THE ASSOCIATED PRESS NEWS WIRE
Sunday, May 23, 1993
Wiring the Planet-MindVox!
SUMMARY: Hot For The Fingertips: An Internet Meeting of Minds
With AM-Wiring the planet II
BYLINE:By FRANK BAJAK, Associated Press Writer
DATELINE: NEW YORK
Somewhere in the ether and silicon that unite two workstations 11 floors above
lower Broadway, denizens of the cyberpunk milieu are feverishly debating whether
anyone in government can be trusted. Elsewhere amid the colliding electrons,
people read a rock musician's rage about the computer information service that
somehow obtained and posted his lyrics without permission. This is the 12-by-20-foot
bare-walled home of MindVox, today's recreation hall for the new lost generation's
telecomputing crowd. You can enter by phone line or directly off Internet.
Patrick Kroupa and Bruce Fancher are the proprietors, self-described former
Legion of Doom telephone hackers who cut the cord with computing for a time
after mid-1980s teen-age shenanigans. But back they came, deciding to take the
code-writing prowess of their circle, write some real idiot proof software"
on top of a Unix operating system and build a primo thoughtspace for meetings
of minds. 'We just saw that a lot of interesting technologies were not being
used for anything but file-servers,' says Kroupa, describing the thousands of
dial-up bulletin board systems in which callers often find little more than
downloads of software and dirty pictures.
Kroupa is a towering 25-year-old high school dropout in a black leather jacket
with long hair gathered under a gray bandanna, three earrings and a hearty laugh.
"America online looks pretty, but is pretty devoid of intellectual content,"
Kroupa says of the popular information service. His chronicle of an angst-ridden
odyssey from an adolescent hacker known as 'Lord Digital, to cyberspace saloon-keeper
is suggested reading for MindVox newcomers. Fancher is 22 and more businesslike,
but equally in love with this dream he left Tufts University for.
They've invested more than $80,000 into MindVox, which went fully operational
in November and has more than 2,000 users, who pay $15 to $20 a month plus telephone
charges. MindVox aspires to be a younger, harder-edged alternative to the WELL,
a fertile 8-year-old watering hole for the mind in Sausalito, Calif., with more
than 7,000 users, including scores of computer age luminaries. while there are
tens of thousands of computer billboards, few have Internet connections, as
MindVox and the WELL do, and few are as sophisticated. Forums on MindVox range
from 'Rave: Lunatic-Fringe' to 'Drugs: Steroids.' one popular feature in a round-table
discussion on computer theft and security hosted by a US Treasury agent. The
latest hot topic is the ease of breaking into a new flavor of local access network.
Soon to come: Maelstrom, a multiuser dimension, or meeting place, where users
make up games, throw down intellectual gauntlets and create other worlds much
the same as in Dungeons and Dragons. MindVox plans graphics and sound for this
fantasy role-playing game and for that, the owners promise dazzling graphics
that will make Prodigy's software look like first-generation Nintendo.
Already, MindVox is full of surprises and humor. A user cruising the system
at 3 a.m. might type a command and get this response: 'Don't hit the keys so
hard. It hurts me.' ? ?