When my father bought a Zenith Z-100 I took ownership of his TRS-80 Model II. Back then people were more interested in celebrating the moment over time stamping what they did so there is no date on the diploma I got after my BASIC course. I believe I was about 10 or 11 when I started spending entire days writing simplistic programs on a horrendously expensive $4000 dollar computer with only 64k of memory (1982). $4000 in those days was the price of a sweet car and that was about the same amount of money my father paid for his 1969 Dodge Charger. Of course the cassette recorder/player, for the TRS-80, was hundreds of dollars extra. But I never got it to work and every day I would start over. I was envious of my father’s new computer, a fancy 8-colour machine that came with two 320k dual-sided 5.25-inch floppy disk drives. Those floppies worked almost every time! My father expanded the 128k RAM that came with his computer in order to do his house plans. You see, my dad wanted to be an architect, but somehow wound up with a masters in Physics because, it is rumoured, that was a preferable career to his dad, a mechanical engineer. Back in those days, there was only one way to get your hands on cool tech in town… the local Radio Shack. Software was harder to find so computer enthusiasts would turn to Popular Electronics. My father was a long time subscriber of this magazine from when he sourced and configured computers for the Canadian Army. These magazines had so much cool content I could never wrap my head around but also some curious things. In the back there were small advertisements for software and content. This was the time when men started programming in their basement and used small ads in magazines and hobbyist newsletters to sell the fruits of their labour. If using a computer to connect and communicate an idea or a feeling is the essence of Social Media, then Social Media took off when men used the old fashion postal system to buy and sell ASCII porn for their computer. It wasn’t Social Media that I got to be a part of, I could only observe from the outside what other people got to do with their computer.
If using a computer to connect and communicate an idea or a feeling is the essence of Social Media, then Social Media took off when men used the old fashion postal system to buy and sell ASCII porn for their computer.
The home that my father built using the plans he made on his fancy Zenith had a special room for his collection of Popular Electronics Magazines. The latest and greatest computer was always the most awesome thing in our home and it seemed like my father was always the first to acquire each new processor. It is no surprise that when I was 20, I got a custom built computer, an 8088 with a graphic card that could support thousands of colors. Of course I couldn’t test the amazing quality of my graphics card until I figured out how to download pictures using the 14,4KPS modem that my brother gave me soon after that. Around 1990, I discovered Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes) when I joined Remy Gendron’s Starfleet Command BBS in Québec City. There I found my way to the international forums, notably, InterUser with its hundrends of users scattered all over the world, going as far away as Vladivostok, Russia. When I officially joined the revolution, I got up at 4h30 daily to read and write with people everywhere. I even printed out the daily messages so I could read them at school (I was studying Tourism at Mérici) and at my weekend job in a religious museum. Back then my handle was *Milly* and I felt like the most popular girl around… I was also the only girl who actively wrote on InterUser. I grew frustrated that I could not see who I was writing to so I asked everyone to send me 5$ and a picture so I could make a photo album of all of us. My little four page book of faces went out to about 10 people, most of whom are still friends on the newest Facebook.
In mid-1992 I joined Douglas Kitson’s SquareHeads BBS, Québec City’s only English BBS. SquareHeads had user profiles which made it particularly fun to browse. In fact, it is on SHBBS that I found my first husband after posting a short personal. I published another InterUser yearbook in 1993, the same year I purchased and implemented a pre-Internet computer dating system that used snail mail mixed in with computer matching of profiles. That was tedious to operate and I soon discovered the ‘real’ Internet, in 1994, and immediately began building Web sites. It was more work-intensive to create a thousand page site about As The World Turns than to simply list the soap opera as an interest on a Facebook profile. But it became the main catalyst that created connections with others including a few of the show’s cast. Usenet, the text-based forum system, fell by the wayside as users moved to online bulletin boards with profiles that tracked your contributions and allowed for private messages and having friends. This step was necessary on the road to Social Media the way we know it today, a system with zero barrier to entry that everybody can use and abuse for free.