Yes, just one mere phone call that started me on the path to perdition. Little did I know what would come of it.

Back in my early days of computing (game-playing), there was a computer store I frequented for purchases. One of the salesmen asked me one day if I ever dialed into any BBS’.

My response was: “What’s a BBS?”. He explained what they were and gave me the number of a local board. I dialed in that night and entered a fantastic new world.

It was love at first sight. Wow! Almost as good as games ;) There is no way to re-capture in words that moment. Suffice to say, I was hooked immediately (more!…must…have…more!…).

It was also an educational experience, as I quickly learned that the online world was the great leveler. I was chatting with the SysOp one day, and he mentioned school. I asked what his major was, and he told me he was still in high school. In fact, he was all of 16.

That was certainly an eye-opener. I’d never have guessed he was that young. But then, in those days, the SysOps tended to be a cut or two above the average. Of course, so was I.

Any BBS has something dangerous: a list of other BBS’. And they’re just like peanuts: bet ya can’t dial just one! I couldn’t. In no time at all, I was calling into boards all over the place, many not local.

In that era, a woman online was a rarity. So I ended up talking with a number of Sysops. This is where I learned about the first generation of hackers: kids who dialed in and crashed the boards, just because they could. Things haven’t gotten better since then, unfortunately.

Yeah, it was certainly an exhilarating time. Then the phone bill came. It came in a stack. It was over $600. For one month. So much for calling when “the rates were lower”.

I figured it might be a good idea to cut back a little. So I restrained myself, and the next month, it was only $400. Hey, a one-third cutback is pretty good! But in the meantime, something else had happened.

One of the local boards I was calling regularly was the Park Avenue Modem. The SysOp’s tagline was: “For a good time, call PAM”. Not bad for a 14-year-old.

Anyway, he asked if I was on CompuServe. In fact, he urged me to join the network. Of course, CIS wasn’t free, it being a commercial system and charging $5/hour non-prime. But what the heck, why not?

Funny thing. Over the next few months, my phone bill dropped almost to normal. While the visa bill began to go up. What a coincidence!

However, on CIS, I met someone (the first day online, actually) who was going to change my life in an unexpected way. But that’s a story for another time…