My second first screen name

Richard Mackey
R. Mackey|06.21.15

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Richard Mackey
June 21st, 2015

Screen name... handle... gamertag. Whatever you call it depends on how you use it.

When I was 14 years old I was a Professional Babysitter. I kid you not; I took a course and had a certificate and everything. My favourite clients were a young couple with a four month old baby who was usually already in bed when I arrived. There was a fridge full of snacks, ready-made bottles for the inevitable late night feedings, and a base station CB radio.

This was my first foray into social media (though the term had not yet been coined) and I decided to pay homage to my favourite comic strip by adopting the handle Ziggy. I had a blast on that CB, and in later years would drive up Burnaby mountain with my friends on summer weekends to try and catch "skip" from faraway broadcasters on my own car-mounted unit. I had friends that I would chat with regularly, and "celebrities" that we would sometimes hear bouncing off the atmosphere from Texas on a good night.

Eventually people moved on to other interests as the fad faded, and all that CB radio was good for was listening to truckers passing through in the night. Soon even that lost its charm. And girlfriends became relationships, jobs became careers, and I was 10-7 for good.

It was in later years that I would first use a real PC and find out that even before the Internet Ziggy was a popular screen name. Shoreline BBS was probably just a guy with 20 phone lines coming into his bedroom closet, and a bank of modems connected to a Commodore 64, but it was Disneyland to me. I would buy my credits in the form of a business card with a code on it from the Compucentre in Lougheed mall. I don't remember the price, but it was reasonable given the entertainment value. And frankly it was cheaper than those Asteroids marathons at the local arcade.

From the beginning I was denied the name I had grown so fond of, and I didn't want to cheapen Ziggy by adding a 42 or 69 to the end. You may think that I would be bitter and angry at this point, and you'd be wrong.

Wordperfect had introduced a new feature; instead of ASCII text interspersed with codes to tell the printer "this is bold" and "that is italic", you can actually see what your page will look like before you send it to the printer. In other words, What You See Is What You Get. What they did was present me with the perfect screen name: WYSIWYG was born.

I won't even try and tally up how many times I had to explain it to people on line; I remember giving up counting. I had the most unique screen name on Shoreline BBS, and I was the scourge of Galactic Empire. People feared WYSIWYG.

Okay, maybe not "feared" so much as were "extremely annoyed". I tended to come out of the gate guns blazing, securing one world and developing it just enough to upgrade the shields and weapons on my cruiser so I could go after the big guys. I was once told that I was one shot away from destroying a player's battlestar before he slapped me down for good and took my planet. And so the cycle began anew.

One day Shoreline advertised its new Internet access coming soon. They promised connections to other bulletin board systems and email to anyone on line, as well as an exponentially larger group of people for me to annoy in Galactic Empire, and I was foaming at the mouth. I had heard all sorts of things about this new-fangled Internet thingy and couldn't wait to meet the world!

If I remember correctly it was the exact day that Shoreline was to connect a line to this magical new portal that they disappeared. Just poof, gone. Even Compucentre admitted that they never knew where the guy actually was or went, they just sold the cards. And for a time my membership in the global community was suspended.

And that is a story for another time.

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