This is the first of a series of documents covering stuff I consider “Behind the Scenes” or “About the Production”. They’ll range from analysis of the process of interviews, to trivia and other facts that aren’t on the DVD. It’s not because I didn’t think them important or worthy of being on the DVD; I just didn’t have the time to write all these additional documents out in a a timeframe that would have gotten the documentary out before 2006.
This is a bittersweet document; an expansion/explanation of all the names of the people the various episodes are dedicated to. There are eight episodes in all, and seven have dedications to people (the eighth, COMPRESSION, has no dedications because I thought it wouldn’t be tasteful). Here are the stories of the people each episode has been dedicated to, with hopefully a hint as to why I paired that person with that episode’s theme. All these stories are sad in various ways, and I’m sorry there’s nothing I can do about that.
Andrew Fluegelman is in danger of being forgotten as one of the pioneers in the BBS and computer world. He was a successful attorney, programmer, and editor who left a strong mark on the growing computer industry. With the introduction of the IBM PC, he wrote PC-TALK, a communications program that quickly became one of the leaders in that growing market, because of his approach of making the software cost nothing, asking instead for donations. He called this “Freeware”, and trademarked the name. Others who worked the same way ended up calling their similar approach “Shareware”, a name that has stuck.
He was also an editor of both The Whole Earth Catalog and later PC World and MacWorld magazine.
In 1985, Flugelman was taking medication for Colitis, which was having a deep effect on his personality, with mood swings and depression. In July of that year, he was informed that he had cancer; he drove to the Golden Gate Bridge, left a suicide note in his car, and, it is presumed, committed suicide.
His body has never been found.
Episode: Sysops and Users
Like many young sysops in the 1980s, Dustin had found out about computers, then modems, and ultimately BBSes, and tried his hand at running one. His BBS, Beyond Reality, stayed up for a while, taking messages and transferring files with Dustin at its head, until he took down the BBS (again, like many others) for the Internet.
This story would not be unusual were it not for the fact that Dustin had experienced a spinal cord injury that paralyzed him from the neck down at age six. He had been hit and run by a driver while chasing down a ball.
For 20 years after, using sip and puff systems, he ran his BBS, attended high school and later college, and then graduated. He passed away in 2002, aged twenty-six.
Episode: Make it Pay
Tim Stryker’s technological achievements nearly eclipse his BBS work; at an early age he was already designing video games (like, full size arcade games) and created a networked game that worked cross-platform (Atari computers could play Commodore computers, and so on) called COMM-BAT for a company called Adventure International.
Stryker founded Galacticomm, and created a product in the form of a custom card that could run many modems off a single computer. To demonstrate the power of this card, he wrote some BBS software as an example.. and the software took off. Galacticomm’s MajorBBS software became a hit, and Stryker had success along with it.
In the mid-1990s, he drifted away from technological pursuits to take on a much tougher problem: restoring the ideas of democracy, possibly with an engineering approach. He wrote a number of books about his ideas for improving voting methods and creating a better society, which he called “Superdemocracy”. While his books did sell, his ideas did not take off, and he distanced himself away from his Florida company to live in Colorado.
In August 1996, Stryker committed suicide in the hills of Colorado. He left behind a wife and four children.
Steve Ahola was the Region 16 coordinator for Fidonet in 1991, running
a board called “IBM Tech Fido” in Pepperell, Massachusetts. Experiencing financial setbacks and other factors, he committed suicide on August 13th, 1991. Speaking to some of his friends and associates, there was some indication that he was facing the loss of his telephone line, meaning the end of his interaction with Fidonet, which may have been a factor in his suicide. Regardless of whether this was the case, his loss was felt throughout his online community and throughout Fidonet, and was ultimately commemorated in an issue of Fidonews.
Levi Dedi (NIGHT DAEMON OF ICE)
Levi Dedi was a young man from Israel who had joined the ANSI Artscene and was beginning to make a name for himself. 1997 seemed to be his year; after helping with the organization of a demo party called “Ritual” (he was the Graphics competition organizer), he found himself achieving his dream and joining the ANSI group iCE (Insane Creators Enterprises) in August. But by October, his family life was falling apart, and his mother cut him off from the Internet (and therefore his Artscene world and friends) as punishment. Dedi jumped from the family’s apartment window to his death, sending shockwaves through
his families, both online and off. The next artpack of iCE was dedicated to him and included artwork by and for him.
IBRAHIM “KAM” SHIRANI
I often spend time on IRC, talking with many different channels, getting ideas and starting discussions (or flamewars) with people all over the world. One of these channels was/is a group of hackers and technical folks centered around the Colorado area (although their members were far-flung geographically due to life and jobs and other factors). One of these was someone I knew named “kam”, who was (along with the channel) privy to my frequent updates and monologues
related to the documentary’s production.
Early one morning in August of 2004, as my documentary was nearing completion, kam was driving home from a night on the town when his car rear-ended a van, sending his car rolling into a freeway where it was hit by other cars, killing him. I had spent time with him less than a month before at the DEFCON hackers’ conference.
Episode: No Carrier
Rodney Aloia was the sysop of the INDEX BBS, a 40+ line system that he had founded and built up from 1983. Based in Atlanta, he was a very popular board, and had built it into a successful business.
He was an enthusiastic skydiver, with over 250 solo jumps in a very short time.
But in January of 1998, preparing for a jump with smoke canisters, he backed up into the moving propeller of an airplane, killing him instantly.
For most Sysops, this would be the end of their BBS, the lines slowly ratcheted down and the system taken down in favor of other nearby systems. But something amazing happened: his users, friends and acquaintances bonded together and continued to run the system after him, as both a continuation of his system and as a tribute to his memory. The system still exists at indexbbs.com.
The entire production is dedicated to my grandfather, John Olchowy, a farmer, policeman, soldier, and patriarch, who passed away in September of 2004, a short time before the documentary was finished. His photo is in the production credits menu.
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