From the ages of, say, 14 to 18, something like 85% of my social life took place either via telnet or IRC. I would get home from school, run upstairs, turn on my computer and modem, wait for a connection (which for the first few years was…mumble stolen), and then telnet to Foothills or some other talker.
I made friends there, I fit in. I wasn’t some nerdy loser teenager stuck in my room in front of a computer: I was a cool guy who was at the forefront of a new form of social interaction, talking with people from around the world (almost all of them considerably older than me, which was totally not weird or anything). It was amazing.
(I even had a real Canadian girlfriend! She actually was from Canada! Nobody believed me…)
(I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a EWToo talker going for lobste.rs…anybody second the motion?)
While reading this I suddenly remembered that the NUTS/Amnuts talker supported something similar to what we now call federation back in the 90s in the form of “netlinks”. If participating servers arranged it, you could have an account on one server and talk over bridged rooms. Unlike IRC, these were small windows into other communities created with admin approval.
Honestly I can’t remember if I ever got to use that feature, but I recall the help files said that you would adopt the commands and privilege levels of whichever server you were in at the time, which I found fascinating. (For context, talkers and MUDs of the time frequently made their own modifications, perhaps trading C snippets on forums, etc. so even servers derived from the same codebase often had different command sets.)
Plus, too, things like LPmuds, MUCKs, etc. had their own primitive VMs, so the mudlibs could differ wildly.
LPmuds (VikingMUD in particular) were what sunk my freshman GPA. sheepish
At high-school in 1996 or so, the school library had a bunch of DEC420 terminals for the library catalog, along with options for looking up info from WAIS or the Library of Congress. Someone figured out that when the option “telnet to LOC” was chosen it was possible to press ctrl-] during the connection to drop to the bare telnet prompt, and then you could go anywhere you wanted. The info quickly spread around and before long the terminals would have lines to use them during lunch hour.
I’d been reading paper books on “best places to go to on the Internet”. Of these, the section on MU*s appealed to me since they were “multiplayer text adventures”, like I’d played on the C64. I would spend an hour or two every evening using guest accounts to try various ones out. Eventually I wanted to get an account on HoloMUCK since I was more into building than combat. But to get a permanent account required an email address. I found out about the Seattle Community Network, and that remained my email account until I entered college(and remained an active account for me until I lost the password in the early 00’s)
Of course, it was only that one year that the library terminals remained accessible: the librarians got suspicious of the increased activity and next year the interrupt command was changed to something untypable like “^^”. By that point the family had gotten an account with a local dial-up provider and I could play at home.
But that year in high school was a formative time for me with the Internet.