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TUCoPS :: Cyber Culture :: spies.txt

The end of Spies In The Wire

 Spies is shutting down because the time has come.  I've been running it for
 about 7 years, ever since I was a freshman attending college in upstate new
 york.  It's survived through 4 moves, and was run in NY, MA, CA and
 Switzerland.  I have really, honestly enjoyed providing the service, and I
 still feel very strongly about the need to provide such a service at no
 cost.  Information isn't only for those who pay for it.  Systems like
 Netcom, uunet, portal, the well, world, btr, CAT-TALK, zorch, and any of the
 other 90 systems listed in this months NIXPUB offer close to the same
 service as spies did, and often charge up to $30/month for the privilege.

 When I first got involved in computers and modems, back in 1976, BBSs were
 100% hobbyist driven.  They were a meeting place for experimenters,
 tinker-ers, enthusiasts and learners.  When I first started to see the
 decline of such systems, I envisioned a hobbyist spirit that could be best
 described as "Spies in the wire".  With the advent of SHAREWARE (in 1976
 days, if a enthusiast developed a neato program he would place it in the
 public domain, source code and everything) things took a turn.  Basically,
 shareware is driven by greed.  You see, the authors of shareware programs
 had a problem:  They were money motivated.  BUT, they wanted it all.  They
 didn't write their programs for the hobby, for the hack.  They wrote them
 for the explicit purpose of making a profit.  That's fine.  But some clown
 (who will remain nameless, but us oldtimers know who it is) had the
 brilliant idea that he could market his program for a profit, and not have
 to suffer the costs of a normal distribution.  In other words, SHAREWARE
 authors don't have the expense of distributing their software via normal
 channels.  But the cost doesn't disappear.  The cost has been moved to
 systems like this one, who must flip the bill of the harddisk storage for
 there shareware programs, the telephone lines (sometimes more than one), the
 modems, electricity -- everything for the profit of the shareware authors.
 They were using our systems as a free distribution channel, and we weren't
 getting anything out of it!

 I had two goals when I started spies:  Re-kindle the spirit of hobbyist
 computing, which was destroyed by profit-minded individuals.  And to show
 people that there is an alternative to leech-style files-oriented BBSs.  The
 first SPIES BBS ran a BBS package called E-MX.  E-MX was written entirely in
 Z80 assemply language for CP/M machines, by a very nice fellow in Vancouver,
 BC.  It had no files section.  It had a good e-mail system, and a REALLY
 fast message systems.  There was never a pause or hesitation when switching
 message areas for browsing user profiles.  E-MX was elegant and small.  17k,
 if I remember correctly.  I never forgot how well it was deisnged, and it
 had a great influence on my programming style.

 After E-MX, I found Citadel, the original 2.10 by Cynbe (I've forgotton my
 Citadel lore).  I worked alot on the code, and finally got it to run
 multi-user under MP/M in a 48k TPA!  It ran for 3 years on an Altos machine
 while I was in college (in fact, I think Andy Meyer <moebius> still has that

 When I graduated, I left a Kaypro 10 CP/M machine to my college, and the
 psychology department ran a BBS as a social interaction experiment.
 Interestingly, Thom Brown, head of the psychology dept. became dean of the
 college about 4 years ago, and just recently shut down UCC, the BBS I had
 left them.  Ran for close to 6 years after I graduated.

 When I graduated I worked for a robotics company in Geneve, Switzerland.  It
 was tough being an American in a foreign country, so I spent alot of my time
 hacking together Citasim/VAX.  A "Citadel Simulator for the DEC Vax
 mini-computer".  Written in Fortran, no less.  Since I was out of touch with
 the Citadel development happening in the US, I started the design from
 scratch, using what I learned doing the MP/M port.  The goal was to have a
 multi-user citadel, and emulate the user interface, but nothing else.  (ie,
 don't adopt any of the data structures or networking).

 When I returned to NY, I ported Citasim/VAX to the WICAT 68000 mini computer
 (I had done some consulting for WICAT, and they had given me one of their
 machines in payment).  There was born Citasim/WICAT, which I was running for
 about 3 years, and eventually burdened RObert and Carmen with their own
 WICAT systems, and shrugged off the responsability of buggy code.

 Since I had sold my last Wicat system, I was kinda forced to go Unix, if I
 wanted to stay multi-user.  I found a good deal on an Itegrated Solution
 68020 BSD system, and ran a MUD (spymud) alongside Citasim.  Soon, I learned
 that mud had captured most of the local interest (except for a few
 hold-offs, Ult- I salute you - you were right) and I worked on a scheme to
 have both a BBS and a mud run on the same system.  That's when I switched
 from Citasim to waffle.  Tom Dell worked with me and got a version of Waffle
 running NNTP under unix.  Very nice.  I remember first looking at the manual
 for waffle, and saying "Shit, maybe all my shareware hatred was wrong", but
 then I remembered that I hadn't downloaded waffle form a BBS, so I was

 What I learned when I first ran Waffle is that I lost most of the userbase I
 had cultivated when running Citasim.  No more GREAT conversations.
 Everything about waffle was usenet or files oriented, and my users were
 mostly mud-heads at the time.

 In order to stick with my ethic, I weasled an internet connection, trashed
 my corrupt (in the spiritual sense) mud, and offered internet muds for my
 users who needed the fix, and IRC for my users who remembered the rgeat days
 of Citasim CHATTER at 3am.

 Almost worked.  I think I satisfied about 40% of the old Citasim users, 50%
 of the local usenet freaks, 20% new IRC-happy folks, and about 20% of the
 mud-heads.  The happy mediocracy I had become.

 It just didn't sit well.  I had lost my focus.  The enjoyment I sucked from
 all the systems I ever ran really came from the custon software that I
 wrote, nothing else.  Neat hacks that pleased the users.  With Waffle,
 there's not much to do.  It wasn't mine, and I really became a lousy SYSOP,
 and a cranky programmer.

 So.  That's the story.  From E-MX to Waffle, with the same motto: "Spies in
 the wire, in the spirit of hobbyist computing"...

 I'd like to take the time to say that I REALLY, REALLY enjoyed running this
 system for you guys, and the messages I have received in mail and on the
 forums has been terrific!  It's good to see that the system wasn't just
 THERE, it really seems to have made a difference.  I'd like to thank Carmen,
 RObert, Ult, Cindy, Hagbard, monaq, Rich, Panther, and the others who were
 there from the beginning, and really helped to make SPIES a memeorable
 place.  The good times and the bad times changed the way I think about many
 things, but most importantly, they remind me of how much can really be
 accomplished with a stupid computer and modem.

 Take care, and stay in the spirit...
 SYSTEM 0PERATOR/Ducati pilot/Geek

 Post: 21 of 25
 Subject: Yup, I still have it!
 From: moebius (moebius)
 Comment: Sell the kids for food.
 Date: Wed, 30 Oct 91 09:58:44 PST

 ...yes, I still have the Altos that arubin ran E-MX and eventually
 Citadel on in Chappaqua, NY.  As a matter of fact, I thought I was
 the one who turned Andy on to Citadel (wasn't I?!)...

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