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The golden days of analogue

My little page about South African Bulletin Board Systems doesn’t pull in many visitors.

This doesn’t surprise me in the least; a bunch of pages with tables and text about obsolete technology in some remote country is a little too, shall we say, “isolated”. It’s rather specialised. I’m well aware of this.

Imagine my surprise then when earlier this month it was exactly the obscure subject matter about an exotic country that the site got referenced by a syndicated article about early online communities and forerunners of the internet we take for granted today.

Go on, read the articles about a BBS that kept Serbians informed amidst dropping bombs and how Peter Gabriel is an unsung hero in the proliferation of early internet access.

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On Facebook, BBSes and Big Data

Shredded BBS membership forms

Facebook is the unchallenged 800-pound gorilla in the social media arena.

There’s never been anything quite like it, nor is anything going to take its place any time soon. Even supposed “Facebook killers” like Ello, diaspora* and Google+ go by almost completely unnoticed. That lowercase “f” logo is more famous than the Golden Arches.

To some, Facebook is the Internet and the first port of call for their daily dose of news, events, social updates, political rants, cat pictures, or what your so-called friends had for dinner last night. It’s the obvious choice if you want to keep in touch with your family without having to actually do so — especially now that everyone and their mother is on Facebook (whether they know this or not).

The “like” button didn’t even exist back when I signed up on Facebook sometime in February 2008 (for pre-emptive reasons), and I found it to be as useless then as I do today. Despite spending some time on it in recent days, I still don’t really “get it”.

Facebook is quite the time-waster, in fact.

It’s counter-productive — unless you have something to promote.

Or people to stalk. Facebook is a people-data aggregator like no other.

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A thousand contributions

Piles of compact discs

Last night I made my 1000th contribution to the Discogs database.

It’s a landmark achievement. One thousand new audio entries!

It’s also baffling why it took almost 12 years to get to this stage.

Bulk tape additions and stupid digital releases aside, for some reason I kept cherry-picking the interesting things to add from my stash — sometimes the challenging items, sometimes the easy ones — until this year where I’m rummaging through discs of the compact kind.

And then a certain number approached: Contribution 1000 just had to be special, so I hauled out this childhood sin. Check it out here. You can dance if you want to.

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Fan mail

Some fan mail truly cracks me up!

Discogs is a cross-functional site. People use it for all sorts of things.

Some use it for research, some use it to showcase their personal music collection, and some use it to buy and sell stuff. Other users are here just to chat with like-minded gear heads.

To many, it’s a hobby. It’s a small community.

Then there are those dedicated ones who delight in identifying IFPI codes and CD matrices to help nail down the exact date and location that a CD or record may have been pressed, authoring the most informative articles about pressing plants and recording studios while other users make concerted efforts to identify and profile every artist they can.

Take, for instance, a guess at how many British rock guitarists named “John Smith” there are and then understand that no one John Smith is more relevant, important, topical or “bigger” than another simply because of a numerical suffix.

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Rewind: 2015

Pssst! Want to know who our users are?

Ah, 2015! What an eventful year.

Marred by the wilful decimation of fellow human beings, this year has once again shown how adept the human race is at causing its own demise. We love harming one another.

France was a particularly popular place for getting executed by people of Arab origin who take their religious beliefs way too seriously: 2015 started with two gunmen shooting up the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper as part of a series of coordinated attacks in Paris during which 17 people were killed. Later in the year, on Friday, the 13th of November, another series of terrorist attacks across Paris left 130 people dead, including 89 at the Bataclan theatre.

ISIS also claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian airliner over Egypt that left 224 civilians dead in October.

All of this is chicken feed compared to the ongoing spate of mass murders by fellow militant nutjobs like Boko Haram in shitholes such as Nigeria and Cameroon, or the continuing acts of terrorism by the Taliban, al-Quaeda and ISIS Daesh in places like Ankara, Beirut, Kenya, Tunisia, Yemen, or San Bernardino, USA.

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Best-of-the-year radio charts

Radio 5: Good vibes countrywide

Like most teenagers of the eighties, I grew up with one ear permanently stuck to the radio.

Not only was a good radio station a “random playlist” of the popular tunes of the time (with the odd few oldies thrown in), it also told the news, had interviews, played live or recorded concerts (even via FM-stereo simulcasts with mono TV), and anything else related to music and pop culture.

Radio provided the soundtrack to my formative years.

In early-80’s South Africa, it was Radio 702 (being an English language-only station) before I switched to Radio 5 in around 1985 after they ditched their Afrikaans presenters and went FM-stereo.

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Revisiting the SA BBS Scene

Loose, hand-scribbled BBS notes

May I quickly point your attention towards the SA BBS Scene microsite?

Originally launched in 2011, new and missing information has become painstakingly slow to find and validate over subsequent years. Thankfully, some ex-SysOps and users have since crawled out of the woodworks to help fill in some of the blanks, and to wax nostalgic.

Those loose snippets of data have finally been incorporated.

But no, I still haven’t found more details of the bulletin board system that was run out the Stax store in Alberton City — although I did speak to its SysOp on a few occasions.

Nor has anyone else been willing to commit their full and sordid BBS stories to the afterworld because either the data was deleted, stolen during a burglary or is best left unspoken due to the “unpleasantness” associated with software- and porn raids.

It’s as if for some people the BBS period is a chapter they would rather forget about.

Memories are starting to fail. History is getting lost in front of our very eyes.

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The future is today

Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads!

Today is “Marty McFly Day” or, alternatively, “Back to the Future Day”.

Today is the day in the future that Marty McFly arrived on 30 years ago.

Over the last few years there have been numerous waves of idiotic memes or gullible Facebook posts which proclaimed that “today” was the day, or that we had just missed it, or similar such stupidity. They were all wrong.

That day is today.

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