Second draft, June 2 2009. Please help with the history!
PhillyChat and 1985
In the beginning..Kozmo (#028) set up PhillyChat. Was anyone around then to help me with history? Why, where, when, etc?
Playpen, mid 80's to 1990
Running in parallel with PhillyChat was Playpen, a 7-line station. Playpen was started by two people, Anthony Newett (Tony) and Bill Farrell. There was always a rivalry between the two systems, and there was very much a clique on each system. Membership dues were $10 per month. Around '87, Tony expanded to a second system. Playpen also had a monthly vote for 'co', or who would get to brag about having a hat for the month. Users would organize get-togethers at Pennypack Park. Greg Galcik, an early Mac user, used his personal machine to publish a newsletter for the system, which every member received.
Eventually Playpen collapsed around '90 due to infighting between staff. Some users left, while some migrated to PhillyChat.
The slowdown of 1992-93
Kozmo had kept PhillyChat running the whole time - managing it, collecting memberships, and paying all the hosting fees. Between '92 and '93, however, caller volume was starting to decrease, and Kozmo could no longer afford to run the ddial on memberships alone. He didn't want to see it shut down, either - so he started a contest. Whoever wanted to pay for the system for a month could run it any way he or she pleased. It was around this time the system went through a few names, including Electronic Cafe, HerkDial (#005) and Silent Planet.
Savage Frontier is Born
Eventually, Kozmo gave Drizzt Do'Urden (#019) a chance to run it. As his online persona was that of a drow, he naturally chose to honor the name of his character's hometown - the Savage Frontier, a northern territory in the Forgotten Realms. Together with funding from Laryagar (#000) and support from Josh (#050) they managed and ran the system for a few more years.
SF and the Internet in 1996 - aka The Great BBS Wipeout
Many reading this will know what happened in the mid to late 90's. Everywhere, long-time users were vanishing - and many proud dialup system owners realized it just wasn't worth it to keep a system running that one had to dial into (that is, if there wasn't an Internet connection on the other end of the phoneline!) The Network was king. Caller volume dwindled, and Savage Frontier quietly slipped away like so many tens of thousands of systems like it around the world.
Diversi-Dial gets Emulated - 2002
Around this time, Mouse (#059) was getting out of university, and as he was an avid caller from 1990 onwards, as well as being very interested in Apple II's and the Diversi-Dial software as a whole, as well as being wholly uninterested in the spinoff ENTChat as it wasn't 'pure' ddial emulation, started wondering what he could do to bring ddial back. He felt obligated, in a sense, having used the system on the backs of the previous operators who poured money into it for so long. And he was proud to do it, as ddial held a special place for him, having been there, helping shape him, as he grew into an adult.
With the help of a friend on EFNet IRC, cstone, they set off scouring the web for any data on the Apple and AppleCat modem I/O memory locations. With this information, they made extensive modifications to Rich Skrenta's Apple II+ emulator to give it support for seven AppleCat modems, running under a UNIX system listening on sockets - allowing someone on the Internet to directly connect to the ddial. But Mouse didn't have the resources to run the system on the Internet twenty-four hours a day, so the code was shelved...
SF Rebirth - 2007
...until 2007, when Mouse was able to register a domain and had the server space to run the system fully. He took the code that he and cstone had started, and improved upon it. Connection management software was written to simulate the experience of dialing. To communicate IP information back and forth without modifying the ddial in any way, as well as emulating the old Playpen game 'Wheel of Words', a bot was created. And a Java client made it completely authentic, in that it uses the Apple II font running at 300 or 1200 baud (let's face it, 300 baud is just a bit too slow).
It was first hosted by lotbh (#127), in 2007, under a dynamic DNS name. When the new domain was acquired, Pirate (#011) then generously donated hosting from 2008 onward until May 2009. ndf (#075) gifted the project a Pegasos II computer, where it will immortalize ddial and The Savage Frontier for years to come.
We contacted a lot of users, and many have called back and enjoyed reliving memories of late night chats long ago. Won't you be one of them?