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Some Pre-Internet Online Terminology

The Sharp Ninja
・2 min read

Before the Internet we had computers and modems, which meant we had social media in the form of Bulletin Board Systems. Here's a small view into that world via terminology.

  1. The Boards - The Bulletin Board Systems in your local calling area.
  2. Warez - anything you shouldn't be downloading from the Boards.
  3. PeeCee - Any MS-DOS compatible computer.
  4. Commodork - A Commodore 8-bit user who trolled other system owners. I wore this hat frequently.
  5. Cracker - A hacker who specializes in cracking games by removing or otherwise bypassing the copy protection on games.
  6. 0-Day - Any pirated software released by cracking groups on the day of release. Usually was obtained and cracked by a cracker who worked at a software store and had early access.
  7. Demos - Programs that served no other purpose than to show off the programming skill of its creator. These became extremely elaborate as computer capabilities increased. There are websites such as The Commodore Scene Database that preserve these works of art. Here's one I wrote.
  8. Disk party - A few guys get together for an overnight visit or long weekend visit to play games, watch demos, and copy floppy disks.
  9. Phreaking - The art of stealing long distance codes to make free long-distance calls, usually for spreading Warez to other areas.
  10. MCI Codes - MCI was a telecom that renamed itself to Worldcom before going bankrupt due to scandal. It was notoriously easy to hack their long-distance codes, and eventually any long-distance carrier's codes were known as MCI codes.
  11. Elite - hackers who did cool things were recognized and given the title of Elite.
  12. Lamer - wannabe hackers with no skills or accomplishments who tried to hang out with Elites were given the title of Lamer.
  13. Leech - anyone who downloaded more than they uploaded on a BBS.
  14. Spreader - typically people good at Phreaking that used MCI codes to distribute new warez into areas that didn't have it yet.
  15. Fuzz - The FBI, who was responsible for tracking down Crackers and Spreaders.
  16. Getting Raided - Cracking groups were notoriously tight knit communities, and the FBI was constantly raiding suspected crackers only to find out they raided a Leech or Lamer who just happened to talk a big game, but the FBI would try to flip them on the crackers and spreaders during the 48 hours they could hold them without charging them. Typically, the FBI would confiscate all electronics in the house as evidence (and leverage) indefinitely.
  17. Sysop - a person who ran a bulletin board system. A well-run board could lead to local hero and superstar status for sysops who were fair and kept their systems online 24 hours.
  18. Co-Sysop - a person who assisted a Sysop in handling operations on a BBS such as moderating subs (message boards) or organizing uploads into their proper directories. They also were adept at stirring up shit by antagonizing users and then blocking their account when things went too far. If this sounds like Twitter, well....

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