Name of Interview: Sysops
Date Interviewed: January 20, 2002
Location: WPI, Worcester, MA
Miles Travelled: 100 Miles
DV Tapes Filled: 4.5 hours

The Gweeps are an excellent example of the depth of stories that exist out there, the true scope of which are simply not covered in my documentary because otherwise the documentary series would have been well past 8 hours.

Basically, there are a group of people centered around Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts, who have known each other primarily through both their own computer interest and through a collection of systems that collectively are known as GweepNet. The name "Gweep" comes from a sound made by a computer setup in the WPI library that made a sound not unlike "Gweep" when being used. The non-computer-using students, annoyed by the folks who were making this noise in the library, started referring to these computer users simply as "Gweeps".

I interviewed three of these Gweeps, as part of a planned (but later abandoned) episode that would focus on just one BBS "Scene" so you could see its beginning, middle and end/current situation: Worcester, Massachusetts was close enough to my home that I wouldn't lose a lot of money travelling there, but also small enough that I could get a grip on the whole story, without going crazy with a major city like Boston or New York. As it turned out, even Worcester's BBS community had fractured enough and enough of the sysops were not interested in such an endeavor that I had to stop that line of investigation. But I did get three really great interviews out of it: Chet Lawrence, Frank Deignan, and the Gweeps.

I spent a good amount of time with the Gweeps, who were extremely generous with their answers, willingness to let me try different angles and setups, and explore every last bit about their group's history. Here was a case where my initial approach to use the on-camera microphone really screwed me; a lot of the footage is understandable, but not really enjoyable to listen to, due to the echo and the ever-present background hum of a couple of the locations. If I had to do the whole documentary over again, I would have switched to clip-on microphones of some sort, but what can I say? Onward into the void, and so on.

We shot outside, near where they all met and where the BBS form of GweepNet existed; we shot in a car. We shot in a school hallway. And we shot in a couple classrooms, with all their 8-bit equipment (Macintosh, C64, Atari) splayed out on a table. The last of this really worked out for shots and most all the footage of the Gweeps that was used is in this section of filming.

As mentioned, we covered a bunch of stuff mostly around the history of GweepNet, but we also covered Worcester in general, and the sense of using 8-bit equipment to contact BBSes.

I stayed in contact with the Gweeps, occasionally running into them across the next couple of years at MIT Swapfests and other geek events. It was nice to see how they were all doing as time went by, and I was even invited to a Gweep anniversary party, where I chose not to bring my camera but just enjoy the time.