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Pyrzqxgl life & times

The time has come, the walrus said, to take down my story of how Pyrzqxgl died, and replace it with a story of how Pyrzqxgl lived.

Back in 1995 when I first put this page up, Pyrzqxgl had been dead for only a matter of months, so the main concern of this side of the page was to let wandering members of the Santa Cruz BBS community know what had become of it.

But considering how many years have passed since then (Pyrzqxgl's 25th anniversary has already come and gone -- how time flies!), well, I figure all Pyrzqxgl users already know Pyrzqxgl is down, so this space would be much better used for a history of Pyrzqxgl and the Santa Cruz BBS scene in general. I'm intending to start with a sketchy draft and then go back and add to it bit by bit whenever I'm in a mood to do so. If any Pyrzqxgl users would like to send me their own reminiscences, I may add them to this page as well, for example check out this nice memoir of the mid-eighties Santa Cruz BBS scene written by Pyrzqxgl user Damaskas.

The early '80's were a time of the first generally useful, widely available and more-or-less affordable home computers, like the Apple ][, TRS-80, Atari, Kaypro II, IBM PC and others. Some of these computers had 300 or even 1200-baud modems, and BBSes (computer "Bulletin Board Systems") began to proliferate for them to dial into. As any BBS enthusiast already had the computer and modem needed to run a BBS of their own, you can see why many computer hobbyists, would-be hackers, or just lonely people looking for lots of instant science fiction and computer-buff friends would find it appealing to join the ranks of BBS sysop (SYStem OPerator).

BBSes were best known as places to download files of all types -- pirated games, shareware utilities, software for running BBSes, you name it -- but most of them also had discussion areas, and some of them were

*** more coming soon ***


A few Pyrzqxgl facts

Here are some links and info that will be integrated into the main text of this side of the page after I get more of it written. :-)

The name "Pyrzqxgl" came from L. Frank Baum's book "The Magic of Oz." It also makes an appearance in Zenna Henderson's short story "The Believing Child".

Pyrzqxgl ran on a Victor 9000 computer I had gotten from the computer store I was doing repair and programming for, in exchange for a promised transportation allowance, and which I named "Julie".

Originally Pyrzqxgl ran on a 10MB external drive donated by Sam Yorko, but in January of 1987 he donated a 30MB replacement, and I passed the 10MB drive on to the Temple of Zuul BBS, which had previously been running on floppies. These days it's not unusual for a single digital-camera photo to take up 10MB all by itself, but in those days 10MB was enough to hold years of discussions, journal entries, developing friendships, shared experiences, milestones and realizations, and just plain life, for a large number of people.

The original Pyrzqxgl modem was a 1200-baud U.S. Robotics OEM modem bare circuitboard I hung off the back of (and spliced the power wires into) the Victor, and which Jan had given me at the Stuart II "Christmas Savings Party" at the beginning of 1986 (my response: "Guess I had better write a BBS now!"). I upgraded to a 2400-baud Supra modem on May 12, 1989.

Pyrzqxgl's software was written in Turbo Pascal by yours truly while eating large amounts of chocolate. The message base made its debut on April 15, 1986, chat, mail and a few other features having appeared some weeks earlier. Later that year I sent Wizzard a letter noting that the Pyrzqxgl message base was "currently approaching message 10,000, after less than five months of tree operation". Pyrzqxgl went down for the last time at the end of 1994, a victim of (1) Usenet, (2) hardware problems, and (3) general moving/work/etc.-related chaos.

Originally Pyrzqxgl was in Ben Lomond, California, with a phone number of (408) 336-3134, but at the end of February 1987 it moved to Santa Cruz and the (408) 476-4633 number noted in the Summer 1990 Microtimes listing shown below. (This was back when the Santa Cruz area used to share the 408 area code with Silicon Valley -- now we have 831 instead.)

Pyrzqxgl. (408)476-4633, 3/12/24. Discussions, fiction, journals, articles and mail. Tree-structured. Sysop: Tane' Tachyon.

Back in May of 1989 when domain names didn't cost anything, Ulmo registered Pyrzqxgl.Santa-Cruz.CA.US, and for a while Pyrzqxgl had a rather roundabout email connection to the Internet -- users could send and receive mail to and from outside Pyrzqxgl via Ulmo's system Mist.Aptos.CA.US which he had programmed to call and log into Pyrzqxgl as a user.


(Not just) a few Pyrzqxgl cookies

Like many BBSes and other public-access and/or multi-user computer systems, Pyrzqxgl would display a random "cookie" (quote) at login (and in Pyrzqxgl's case, at logoff as well, and also if you pressed C at the ">>" command prompt). Click the buttons below to see the cookies from a copy of the Pyrzqxgl cookie file I had made on June 30, 1992.


Pyrzqxgl's "Autobiographical notes"

On Pyrzqxgl the letter A was the "Autobiographical notes" command, and pressing it at Pyrzqxgl's ">>" prompt would display the following message:

I am Pyrzqxgl, a tree-structured computer "bulletin board." My name comes from the book, "The Magic of Oz." It is a word which, if you can pronounce it correctly, will instantly transform you into whatever creature you wish, whether real or imaginary.

Now it's hard to work such instant miracles at 300 to 2400 baud, but the principle here is the same: your words and the words of others can transform your life. Ask a question and you will get helpful answers. Discuss the things that interest you and you will make new friends. Make the effort to write regularly, and you will improve your judgement, your vocabulary, your perception, your honesty and understanding, your coherence, your concentration, your confidence, the list goes on forever.

And what am I? I am a BBS named "Pyrzqxgl," a program named "WORK.EXE" and a Victor 9000/Sirius 1 computer named "Julie." My program weighs in at just over 2500 lines of Turbo Pascal code, which seems large and small to me at the same time. I am frustrated by the many things I still cannot do, and by the often embarrassing mistakes I make when I first learn a new function, but I basically enjoy my life, and look forward to learning as much as I can.

Yes, I am a creation, but so is the persona that you show to the outside world. Perhaps we can help each other to become more real.


Pyrzqxgl commands

Below is the list of Pyrzqxgl commands you would get if you pressed ? at the ">>" command prompt.

  <Tree-navigation commands>
P -- Print current message
T -- Traversal (the msg's descendants)
L -- Go one message to the Left
R -- Go one message to the Right
M -- "Menu" (current msg's children)
U -- Up one message (parent)
< or / -- Go to msg's leftmost child
> or \ -- Go to msg's rightmost child
+ -- Add new msg under current one
- -- Delete current message
J -- nJ will jump to message number n
B -- Back (in time) one message

   <How to see new messages>
# or : -- Goes to where new msgs begin
Q -- Quickscan (new message traversal)
F -- Forward (in time) one message
N -- "Next" message (F and P)
W -- What's new under current message

   <User-related commands>
E -- Edit your user information
I -- Identity Change (log on again)
G -- Go, Hang up
O -- list Other users by time and date
X -- eXamine your mail
Z -- "Zend" Mail to another user
V -- Voyeurism (see user descriptions)

   <Miscellaneous commands>
A -- Autobiographical notes
@ -- Pointer used in Search & Traversal
C -- Cookie
D -- Date, time and history
S -- Search for authors or text
Y -- Yak with Jon or Tachyon
^ -- Move a message
K -- "Kopyright" notice
? -- Print this List
H -- Help tutorials

Actually the above is formatted for 40-column screens -- back in 1986 when Pyrzqxgl went online, some of the users were still dialing in from old Apple IIs and the like -- but if you edited your user information to say that your screen was 80 columns or wider, each section of the command list would display in a two-column format.


"Wow, you're telling me that Wizzard/John Cowan put the final Stuart II archive on the web?"

Yes, he did! You can see it at

Also, for Facebook users, Ulmo just (August 3, 2011) created a Stuart II users Facebook group.


"But is there anything else about Pyrzqxgl on the web?"

Not much! For one thing, I think that the only existing Pyrzqxgl messages on the web right now are some ones I wrote about Sam when he was a baby and a Gossamer Axe book review.

You can see the occasional mention of Pyrzqxgl in the online Stuart II message base listed above.

Look Out owns the domain -- check it out to see a list of Pyrzqxgl user names, a Pyrzqxgl banner, and some comments.

There are brief mentions of it on a few other former users' pages, such as Hermit & Enigma's How we Met amd Hermit's My Online History.

Pyrzqxgl also gets a mention in Brett Glass's Slashdot piece on the Stuart II BBS -- "A community that really worked... for awhile".

The BBSmates site has a listing for Pyrzqxgl.

The Facebook group Santa Cruz Geeks Of The '80s And '90s does have some nice comments about Pyrzqxgl, XBBS, and some of the other local BBSes, in addition to UCSCB and SCO and so on.


"What about on Usenet?"

Not too much, but here are a few more or less notable mentions:

A short 1990 exchange between me and Keeper about Pyrzqxgl's (on again, off again, and usually misspelled) phone book listing.

Filbo talks about Pyrzqxgl and XBBS back in 1990 -- note that he also used to mention them in his sig, in fact the large majority of "hits" for Pyrzqxgl throughout Usenet history involve Filbo's sig.

Hermit's 1992 announcement for his BBS "The Hermitage" mentions Pyrzqxgl in some talk about tree-structured BBS history and interface.


"So, did Pyrzqxgl ever make it into any books?"

You know, I have vague memories of getting listed in one or more of the BBS-era equivalents of today's instantly-outdated web-guide books, but here are two more-noteworthy appearances:

Sandy Stone's book The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age mentions the Conference Trees, Pyrzqxgl, XBBS, The Temple of Zuul, PC-Tree, The Sea of Mists and Stuart II -- I will give more of a quote from and explanation about this later when I do some revamping of this page.

Daniel "DSA" Appleman's 1993 book Visual Basic Programmer's Guide to the Windows API includes thanks to "the Pyrzqxgl/XBBS crowd" in the dedication, and a picture of the Pyrzqxgl login screen in the "Serial Communications" chapter.

And in the periodicals department, the article "Modems Make Good" (about Pyrzqxgl and other Santa Cruz BBSes) by Pyrzqxgl user Phoenix ran in the March 23 1988 issue of the Cabrillo College Voice newspaper.


"How about some related links?"

Dave Winer's Outliners & Programming page tells how he wrote LBBS, the direct ancestor of Stuart II and therefore grandparent to Pyrzqxgl.

Stuart II sysop Nick Turner's online communities page gives a short history of Stuart II.

Jon Shemitz's XBBS - Dialup hypertext page gives a short history of XBBS.

The TEXTFILES.COM Historical BBS List site wants to compile/provide a "historical record of all the Bulletin Board Systems that ever were". Look up or add your old favorites, and read some general information on BBSes and BBS history.

BBSmates is a site for looking up "old BBS buddies" you lost contact with "during the internet revolution".

Wikipedia's Bulletin Board System page gives a detailed overview and history of BBSes in general.

Some of you may roll your eyes at this one, but I think that parts of LiveJournal definitely have a BBS feel to them, in terms of friendly community- based discussion where people are free to post about whatever they like and then other people comment, where people have fun with aliases, and where conversations are preserved in threaded format. It's worth noting that one of the many uses people commonly put Pyrzqxgl, XBBS, Stuart II, etc. to was to create "so-and-so's journal" online diaries. So as you might imagine, a fair number of Pyrzqxgl users have set up shop on LiveJournal: Enigma, Filbo, Howeird, Iampax, Jon Shemitz, The Keeper of the Pen, Keyboard Thrasher, Meico, Nightshade, Psychochick, Rapunzel, Tachyon, Tim Bowden/Tremonius, and Variegated Fritillary/The Wild Thang. (Apologies to anyone I'm forgetting, and looking forward to hearing about others I don't already know about!)

For that matter, recently the proliferation of popular social-networking sites and their spin-offs -- LiveJournal, DreamWidth, Facebook, Google+, Diaspora, LinkedIn, etc. -- has been giving me flashbacks to the old BBS days of making the daily rounds of calling one BBS after another!


"So did you stick any humorous links down here at the bottom of the page?"

Uh, yeah, sure, why not? :-)

The "Society of Kabalarians of Canada" seem to think that Pyrzqxgl is a good baby name for a boy.


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Last updated November 4, 2016
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the second half of a Pyrzqxgl BBS banner

Where are they now?

Here are links to pages by or featuring (or even just mentioning) former Pyrzqxgl / Stuart II / XBBS / Zuul / etc. users (obviously I'll add more as I get them) by alias (test your memory :-)):

Ace 88
Beach Bunny
ben dayho
The Black Druid
Black Falcon
B0b Runyon
The Boom
Brain Dead
Brian Tvedt
College Boy
The Commander
The Cynic
Dan Dogherra
Daniel Forbin
The Devil's Advocate
Doctor Claw
The Dove
Dr. Ink
Duncan Idaho
Ed Porter
Eli, the Ice Man
Etoan Shurdlu
Exavious Timer
frederick smythe, esquire
Guy Woffindin
Jason Kaehler
The Jhrool
Jimmy Joe Newbob
John Fridinger
Jon Shemitz
Judge Dredd
The Keebler
The Keeper of the Pen
Kenneth Freeman
Kevin Lockheed
Keyboard Thrasher
Key Master
The King
Knuckle Buckalo
Koan the Grammarian
Krazee Moose
The Lone Rhino
Look Out
Lori & Corey Cole
Mary Ellen
Maxwell's Demon
Merlin Sparks
Michael Lockridge
Mickey Mouse
Midnight Caller
Mighty Rover
Mike Van Pelt
The Mire
Mister Canoehead
Mr. Info
Nathen Brazil
Nick Turner
Nobody Important
Omnibus Evanescent
Paranormal Hamster
Ralph Williams
Rebellious Persimmon
The Ricker
Robin Haas
Ronald Redball
The Salamander
Sam Yorko
Scott Ucker
Silvia Software
Spiral Nova
Steve Guy
Steven Ginzburg
Steven Grimm
Tasslehoff Burrfoot
Teddy Bear
Tim Bowden
Time Patrolman
The Unbeliever
Variegated Fritillary
Wayne Tvedt
The Wild Thang

If you have contact info for any Pyrzqxgl / Stuart II / XBBS / Zuul users who aren't listed above (including perhaps yourself :-)), please send me mail about it -- I would love to find more of the people I've lost track of.

I've tried to hunt up all the people I knew "real names" for, from the most well- known users to those who showed up only a few times. At first I was surprised at some of the people who didn't seem to have web pages yet, but these days even a lot of the non-web-page people are turning up on Facebook and LinkedIn.

I've listed what I can, including finger files (almost as endangered as BBSes these days) and some pretty questionable web pages that just mention a person's name or something, just for fun and for lack of anything better to list.

For a long time I was determined not to put in any 'mailto's, but now I've even stooped to doing that! I've also put in some multiple listings for people with multiple user names.

The web being what it is, some of the above links are likely to be broken at any given time. I'll update them as I find out about them, but will also leave bad links in as placeholders -- I figure anyone who had a web page or email address before is likely to have one again one of these days. So let me know if you find a bad link, but realize that it may stay around for a while anyway.


In Memoriam

In memory of our Santa Cruz BBS community friends who are sadly no longer with us.


I would also like to honor the memory of John "spcecdt" Dubois, who died this morning (March 11, 2012). Although I don't know that he ever actually called Pyrzqxgl or any of the other Santa Cruz BBSes, John was a very important part of the Santa Cruz online/ tech/ geek communities ever since he put his system Deeptht/The Armory online back in 1989, providing free UNIX accounts, email, and Internet access back when most people had never heard of these things -- for an awful lot of BBS users, signing up for Armory accounts was their introduction to this world. "The Armory" was also the name of John's house, where he hosted countless potluck dinners and other events over the years. He made a big difference in many people's lives and in building community, and was kind and generous to all -- he is and will continue to be much missed!