Name of Interview: Sysop of OSUNY
Date Interviewed: July 31, 2002

Sometimes you have an interview so interesting, so vital to telling a part of the story that you make some pretty out-there decisions to get them. Afterwards, you laugh, but when you're deep in it, you start to wonder what you were thinking.

Such was the case interviewing the Sysop of OSUNY (who was in fact named "Sysop" and nothing else when he ran it).

See, I'd arranged for there to be interviews in both San Francisco and Los Angeles while I was in California. A logical, thinking person would say "Fly to SF, interview, fly to LA, interview, then fly out." But Sysop was in San Luis Obispo, which is directly in the MIDDLE of LA and SF. Too far to just jaunt out and back while doing the other interviews, but (I thought) perhaps close enough to drive down and interview, then keep on driving all the way to LA.

Like I said, I look back now and think I was INSANE. I ended up driving over 230 miles south from San Francisco in the morning, interviewing Sysop, then driving another 200+ miles south to LA to interview poor Rob Swindell at midnight. Four hundred miles in one day! This makes Sysop far and away the longest that I have driven for a single interview.

Now, not to say the drive wasn't spectacular... I happen to have a great personal affinity for California, and driving down highway 101 for hours, along the coast, with the radio blasting and seeing mile after mile of incredible views and interesting landmarks... well, you can't really beat that. It's part of why I went for this documentary in the first place: to see the country for real, not just build up little shorthands about places I'd never been to.

The interview was held at Sysop's workplace. On the phone he referred to it as an office building; in fact it was this really cool house-like structure deep inside a neighborhood, which was built to house his company's testing labs and workspace. I don't really know how much they want people to know about their product, but it's centered around increasing performance for cars. So it had car-testing areas, and neat equipment scattered around.

We ended up using the built-out but not moved-in part of the building, which provided some unwanted echo but gave a really neat separated aspect to where he was sitting. Sysop had one of the original machines that housed the OSUNY BBS, which we set up next to him, and had him talk about it.

The interview was really great, not just because of his work with OSUNY, but because of an extended talk we had about the "old-style" (1980s) aspects of hacking which are rapidly lost to a newer generation. While there's lots of history before the 1980s, there was this sense of hacking specific to that early time... and Sysop covered it perfectly. I hope I can use a lot of it.

Sysop wrote to me first, and volunteered his time for the interview; I appreciate that a lot when it happens. It means someone believes in what I'm doing, and you learn to treat those feelings like gold. This was a harkening back to my own main era of BBSes, and I enjoyed every second.