The Internet split by class sometime before I arrived in 1987. There were the wireheads who worked in UNIX and the ordinaries who fumbled along with DOS. The UNIX folk created how messaging works today, starting with newsgroups and mailing lists, and a consolation prize for the Microsoft set was Fidonet and the little noted nor long remembered BBS. This was like Triple-A Ogden.

The BBS was a setup on an IBM or clone PC which allowed anyone, friend or stranger, to run games, download files, or communicate on your machine, making you a system operator, or sysop. Access was by dialing in using modems and an ordinary phone line, and all software to make it happen was freely available online.

I did that. I offered a game of chess, among others. Chess provided the player with helpful commentary on text as the game proceeded..

“Nice move.”
“I think you have it now!”
“Good strategy!”

The games were behind what are called doors, and when this particular caller came back onto the main board, he hit the chat button, which summoned the sysop.

He wanted to continue the conversation.

In other words, he thought I had been personally responsible for the canned vapid running commentary while his game was going on. Not only that, but he liked it so much he wanted it to go on.

While I use the moment sometimes to access humility whenever it’s in need, at least it is a proof according to Turing* that robotics has arrived.

  • The Turing test is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.
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