I can’t remember exactly which magazine it was, but at a certain point I found out about a piece of software called Toneloc, a war-dialing program. Basically you would feed it a phone number, where some of the digits would be wildcards, and the software would dial all the numbers that fall within that wildcard.
It would then hold a log file for you, indicating at which numbers the software had connected to a modem, a fax, or a “yelling bastard,” named after the usual response when a real person picked up our war-dialer in the middle of the night and heard nothing but modem sounds.
So, I was now at the stage where I had a 14k4 modem, actually hooked up to a phone line, and by the life of me I do not remember how I got hold of the software, but after many weeks trying to understand how to even operate it, I was now dialing every single number in Amsterdam.
I could tell you the aftermath, when the phone bill came, but that part is pretty obvious when you consider I was a teenager living at home, and not paying for the bill myself, and this is also not the most interesting part of the story.
So I had a log file… I had a couple of numbers, the scan did not complete because I exited out of it, and some of them were modems.
I began dialing them with my terminal program, mostly being presented with just login prompts, nothing to indicate where I was connecting to. Until the one number…
All of a sudden random characters seemed to appear on the screen, bright and colorful, and they would soon be grouping together in the form of a picture. Art done with ANSI terminal emulation. Yes, I would later find out this was called ANSI Art.
It was a bulletin board system, a BBS… In fact, it was Snow, a BBS operated by a sysop (they were called sysops) calling himself Zanda.
What happened next is truly a story upon itself, and I will treat it as such, but basically this strange almost random sequence of events made me one of the people who would just, only just, experience the tail end of the BBS underground, before the Internet was even a thing.