Just For Fun

Taking a stab at you-know-what, and you-know-who

By Kyle Webb, Assistant Editor, KyleWebb@aol.com
and Michael Webb, Editor-in-Chief, MikeWebb@CompuServe.COM

Disclaimer: Any references to reality encountered in the course of reading this story are not to be taken entirely seriously, which includes, but is not limited to, any coincidentally similar names or online designations to what you, or anybody with whom you are familiar, uses IRL (in real...well, you know). No animals were harmed in the making of this production, although some were probably bothered by way-past-bedtime brainstorming, but they'll get over it. Any offense taken to the contents of this writing may or may not be purely intentional, depending on the background and overall jadedness of various members of the target or non-targetted audience. Here we go...

The speaker pounded the podium several times, above the rhubarb of the gathering. "People...!" After a pause, and when the din diminished..."Thank you. Let's begin. First I'd like to point out that someone has thoughtfully LhA'd several million gallons of coffee, downloaded from www.folgers.com, which is, incidentally, a generous sponsor of this landmark event." A thousand keyboards voiced their approval and thanks. "Greetings, and welcome. In the spirit of the .org that inspired and recognized the need for this Internet 'convention,' which we have fondly dubbed, 'Inter-Vention,' let us recite and examine the '12 Steps' for which Alcoholics Anonymous is famous, adopted by the recently founded AOLics' Anonymous..."

  1. We admitted we were powerless over AOL -- that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe an upgrade greater than that which we downloaded two weeks ago could restore us to greater capability.

"Hey!" The speaker shouted over the resultant tittering. "Who slipped that in?" He concealed his "offense," a simple thing, as online transmission of emotional content is nearly always "corrupted," in a way that even the best v.42/MNP 2-4 modem cannot correct. "Geez, we're trying to be serious, here! People's lives are being radically affected by cybermedia! Our friends and loved ones have come here, victims of an intangible all-entangling web of isolation, that insidiously snares the human spirit under the guise of ultra-communication!" After a pause and noting the bandwidth usage had died down, he typed in the command "Okay, people, let's assemble into groups," and 8,000,000 modem-heads coalesced into random-access "rows."

The speaker, himself a recovering AOLic, monitored what appeared to be an interesting configuration; one of the participants began, "My name is Cyberella, and I'm an AOLic. I'm currently enrolled in RE:Cover. It all started with an old IBM 2400-baud modem, but it was never fast enough. When the first 9600's hit Radio Shack, I borrowed a couple hundred, and began staying up all night downloading. I got my first 14.4 from 'Robotics -- super high-quality stuff! I was downloading more, and faster; I couldn't get enough! I got all the way to 33.6 before I finally crashed and burned about a year ago, when I couldn't get past the busy signal no matter how many access numbers I tried. AOL just couldn't 'do it' for me anymore; I was 'screenshot.' I got with the program; we meet at every opportunity on...on...line..." She hesitated and stumbled over the last words, then fell silent, and considered what she had just said; a light began to glow dimly in the reasoning sectors of her alpha-soaked mind.

A second participant hurriedly began to fill the embarrassing void. "My name is 'IkeOnline,' and I'm an AOLic... The old online games on GEnie were fun, but once I went to AOL and tried Antagonist Trivia, I was hooked. The longer I stayed, the more questions I memorized. Before I knew it, I was assaulting family members and friends (on those rare occasions when I actually saw them) with sarcasm-tipped, meaningless questions, and various other forms of abuse. One day, a bunch of other AT freaks and I tied with perfect scores of 15,000 points (one other guy would have done it too, but he had to actually read a few of the questions before answering them). 'Hecklers Online' was so disgusted, they shut down AT and bombarded anybody who tried to play it with 'Get a life!' spam. I had hit rock bottom! I was distraught and desperate. It was too much. This group really saved me; before I stumbled upon it, I...I was..."

The group held its collective breath as he stammered and finally typed in the dreaded truth.

"I was contemplating cancelling my AOL account!!"

The crowd gasped and reared back in horror. He began uttering strange, meaningless combinations of characters, generally indicative of somebody sobbing and banging his head on the keyboard. A few people hurried to comfort him. "There, there...it's never that bad.." ... "Get some help here! Can't you see, this is a cry for help?!"

IkeOnline was soon taken to a private room to be comforted (and perhaps restrained). The group calmed down, and despite the rather inauspicious start, the meeting resumed. Various virtual victims relayed their tales of woe: AnnAlogue, EllieDee, VeryAble, RemoteServer, DawnLoaded...plus several dozen variations on the name "SteveCase," and a few Elvis impersonators to round out the list. They took turns, each the source of a unique story, but all of them together as victims of a common, oppressive, scarcely tangible force that they could no more easily ignore than cut off their own right hands, or even disconnect peripherals from their computers with the power on.

And so this continued for some time, as all present were permitted to share their stories, and gain strength from each other, in turn. The speaker was preparing to bring the meeting to an official close, but then...all keyboards fell silent, as the name appeared on the "People Here" list. It couldn't be, but there it was, not even an alias. Millions of fingertips were poised, frozen into inaction, above the keys, waiting... Never realizing that he had keyworded into the entirely wrong meeting, He then typed in the confession that would forever change the scope of online telecommunications and the face of the world of computing in general.

"My name is Bill Gates...and I have an A4000!!!!"