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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Social Networking Before Your Mom Found It: Connected Looks at SFnet

Posted By on Wed, Aug 1, 2012 at 9:30 AM

click to enlarge sc_85_connectedsfnet.jpg
In its most basic form, SFnet was a network of computer terminals in coffeehouses throughout the Bay Area on which, provided you kept putting in quarters, you could chat with up to a couple dozen other people at any given time. It was a Bulletin Board System (BBS), for all intents and purposes, and it was in operation from July 1991 to August 1997.

It was the kind of thing that I'd been heavily into in Fresno in the '80s, but on which I'd burned on by the time I moved to San Francisco in 1994. As a result, I never used SFnet, but I know a lot of people who did, some of whom were interviewed in the 1997 documentary Connected, produced and directed by Craig Phillips.

The interviews were all conducted before anyone knew that SFnet was going to shut down in August of 1997, and quite a few of the SFnet users were also involved in the local goth scene, though as near as I can tell none of the goth folks who were in Connected were also in the goth documentary I wrote about last year, Sex, Death & Eyeliner. And I'm sure they're relieved about that now.

Anyway, in Connected, Ska Vibe describes San Francisco as a city people come to for a fresh start, at least as friends and family go.

SFnet's founder Wayne Gregori is proud of his creation's inherent silliness.

Bud Fairy describes her early experiences at netting. She's among many who use net as a verb, and refer to it noun-wise as simply net, not the net. (I'm not judging, honest.)

Expanding on Bud Fairy's rumination that net has brought the degrees of separation down to two or three, Exploding Boy explains that's he had sex with everyone on net, practically.

I Am A Girl expresses the horror of the days before mobile devices and push technologies, when you actually had to be at a computer to be online. I certainly don't want to go back to those days.

Two years before The Matrix ruined it for everyone, Welded Steel debunks the myth of netters dancing in shiny clothes in SOMA nightclubs.

I Am A Girl suspects her parents wouldn't be thrilled about the things she's learned on net.

Jormungandr would like to be left alone (physically, not emotionally) with his cooking, thank you very much. And please give generously to Wikipedia!

The anti-laptop backlash that's happening at places like Four Barrel Coffee makes me wonder how those same crusaders would react to people sitting at a terminal in the corner. At least they're not taking up tables for hours on end, I suppose. (For the record, I am frequently one of those laptop zombies.)

Spud Muffin marvels at the modern wonder of being able to talk to several people at a time.

Before there was "It's complicated," there was deciding whether or not to talk about your relationship on the net. And, Rocky assures us that sex on the net isn't as much of a thing as you non-netters think it is. So there.

The SFnet Archive has a whole bunch of fascinating ephemera, including magazine articles, promotional material, and television reports on SFnet. The Beyond 2000 segment is especially great -- remember the information superhighway? Man oh man. (As always, kids, ask your grandparents to Google it for you.)


Sherilyn Connelly is a San Francisco-based writer. She also curates and hosts Bad Movie Night at The Dark Room, every Sunday at 8pm.

Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF (follow Sherilyn Connelly on Twitter at @sherilyn) and like us on Facebook.

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