Monday, 3 December 2012


In the early 90's I had my heart torn out and handed to me on a plate - Luckily, I'm a big boy and I got over it fairly quickly, with the help of massive amounts of alcohol and free Compuserve CDs. Compuserve? What's Compuserve I hear you youngsters cry.

Well, remember before Hotmail? No?.. OK, do you remember AOL CDs on the front of Games magazines? Right, excellent, we finally have a frame of reference. AOL gave you an Email address and access to the Internet, before Sky & BT and everyone and his brother were including it in monthly packages - It was rubbish, and it used to frak your PC on a regular basis, but it was pretty much all there was.

Now, imagine that, but having to pay by the minute... using a dial-up connection at 56Kbps - There was also a monthly fee, but if you uninstalled the software and re-installed it from a different CD every month, you didn't have to pay (It just meant that you had a different email address every month).

Compuserve used to filter the Internet for you, not that there was a great deal of content back in the day, but it was mainly comprised of what they called 'Forums' - Which were just posh chatrooms really, divided into different subjects and interests. I say different, they were all pretty much full of teenagers (or people pretending to be teenagers) trying to get off with each other. and Usenet Newsgroups - Which were the forerunner, I guess, of places like Tumblr and Twitter.

It was through being a part of these forums that I was introduced to the mating call of the early 90's Internetter, "A/S/L?" which of course stood for Age / Sex / Location which in turn, was shorthand for Am I commiting a federal or statutory crime by talking to you about your underwear / are you the complimentary gender that I am looking for / are you local enough for us to meet up or far enough away for your parents to not be able to kill me when it all goes horribly wrong.

And while we're here, I'd just like to state on record that, despite evidence to the contrary, I never pretended to be a precocious 14 year old girl from California called Mindy to go trolling for paedophiles... *cough* not once.

If I were to use a fishing analogy, the A/S/L is the 'bite' and then you'd have to 'play' the 'fish' until 'it' was 'tired' and could be 'landed' - The most effective, and certainly most popular method of playing with your fish would be (and I kid you not) to quote popular songs of the day to your intended paramore - I didn't recognise a lot of the lines that were being used, as they were American songs that hadn't 'broken' in the UK - But towards the end of my Compuserve years, the chorus of the Savage Garden song Truly Madly Deeply became the go-to track for reeling love-sick teens in hand over fist - It went a little like:

I want to stand with you on a mountain.
I want to bathe with you in the sea.
I want to lay like this forever.
Until the sky falls down on me

Remember it now? I never saw this fail, not a single time, never used it myself of course... That would have been immoral, and not to say a little creepy, as I would have been fast approaching 30 at the time, and therefore, positively pre-historic in comparison to everyone else there.

No, I moved to the much more sanitary newsgroups. These were like a notice board where people could post images, of anything, although the subject matter did all tend to be much of a muchness (Certainly in the alt.binaries. groups) - With pictures of young, and not so young ladies, in various states of deshabille and / or contortion - that would load, onto your 640 x 480 256 colour screen, at the rate of approximately 1 line per second... Meaning that a full screen image could take up to ten minutes to load - Just enough time to make a nice cup of tea and get control of any unnatural urges that you might be having.

I think that this was a secret plan by Compuserve to try and get young boys out of their bedrooms and into the fresh air... What I think actually happened was that those young boys who were too shy to quote Savage Garden lyrics to cheerleaders halfway across the world spend all their time getting the grainy, false colo(u)red images of 'Debbie, 21, from South London' to download faster.

And thus was High-Speed Broadband created.

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