|History comes back to.. give you a warm hug|
April 14, 2004, 10:23:38 am
Well here's a bit of history I never expected to come back to again. I'm really really surprised. Sean Malloy and I were chatting about Smalltalk Solutions and in my BIO for that I mentioned that I ran a BBS. It twigged in his memory that he had bought something off me more than seven years ago!
The plot thickens. Back then I used to run a BBS called Walrus. There were over ten BBS's here in Canberra at the time and I don't mind gloating that mine was one of the more popular ones. But not only did I make the BBS, do the art for it, install the largest collection of free BBS games in Canberra's history - but I also made programs for it!
One program was called MAFRAG/fC, which was later renamed to MAFRAG and those interested can get a copy of it right here. That was the second surprise - that my code had survived all these years and made it on to the internet.
Another surprise came from the fact that apparently I made $10 off of Sean Malloy, only to in later versions make the software free. I guess I owe Sean $10!, because I sincerely cannot remember actually getting any money for this software. I remember I once got one paying customer for my BBS, which was mostly free any way.
The next pleasant surprise was the FILE_ID.DIZ from California. I had not realised my software had gone that far.. but the comment was not one of my own, it ended with "Mafrag is the best looking, easiest to setup and use area changer around. Use it now." You can't be unhappy with that kind of press.
Then I started to feel out of my time-travelling depth as I delved in to the file DOCS/HISTORY.DOC where I got a perculiar glimpse of Michael Lucas-Smith back when he was less than 16 years of age!
It was here that I started to get some strange distant memories back. I remember getting a letter from America from a lady, who's age I didn't get. The mail thanked me for MAFRAG, which I was really happy about, and asked for a new feature to do with messages. Probably telling you if you have unread mail in a message area.
I thought this was sooo cool. And it was. The letter even had the smell of perfume on it. My first crush! And I didn't even really know who she was. Being my usual self, I never got around to replying to her by mail, let alone adding the feature she requested. Alas, she'd caught me as my interest in BBS's was disappearing and my interest in the internet was growing.
(PS: if you're out there and reading this.. I'll be in America soon, let's get together and discuss how I let you down!)
From the bottom up, it looks as though I originally made this program as a 'file area chooser'. In BBS's you would offer up lots of files to your users and categorise them in to file areas. Say, one for FAQ's, one for DEMO's, one for GAMES's, etc.. And users would need a nice simple way to navigate between areas.
It looks as though I even tried to make a few bucks off it. For you need to register it. Alas, this is where the problems began. At not only v4.0, did I have people hacking my registration keys. I changed the registration keys in version v5.0 but that didn't last long either. As in v5.3 I included the register program and in v5.4 I completely removed the requirement to register. I made the program free!
I was ahead of my years. To combat cracking I made the program free. Pretty simple eh? I was ahead of my years in many other respects too. Here I was.. 15, 16 years old, and I was receiving bug reports from European BBS's! Wowee! It's a shame "open source" didn't exist back then in the BBS world, otherwise we'd have the source code available right here and now to inspect and see how bad a programmer I was. Anyway...
It gets better. The configuration program for this application was WYSIWYG! Yes, that's right. You make your ANSI graphics and the config program lets you interactively size and position where the active portion of the screen is. You can then pick the number of columns 0 for 'auto', 1-9 for column counts. You can even set justification, left, right, center, 'pretty print'. Incredible! and the thing was optimised to use the least amount of screen updating so that it would work well on a 14.4k modem!
I'm flabbergasted.. Gobsmacked.. Awed by my younger self. I really was a smart assed know it all!
By alan knight on April 14, 2004, 11:48:06 am