Before the LOL

This panel was more of a one man show staring Jason Scott, who is an internet historian and librarian of sorts. He specializes mostly in Bulletin Board Service (BBS) stuff, but also ham radio and more. I heard that his talk was one of, if not the best talk on the first day of ROFLCon. Given his expertise his talk was a welcome trip back to before:

Jason Scott

Jason started off by recomending a book author, Tom Standage. Specifically The Victorian Internet and The Turk and hitting us over the head with the idea that “People fell in love over the telegraph.” Eventually he moved on to talking about the invention of the photocopier and the memes is spread. Of course, “People are still parking too close and need to get on the fucking bus.”

Thanks, for parking so close. Next time leave a can opener so I can get my car out. ASSHOLES LIKE YOU SHOULD TAKE THE BUS! A Home built computer
Moving to the internet era, the above is the first BBS from 1978. It Rebooted for every caller. I suppose that is one way to handle dynamic memory (if it even used any). It was custom built, but by 1984 systems were commonly run by kids, whom Jason has tracked down, “to their utter horror.” Jason later when on to discuss some of the origins of common internet slang, arriving at this conclusion:

If you take on a language to make fun of it and the language was designed to be efficient you will eventually use the efficiencies of that language. Its kind of interesting to watch that happen. People start to talk like idiots. but what they discover is wow this whole LOLcat’s languages is actually pretty goddamn efficient.

Moving on to the web he offerers this perspective on why he must rescue and archive pre-world-wide-web content, but all the content since then is still around, for the most part:

You were happy when it got down to a dollar per megabyte. I had [some] 514Mb hard drives in 1993 that I had gotten from an airline. They had previously been tens of thousands [of dollars] and I had gotten them for a few hundred. You had this case where storage was a premium. It wasn’t horrible, but it was still pretty expensive. To the life we now live of the terabyte drive; where a terabyte drive is something you pick up with your soda down the street and maybe a keyboard cause its right there and its a dollar.

We really have hit this kind of wall where data is so cheap we’re running out of things.

I put my cat on twitter. He just says things all day, I don’t have to do it. At midnight OMG Bird. He has 143 followers.

Jason Scott was a really big fan of ROFLCon, in fact, he is still sending the staff somewhat suspect emails. I’m not actually party to the details so I won’t elaborate. This was the thesis of his talk, of sorts.

What I’m showing you here is that when we have this ROFLCon, this meeting of minds and this concentration of ideas and stuff it has a very long very storied history. It is normal, it is neat, it is wonderful, it is rich, it is delightful, it is sometimes stupid, it is sometimes fucking stupid, it is sometimes incalculably stupid but all of it is perfectly fitting into our history as people, and I am proud to be a part of it.

In fact while I’m here why not just punch David Weinberger [the keynote speaker] in the face. In his little chat at the beginning. <aside>Oh, this goes over the net, excellent</aside>. He was talking about how suspicious he is when things that look too good. That is a spit in the face of craft. Craft is not an indication of professionalism, craft is an indication of giving a shit.

It’s cool to see some back and forth like that going on, even just watching the videos. Some random quotes and stories from the talk before I go:

When you look into the story of grep… grep is a string based implementation of mathematical theory that was 20 years before grep came out. And he was like, how do I come up with a good way to keep track of strings? I’ll use this hopelessly complicated meta language that they created in the 40s to keep track of complicated number sets, and use it for text. Won’t that be … Just that thinking. Who can do that anymore. Its like, It runs, we’ll fix it later.

When a person feels that they can’t get in trouble for trying something new they will do crazy crazy stuff.

I’ve never actually watched that, and I’m greater for it.

2 Responses to “Before the LOL”

  1. Jason Scott says:

    Isn’t saying I’m sending anyone “suspect e-mails” and then not elaborating worse than not elaborating at all?

  2. Liryon says:

    Maybe it is. My info is just hearsay, so listen up everyone, don’t trust what I have to say on the nature emails I didn’t send or receive. I meant primarily to underscore what I perceived as Mr. Scott’s enthusiasm for the event with a detail that I heard.