Cybermagic, and Random Taglines

(A bit of fun)

Cybermagic doesn’t grow on trees, you know.

I used to use computers for international communication starting in 1989 on a state-of-the-art superfast 2400 baud modem,  before the World Wide Web had been devised, and when the Internet itself was merely a network between the other  networks, and used within academia. The internet didn’t have a lot to offer me: magico-spiritual and other networks themed around things I was interested in did.

I could discuss Shamanic journeying, following a given information packet from a person’s individual computer to the bbs they used, to the “hub” where that BBS polled for mail, through any number of similar connections, until that individual packet of energy, or electricity, or bytes, or thought, ended up being transferred to another mind, then back-tracking to watch it work all over the net to reach many destinations.

However,  I’ll give you a creation myth instead.

In the Dreaming, when everything was Void (or, if you like, in the eighties, when the Internet was known to a relatively small academic circle and the fastest modems ran at 2400 baud), there were nets other than the Internet, for lo! the Internet had not yet emerged from the void and swallowed them up in its demand to have no other nets before it. And one of those other nets was PODSnet (the Pagan/Occult Distribution System).

The initiated (that is, sysops) could set up BBS’s (Bulletin Board Systems) on their PCs, that lowly users could dial up and play on; and lo, one such BBS was known as The Witches’ Hovel, and was supplied unto the community by a sysop known to history as .Nisaba (hereinafter to have grown and changed and metamorphosed into Nisaba Merrieweather). And lo, into her BBS she daily imported messages from PODSnet in all sorts of related message areas (known as “echomail”, each “echo” behaving exactly like unto an internet mailing list behaves today), and inter-BBS games specifically a battle-game called BRE wherein the individuals playing on a given BBS could band together and attack other BBS’s. And lo, there were like two real players playing BRE on The Witches Hovel, becoming twenty or thirty players with quirky names who never seemed to dial into the BBS but seemed to play by logging on locally <shamefaced grin>. And lo, the Witches Hovel was a Mighty Power in BRE, and defeated BBS’s all over Australia.

The third thing that PODS-related BBSs did for their users was to supply files areas, and the files areas on The Witches’ Hovel were specialised: all text-files, all related to spirituality or healing in one way or another. At one stage, my lowly co-sysop estimated that we had about a third of the volume of the Mitchell Library in the files areas. And to read and write messages in the echos, or to read and write private netmail between sysops of different BBS’s, there was a software package called BLUEWAVE, which was like unto Word for Echomail (but much nicer), or like a better forerunner of Outlook Express, the thought of which makes my breakfast want to escape.

Then the Internet grew too big for its origins, and swallowed up all the little nets including PODSnet, Echonet, UFOnet and all the other nets which fed the Witches’ Hovel, and sysopping and BBS’s as a concept fell over in a screaming heap. And BlueWave died with it, which was a tragedy, because none of the designers of email readers remembered to programme in a feature allowing you to store a heap of quotes and either choose from them at a single keystroke, or have them randomly inserted by the software.  And these quotes were known as TAGLINES. This was a crying shame, because what with the magical effect of spending a lot of time with my copy of BlueWave, it developed a conenction to me, such that the taglines (bluewave speak for quotes) that it attached to my messages WERE randomly selected by the software, but with the passing of the years became more and more pointed, so that eventually absolutely every single randomly inserted quote was directly relevant to either the contents of the message, or to the inner stuff of the person I was replying to. And lo, in the Witch Wars of the late eighties and early nineties, this got me into a lot of really nasty trouble! But knowing that all the insults and putdowns I was sending out were in fact literary quotes, and knowing that I wasn’t choosing them deliberately, I maintained the High Moral Ground, and never switched the tagline feature off in my copy of Bluewave.

Then came the incident of the other witch-sysop who shape-shifted into a fly to be quite literally “a fly in the wall” of my house – but as a fly, and with me looking at it intently, it forgot to behave like a fly, and behaved like a human, up to and including forgetting to buzz against the fly screen door when trying to get out after it knew the gig was up, and lingering around the handle of the door instead, trying to work out how to open it. That after tripping over its own feet by not knowing how to coordinate that many feet when walking – honestly, have you ever seen a fly fall over? It’s hilarious. We laughed a lot. It was at that point the fly decided to leave and was silly about trying to open the door.

That was in the dreaming. Fast-forward to the present day, and there is only one email client that offers a tagline feature that I know about: BatReader. A friend uses it and recommends it. I downloaded it, and immediately had millions of viruses (actually, they were so big they were almost ticks) crawling over my computer, so I defintiely don’t recommend it. I have therefore come up with (da-DAH!) Another Solution. I’m pretty dumb, and I can see only two options I could have taken. I could have brushed up on my programming languages, and written a little subroutine of my own. Or I could have collected my taglines into a single “message” in a special folder in my reader, had that message open in the background every time I read and write messages, and mark, copy and paste” taglines either as I see fit, or in strict order that they occur in the file (making how they match up to messages more random than the random tagline generator was).

Quiz: which one did I opt for?

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