PORN SHOCKER! Seedy UseNet and BBS Red Light Districts Deliver Filth

Summary:ZDNet's 20th anniversary: Violet Blue looks back on pornography and the Internet in 1991.

It's every decent person's complete nightmare.

What if something as innocent and wholesome as your television set delivered unmetered filth into your very own home at the click of a button?

Surely this can't be happening today in 1991 - but the scourge of pornography knows no time for civility.

Hold on to your normal life, and get ready to protect your children from the menace of pornographic stories and images that are coming out of ordinary computers - at this very moment.

That's right: from perverts in raincoats to orgies and the kind of sickness found in so-called "Adult Book Stores" - it can all be found by anyone with access to a Computer Center or a cheap copy of Computer Shopper Magazine.

BBS and UseNet Porno Shocker

"John" was just like any other college student with a bright future. Everything about his life was normal, until one day thought the course of his work-study job in the college Computer Center, he had a taste of the forbidden fruit.

John had heard from a friend about something all the kids were "into" - something ominously called "UseNet."

His friend told him that trying just a little bit would be "no big deal" and John really wanted to be "cool."

Turns out, the thing that made UseNet so "cool" with the kids was that there was Porn On It.

We'll leave it to your imaginations, dear readers, what kind of sick and twisted-up person would put the evils of pornography on something clearly not designed to be perverted in such a way.

International Business Machines should be just that: business machines.

John had one chance to be saved before being seduced by the Sirens of Sin waiting for him on UseNet. John is a "computer tech." But he still couldn't put together a program that would uuencode/uudecode to convert email-type text Usenet posts into images.

To get his thrills, John has to use crude tools perversely named Archie and Veronica. John "uses" them by typing a search word and getting back in return primitive summaries of file names on various internet-connected computers around the world, which he then downloads in hopes they might be the disgusting sex acts he is looking for.

John told me, "I used Veronica to search for "bondage" and got back endless copies of Martin Luther's "The Bondage of The Will."

Surely this cannot be because there are so many Lutherans on this new "internet."

"Alt Sex" Is Not Normal Sex

A trip into the dark underbelly of computer worlds is as shockingly simple as visiting Alt.Sex.Stories. This is where John lost his innocence, and lost control.

John discovered that this place was a veritable brothel made of text. Anything could be had for free - bondage, orgies, oral sex, and things that must never be mentioned in a .txt file.

Horrifyingly, John's results "using" Veronica also returned something called "the alt.sex.bondage FAQ."

These search tools reach into various local/partial archives of UseNet, which means it is a way to access even more filthy, raunchy and downright dirty stories.

Maybe you don't want to believe this could be possible: guard your morality and see that a quick look at Alt.Sex.Stories Text Repository reveals stories with sickening names such as:

  • /Old_Joe's_Collection/Exhibitionism/Doctor-Nurse/Humil.txt
  • /ASSTR_Collection/Unknown_Author/Unknown.The_Anatomy_Lesson.txt
  • /nifty/gay/athletics/working-on-my-lunge

This publication is too decent for us to hyper-link such vileness.

Still: the pernicious evils of pornography peddle flesh on more than just the aptly-named UseNet.

John sank deep into the depravities of disgustingly named porn-pushers found in the dark and dangerous alleyways of BBS subcultures.

BBS: A Flesh Peddler's Paradise

John isn't the first victim of smut's allure and undulating ASCII slatterns to explain that now, in 1991, we are at the pinnacle of BBS culture.

BBS is short for Bulletin Board System - but this is not the kind of bulletin board your high school uses for inspirational pep rally fliers.

The shady adult world of BBS is a connected computer system that anyone - even children - can dial in to connect. There, the unsuspecting victim might find text files - or pictures.

Like all perverts past the point of salvation, John has a very fast modem - 9,600bps - that allows him to collect free smut with alarming ease and speed.

Finding these annals of depravity to call up is as easy as ordering a Sears catalog from the back of your favorite magazine. Because the bulletin boards are local numbers, there are updated lists of BBS numbers sorted by area code printed in the back of Computer Shopper Magazine.

Using BBS, John downloaded visual pornography for the very first time only a mere month ago: March 1991.

BBS members comfortable with the levels of filth they wade through pay a fee: John gets his sick kicks for free. As a non-paying member of these BBS, he has an upload/download quota.

In a virtual raincoat of secrecy, John dials up to these places in series, roams their files areas like a desperate predator, and downloads one or two or three images before he runs out of quota.

John told me that he literally lays on his college dorm bunk, "doing my homework and look up from time to time watching the images paint line by line on my Gorilla Green Screen monochrome VGA monitor (rich kids in my building have color monitors and Windows 2.0, but I am not rich and am running a 286 DOS box with a Hercules graphics card that *emulates* VGA graphics ... not always properly)."

John never knows what kind of sick image he's going to get.

John also tells me that someday he hopes to get "real internet, with the world wide web and everything."

Presumably to be pulled deeper into the mire of flesh already being peddled in this place where porn, perverts and once-normal young men like John must now desperately dwell.

No one knows where this shocking computer culture is headed. One thing is certain: a generation is in danger, and no good can come of it.

Image from ASCII "Deep Throat" (link NSFW): http://www1.zkm.de/~wvdc/ascii/java/

Topics: Hardware, CXO

About

Ms. Violet Blue (tinynibbles.com, @violetblue) is a freelance investigative reporter on hacking and cybercrime at Zero Day/ZDNet, CNET and CBS News, as well as a noted sex columnist. She has made regular appearances on CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show and is regularly interviewed, quoted, and featured in a variety of publications that inclu... Full Bio

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