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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How to digitise audio tapes

So what's your DR-score?

Or: Cassette Project #2: A reprise

A few years ago I digitised my old tape collection. The results were rather satisfactory.

As is the nature of this beast, other ideas and more tapes have collected since. Some of those tapes were rare, if not unique. Others demanded more attention than the rushed 128kbps rips from the previous round. It seemed sensible to archive some and re-rip others at the highest possible sampling and quality rate.

Here then, if you will, is a list of hints and observations on how to rip audio tapes.

But before you start, do ask yourself what it is that you want to digitise: If it’s stock-standard pop fodder from your youth, you’re better off finding the CD on eBay or in the supermarket’s bargain bin. If it’s on iTunes or Amazon, don’t waste your time ripping tapes; spend a few bucks and “support the artists”. The quality is likely to be better, too.

If you want to preserve or backup historically-relevant tapes, then you shouldn’t need this guide because you’re a qualified expert and have already done so with professional equipment before storing the originals in a climate-controlled archive.

If your reasons for bringing your tape collection into the digital world lie somewhere inbetween, then please, do read on.

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The art of German party music

Karneval in Kölle

Or: Die Kunst der deutschen Stimmungsmusik

As someone who’s amassed and “processed” several hundred tapes in recent years, I had the opportunity to take a good look at certain visual cues in the design of the products put out by record labels. I’ve also mentioned previously how awful Romanian pop music sounded to mine ears.

What I’ve not pointed out is the peculiar pattern in the pictorial artwork (“front covers”) showing photos of the performers — usually wearing traditional garb and almost always posing among trees under poor lighting conditions. A child might have easily had this as the very image of typical Romanians permanently imprinted into an impressionable mind.

The same could be said about the cliché presented by other regional “specialty records” — such as Italian grindcore, American CCM, South African boeremusiek, Japanese lolicore, or any cheesy euro house from the 90’s.

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Being Human


Today I learnt a very valuable lesson about humanity.

I’ve taken a leap towards understanding what “being human” means.

While we marvel at the so-called artificial intelligence of software like Siri and Cortana, we simultaneously fear for our privacy, and we shudder at the thought of autonomous weapons systems and rogue drones.

We need not fear machines. We need to fear those who steer them because those who control the machines pursue not death and mayhem but, rather, take aim at commercial targets. And what’s more human than greed?


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Cassette Project 1: Feeding the monster

Broken decks to repair

That’s it!

Enough! I’ve had it with tapes for a while.

A few years ago I set out to rip my personal tape collection.

I’ve done that and was quite pleased with the results.

Some I’ve now decided to re-rip using a superior tape deck, different software and higher bitrates (if not altogether lossless). I’m still in the middle of that. It’s a tedious and real-time-consuming affair.

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Of dinosaurs and cinemas

Cretaceous Cruise gone wrong

Last Friday we went out to the movies.

We went to see Jurassic World. Blockbusters are always better on the big screen.

There are some movies you just have to see in the cinema, when they come out, munching overpriced popcorn while sitting in a large auditorium with a group of total strangers. It’s just a part of the experience.

What makes this worth writing about is the realisation that the last movie we saw on the big screen was Avatar – which means that it’s been over five years since we went to a cinema! We had to drive all the way from Frankfurt to Mannheim (some 100km away) to watch it in 3D and in English. That’s because in Germany all the movies get dubbed, and I’m certainly not paying full price for half the product.

For the regular 2D experience, there was the venerable Turmpalast – the only place that showed movies in original un-dubbed and un-mutilated splendour. Showing times of “original versions” (as they’re called here) at other cineplexes were a hit-and-miss affair not worth pursuing.

This means that, for all intents and purposes, there was only one cinema in all of Frankfurt and surroundings.

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The Computer Faire & BEXA

NASREC showgrounds parking lot

While not nearly in the same league as its overseas counterparts COMDEX, CeBIT, CES or IFA, the annual “Computer Faire” was a key South African exhibition for those interested in IT/computer technology and office automation.

It was the largest event of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

On a personal level, the Computer Faire was the annual mecca for new technology, demonstrations of the latest gadgetry, and “special bargains”.

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