Do Not Take This Software Era for Granted (Pt.2)

Jason Heltzer
Feb 23, 2015 · 6 min read
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/carinemily/ under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Not altered.

The BBS Underworld

Like the Internet, the BBS world had an underbelly. There was a hierarchy of people in the dark corners, a social order that I found fascinating. Imagine trying to figure this stuff out as kid. It was a lot to absorb. I had a friend of mine that was older and smarter who taught me the ropes, and that helped me navigate and make sense of it all.

Software Pirates

Using BBSes, software pirates traded commercial, copyrighted software with the copy protection disabled (no DRM). The most popular software category was games, but business software was traded too. The way the system worked was that to get access to pirated files, you had to first upload a pirated file yourself. I remember people explaining that this was necessary because if law enforcement ever showed up, if they first committed a crime in an effort to get you to commit a crime, that was entrapment and a court couldn’t hold you responsible. I felt that probably wasn’t the strongest defense, but that was the norm. The BBSes usually had “fronts” that allowed non-pirate users to trade freeware or shareware that was permitted to be distributed freely.

The Distributors: SysOps

Up the ladder one notch are the system operators (sysops) of the pirate BBSes. To this day, I still love that word — sysop — I don’t know why. Sysops ran BBSes The most prominent pirate BBS in my hometown was Iceman’s Palace. Surprise, a guy named Iceman was the sysop. He was a BBS legend and probably the quiet kid at school. Another one was Etile (elite spelled backwards).

Venture Evolved

Jason is a venture capitalist, business school professor and former software engineer. Jason is a Partner at Origin Ventures and he has been in the venture business since 2001. He also teaches the venture capital and private equity lab class at Chicago Booth.

Jason Heltzer

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Dad, venture capitalist at @OriginVentures, @chicagobooth professor, Chicagoan. I was a nerd before it was cool to be a nerd.

Venture Evolved

Jason is a venture capitalist, business school professor and former software engineer. Jason is a Partner at Origin Ventures and he has been in the venture business since 2001. He also teaches the venture capital and private equity lab class at Chicago Booth.