Stuck In A World Of Ascii - Driven By Passion
by Ghandy/Darkage^Scenet

Warning: This article may cause heavy damages and/or a permanent addiction. Make sure you want to risk that before you start reading it! Parents take care of their children!

While watching the fixed crackintros that recently came out from our dear coder Stingray, my memory began to work. One thought after the other emerged. "Major game titles, the glorious illegal boardscene, Amiexpress, crackintros, US Robotics, blueboxing, terrific ascii logos, illegal cracking groups, private backroom actions within public sexlines - yeah! 1992 - that were the golden times, my golden times!!"

When I bought my first Amiga around 1990, I cannot recall it so precisely. At that time I had a real good friend in my hometown. He was a graphician, but better say he called himself one and the truth was, that he began experiencing with Deluxe Paint. But after a while working with DPAINT and other tools he was able to present me his first grouplogos of cracking groups that he wanted to join.

Typical BBS Ascii Art Not that these logos were really great but he was improving with the time and later was in fact allowed to join the cracking crew "The Devils". Maybe you had the one or other copy of an OCS game inclusive a trainer-menu or cracktro from them?! To be in touch with that graphician was kinda exciting for me. He supplied me with many interesting stories and, not to forget, with all the cracked versions of new game titles that came out.

But the most noticeable thing was, that a sort of fever catched me, I had begun being interested into the Scene. This guy and only him was to blame, but it was already too late, the virus had started his critical work inside me.

There was a parallel world this person had introduced me into, a sort of hideout, a shelter, highly illegal of course. But maybe that fact made it to look so interesting for me. Please don`t expect a demoscene compareable to the topical one, in 1990 there almost only existed the illegal Scene. Demos didn`t play such an important role, if any, until the first megademos came out. For example that one from RSI. (Red Sector Inc., later known as TRSI) or the mindblasting megademos from Budbrain.

Two years later, I still called an Amiga my own, I had a look at the local legal mailboxes, that were located in Duesseldorf and around. "Mhh.. interesting", I thought but nothing really impressive.

"This game was supplied by SSR", was written in many cracktros that were fixed by our dear coffeeabuser and oldskool lover Stingray. SSR - that`s the abbreviation for the three guys that called themselfs Subzero, Selim and Rudi. Being a proud owner of a "BEST 2400" baud modem that I was, I once called Selim and Rudi`s bbs (= bulletin board system) "The Jam". WOW!!! This rocked!! A totally different world they had created with their system. But Selim and Rudi were not that much concerned into Scene spirit, their only target was to make as much money as possible. Therefore after logging in as a new user, they offered you to buy Amiga warez. "Give us your phone number - we will call you", of course in order to clarify the details for the deal.

For example where to send the disks and surely also where to send the money in return!! Fascinated that I was, I wrote them my real voicenumber and waited for something to happen. My phone was working perfectly but kept silent. Days later as no Selim or Rudi called me, I was a bit frustrated but my annoyance was limited as without any bigger problems, I was then allowed to get full access in their bbs system.

One could call it senseless downloading dms-archives with a size of around 760kb with a speed of around 240 cps, but that didn`t count for me. The fascination was bigger than the expectation of my next phonebill... a weak point in my life, the phonebill, better don`t think about that too long!

"The Jam BBS" ran with the bbs software Amiexpress, some have cut down this term to the "/X" symbol. Each proud illegal board was running with Joseph Hodge`s Amiexpress, there was no chance to let something else do the same job.

Else any illegal caller would at once have hang up and would never call again! And for the Jam BBS, it was my first access on an illegal board, I was proud as hell!! "Yeah, now I can leech all the recent cracks", I thought. No need to meet my friends anymore in order to exchange warez. But I was wrong, you were definitely only allowed to leech something if you had uploaded enough before. And in 1990 it was the same game as it is today.

Sysops (= system operators) call this method the "ratio". An example? Having the ratio 1:3, you upload 100kb and then you may download 300kb. If your ratio is better, f.e. 1:4, then you don`t need to upload or calculate so much. Real elite traders had their disabled ratio and were allowed to leech as much as they wanted. But the sysops were looking very carefully how much their visitors would leech and upload.

Abusers of this disabled ratio were soon loosing their ratio and shortly later also their account. Leechers were not accepted, everybody had to upload first or else they were lamers and lamers were not allowed in elite systems!

Typical BBS Ascii Art In 1991 I had a friend, he called himself Brainy. Sure enough he was a real clever and intelligent guy. Brainy knew a lot about the local illegal boardscene and he was nice enough to introduce me into the golden rules of the boards and their owners.

In 1991 the german lawyer Gravenreuth had already begun to bust boards and therefore almost each sysop was really careful when it came to allow new users.

If you had no reference, you could forget about your desire to gain access. Often the sysops called me into the chat while logging in as new user, and asked me "Where do you have this number from? Where else do you call, who could refer for you to make sure you are not such an asshole working for the police or for Mr. Gravenreuth"!!?

Brainy refered for me and later, I was so active as a modemtrader that most sysops knew my name from the weektops of other boards. You may ask what a weektop or monthtop is?

Well, quite easy: This is a list of people that have uploaded most megabytes in the past week or month. Traders that were often mentioned on boards` weektops didn`t need any advertisment, the statistics spoke for themselfs. When I called new boards and had the reputation to be a good modemtrader, those sysops were more than happy that I would and could support their bbs system also.

In 1991 there were around 35 illegal boards in and around Duesseldorf. (In 2001 it is one bbs, that`s how the situation has changed during the time.) Calling them and trading stuff between these systems wasn`t that expensive but from crackintros I knew that the real FAST boards were not located in Germany, without an exception those sysops were all "sitting" in the USA.

How the fuck were the european traders able to make such expensive phonecalls to North America?? Easy as hell, they were all blueboxing!!

All you needed was a good bb (= blue boxing) program such as Masque`s chickendialer or Bleem plus the actual frequencies. To bluebox was really a simple act!! You called a free service number beginning with a 0130, most people were boxing over the satellite from MCI. Then, when the operator from the phonecompany came into the line and asked where you want to be connected to, you`ve send a long tone into the phone. (first the break was really short!)

Then the line made "CLICK" and the satellite "understood" or better say interpreted this tone as his own internal tone and thought you would have hang up, so the line was free.

You also had to use the special dialtones of the satellite you wanted to abuse, but then you could dial worldwide for free!! Lines so clear that you could copy a CD through them, lines without any irritating noises. I cannot say how many people were freecalling this way in Europe but I guess that alone in Germany that must have been around 5.000 !!

For me it was a good solution as nobody had a damage of this freecalling method. You yourself was not billed for the call as it was a free number, the telephone companies had no loss or troubles because you didn`t abuse anybody`s calling card etc. And for a long, long time all those american phonecompanies like Sprint, MCI or AT&T really had no idea what was going on. People were using the internal tones of the satellite and nobody had to pay for that.

Probably the companies wondered why so many people called their operators and hung up but until the german phreaker Kimble has shown blueboxing in the german television, really nobody, not the police, not the german Telekom, neither the public prosecutor`s office had a damn clue what was going on there.

Ohhhh... damn! I could write thousand lines only about blueboxing and how it felt doing this but that topic surely would become boring with the time. Only this method of freecalling namely blueboxing, was the pure heaven. It was like good sex, like an orgasm, like an endless intoxication. But you could have had this fantastic feeling of freedom whenever you wanted, however you wanted and as long as you wanted.

At the beginning it was also possible to rebreak the line. After you called the first bbs via bb you picked up your phone again, send the break and then dialed to the next bbs. With this method people were sometimes calling some days up to two weeks in a row, only rebreaking, dialing, trading warez, leaving the bbs, picking up the phone in order to rebreak etc. etc. - ahhhhh.. heavenly!!

So if you see many phonenumbers from north american countries in crackintros of the early 90s, you must not be astonished anymore. Everybody who called himself elite, yeah really everybody had the latest frequencies and other tools that were neccessary. It`s really hard to describe this feeling but the comparism with a static orgasm is not the worst description!!

Typical BBS Ascii Art Los Endos - Shortly after christmas 1993 I opened my very own bbs together with a friend who had the nickname COROPLEX of DECADE. By the way, at that time I didn`t use the handle Ghandy - my handle was GANDALF. At that time I also was a member of the german cracking crew DECADE, later I was leading FAITH.

The name of our baby was "LOS ENDOS BBS". Los Endos is the title of a song written and published in the early 70s by the legendary british musicgroup Genesis. Each bbs in Germany and around had english sounding names, first I thought of calling it Hardcrust BBS but that would have been not very clever.

Other boards were called Starglider, Lighthouse, Canadian Mist, The Edge, Celtic Path, Ice House, Magical Zone, Sado City, The Last Resort, Heavens Gate, Swappers Paradise, Marleys Coffeeshop, World Trade Center, Radio Teheran, Skull Buggery, House of Pain, Danse Macabre, Horrorzone, Snarfs Pub, Gates of Asgard, The Couldron, Acid Slam, Condemned Cell, Traders Heaven etc. etc.

But I knew the name "Los Endos BBS" would be something different in peoples` memories, something special, something everybody would easily recognize. The only reason was the fact that the name was in the spanish and not in the english language and that the name was never heard before.

In spring 1993 my bbs had already three analog modem-nodes and around 100 callers at each day. A short time later it was one of the fucking fastest systems in Europe.

Oh shit, I have tears in my eyes when I recall this period of my life. But to be honest this was also a quite tragic time for me. I was living together with three other students in Wuppertal and after a short while they began to be upset because I didn`t do anything in the household. Nothing, really nothing? No, nothing!!

Officially I was a student for socialworks but the truth was that I had spend the whole day in front of my monitor, organizing my own cracking group "Faith", freecalling the whole day, trading as hell, had lotsa voice calls and phone conferences with other people of the cracking society etc. etc.

Be warned! Modemtrading is something like a drug, something like heroine, if you began doing it once, you cannot leave your fingers out of it, it`s like a must. Else you have the feeling you could miss something, a good major game could come out and you would miss to trade or play it. A good cracker could knock on your door asking to join your crew, a bbs was busted and you didn`t know it etc. etc.

During one whole year I wasn`t able anymore to go to the university, not able to cook me anything seriously. My job, my hobby, my girlfriend, my life, that all was the same. The cracking scene was my hometown, my resort. My friends: Only members of my group or cosysops of my bbs. My enemies: The leaders of other good crews such as TRSI, Paradox or Classic! Lost in a world of Ascii, yes, that describes it very good.

The true reasons for this addiction, for this behavior were of course not visible in the surface, you have to go deeper if you`re seeking for the answers.

To leave the real world and to totally move into this second reality was an escape. My real life didn`t give me any positive aspects and my depressions were really horrible so I had to flee in panic into this other reality.

You don`t know how it feels to be in a real depressive mood? Be happy if you don`t know how it feels to have a fat depression. It kills all your energy, it kills all your motivation. You know that you`re doing the wrong things, you are unhappy with your situation but you even do not have enough energy to change anything of how it comes about.

To be addicted and to suffer from it, but not to be able to find any path out, that`s a real misery!!

Now in the year 2001 I`ve found other ways to spend my time behind my Amiga. Sometimes I have periods and then I stay many hours without a break "with" my machine. But there are also other periods and then I even don`t miss to call anywhere or to switch on my A4000, then it`s more important for me to meet friends, to go out dancing, to watch a movie etc. pp.

It was not me that gave myself the idea how to handle things, I`ve passed two therapys and with the help of the psychologists I found out why I had to flee from real life and how to make it better now. Now please don`t think modemtrading is really like using a heavy drug, the reasons for my addiction have to be searched inside my own difficult personality.

If you`ll try it out and if you have a heart for nice Ascii and Ansi drawings, and if you like to access the latest stuff a few hours after it came out, then modemtrading will be a real pleasure for you.

Well, if you still don`t fear to become addicted like me, Zito, Lahve or thousand others: Do yourself the favour and log into the Darkage European Headquaters "Uphold The Law" BBS. Nowadays the internet plays the role of the satellites from the early nienties and connects everybody to everywhere. Not for free but for only a few bucks!!!! For Amiga owners one can highly recommend the freeware program "DCtelnet", which is easily available in the Aminet.

DC stands for Digital Corruption, a crew which was mainly based of australien members that had released a lot of deprotected Amiga tools and some games here and there. The source of DCtelnet is also available, it would be rather cool if an advanced programmer could upgrade this tool but afterall it is able for what it was made for - to connect people to telnetboards!

Just enter the ip, in case of our Ehq it is remedy.yi.org and enter the port number, the preset is 23 but some boards use a different port. Then you only have to dial up the ip and enter the system password, which is obviously YES. YES for not sending any cracks or pirated stuff to this bbs. The Sysop, Ramses of Darkage^Remedy doesn`t allow any non-legal files here!!

But for Amiga demos this is a real fast system, not to forget that every caller has a disabled ratio. Nobody has to feel the MUST to upload something before downloading, every caller may leech as much as he wants. For Ramses, the sysop, this is no problem afterall.

I should also mention that this bbs offers demos for any possible computer platform like PC, C64, soon Atari, Archimedes, Sony Playstation, Dreamcast, Java, Flash, ZX Spectrum, Apple Mac, Nintendo 64, SNES, Ascii, Gameboy Color & GBA and whatever you can guess of!

PC users should try out one of these telnet clients like: "Mtelnet", (http://ozone.eesc.com). Other PC callers prefer "ZOC", which can be fetched from http://www.emtec.com. The third possibility is SecureCRT, url to leech it is http://www.vandyke.com - thanks to Krash, LhA 1.50 and Cru for the hints which ones and where to get the telnet clients for Windows. So if you consent to write down your real phonenumber and agree only to deal with legal demoscene warez - then the UPHOLD THE LAW BBS should be your choice, else you must have a look around yourself where to connect.

Sadly unromantic ftp-servers without any atmosphere play now the real big game. Telnet boards don`t have a chance as many callers only seek out for an easy way to exchange gigabytes. Most of them are so young, they don`t have a clue about the history of the cracking scene. Isn`t it humorous that they don`t know about their own roots? I bet yes.

Typical BBS Ascii Art Ghandy of Darkage^Scenet staff aka Gandalf of ex-Decade, ex-Faith, ex-Scandal, ex-Progress, ex-Gods and ex-whatever passes of. I wish you much, much fun, many enjoyful hours and a good reason to let it be the sooner or later, probably the later.