January 08, 2006

Once Upon a Time...

A long, long time ago, in Pre-Historic Times (or at least Pre-PC), people used a certain primitive tool called the 'typewriter'.

These 'typewriters' were big and heavy and awkward, and they made lots of noise, but they seemed an improvement on writing with sticks in the sand. This was especially the case in Northern climes, where the ground freezes up in the winter... snow is an unreliable medium for communication.

There were certain advantages to typewriters. Once you had one, when you tapped out your message on the keyboard the typewriter actually printed the letters onto paper as you went; nobody had to wait in line for the printer, or worry about paper jams, or had to take their equipment to the repair shop when the needles from their Christmas tree got into the works.

Times were simpler then.

But there were disadvantages to typewriters, too. There was no Internet (gasp!) or Conference Calling, and so it was difficult for groups of people to communicate with each other when they were geographically separated.

That made The People sad.

It made the Geeks and Nerds *particularly* sad, because they had trouble communicating in person, as well. Which pretty much left them sitting alone in dark corners, fondling their Pocket Protectors and Official Star Trek Fan Club membership pins.

But the Geeks were clever, and the Nerds were creative, and they came up with a solution to their tragic isolation. They began publishing independent magazines, which they sent out to a number of subscribers, who largely consisted of other Geeks and Nerds who shared similar interests. These were called variously "'Zines'" (zeens) or "Fan 'Zines", and they were largely printed up by a mysterious and rather messy blue process called "Mimeo", which involved typing onto a special set of treated papers that could be attached to a machine that would create multiple gradually-fading copies. These papers gave off a sour smell that Old Geeks still remember with nostalgia today, similar to what they experience when they think of the smell and taste of Library Paste.

You youngsters are tragically deprived.

The important thing to remember about the Mimeo process, Dear Readers, is that the sheets that The People typed on were relatively expensive, and that it was not possible to erase or 'white out' mistakes. If a mistake was made, one had to either re-type the entire page, or strike it out.

The Geeks and Nerds would type up contributions to a particular 'Zine and mail or deliver their sheets to a Central Geek who had access to a Mimeo machine (this was usually an employee of a school or someone who had access to the office during off-hours). This Central Geek would print up, hand-collate, and staple enough copies of the 'Zine to be mailed out to all the Subscribers.

Many 'Zines consisted of two parts.

One part would be 'official' contributions, which would vary depending on the common interests of the subscribers of the particular 'Zine. These could consist of articles, stories, poems, songs, rants about whether George Takei was a sucky choice for Guest Speaker at the next Con - whatever was of import to the subscribers.

The second part would consist of comments from the various subscribers, and were generally addressed to the *other* subscribers. Sometimes these comments would be general, but often they were specifically addressed to a particular fellow subscriber, in response to a comment made by that subscriber in a previous issue. It was in these Comments sections that the strikeout came to be used as a (supposed) form of High Humor, such as "John - George Takei is a Son of a Bitch Grand Fellow, and we should certainly tar and feather support the Con Committee in their assinine well-considered decision to waste our money invite him to attend as Guest Speaker. Please convey to the Chair my deepest loathing and white hot hatred gratitude and appreciation."

The Alert Reader will have come to two conclusions by this point in our story:

1. The Geeks and Nerds who published these 'Zines had designed a form of printed communication that seems suspiciously similar to that used in the modern electronic Bulletin Board/Email/Elist. This should not be surprising. Remember who *designed* the modern electronic Bulletin Board/Email/Elist. Duh.

2. The author seems suspiciously conversant with Geek and Nerd history.

Umm, yah, there's a reason for that...


Blogger Chris said...

*blink blink*

Hey, we got mimeoed stuff at school all the time when I was a kid. :p

How to get a button with its code into the sidebar... First, save the gif file somewhere of your own so you aren't stealing someone else's bandwidth. Note the path to the gif, because it will be your img src.

Next, go to my main page where you can see the sidebar buttons. Right click on the page (not on the buttons) and select View Page Source from the menu. (Note that this is for Firefox - if you're using IE, maybe you have to use View from the menu bar - not sure.)

Search through the page source for this text: Begin #sidebar

Hiding in that text is the syntax for making a button active - it will start with a regular link and then have img src = and alt =

Oh, that's just unnecessary: nxzuiarf

10:19 AM  
Blogger mama_tulip said...

This is the second post I've read about smelling mimeoed stuff in grade school. Now I'm longing for that smell.

'zisjav' -- "This jav." Gonna get some coffee now.

10:59 AM  
Blogger mE said...

Chris~ I must have somehow mistakenly given you the impression (perhaps by cleverly figuring out the strikeout?) that I knew what the heck I am doing on my computer. That made you think that I would understand arcane things like 'bandwidth' and 'img src'. Haha!! Fooled you! I am actually a Bear of Very Little Brain...

So. Once I find this texty stuff, do I just copy it into the html code in my Template around about the spot of my other buttons?

The pixie is unexplicably peeved with you. You must feed the pixie chocolate. At least, that always works with me... 'ebliva' :)

9:01 AM  
Blogger mE said...

Katherine~ You are letting the pixie get too full of herself, letting her control you through such suggestions. Keep her in line by setting boundaries, such as drinking *decaffeinated* coffee.

Ha, ha! I crack myself up. Of course you shouldn't do that. Drink tea, instead. With milk. That will show her...

D*MN!!! She's checking up on me...'xwfkxzmq'

9:04 AM  
Blogger mama_tulip said...

Decaffeinated coffee? *scratches head* Huh? What's that?

Oh, my virgin ears. Tea, with MILK? Surely you jest. Tea is best when black.

Let's see. 'xoibdd' Can't make nuthin' outta that.

12:03 PM  
Blogger mE said...


Not if you're British.

Oh, that's easy. The pixie has a crush on you... that's kisses and hugs in bed, of course!

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to subscribe to Factsheet 5 - a Zine about Zines! :)

1:42 AM  
Blogger mama_tulip said...

Kisses and hugs in bed!! Love it.

7:44 AM  
Blogger mE said...

Sis- What's with this 'anonymous' thing? Stand up and be counted, girl!

As for your comment... NERD!!

(hee! I always knew it)

10:23 AM  

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