This incarnation of Curious Cosmos has been a long time coming, but it's finally here. This is a meandering tale about how I first got involved with running forums, some adventures along the way and how it is that you're reading this now. I'm going to break this story up into a series of a few posts.
Around 2003, I was fresh out of the army and living by myself in my first studio apartment in Colorado Springs. The place had the same brown high-traffic carpet you see in schools, the whole building smelled like weed and mildew, the neighbors were all druggy alcoholics and I had to crawl out of my window sometimes in order to avoid the crackhead who slept in the bushes to get to work. It was awesome.
Doesn't look so bad now (this is from Google Maps street view as of 2017), but back then it was a total meth den. I still loved it though, it was my first real place all to myself.
I was working at a Shell station as a graveyard cashier but somehow had scraped together enough to build my first PC. It was even able to run Star Wars Galaxies, which I played religiously... Up until Smedley killed it with the NGE. Don't worry if you don't know what that means.
Anyhow, at some point in my DSL-powered internet adventures I ended up discovering Time Travel Institute. I don't remember exactly how I found it... Maybe it was through another website I used to hang out on (Blackout's Box), but either way, I was hooked. I ended up spending most of my nights at work glued to the office computer in the back room marveling at the claims people were making and the ideas others had. It probably looked suspicious to customers for me to always be sprinting out of the back room to greet someone when I heard the door chime.
At some point along the line, I met a girl online who, naturally, lived in Quebec. We got to know each other and after meeting each other a couple times, she asked me to come up and stay with her. I wasn't exactly doing much at the time, so I broke my lease, threw a duffle bag and my computer on a Greyhound bus and moved to Canada.
I'll tell you right now, there is nothing more stressful than crossing the border at 3 AM, by yourself and thousands of miles from any family that can help, and having the border patrol grill you on why you're bringing a beat up computer into the country. I convinced them that I just REALLY liked Star Wars Galaxies; that seemed to satisfy him after listening to me ramble about it for 15 minutes.
Finally, I arrived in Hull, Quebec and settled in with my girlfriend in our apartment. We both got a job at a local print shop where I ran the big digital printers for clients, but also got into some graphic design, and it was there that I came across TimeTravelForum.net. It was a brand new site and I hadn't had time for Time Travel Institute in a while, so the idea of getting into something like that on the ground floor was exciting.
I signed up and immediately became friends with the admin (who went by the username "Satan" at the time). He needed help getting things set up, and since I'd messed with websites and other things a fair amount I happily volunteered. In fact, my first layout for it is still (sort of) visible on Archive.org:
Satan made me a moderator and everything went great for a while. All of the people there were awesome friends, and I remember members named CaryP , sosuemetoo, JediStryker and Grayson in particular. All of them were amazing people and I think that era was really the height of online communities... Before things like Facebook and Twitter took over.
30,000+ posts and maybe a year or so later, Satan wasn't able to spend time running forums anymore. He and I had become pretty good friends, so he handed me ownership of the site... I had joined TTF after the main group of staff had decided to start the site, so even though we had all been good friends, I was suddenly considered an interloper.
All hell broke loose when they found out what Satan's plan was.
(to be continued in Part II)