ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Homecoming —

I was chatting with one of my oldest friends, and while going over a few things, he said “TIM needs a new home”.

“What?” I said.

“Let me forward you the e-mail trail,” he said.

When I was 19, living for the first time in my own apartment with multiple roommates, I’d started to get into this whole phenomenon called MUDs, or Multi-User Dungeons. I was introduced to them by my friend John, who had been traipsing throughout the Internet for a while before me up at his (far-away) college. We’d been buddies in high school and kept in close touch, and while I was generally using BBSes at this time, I’d been able to get into the Internet at large via the “Terminus” system at MIT (an 8-line dialup they had with semi-flexible open access). These MUD things, which felt an awful lot like text adventures you could share with others, were fascinating. I didn’t take much interest in the standards of role-playing and building, but I really did like the real-time communication and the ability to walk around in “spaces” and build my own attachments to these “spaces”. That ruled!

Within a short time, John and I, who had founded a humor magazine together back in high school, found enough in these games to warrant a parody. So, in March of 1990, we used Richard M. Stallman’s AI lab account (which he freely shared with people) and put up a MUD. Many games used a program called ‘TinyMUD” that resulted in names like “TinyHELL”, so we naturally called ours “TinyTIM”.

Within an ever shorter bit of time, we were fighting with the other users of the GNU.AI machine to keep TinyTIM (TIM) up. We moved to another hosted machine thanks to a very kind user at the Supercollider in Texas, then he and I had a falling out. We in fact moved many times, had many adventures, and all of this is way too much to go into in a single entry. There’s a history at the TinyTIM home page.

Anyway, I would say that for many years, my home and space was on TIM. There’s a lot of people who know me that way, as Sketch the Art Cow of TinyTIM. It’s a major part of me, and who I am. I probably spent 15 hours a day on it, every day, for years. Some day I will mine these stories for you.

This is also why there will be a MUD presence during GET LAMP; I’ve interviewed Richard Bartle, creator of MUDs, and will hopefully round out with a few others as well.

Around 10 years in, the unthinkable happened; I started to live a very different life from wanting to run TIM. had taken off; I was starting to get my face into some very global/high profile places, and knocking myself out over a place that would max out at 200 attendees when I had a site getting 100,000 visitors a month was starting to be less appealing. In one of those ugly situations and cascading set of events that always seems to happen, the “Sketch Retires from TIM” got about as ugly as it could and I was both jumping and pushed. This, also, is worth mining.

From that time, people who were truly my friends and not just holding friendships of convenience have stayed in touch, and one of them is R’nice, the battery that drove TIM. A programmer, genius, and amazing fellow, he’s one of my most closest friends, and my leaving TIM broke his heart. It was he who told me that the machine had lost its current (generous) hosting location and needed a new home.

So what else could I say? I took it in.

The machine arrived today, packed in a huge crate; a backup form of it is currently up and running at the old site, and this one will replace it. There’s some adjustments to be made, some hardware upgrading to do, and so on. But here, seven years after I quit, the place I co-founded will be running in my basement.

How do I feel about this? Well, I never disliked the place; I just outgrew it. I had (and still have) management opinions, but I’m a different person now, with different goals and things to do. I want to make sure the old clubhouse doesn’t get torn down; I’m not interested in being Lead Moose at the Lodge.

This is TIM’s seventeenth year; may it have many more.

Categorised as: Uncategorized

Comments are disabled on this post

One Comment

  1. mgroves says:

    Wow, I had no idea you were Sketch. I spent a good year or so during college hanging out on TinyTIM. I don’t remember you coming in very much during my time there, but I do remember you being very nice and very fair.

    I don’t know whatever happened to the guys that I used to hang out with: Kahlua is the only one I actually remember right now, but I had a good time there. Alas, I too moved on a long while ago, but I often think back to it and wonder if anyone remembers me… Probably not.