BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems), perhaps the most influential predecessor to what we know today as the world wide web, were able to connect many computers with one another in a time where similar technology was limited to only particular universities and government entities. With the help of specialized programs, a computer could now become the host of a small localized network allowing computers to connect to one another, enabling a new and revolutionary form of communication that not many had experienced. This new form of connecting with machines in surrounding areas unleashed a world of possibilities which materialized into the many Bulletin boards and sub-boards that began to appear around the country. One such Bulletin Board System was known as Mindvox, was created, and announced by Lord Digital of the infamous hacking group Legion of Doom, Patrick Kroupa in 1992. Mindvox became perhaps one of the most famous Bulletin Board Systems based in New York. But to understand the true impact that MindVox and other Bulletin Board Systems had on society we need to understand the individuals and interactions held within such Bulletin Board Systems.
The opening of the BBS known as MindVox was announced through an essay, “Voices in my Head, MindVox: The Overture” by Patrick Kroupa which detailed the opening of MindVox along with becoming “one of the most read and widely distributed pieces of writing to ever emerge about the origins and possible futures of cyberspace.” (-Wikipedia) The “Voices in my Head” essay became a crucial player in the spread and popularity of the MindVox BBS as it was spread throughout directories all over the country as well as from word of mouth. Despite being having connections to underground hacker culture, this due to the creators previously being members of the Legion of Doom hacker group, MindVox became a converging point for people of all interests including “old-school hackers, writers, artists, law enforcement agents, and ” ( – BBS textfiles) many more. Like many other BBSs, MindVox allowed for communication amongst many members and even peaked with a user base of “about three thousand people.” (-BBS textfiles) MindVox’s popularity and impact was even felt through various publications and mentions. Joshua Quittner on the 30th of November in 1993 through the Newsday newspaper from Long Island, N.Y., described Mindvox as a place
“filled with areas devoted to things like health and fitness, local parties, politics and all manner of computer-related topics.” (- Dialing Internet Article, Newsday)
Even The New York Times in 1994, featured a magazine, Internet World, in which MindVox was featured as one of six other service providers in New York to get on to the internet. Through this, it is easy to see how far and wide MindVox was able to spread its influence and service. Unfortunately, the insides of MindVox and the way people interacted in the site are not too well known. One can just imagine the type of interactions that went on inside the MindVox BBS. People conversing about their favorite topics, sharing interesting experiences, and perhaps even letting off some steam in the form of some heated posts or rants. (– FU Forum Transcript) In a way it is almost impossible to not think of Reddit when talking about the way people interacted with others on the MindVox BBS. Perhaps people were as devoted to their sub-boards as people of today are to their Reddit forums, me included. MindVox represented a new and innovative form of communication and human connections for many that had never experienced the likes of a BBS before. Young and old, people from all over were now able to connect and share with one another. The likes of MindVox could be regarded as a melting pot of interests representing a wide gamut of cultures and identities all the way from past hackers to writers, artists, and computer nerds. MindVox was truly a site of beauty and curiosity.
Although there is not much information related to the time while MindVox was operation, the cultural impacts, and the identities of those who frequented MindVox could be noticed and heard once MindVox unfortunately closed its BBS due to increased competition in the network and BBS market. John Alderman in an article from WIRED on April 10th, 1997, described the response of the users to the then recent news in 1996 that MindVox would be unable to go live until April 1st after a crash in early March of that year as that of
“like a town learning that a cruel hurricane was coming.” (-MindVox on the Rocks)
The message that arrived to many on that fated day detailed that the unstable hard disk that managed the BBS would go down after only five short days and that “Anyone who valued what was on the board had better download whatever they could, the message urged.” (-MindVox on the rocks) To better illustrate what the people who frequented the MindVox BBS went through, imagine that your favorite networking/social media site warned its users that the site would completely shut down in just a couple of days. Of course, we have seen the panic that something like this can cause just by observing the recent banning of famous social media site TikTok which was ultimately not banned due to some favorable players. Maybe even a better example of this would be the recent shut down of illegal anime pirating site Kissanime which, despite its many flaws and outdated website, attracted many people and built a loyal fan base which was only truly felt once the site shut down one unfortunate night due to copyright infringement. Before its downfall in 1996, many users of MindVox had the opportunity to share stories and learn from one another and even create real life bonds which lasted years. Although, not much is known about the inner workings of MindVox as a BBS and its content one thing is for sure, its legacy and magic as a cultural and technological melting pot influenced the lives of many in ways never thought possible and its shock-wave as a BBS is still felt today by those who got to experience its beauty once before.