Skip to content

The Industry Review

One Guy's Thoughts On Technology, Social Media, Internet Marketing, Artificial Intelligence, and more


Tag: MUD


Since it’s a four part story, here are links to the other parts.
The Prehistoric Times of Social Media (Part 1 of 4)
The Prehistoric Times of Social Media: The Sting (Part 2 of 4)
The Prehistoric Times of Social Media: Cybercrime (Part 3 of 4)


This is the conclusion of the events that took place in 1991.

One day, right after I logged in as Solarwind, I found myself in a large room filled with wizards. What was going on? A wizard by the name of Destruction (whom I knew and was even my friend!) claimed that they know what I’m up to, that I’m cheating by helping a user. They demanded an explanation!

I was shocked! I got caught! In retrospect, I know they caught me easily. It wasn’t that hard to see that a wizard and a player were constantly together. Turns out that Destruction was sent on a mission to spy on me: he followed me invisibly and saw what I was doing. Of course, there was an easy way for Solarwind to see invisible wizards… but I didn’t know it at the time.

However, my paranoia did pay off. Because I logged in from two separate countries (separate continents, actually), they still believed these are two individuals: one Israeli and one American. I still don’t know how this fooled them: couldn’t they see we never talked? ever? What, we were telepathic?!

So I confessed, yes, I cheated. Yet I still didn’t tell them I was just one person.

The council of wizards told me that my punishment would be given within 24 hours. In retrospect, these wizards were pretty formal… I imagine a group of chubby computer science geeks/student corresponding about technicalities and legalities. Though that was in the “real” world – in the MUD they were powerful and almighty entities.

I believed that they would delete both Solarwind and Thor. Consequently, I still had a day to be a wizard – so I decided to use my powers for good, to make the MUD a better place. From now on, I am not Solarwind… I am Solarhood (y’know, like Robin Hood?). I shall steal from the wealthy and give to the poor.

I went out and found people to help. I went to the shop – which was magically shielded, but could not stop me - and stole all the weapons and armor and gave it away. I created vast amount of gold and gave it to the people. I healed the weak, cured the blind, turned frogs to humans, kissed babies and hugged widows. I did a lot of good things that day. I wanted my downfall to mean something.

Then I bid farewell to Solarwind and logged off.

The next day I connected and heard the following story: apparently the council had no plans of deleting either Solarwind or Thor. They planned to return Thor to – roughly – the state he was in when Solarwind started helping him, and just issue a warning to Solarwind.

However, since I caused quite a riot, they decided to permanently suspend Solarwind (for my nefarious activities. They did NOT approve of my benevolent actions!), and “only” demote Thor to his previous level.

Oh yes, I was told, they had to laboriously go through all the MUD logs and nullify everything I’ve done: cancel all the gold I created, take away all the weapons I handed out. It was hard, but they were able to do it.

All my good deeds were stripped away. Solarhood was caught, the Man won.

I could still log in as Thor but from that moment I lost all motivation to play. I never became a wizard in that MUD. Though, as I briefly mentioned, a few years later I did become one in other MUDs (the internet connection dramatically improved by then – and apparently, most MUDs were vastly easier).

Sometimes I wonder what happened to the real Solarwind. My guess: nothing. I’m pretty confident the original player probably never even heard of this episode. And if he did, he must’ve been quite amused of this story.

Strangely, after these events I took on myself the Solarwind persona. To this day – two decades! – I often register in forums and other sites as Solarwind. I guess I liked the Solarhood aspect so much I decided to take it with me.. It just feels right. Though I do plan to return it if the original Solarwind wants it back…


 Mail this post

Popularity: 2% [?]

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Technorati Tags: , ,

  • Share/Bookmark


Since it’s a four part story, here are links to the other parts.
The Prehistoric Times of Social Media (Part 1 of 4)
The Prehistoric Times of Social Media: The Sting (Part 2 of 4)
The Prehistoric Times of Social Media: Crime and Punishment (Part 4 of 4)

(I’ve decided to speed up the posting of this event. Since it’s long, I will still chop it to one more part, and will post this and the other post today. There are other things I want to discuss and I don’t like posting more than a post a day…)

This time no recap. If you’ve gotten here, I assume you read part 2.

As I was saying, I was becoming increasingly nervous that I won’t make it, so decided to pull a sting.

Note that the following took place in 1990-1991, when I was already familiar with MUDs for a while. Also note that this was prior to the creation of the World Wide Web, so the whole concept of cybercrime was pretty much in its infancy. And also, I was a minor ;-) I would not have done this today.

With that in mind, I will continue.

As I mentioned before, there were many MUDs. The vast majority of them originated from the same code. Every MUD creator took the code, made changes, and expanded on it. However, in almost all of them there were regions that were identical – these were the areas that were created in the original MUD.

Usually MUDs grew a lot like real world cities do. The first domains created by wizards would surround the original city, and every new addition was placed farther and farther away. Though some wizards used to outsmart this by doing something creative, like placing a closet in one of the original rooms which would take you to their realm if you entered it (obviously, inspired by the Narnia series).

In my MUD, one area was right next to the entrance. I was playing for more than a year at the time, and during the entire period there was no change – it was clearly abandoned. There was absolutely nothing going on there. After investigating this, I found out it was created by a wizard name Solarwind whom I knew (there was a way of checking) had not logged in for years. Since at the time virtually all internet access originated in academic institutions, my guess was that he simply graduated and moved on. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure that was the case.

Considering his vanishing and the fact his area was so close to the entrance, my theory was that Solarwind must’ve been one of the original founders of the MUD.

I decided I would try and “borrow” his account in order to help Thor reach Wizardhood – and then I would abandon it. I’m not going to say “steal” since I genuinely intended only to use it to advance my own character. Time was running out and I had to do something!

Since it was obvious Solarwind was long gone, I was certain he would not even know it, and where he was he probably wouldn’t even care. Listen, I was under a lot of pressure, I had to get this done! We’re talking addiction here.

I didn’t know how much information MUD administrators had on users, so I decided to be cautious. I had access to an American account (through a friend of my father) and I used telnet (nice to see some things haven’t changed in 2 decades – telnet is the same as it was back then) to log in to the MUD from that account.

This is a good time to mention that every MUD had a God. Meaning, the person who literally owned the MUD – set it up and maintained it. I imagine most MUD Gods were geeky, computer science students in real life. But to us… they were gods! They could do everything! They could even raise the dead – NOTHING was beyond their reach.

I guessed that Solarwind must’ve been a friend of the MUD’s God because he was one of the original founders. Yes, this was all a series of speculations, but I decided to risk it.

So one day, when the God materialized in the MUD, I logged in through my American account, and created a user by the name of “Solarwin”.

I sent the God a message “Hey buddy, long time no see! How are you?”.

[my heart was beating like crazy]

He responded: “I’m good, and yourself?”

[I couldn't believe it!]

I said: “Things are great here. It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I haven’t been here for so long that I can’t remember my password anymore. Can you help me out?”

[Every second felt like hours]

He responded: “Sure, no problem”.

And before I knew it… I was Solarwind. I was an immortal force of nature, I wielded powers beyond even the mightiest of mortals. I logged in and found myself in Solarwind’s personal chamber (all wizards had one, it’s where they had guests come over. Seriously). My plan worked!

With the year’s 2010 perspective, I know that what I did was Phishing. I don’t know when this term was coined, but I probably did it way before. This was 1991.

Again, just so you won’t judge me: I was just a teen at the time, it was a victimless crime, and I intended to abandon Solarwind’s account once I’m done. And don’t they say addicts will do everything to get their next fix? I just had to do this.

Immediately I proceeded with my plan. To my great disappointment, I found out that it’s much harder to be a wizard than I realized. And worse, I could not ask anyone for help. There was no one to guide me nor were there tutorials.

A few years later I became (legitimately) a wizard in a different MUD, so in hindsight I know what I did was incredibly clumsy and awkward. I could’ve accomplished my goal so easily – but I barely knew what I was doing.

What I did was log in to both Thor (my real account) and Solarwind simultaneously – each from a different country – and have Solarwind constantly provide information to Thor on how he could defeat monsters. Even then I knew that in principle Solarwind could’ve made weapons that would kill any monster on a hit – but would be caught. He could heal Thor – but would be caught. He could bring every monster to the point of death and allow Thor to “finish it off” – but would be caught. So I did the only thing I knew is safe.

I also used Solarwind to gather intel and objects from places unreachable. I even manufactured one of the items needed for a quest – I suspected this won’t raise any red flags.

Slowly – yet much faster than before – I was approaching my goal… Thor was becoming very close to becoming a wizard. Then I could really do things the right way.

Yet I failed. I was caught.


 Mail this post

Popularity: 2% [?]

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

  • Share/Bookmark



Since it’s a four part story, here are links to the other parts.
The Prehistoric Times of Social Media (Part 1 of 4)
The Prehistoric Times of Social Media: Cybercrime (Part 3 of 4)
The Prehistoric Times of Social Media: Crime and Punishment (Part 4 of 4)

This is the sequel to “The Prehistoric Times of Social Media” post. Quick recap: in the previous post I elaborated why social media is not a new phenomenon and in fact, was already alive and kicking back in the mid 80s in various forms, notably BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems) and MUDs (Multi User Domains). MUDs are the prehistoric ancestors of massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPGs) like World of Warcarft, in the sense that every user created a fantasy character, fought monsters, gained experience, solved quests, cast spells, etc – all in order to advance in levels and become more powerful. However, MUDs had a huge advantage over modern games: once a user got to a certain point (level 20) he would become a “Wizard”, the MUD equivalent of an administrator. Then he would be allowed to program his own realm in the MUD universe with any theme or concept he had in mind.

This background, while interesting in its own right (I hope?), was necessary in order to share this story.

Just like many modern gamers are obsessed – even addicted – to these games (I even dedicated a post on how to break this addiction). I became obsessed with becoming a MUD wizard. I just had to! There was something almost magical in becoming one. Whereas previously you were just a player – as a wizard you could do anything: teleport anywhere you wanted, become invisible, pull pranks (well, you weren’t supposed to), be invulnerable. Since I spent so much time in the game, gaining these… super powers.. would’ve felt almost real. I planned to be a kind and benevolent wizard. Create easy and imaginative areas that would be fun and reward players.

Since I was living in Israel at the time, playing MUDs was a major problem. The internet connection of the entire country was flaky and unreliable. Often the connection would just die for a while. Could be a few minutes, could be a few hours. But it happened a lot. Therefore, playing the game was not easy.

Some MUDs required a LOT of effort in order to reach “wizardhood”, in particular, the one I describe. I had to skip class a few times. Quite often I used to spend the entire night playing. Unlike today, I had to physically go to a local university and connect from there (I still remember the expression of the night guard who caught me one night… utter shock. He just looked at me and went away). There was even one missile attack sent by Saddam Hussein during the first gulf war… instead of sitting home with a gas mask, I was at the university, trying to kill monsters. Death by biological and chemical weapons? Ha, worth the risk if it means I become a wizard.

Because of the unreliable connection, death was a sad fact of life. I always became furious when in the midst of a terrible combat, the connection died, and when it returned a few minutes afterwards, I found myself as a ghost hovering above the body of Thor (my character). Yes, MUDs had an amusing concept of ghosts.. it was necessary to go to a location and pray in order to be resurrected. Every death resulted in a major setback and it particularly frustrated me since often it was not my fault at all!

A friend and I came up with a solution: we will establish an Israeli MUD! We sent a proposal to the person in charge of the internet connection in Israel at the time. He got so angry at us for even coming up with this suggestion, that he blocked port 2000 – the port used for MUD connection – for the entire country. Imagine a single person pulling off something like this now… Of course, we easily found a way around this limitation and continued playing, but till this day, there has never been an Israeli MUD to my knowledge.

So I continued playing, often dying for reasons out of my control. And time went by.

As you probably know, in Israel military service is compulsory. By the age of 18, everyone must enlist for 3 years (men) and 2 years (women). I became increasingly nervous that despite my best efforts, I will be drafted and still not become a wizard.

Therefore, I decided to take action. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I decided to pull a sting.

It was dangerous and risky, but I just couldn’t accept my dream not turning to a reality.


 Mail this post

Popularity: 2% [?]

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Share/Bookmark

Ancient PC

Ancient PC


This post was partially inspired by Darren Williger’s keynote speech at Social Media 201.

Despite the fact it’s a common perception that social media is a new phenomenon, it’s actually far from. Both Darren and myself have been using the Internet since the 80s. We ran a small competition: turns out that if you Google us, the earliest result is mine (from 1989!) though Darren was active online about 2-3 years before I was. So it’s a draw ;-) .

Back then the online world was very different. In the mid 80s BBSs (Bulletin board systems) were what we all used. These were phone-based systems, usually run by individuals, though some companies had their own, that enabled people to connect using dial-up modems. They were infinitely slower than today’s internet, and all text based, but they were awesome!

BBSs included forums, multiplayer games (though not real time ones), downloadable computer games (yep, some two decades before Bittorrent) and a lot more. In other words, we all interacted, and much of the content was user generated. Sounds to me a lot like…social Media and Web 2.0. Of course, this wasn’t Web 2.0 because this was almost a decade before the World Wide Web (Web 1.0?) was created! Though BBSs weren’t a part of the internet, they offered much of what the internet could offer at the time.

When I first starting using the internet, in 1987 or 1988 (I need to figure this out one day…), I stopped using BBSs. The internet had so much potential! My friends and I actually didn’t refer to it as the internet back then but rather as the Bitnet (which was always a subset of the internet but was separately accessible at the time). When I look at old emails that are archived online, we actually referred to the internet as the InterNet. How quaint! Amusingly, there was a local news story about us at the time: “Local teenagers chat with people all over the world using computers”. It sounds ridiculous now, but it was very “exotic” back then.

Bitnet email accounts were very simple: mine was nyschles@weizmann (yeah, no .com, .net or whatever). The internet equivalent was though I rarely used it at the time.

Not long after I had my first chat (using Relay – the ancestor of IRC which itself had a multiple offspring from multiple “wives”: chat rooms, various messengers – even chat roulette). I was introduced to a radical concept called MUDs (Multi User Domains). MUDs are the prehistoric ancestors of massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) such as World of Warcraft, EverQuest and Ultima Online. There were several variations of the concept: some were created for social interaction (the modern equivalent is Second Life), other for gaming, etc.

MUDs were just as fun as modern games, despite the fact that the vast majority were text based. However, in a way they were far superior to even the most modern of these games. How so?

The type of MUD I used was called an LPMud. This was a classic multiplayer online game: once you registered, you were given a character that would have to fight monsters and get experience points to advance in levels. Depending on the MUD itself (there were hundreds, all run by individuals and as far as I know, hosted at universities), you could choose a class (i.e. a wizard, a druid, a fighter), have spells, and a do whole lot of different things. I’m sure this sounds very similar to anyone who has played World of Warcraft or similar games.

The difference is – and that is a huge, enormous difference – is that all MUDs were based on user generated content.

Once a character reached his 20th level and has done his share of quests, he became a “Wizard”. Wizards weren’t players anymore.. but were more like MUD administrators. Each was given permission to program a part of the MUD – his domain. Most Wizards created an area with a theme: I remember Castle Dracula, Sesame Street, Star wars, and basically everything you can imagine.

User generated content? Web 2.0? in the late 80s?! These terms were used long after these events despite the fact this was decades before they became mainstream.

Even today, you still can’t do the equivalent with games such as World of Warcraft (though I do remember that a few years ago, a group of people was able to successfully replicate EverQuest’s framework and protocols and effectively recreated a home-brew version without Sony’s permission).

It may really surprise people who started using computers when the internet was already ubiquitous, but back then, things were just as fun despite the technological limitations. There was no spam either!

I hope you found this history lesson interesting ;) . Although this post can be read on its own, I gave it for a reason – in order to be able to share an event that took place at the time. Read my next posts for more details.

Here are links to the other parts.
The Prehistoric Times of Social Media: The Sting (Part 2 of 4)
The Prehistoric Times of Social Media: Cybercrime (Part 3 of 4)
The Prehistoric Times of Social Media: Crime and Punishment (Part 4 of 4)


 Mail this post

Popularity: 5% [?]

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Share/Bookmark
Get Adobe Flash playerPlugin by wordpress themes