fun, till her daddy took the password away.”
And this, from the Columbus Citizen-Journal of June 19, 1984: