Whenever I am asked for a username/alias/handle I rely on the one I have had since I first started visiting computer bulletin boards back in the early 90s. This was way before the World Wide Web hit the mainstream and the internet meant e-mail or Usenet. Most bulletin board systems (BBS) were hobbyist things that a guy (and it was inevitably a guy) used his computer for after he got a modem.
My first modem was a US Robotics Sportster 19.2kbps v-something or other. In those days, the speed of the modem and the protocols it supported was a major marketing phenomena as each new standard would immediately render the other standards obsolete. Modem speed increased exponentially from 300 bps in days that predate me to 2400, then 9600, and 14.4k. Modem speeds eventually topped out at 56kbps, which was when I made the jump to broadband, never to turn back.
Using a modem was very high-geek. You needed to know a bunch of very obscure initialization string settings. The most important of which was how to silence the dial tone, dialing and answer squawk so that you wouldn’t wake up your wife while BBS’ing late at night. The word “surfing” didn’t even exist then.
The typical BBS sysop (system operator) was a guy with a computer he left on 24/7. As his BBS grew he would add modems so that more than one user could be on at a time. Large ones would charge membership and adult oriented ones often required proof of age (or so I heard). Widespread use of the WWW put most of these guys out of business. Some bigger commercial ones evolved into ISP’s, but the hobbyists all went onto other things. Like running fan-sites on the web.
Once on a BBS, there was precious little to do except post on a message board or download files. Files tended to be of the variety favored by male technically enabled early adopters, warez and pr0n. There was a whole etiquette to downloading files that included uploading files as well. Since I didn’t have a stash of uploadable files and was a little squeamish about having that stuff on a family computer, I kept to the message boards or reading Fidonet threads.
Fidonet was the BBS users’ semaphore-flag-on-a-hill simulation of Usenet that ran in parallel to and in many ways was superior to the similar Usenet groups. The topic groups ran to the geek end of the spectrum. Star Trek was well represented.
Much of the jargon that still exists was coined by users of early BBS’s as well as the mainframe users of Usenet. There were “lurkers” and “trolls” and “doodz” and “file-leeches” and several other sub-species of anti-social specimens. Each BBS would develop its own little community of frequent users and hierarchies and feuds and flame-wars would ensue. Just like any decent blog or message board today. The more things change the more they stay the same.
And my point before I started geezing was…. Oh, yeah, most of these BBS’s were DOS based shareware platforms that created little files for each user on the host’s machine, so user names were limited to eight characters. I needed an eight character word to succinctly summarize me and my multi-faceted personality yet still remain anonymous, just in case.
I chose yellojkt.
Over the years this choice has served me well. There are very few places I go where I can’t get yellojkt as a username without having to resort to silly numerical suffixes. By now, nearly everybody everywhere allows names of nearly unlimited length. I hang onto yellojkt for sentimental and practical reasons. yellojkt is short, easy to type, and easy to remember. I have been yellojkt on Prodigy, AOL, Netcom, Earthlink, Comcast, and numerous chat-rooms, bulletin boards, blogging services, and other assorted members-only environments. I even now own yellojkt.com, although all you will find is a redirect to my Blogger account. I just hated the thought that someone else might have grabbed that domain name when I get around to wanting to do something with it.
But why yellojkt, and not some other nonsensical eight letter combination?
That’s a different question altogether. It’s fairly easy to figure out phonetically that yellojkt is short for Yellow Jacket.
But why Yellow Jacket?
For one thing it’s a great conversation starter. It’s really not hard to figure out, but I’m going to give out some red herrings in further posts before I spill the beans. I have heard some wild guesses over the years and you are welcome to give it a try. The more outlandish the better.