Someday, some poor student working on a Ph.D. is going to try to explain USENET and how it operated (and didn’t) as part of their thesis; maybe they’ll be crazy enough to look at it in the wider context of the birth of the Internet in its current form, and whatever it decides to become.
I doubt there’s a better explanation for what it was like to live through USENET from start to finish than the USENET Olympics. Scott Forbes had this wonderful ability to both put things in perspective and make them horribly funny at the same time, without ever taking things very seriously. Sort of like Dave Berry, sort of like Scary Movie, finding the essence within the silly.
So running into this again today was truly a trip back to the past for me; for most of you, for all I know, this is going to be gibberish….
(and, in fact, I did actually use the phrase “they aren’t rules, they’re guidelines” in the last couple of weeks, and then laughed a bit. Much to the confusion of the people I was with at the time; I declined to explain then, because that was a rathole not worth travelling. But the answer is actually here in Scott’s piece…..)
[Chuq and Peter are walking away from Lawrence Stadium on a
road made entirely of asbestos bricks.]
>Isn’t there SOMETHING you can tell me about this place, other
>than the obvious “Wizard of Oz” parallels?
>You must find the answers for yourself. There is no other way.
>Who or what is at the end of the road? Emerald City? The Wizard?
>It will all be clear to you when we reach the end of our quest.
>Look, all I want to do is change the Guidelines. Why is –
[There is a terrifying high-pitched wail, trailing off into
frequencies beyond human hearing, and filled with terrible purpose.
A Rulewraith on a winged steed descends from the sky, blocking
the path before Peter and Chuq. The Rulewraith looks suspiciously
like Jose Martinez:]
>THE GUIDELINES ARE INFLEXIBLE! THEY MUST BE FOLLOWED TO THE
>EXACT LETTER WITHOUT ACCOMODATION! THEY MUST NOT BE BENT OR
>ALTERED OR MODIFIED! YOU WILL NEVER CHANGE THEM!
[Horrified by the evil in the words of the Rulewraith, Peter
stands frozen in sheer terror. Chuq calmly pulls a bucket of
water out of his cloak and throws it at the Rulewraith.]
>AIYEE! I’M MELTING!
[The Rulewraith dissolves, leaving an inky puddle. Peter stares
at the puddle, then stares at Chuq.]
>Please do not say those words again.