Meeting my mister, part 1.

I'll set the scene.

Warning. There are a whole lot of parentheses in your near future. (okay?)

It's October, 1995. Rexburg Idaho. I had just turned 20, and was moving out of my parents' house for the second time (the first was to Utah for college in 1993, from which I had dropped out, and which is another story), and into an apartment "in town." (as the Sugar City people called it)

Before We Met, Was the Internet

First I need to explain some backstory in the geek world, because this plays in. In 1995, computers looked like this:

"The Internet" actually began as a search engine. Information was stored all over the place in FTP servers. Here's an article on the short history of search engines.

Before search engines were developed, the Internet was a collection of File Transfer Protocol (FTP) sites in which users would navigate to find specific shared files. As the central list of web servers joining the Internet grew, and the World Wide Web became the interface of choice for accessing the Internet, the need for finding and organizing the distributed data files on FTP web servers grew.
— The History of SEO

The way you found out about sites was through "listservs" - essentially a loose community where you could find specific sites related to an area of interest. You'd then go to that specific site. By 1994, BYU (my college), was using Gopher as its "search engine" and you could type in keywords to look things up. In the library. Because nobody had actual internet anywhere except the library or the computer labs in the engineering building.

So. Text-everything. (the first web browser, Netscape, was born in 1994). So rather than using HTTP (look familiar?), the oldsters would actually LOG IN to a specific server to browse the files there. They'd use FTP (also look familiar?), or another protocol called Telnet

This is deeply geeky, but bear with. The good stuff is coming. 

The Beginning of Online Games: MUD and MUSH

In the early 1990s, online text-based role-playing games were becoming were popular among the ultra-nerdy set at colleges all over the country (essentially you had to be a computer science student to have heard of them). The files (yep. text.) were usually stored on a college server somewhere, and if more than one person was logged in (Telnet) at the same time, they could talk to each other.

So we did like any good nerd would do, and we made up characters and played as them. Wait. Did I say text-based? Why yes. Here is what they looked like. 


The games developed several names, including MUD (pronounced like it sounds, and means Multi-User Dungeon), MUSH (I heard this one as Multi-User Shared Hallucination), MOO, and others. Here's a history of MUDs and MUSHes on Wikipedia.

So you would go to a specific site (using Telnet, with a Telnet client), and log in to the site, and join in with whoever else was there. Navigation through the world was by typing which direction you wanted to go. Interacting with objects (created using a programming language called MUSHcode), was also through text. Fighting monsters or other players - you guessed it. 

Each server had a specific theme, and I played on one that was designed after Frank Herbert's Dune

And if you haven't read Dune, GET ON THAT. It is an awesome, awesome book, and was written in 1965 and 40 years later is still amazing. Go right now. I'll wait for you.

So. I spent many, many spare hours through spring, summer, and fall of 1994 playing Dune MUSH, mostly in the computer science lab. I talked to people and role-played. I'm not much for straight-up combat, even still today.  

So this brings me to the actual meeting of my Mister. Which is the next post. ;) Now Dune? You have your assignment.

Your Turn

What is your first experience with the internet?