B.W. was a real gift, a veteran of the early days of BBSes and a very clear
speaker who was also very flexible about meeting times and when we could do the
interview. He suggested where he was working, and gave me the address.
He's one of those guys with a good selection of skills, technical and mechanical,
and he was picking up some good money building an Ice Cream Parlor in Baltimore.
This meant that when I showed up to the address, he let me in and I could see
we basically had the place to ourselves.
It was in a three-quarters-built state, rather echoing in terms of sound, but
with some really neat visuals between the mirrors along the walls and the
brightly-colored lights. I interviewed him with him standing behind the
counter, because that made the most sense. It gives him a strange look compared
to most of my interviews because he's not sitting down; I think less than 5
interviews are set up this way. It puts more stress on the interviewee to be
active, since they can't just sit back and relax while thinking things out,
but on the other hand, you get some great reactions during questions.
B.W. had worked for Ahoy! magazine, a top Commodore magazine in the early
1980's. He ran a BBS affilated with the magazine... which also had a small
pirate section. In our questions, he deftly bounced between questions on being
a part of the growing home computer industry and being a part of the group
that was duplicating software as fast as they could (which was a snail's pace
by today's standards).
I correllated his questions with others I'd been asking the "softened" pirates
I'd met along the way (people who were software pirates in the general sense
of the term, but who didn't use it as a source of income or in a particularly
intense manner). A lot of the questions were about the social structures
around pirate BBSes and BBSes in general. He also got some good questions
about the nature of a BBS in the early 1980's, as a very close community,
that got into some of the episodes.
I should also mention that he has a really neat accent, too, one showing the
many different hats and locations he's had in his life; a slight toughness,
and a lot of thought. I hope to have one like that, someday.
After the interview, I loaded up the car and drove due north, to Pennsylvania,
trying to sneak one more session in before having to head back home. It says
something that hundred-plus mile trips were absolutely nothing for me at this
point; they were the equivalent of trips down to the local mall or over to a
nearby supermarket. I don't know when that modified scale will ever go down
again to something approaching what it was, but for the time being, I've
really not got an upper limit with friends who need a lift. If they need to go
one state over, I'm up for it!