Commodork: Sordid Tales from a BBS Junkie

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Commodork: Sordid Tales from a BBS Junkie is my collection of stories and memories from the computer Bulletin Board System (BBS) era. Long before the World Wide Web, dial-up BBSes were how we computer nerds communicated online.

The story of Commodork begins in the 1980s with the purchase of our first home computer, a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model III, and continues through the mid-1990s with the death of BBSes and the birth of the internet as we know it. Although it sounds technical in nature, Commodork is more about the people I met and the experiences I had than the actual hardware. It’s about the adventures that took place during those great years not necessarily the computers they took place on.

This book is intended for fellow BBS enthusiasts who loved and miss the BBS era, and computer users of today who are familiar with the internet but were born too late to experience BBSes first hand.

READ CHAPTER ONE FOR FREE: Unsure if Commodork is the book for you? Click HERE to read the first chapter absolutely free!

LIKE PICTURES? Check out a gallery with all the photos that appear in the book HERE!

BUY COMMODORK Use the PayPal links at the top of this page to purchase Commodork: Sordid Tales from a BBS Junkie. Prices include shipping (US only), and all copies purchased from this site will arrive autographed with a personal thanks to you. The PDF link will return to you a website where you can immediately download a DRM-free PDF copy of the book. If you have any issues with the ordering process or would like to mail cash or a personal check, please email me.


REVIEWS


“Based on what I’ve read so far, I recommend both [Commodork and Invading Spaces] without reservation. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it’s obvious that Flack is a writer and a gamer, not just a gamer who happens to write. His style is clear and unpretentious, and the hilarious anecdotes alone are worth the price of admission.”
– Brett Weiss, author of “Classic Home Video Games (1972-1984) A Complete Reference Guide (LINK)

“Required reading. On my flight to Orlando, I caused quite the scene cracking up laughing on the plane from a few parts in Commodork.”
– Drew Stone, organizer, Oklahoma Electronic Gaming Expo.

“One note in this book particularly struck me: in the beginning days of home computers people who had a home computer were very actively using them – “Nobody sat around mindlessly playing Solitaire all day long back then”. Indeed, the happy few who had home computers in the 1980s / 1990s had a strong interest in doing stuff with those computers. I know I was able to make 17-hour “computering” days. The book is about Robs’ memories from growing up with computers (his parents supporting him a lot), the rampant copying of software that happened and the growth and decline of BBSes. A wonderful book, very recognizable when you went through the same stuff around the same time. And Rob is good at storytelling which makes this a very nice book to read. 5 out of 5 stars.”
– Koos van den Hout at The Virtual Bookcase

“I just got this book last weekend, and It is very good read and am about halfway through. Rob takes the reader through some of his experiences as a teen-aged comuter freak and software pirate starting in the 80s through to the 90s, which touches on BBSing, copyfests and the software trades, networking, and phreaking. Though many of us may have done some of these in our youth to a degree, not as many are willing to admit it. If you are wondering what it was like as a nerd of the 80s, working with the 8-bit machines and computing before the internet will find a good insight to one person’s experience (mine certainly varies but I do have a couple similar reminiscences from reading his tales.) If you are an avid 80s fan/cyberculture reader this is a worthy book. The closest similar I’ve read is Steve Levy’s Hackers.”
– L. Anderson (via Amazon.com)

“I say with certainty that you’ll love Commodork because, having heard what some other folks are saying about this book, it’s quickly become clear that there’s a wealth of shared experience among those of us who were “online” back in the days when it was almost an elite thing, when only the technically adept could connect and configure a modem and even claim to be “online.” Commodork captures that era with enough crystal clarity that I could’ve sworn in places that I was reading my life story. This is what BBSing was like in the 80s, its own curious social circle and its own unique mini-meritocracy, where friendships were made for life and where those who revealed themselves as lamers were relentlessly tormented. If anyone has captured that in print better than Commodork does, I haven’t seen it yet.

More than that, Commodork is a story of enduring friendships and relationships formed through the electronic medium, and that’s the real backbone of the whole story. Whether friends were made online, or at floppy-swapping get-togethers, they made a lasting mark. And that allows the author to segue into an analysis of why it doesn’t always seem as though this is the case on the internet these days, despite the fact that bulletin board systems have passed the torch to the web forum and other communities such as those found in Usenet and IRC. There’s something missing somehow – perhaps the knowledge that the internet is almost the exact opposite of a local BBS, or maybe something even more tangible than that. The BBS, being a local entity, encouraged people to get together and put faces to names; with a few notable exceptions, the internet doesn’t seem to have the same effect.”
– Earl Green, LogBook.com (LINK)

“O’Hara never lets it get dry and technical; it’s about people he met while trading software, the kind of people who he partied with, got into fights with, or loved. He’s not always nice and he’s not always the hero; what really rings true is how none of it feels pumped up or faked, dressed up as some inherently soul-searching activity where every moment in bristling with poignant meaning. That said, some of it rings very close to the heart indeed.

In fact, this book’s greatest effect may be the touchstone it provides for one’s own experiences. Even as Rob’s younger self is getting drunk at a BBS party and stumbling in panic from a perceived bust into the flatbed of a parked truck to sleep it off, I’m harkening back in my own mind to events that accompanied my BBSing that I’d forgotten wholly and totally. But I was there again, saving my own warez for the right moment, meeting my own soon-to-be-lifelong friends, making my own grievous mistakes. Anyone who used BBSes for any period of time will want to run to their keyboards and tell their own story; I see a lot of long e-mails in Mr. O’Hara’s future.”
– Jason Scott, director of BBS: The Documentary (via SLASHDOT)