PEI, the Internet, and Me

Ten years ago today, the first version of NCSA Mosaic was released. Ten years ago tomorrow, I arrived at work for the first time at the PEI Crafts Council.

It has been an interesting journey.


Kevin's picture
Kevin on March 16, 2003 - 14:34 Permalink

And it’s not a well known fact, but it’s a fact nonetheless, that Peter Rukavina was the first person to produce a web page in PEI — and one of the first world-wide.

That day, March 14 1993, computer data began it’s slow public migration from content to context. A distinction which holds no more importance than being the penultimate underlying fundamental which separates bad web pages from good.

Craig Willson's picture
Craig Willson on March 16, 2003 - 16:14 Permalink

To add to the perspective, the very same year Joe Hambly took The Cracked Link on line, I turned on Glastonbury Tor BBS, wassis name was running the Swords of Bronze BBS, The Landing Strip BBS, Infinity BBS and a few others I can’t recall were running. It was an exciting day when I logged 100 modem to modem callers on a single line. I suspect I still have the old USR 14.4 model on the shelf somewhere.

It was a lot of fun — no grunt and click — full blown DOS applications, multi-node, memory managers, serving 24 CD’s of shareware for download and I don’t recall seeing one single ad to ‘biggie your penis in 6 days’. We have come a long way.

Kevin's picture
Kevin on March 16, 2003 - 19:14 Permalink

This close to St. Pats no Irish can resist helping with a sweet layer for that nostalgia-cake!

September 1988, the Boardroom BBS went on line. Towering on top of a 68B09EP 16/8-bit Motorola processor (16 internal, 8 external. A concept nearly lost these days). This puppy was clocked at .788Mhz (we called that “one meg…”) and when “poked” with the speed up instruction, it blazed along at 1.7Mhz (it was 1.6 something but PCs were clocking 3Mhz and we felt a little hertz-envy, a dysfunction still relatively well known in Mac circles)

Ah, but! What we knew that Intel-heads would never understand, was that the 68xx and 68xxx series processors could process up to four instructions per cycle depending on the micro code in the operating system and the kids over at Microware ( had cooked up the slickest OS on the planet and called it OS9 after the Motorola 6809 heart beat under the hood of my CoCo III.

Yup, that “game pak toy fountain”, that “cornucopia of silliness”, after tossing RSDOS out the window, was running an OS so close to Linux it’d spin your head around and the parts that were different were better! And so, as I began earlier, towering on top of a surprisingly quick 6809 / OS9 platform ran the suckiest BBS software in existence

Craig Willson's picture
Craig Willson on March 16, 2003 - 20:49 Permalink

Yeah, it was fun and rewarding. Glastonbury Tor BBS still lives, serving an eclectic collection of retro-heads — and is hidden in a wee corner of cyber space that no one uninvited can find.

Craig Willson's picture
Craig Willson on March 16, 2003 - 20:57 Permalink

Tis the O’Brien we have to blame for this — but his comment about St. Pats day forces me to quote the wondering Jew of

Green for a Day
Hurrah! It’s St. Patrick’s Day!*

Everyone’s Irish today!” So go out and perpetuate a stereotype!

Enjoy your green beer, Shamrock shake, Irish potatoes and whatever the hell else you think symbolizes Ireland.

Make stupid jokes like, “Erin Go Bragh-less!” and think you’re original! Make it even more moronic by affecting a really bad Irish brogue when you say it!

And when your breath stinks like beer and vomit, don’t wonder why I’m not heeding the button pinned to your shirt, commanding me to kiss you because you’re Irish.

You’re not Irish. You’re just a drunk jackass in a green shirt.

*Technically it’s tomorrow, but today is the day o’ fun!

(As I am part Irish I trust the reader will take the above with a smile — as I intend not to offend, but to stimulate a laugh)

Kevin's picture
Kevin on March 16, 2003 - 21:21 Permalink

And I thought we’d talk computer history and by the time we’re done I’d have finished the first chapter of my book.

I was about to start up with how I got my “KO” NIC handle by opening an Internet-based agricultural information system nearly two years before PEINet opened. Ah, but what the heck… let’s put the sham back in shamrock and get it over with :-)

Craig Willlson's picture
Craig Willlson on March 17, 2003 - 00:24 Permalink

You were beginning to bloviate :-)..needed a momentary diversion. How many pages in the first chapter?

Christopher's picture
Christopher on March 17, 2003 - 02:04 Permalink

You’re talking about BATE, aren’t you Kejp? I subscribed to that for years and used it when I was here on hollies. Didn’t the early ISN shell account end up there? Until just a few years ago my mother (who was only interested in e-mail) had an ISN shell account and used PINE. (She’d still prefer to be with that as I had scripts to automate it all and it was super fast.)I seem to recall the first screen menu had a BATE gateway. May I join the “I remember…” parade? About ‘83, I paid about $4500 for a dumb terminal which was hooked up via a 300/75 modem to various online databases. Fast? I’ll tell you, boys, she just roared long, and printed to a dot matrix in as near real time as you can imagine. Funny how Sun & the telcos keep wanting us to go back to that model. As Kevin is bragging on his early toys, my first IBMPC around early ‘83 boasted a colour monitor and a 20 meg hard drive. You still ran the O/S off floppies for reasons which now escape me, but the mighty 1 meg of memory exceeded what Bill told me was more than enough by 384k. Last time I checked, about ‘96, it was still chugging away, running Star Office. It also had a mighty 300/75 external modem and a daisy wheel printer that weighed more than I do. Somewhere around $25k secured that little lot for me. I’d tell you about my first Mac, but the tears would short out my keyboard.
In reply to Two-Els little homily on Paddy’s Day, about 1000 years ago I assume my ancestors were raping and pillaging their way around Dublin, returning the favour Kepj’s ancestors had paid the other bit of my heitage in Scotland a few centuries before. But don’t think this means I am claiming you as a long lost cousin, Kepj, and inviting you over for a sleepover. A few bars of the blues is as far as it goes…

Kevin's picture
Kevin on March 17, 2003 - 12:35 Permalink

Nope, never mentioned BATE. And no it never had anything to do with the Boardroom or ISN. (ISN is unique in that it has never been part of anything else) But, when I was taken in the first round of pics by PEINet one of my first tasks was to attach BATE to the Internet. I managed to do that without adding a single line of TCP/IP code to the BATE system or the box it ran on. Quite an achievement at the time — you could Telnet to BATE even though it was a pure DOS-based BBS with zilch in its Internet stack.

There still are committed shell account users who appreciate the efficiency. I switched back to a shell account for about a year before we brought out WebMail to ‘serve the globe’ and keep everything in one place. I use webmail exclusively now (until I get my Power Book 17 that is).

One could write a whole chapter on daisy-wheel printers; essential technology that was destined to live only a few months.

As for the ancient history… I don’t think we did very much except feed our sheep to the Norse when they came a-callin’. Any sparring with fellow Celts was just warming up for the horn-hats.

Anyway, it would seem there’s a really strong niche for a PEI data history document. Hmmmm, I might just do that — I know all the players and was aware of the whole thing as it happened even though my ~serious~ involvement didn’t begin until 1985 which leaves me a few good years behind the likes of Ed Lawlor and Greg Hughes.

Christopher's picture
Christopher on March 17, 2003 - 13:17 Permalink

Ah, too many aluminium pots: I must be recalling PEInet/Cycor days. Such a history would indeed be interesting. PEI is unique in being small enough to track the interrelated developments and in having such continuity among the players.

Kevin's picture
Kevin on March 18, 2003 - 18:43 Permalink

pages in the first chapter….? PAGES in the furrst chapter… huh?… hmmmmmm, how many would you write Craig?.. now that you’ve dusted off my historical light sensor?

Craig Willson's picture
Craig Willson on March 18, 2003 - 19:02 Permalink

If 1988 is the beginning, the book would have 15 chapters. One chapter for each year. Each chapter would have not more than 20 pages. Hopefully, most would have less. I will buy the first copy if an accurate description is given of the involvement of the telcos.

(Wendell Meek was the guy I was trying to remember from the Swords of Bronze :-))

Kevin's picture
Kevin on March 19, 2003 - 13:57 Permalink

The problem, if I can call it a “problem” with an accurate description of the involvement of the telcos would be difficult for a number of reasons. First, the early deals were very very secret and when they universally failed, became even more secret. Those who knew what was going on still feel a huge part of their reputation swings in the balance of any accurate history and will be very reluctant to talk even two decades later.

That said, some of the very early innovations came from the telcos and to explore those in a book, without the other parts of the history, would necessarily place telcos in a much more honorable position than their actual contribution is worth.

However, that’s not a good enough reason to not write the parts of their history that they would talk about — but it ought to be mentioned in a forward that some parts are unavailable (if in fact that really is the case — which it may not be).

I think a chapter dedicated to BBSs would handle that, another would handle the Internet (and it’s predecessors) from 1974 to about 1984 (I hopped in there in 1976), and then a chapter for each year after that.

How’z’at sound? (I’m actually getting interested in this project.)

Kevin's picture
Kevin on March 19, 2003 - 13:58 Permalink

Wee small chapters.

Craig Willson's picture
Craig Willson on March 19, 2003 - 14:50 Permalink

I agree you various comments but feel an accurate description of the telco involvement in technology is critical if history is to be stated truthfully.

Kevin's picture
Kevin on March 22, 2003 - 22:44 Permalink

Uh, huh, that’s what I said. But for the exceptions stated above details should be easy to get.

Unfortunately, the accurate description will never be known unless someone either decides he/she can live their retirement without any contact with their former colleagues, or someone publishes a memoir.

Dave Mac Dougall's picture
Dave Mac Dougall on June 2, 2004 - 23:48 Permalink

Craig, I’m was a friend and co-worker of Wendell Meek. I was told that he died yesterday. I am searching for info. Alot of people who worked with Wendell at Micro-Optics Design Corp in Moncton are saddened by this news. endell was a great guy. No details are available.

Jamie's picture
Jamie on April 17, 2012 - 09:27 Permalink

Dave, thanks. I happened to be thinking about the BBS days today, and Wendell’s name was the 2nd that I searched on when I found the posting. I was on Swords of Bronze a fair bit, and had met Wendell a couple times to borrow some of his shareware cd’s. He was a nice guy, and I’m saddened to hear of his passing. Wendell, you are and will continue to be missed.

Stephanie's picture
Stephanie on January 2, 2013 - 17:40 Permalink

Just was searching for family history noticed dads name not sure why dads name came up her Wendell meek

Stephanie's picture
Stephanie on January 2, 2013 - 17:43 Permalink

Hi just noticed dads name here just wondering how u knew him Wendell meek

Ross Macdonald's picture
Ross Macdonald on March 20, 2014 - 21:13 Permalink

Hi Stephanie,
Your Dad was the System Operator (SysOp) of a Bulletin Board System called Swords of Bronze, and I believe he closed it down in 1995-96. It had hundreds of users, and was one of the major BBSes in PEI. I met him face to face at his house on Mt Edward Rd one time, and his skill with (and collection of) computers was pretty impressive. For about the last year he ran ‘Swords’, I was a Co-SysOp, in charge of the music section of his BBS.

Alan Beck's picture
Alan Beck on March 15, 2017 - 17:07 Permalink

Is there still a landline BBS on PEI?


Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on March 15, 2017 - 17:07 Permalink

That’s a good question: I don’t know. Anybody?