When I bought the 1030 at the electronics boutique in the Exton square mall I got lucky. There was a kid there who was friends with the sales guy that saw me buy a modem. He asked me if I knew of the Atari BBS's that were around. I said yeah, I had a book from antic that had about 2 dozen BBS's from all across the USA. He kind of laughed and said they weren't real or local. He just happened to have his computer there at the time copying stuff and he gave me a copy of a terminal program called WackoTerm. And he said there were a few local BBS's in the dialing directory. One of them was called Kathy's Kave. I think Kathy's husband Bob was the guy that wrote that terminal program.
Thus started my online obsession. Later that night I loaded the term program. Tried calling a few Philly numbers. All busy. Then I connected with one. What a thrill to follow the prompts to signup for a free service. It was like Tron logging in to a system. I found the file download section. As I was looking I saw some strange prompts on my screen. Someone was talking to me. The SysOp told me he was in a generous mood and enabled me for download access and he wanted to know what I was looking for. I asked like what? He said anything, that he had hundreds of programs. I asked him about demon attack. He said sure and found the disk and slipped it into one of the 3 disk drives that made up the BBS. I saw demon attack and moon patrol and a few other old cart games. He said I had 60 minutes to download all I wanted. Then logged off. So I downloaded demon attack and 3 others before I ran out of time. At 300 baud it took about 14 minutes to download each 16k game. You could actually read the stuff as it was being xmodemed over :)
I was so excited I started playing the games and forgot about the modem for that night. Sometime the next day I noticed something a little strange on the startup screen. The credit says ATARI PIRATES INC. :) I hadn't thought about how these games were made available. The more bbs's I hooked up with the more I found out about what things like cracks and warez were :) Three weeks later was a rude awakening. A few of the bbs's I was calling were not in the local dialing area. I got a $90 phone bill. I rationalized since I had a collection of about $280 dollars of games it was worth it. But I did get extended phone coverage and then tried to keep it local.
All bbs's had lists of other bbs's. So eventually I had a collection. The pic is my original notebook with all the bbs numbers and some notes as to what I uploaded. There was an upload download ratio. You had to upload a file to get 3 back. If you called any Philadelphia Atari bbs's in the 80's maybe you might recognize one of these.
If you were an Atari BBS person and remember calling any of those BBS's please sign my guestbook.
Then I found middle earth II and joined a little group called the fellowship. Around this time I bought a USDoubler mod for the 1050 to make it a double density drive. This increased my disk capacity so I could store more files per disk. We also had little get-togethers some Saturdays where we would have copy parties :) One of those guys has gone on to write the biggest and best MUD on the internet. Medieva A side note. I also bought my first IBM from those guys.
This started a two year binge of game collecting. About 6 months later I got a 1200 baud modem so I was able to download things 4 times faster. WooHoo. Two years. Yes I delved into other online things like chat on the DDIALS. But most time online was spent file hunting.
To put this in perspective, in early 1998 I was feeling nostalgic and found some online references to the old Atari crowd. Info was plenty in the newsgroups. At a flea market I picked up an 800xl for $10. (this was two months before my EX found all my old stuff:) I bought this thing called an SIO2PC cable to hook up my PC to the Atari. Some ATR files I downloaded could actually work on my Atari. Then I found an ftp site with a huge 18 meg zip file. I downloaded it at work on the T1 connection (took 4 minutes) and put it along with a bunch of other stuff on a CD. This file had 98% of the games I had spent 2 years downloading. over 1400 files. FOUR minutes. 4 minutes = 2 years of countless hours with the auto dialer running :) It really made me stop and think about the things I spend so much time on now. Like what will they compare to in a few years.
In the case of the Atari I moved on to my Sega consoles. The IBM pc did not threaten the gaming world till 91.