Last March 29, the Philippine cyber community commemorated the fifth year anniversary of Internet in the Philippines. Much of how the beginnings of Internet in the Philippines have been told and retold, but I wonder what has happened to the rest of historical facts of online activities earlier than 1994...
Back then in 1990, four years after the EDSA revolution, small handful of amateur Pinoy bulletin board systems or BBSes did exist. As far as I know on that year, having a modem with a 1200 bps speed was already considered top speed. I learned from my former co-worker in Makati that by using a pc-terminal software, we can connect to a remote computer using an external Hayes dial-up modem. From then on I was hooked on it.
The thrill of modem handshake was too exciting in those days. Most of the common activity then was the exchange of email messages from one to the other. When the first computer virus called (C)brain spread through out locally in the country, the early BBS communities were the first to disseminate the antidote. One of the famous BBSes then was the defunct PC Digest, operated by Danny Escasa. Most of the BBS board then was using the Fidonet software running on a pc-xt clone with an internal hard disk of 20mb and a single phone line. There were some local developers of BBS system back then. One such BBS system was developed by Obet Verzola and it was called Andromeda. Obet is famous for pioneering the PDAF and Phil.Senate BBS.
Outside World Connectivity
There were only a few BBS net back then but RP Fidonet was one of the oldest and prominent. Messages that came from the other BBS net, specially in US, were being carried out by amateur BBS located within the Subic base. This RP BBS hub exchanged netmail during mail hour zone. In effect local Fidonet-affiliated BBS'es were able to communicate to other countries. Also, shareware files were transported to Metro Manila with this setup.
Back then, a BBS was operated by a sysop (system operator) and a designated topic moderator. One of the oldest conference topics was RP-Comm. It exists up to now but with less activity. This conference area was once very active -- this was the training ground for most ISP system administrators and programmers who now work for the big commercial ISPs. The BBS list number was maintained and updated by a volunteer BBSer and was compiled by Eric Placer. In the old days, conference areas were more informative and interactive since a set of rules was maintained by different moderators compared to the chaos and unmoderated areas of Internet newsgroup.
Chat and EB
Since most BBS is limited to a single phone line, the early netizens were able to chat most of the time with the sysop. Starting in the early 1990's some boards were able to get two phone lines and a BBSer was able to have a chat with fellow BBSer. In 1994, with the advent of a new version of BBS software such as Galacticomm [a BBS software which supported multi-lines to a BBSer], people started to notice and enjoy their new online activity: chatting. More or less, Cybernet Live BBS was one of the early BBS'es that educated present crops of netizen to use IRC and other net chatting clients. As early as 1990, BBSers started to do EB, a term derived from the ham radio amateur lingo, eye ball. Those EBs led more online communities to build up.
A Glimpse of the Past
We might say the online community activities between 1988 and 1995 educated well the early netizens and prepared us to the big coming of the Internet in the country. As we look back to those golden days of BBS, we might say that one way or the other we are grateful to the spirit of volunteerism and dedication of those individual sysops: for their contribution to the growth of the local online community.
And Into the Future
As we journey to the next millenium, some of the historical records of our local online history is forgotten and disappearing little by little. I hope we could preserve and compile the events for future Filipino netizens. This will give them something to be proud of when in the future they'd look into the past.
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