The History of Spatula City BBS!
Spatula City BBS was born as the result of many hours of hard work and dedication. In 1992, I was working two minimum-wage jobs just to make ends meet. During one period in October, I found myself with 90 hours of pay and no imminent bills to cover. It was at that time that the prospect of buying my first IBM-compatible PC presented itself.
Some background: I had been online for about 3 years, logging into various services. I started with an old Apple II-compatible box, a 300-baud acoustic modem and not much else. The first online entity I ever called was an electronic rag operated by what is now Star-Telegram.com, called StarText. In reading StarText, I happened upon the online Forum, which was made up of a motley crew of participants, mostly moderate-liberal, who participated in an ongoing, daily, online argument. I quickly became a regular, and participated intensely and well in that venue until the StarText management arbitrarily & capriciously decided that I could be slandered, but not defend myself. It didn't take me long to yank my money from their filthy clutches.
During those latter days, though, I had latched onto a new concept - other online portals. These were home computers operated by amateurs (some of them pretty rank (grin)), simply for the love of what came to be known as the practice of "BBSing" (calling BBSes, or Bulletin Board Systems, or the operation of said systems). These systems were for the back-and-forth swapping of messages and files; on many of them, you could play a game against the computer, another player, or the sysop (SYStem OPerator) himself if he had time. You could also page the sysop for a real-time chat every so often, although sysops generally had better things to do - like sleep. (Mind you, these "pages" usually came at 3 a.m. Hell hath no fury like an awakened sysop.) I began to call several of these systems and become involved in the day-to-day life.
As I was a twenty-something who simply didn't know any better (grin), I began to - gasp! - speak my mind. Naturally, this didn't set well with other users, who usually were good friends of the sysop. As a result, I've been thrown off quite a few boards in my day.
It was with that in mind that I decided that I wanted a place where I could say what I wanted, when I wanted, and not be looking over my shoulder for some angry sysop. I began to look at the possibility of purchasing my own PC for that purpose. Thus, when the 90-hour workweek kicked in, I was ready.
I plunked down about $450 for what, to me, was a dream machine - but was actually, even by 1992 standards, an obsolete dinosaur - an 8mHz XT with a 30-meg (with an M, not a G) Seagate RLL hard drive, 640K of RAM soldered onto the main board (along with the chip), a 2400 Everex modem and an old monochrome monitor that already had a ton of burn-in. The keyboard port was a plug-in external port. I could fit my current machine, case included, into the XT case.
The thing was, to put it bluntly, a piece of crap. But - and this is a big "but" (grin) - it was mine.
I quickly went to work. A good friend (liberal though he may be), Aaron Goldblatt, helped me set up the system and get it operational. Spatula City went online on October 31, 1992.
The first few days were spent as an independent BBS, but there was already a plan in place to network me. Shortly after the board's opening, I joined the largest amateur BBS network in the world, a ragtag outfit called Fidonet. My network address was 1:130/103 (1 - North America; 130 - Ft Worth, TX, unit number 103).
Several of the fellow sysops in the network were people with whom I'd had arguments leading to my banishment from other boards and conferences - so, upon my arrival, the arguments began anew. This time, I was a little more protected by my status as a Fidonet sysop. I was no longer just a "user", upon which many sysops look down their noses - although that status didn't protect me all the time.
Two months later, I suffered my first ever major computer crash. (Note to you newbies: Don't touch a piece of metal to the circuitry under a hard drive while the computer is still on. Trust me - this is not a good thing.)
About six months in, I began to hunger for a faster machine. The XT was okay - for just a plain-Jane computer. For what I wanted to do, though, I needed something faster. Through the aforementioned Mr. Goldblatt, I was able to secure a 286 motherboard with 1 meg of memory onboard. Tall cotton, that.
Eventually, that gave way to a more sophisticated 286, then a 386 with the memory self-contained in RAM chips - first 1 meg, then 2, then 8 and 16. The mono monitor was set down for a CGA, then a used VGA, which served the board until 1996. The Everex modem game way to a 14.4 Practical Peripherals, then downgraded to a 14.4 Zoom modem (which poisoned my mind against Zoom modems forever), then back up to a 28.8 Practical Peripherals, finally to a USRobotics 33.6, which is still in use somewhere today. The 30-megger (after the crash) gave way to a 25-megger, then to a 40-meg Quantum drive (both MFM types), then to the first of what have been several Western Digital IDE drives (by which I swear today; nobody makes better drives than WD. Nobody.).
During this time, I began to get quite involved in some of the national mail conferences within Fidonet - most notably, the Fans Of Rush Limbaugh Echomail (FORLE) conference. (Echomail, by the way, is a weird concept. Think Usenet newsgroups without all the technical snobbery.) The moderator was a guy by the name of Jeff Duke, a fantastic gentleman and someone who's turned out to be one hellacious friend. He let me in and allowed me (within reason) to say what I wanted to say, and to gig a liberal or two along the way.
Eventually, a small group of us formed a "posse" of sorts, weeding out those miscreants and malcontents who were unwilling to stick to the topic of the conference - namely, the topics discussed by Rush on his radio & television shows. We became known as LENS (Limbaugh Echo Nuke'm Squad) and LESS (Limbaugh Echo Sanitation Squad). Each of us had a talent to make the liberal scum look as ridiculous as we could. Mine was "quote enhancement" - a tactic which had been used on me in the local Fido sysop echoes to get my dander up. It was quite effective, both as victim and perpetrator. (grin) The trick was to take the quotes of the person whose goat you were trying to get - and modify them so as to make that person say something completely different (and in most cases, hysterically funny) then what he/she had actually said in the first place. A wonderful tool, and almost indefensible. (I, of course, know the defense, but don't come asking me for it - I have to have some secrets, y'know. :-) )
Out of that little band of merry men (and women) came LENSNET - a private network of the "elite" of the Limbaugh echo. It continues as a loose-knit band of a-mailers to this day.
As Spatula City grew as a political board, I began to make somewhat of a mark in the BBS world. I moderated a Dallas/Fort Worth political conference called (oddly enough) DFW_POLITICS, where users from all across D/FW came to air their views on the political topics of the day. I also became the Zone Coordinator (equivalent of president and CEO) of a little Fido-style network called US-PolNet.
Sad to say, though, all good things had to come to an end. Finances and a case of burnout brought me to the point where I was asking myself, "Why am I knocking myself out doing this?". After some three-and-a-half years of the most fun I'd ever had on a computer, Spatula City BBS ceased operations in March of 1996.
That is, until May 1, 2000.
As I'm sure most of you were, I was incensed and outraged over the treatment of one Elian Gonzalez who, with his mother, bravely navigated shark-infested waters to reach the shores of America...only to see Kaiser Wilhelm von CastroAssKisser and his minion Janet El Reņo promptly ship the boy back to the Cuban plantation like the little darkie they thought he was.
I got on the only conservative forum I could find at the time - FreeRepublic.com. And promptly got myself banned when a pro-Cuban son-of-a-bitch dared to cross me on the subject. My only consolation is that I torched his ass but good.
However, that raised the problem of once again needing a place to say what I wanted to say, when I wanted to say it. It was at this point that the idea of reconstructing my soapbox really began to appeal to me.
I began to ask around. Steve Traynor, another old friend and liberal, owed me a wedding present, so he offered to set me up on a Web page. He created it in 1999; soon thereafter, Spatula City BBS arose like a phoenix out of the ashes. (wicked grin)
From 2000 until about May of 2003, Spatula City BBS! covered everything from Elian Gonzalez to the 2000 election to a certain quasi-pseudo-Southern Baptist church just inside the Rockwall city limits. Nothing was off limits to the acerbic wit of the SpatulaOp.
But around May 2003, the hosting of Spatula City BBS! changed. The provider of my hosting, the aforementioned Aaron Goldblatt, had just been blessed with twins (in addition to the two he already had), and was unable to continue to provide me with the means necessary to be able to update the site on a moment's notice (not that I was doing that anyway, at that point). Spatula City BBS! went on hiatus for the time being.
In the meantime, I had discovered the Blogosphere through loyal Spatulaite Alan K. Henderson, who had set up his own blog some time previous. He directed me to the pre-eminent blog in the entire Blogosphere - The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, hosted by Emperor Misha I. Misha would comment on things political, speaking just my language in doing so - the language of the colorful invective. (grin) His Loyal Citizens (LCs) did likewise.
This was a place I could call home. And I did, for a while. My first couple of posts were laid down under my real name, but that soon proved to be not much fun. I wanted a persona to call my own.
Enter Spatula One. (It was the best I could think of at the time - so sue me.)
That went well for a time, then I shortened it a bit to Spatula I. But after some time, that particular moniker began to bore me a bit. It was dull, mundane. Sort of like Walter Mondale's campaign. (Either for President or Minne-haha senator - it doesn't matter. (grin)) I needed to spice it up a bit, but the title "Emperor" was already taken, and "King Spatula" didn't sound quite right.
Then it hit me: Lord Spatula I. Yeah. That's it.
No. I can make it even better: Lord Spatula I, King and Tyrant. Now we were cooking with gas!
Bite Sue me. It was the best I could come up with at the time.)
(NOTE: The name change to Darth Venomous is chronicled here, here and here.)
And so I continued therein as nouveau royalty. I got in my share of flame wars - some would say more than my share - and invited countless numbers of morons to fistfights. No one's yet taken me up on my offer. Not that they necessarily could - many of these twits are faraways off - but few even expressed the willingness to do so. Those who have - your time is coming. (menacing look)
But it got to the point where I was itching to have my own place again. Misha is courteous and hospitable to a fault, don't get me wrong - but I'd been bitten by the bug once more.
Though it pained me to do so, I signed up with the best host I could find at the time - BlogSpot. Several keystrokes later, I was back in business. Spatula City BBS! (The Blog From Hell!) went online on September 2, 2003 - nearly 11 years after the first caller rang my BBS in Far West Fort Worth on the XT with the Everex 2400 modem.
I began with that well-known bastion of do-it-yourself, one-touch blogging - Blogspot. (Or, as we all like to call it - Bogsnot.) This was before it got bought out by Google.
And back then, it was good, and it served me well for a little over two years. It did, however, become a little too confining - sort of like my favorite jeans after one too many trips to the pizza buffet. I wanted to be able to do more with Spatula City BBS! - and I was also getting tired of the URL (spatulaville.blogspot.com is a little long to fit on coffee cups, and there's that stigma of "Oh - you're a Blogspot blog". Ew).
So I plunked down the money to have my own site on the web, independent of Blogspot. And on February 21st, 2005, spatulacitybbs.net went live. We started with a package known as Movable Type (version 3.15), which was a good little startup package for the new blogger, and it served us well here for three-plus years.
Security concerns, however, finally became too burdensome to overcome, and in July 2008, This Fine Blog migrated to Wordpress (version 2.6), where we remain today.
We're now on our second major install of WP (version 3.0.5, soon to be 3.1), and the blog - not to mention my curmudgeony-ness (curmudgeony-ness?) are stronger than ever.
No, I'm not going anywhere. Deal with it.
And the saga continues...