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Metanet

Coverage of my online wanderings through the years would not be complete without describing Metanet - which I have been on as a guest, a Conference Creator and Moderator, and periodic visitor since way back in the early 1980s.

It grew out of and was an integral part of Metasystems Design Group company started and organized by Frank Burns (and Frank Chapman and Linda James whom I never met) in 1983. But he partnered with Lisa Kimball when I first met them in Philadelphia  and got on their 'Caucus' system - which I have been on ever since.

Frank Burns was an original thinker, who believed in the value of online group communications. He was earlier in his online career an Army Major, part of the Delta Force, during the Vietnam War who was called in to see if his psychological methods could help deal with the violence, drug abuse, and PTSD in the Fort Ord Stockade. He was on the Source and saw its potential for human communications.

That started a series of ODT - or Organizational Developmental Conferences - for which online networking was an integral part.

By 1986 he and Lisa, with Philp Roth doing the programming, created the 'Caucus' conferencing system to their specifications - different from the Source - or any other network  I ever saw. It was - my words - a Humanistic Computer Community. Caucus started out on an IBM286, in 1986, where I first encountered it. And it has evolved a great deal since then.

It was and still is very different from a network centered on California tech types like the Well, or the Compuserves or Source large national commercial networks. (Though the Reader's Digest owned Source, struggling to compete with Compuserve with inferior sofware installed Caucus to support serious 'conferencing' until it closed its doors in the early 90s)

Metanet and its Caucus software was designed from the git go to support professional discussions and foster 'organizational development'  What I liked about it from the beginning was that there was always as many women as men on the system in the discussions. That was abetted by  light handed and intelligent 'moderating' Lisa was always capable of sustaining. As a consequence all the discussions, even debates, were civil - at least as civil as had those same people met face to face. That was in sharp contrast to the Well which never supported effective moderators, would be filled with vulgar language, put downs, name calling - that especially drives women away from discussion networks.

The Metadesign Systems group that supported Caucus and their network was always aimed at upgrading the quality of organizations, in part through effective online networking that differed from face to face, or meeting room, or mass conference traditional networks. And it could include 'goal oriented' brainstorming and consensus building. At one point, with a Contract that I think came out of Vice-President Gore's office when he was leading an effort during the Clinton Administration to do 'brainstorming' to make government more efficient and effective, Metanet was used - and probably accessed by Gore himself - to sift through suggested ideas.

I used Caucus, as did Gordon Cook who maintained the 'Cook Report' to discuss many national policy matters. And they were as often as not between people who had no other professional connection with each other - and rarely, if ever, saw each other.

 

 

 

The Networking Conference in Japan

 

 

Things got International when Metasystems arranged for a series of meeting and face to face conferences about Networking in Sendai, Japan. This was partly arranged with some help via Jeff Shepard's Japanese TWICS conferencing system - which was in Tokyo and had both westerners who lived in Japan, and Japanese on the system, writing and reading in English. Which demonstrated computer conferencing.

I was on TWICS for several years.

As a plain matter of fact, and at  one time I was simultaneously on the Source, Compuserve, EIES, Delphi, Well, Metanet, TWICS, Big Sky Telegraph's Fido network, my own Old Colorado City Communication Unix conferencing system and on my own Roger's Bar BBS - 10 systems. Always looking for the ones, and features on ones that would be the Holy Grail of networking.

I attended as a speaker on 'Electronic Democracy'. I delivered it in a large conference hall before an audience of 1,200. That so inspired several Japanese that, not only did several Japanese executives and separetly, journalists travelled to Colorado Springs, to visit me soon after I had Old Colorado City Commmunications offices set up. The Journalists did a story, including photographs of me at my BBS and with Karen Rogers in Rogers Bar that was run in Tokyo in the Yomuri Shimbun daily newspaper that has a circulation of 21 million.

 

 

The TROG on Caucus Conference

At one point, when I was irritated with the instance by a group of West Point Graduates who had built up a closed-to-outsiders online Forum, to only use maillist ways of discussing things - the most inefficient way to debate online - with no graphics possible either - I set up on Metanet AND Moderated it for years, what I called the TROG conference.

In the maillist, which spanned many year group grads from the classes of 1944 to the 2005 - when some of us who did not like to be called Trogdolytes for our resistance to women being admitted to West Point, or other national 'politically correct' policies set up the TROG Conference on Meta, running on Caucus software (which fully supported photos or graphics as well as text). 

Quite a few graduates - who were also in the Forum maillist logged into Metanet, and we discussed all sorts of topics. And it was NOT closed just to graduates of West Point, as the Forum maillist was. As a consequence some serious military and national security policies were discussed between some very experienced military men, and interested civilians, including journalists.

It was in the TROG conference that I stated that I thought Major General Petreaus was going to be the star senior military officer to prosecute the war in Iraq correctly. I was right as President Bush tapped him after letting Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld go (who never believed in 'counterinsurgency' as a strategy).

In later years TROG got seriously into the nature, threat, and looming 'War of Civilizations' between the Koran-Centered Islamic jihhdist world and the largely Christian West. Some very knowledgable people joined the discussion.

The French Connection

Frank Burns of Metanet - which was in Virginia - and I teamed up to do a very well paid trip to Paris to lecture French Bankers on the value of computer conferencing for their organizational development. I got a chance to see how the French 'communicated' over their domestic version of online service started in 1983 - called 'Minitel' - which used crude Videtotext (very simiar technically to NAPLPS). It was successful partly because France's telephone system was a government PTT. Oh yes there was pornography, and many private liasons between married people, but the most popular service was as a ubibuitous online telephone directory!

I also was able to experiment by disassembling French hotel room telephones and connecting up even back to the US, from systems which had no US-like RJ11 telephone jacks. It is where I learned, with alligator clips, the red and green lines have no polarity,

Metanet and Caucus Conferencing did not catch on in France - for the French do not 'communicate' like Americans. Even though Paris newspapers interviewed both of us and wrote stories about our venture - at French Banker invitation. But I enjoyed the trip and strolls into and out of galleries and shops along the Champs-Eylsees.

Virtual West Point

In 2000, Frank Burns, co-founder of Metanet, gave me permission - and technical access - to organize a far seeing idea I had - a 'Virtual West Point' in a conference by that name on Metanet. It supported it until The real Virtual West Point has been launched and Bill Taylor, Class of 1970 took it over to implement it on servers in New York.

On 16 October, 2000, 'Virtual West Point, Inc' was incorporated in the State of Maryland, as a non-profit corporation with the legally stated purposes of:
"...to support and further, on a non-profit basis the educational, scientific, charitable purposes of the United States Military Academy and the Association of Graduates of of the United State Military Academy by raising funds and property from the public and devoting such funds to educate the public about the exemplary history, nature, and workings of the United States Military Academy"  

It was incorporated by William C Taylor, John T Williams, and Thomas B Dyer III, who was the Chairman of the West Point Association of Graduates. So it had a real, legal, corpus, backed by notable people. Bill Taylor '70 technically administered it.

Its singular achievement, when it was fully installed on its own server, was webcasting the March 2001 Founder's Day dinner at West Point itself with its national speaker and corps of cadets, which takes place all over the world and the US where there is a local or regional West Point society (there are hundreds). All it required was for the local societies to have an Internet connection where their dinner was, and a computer with projector.  

But Virtual West Point  was forced to close down in 2007 after West Point's Administration demanded a high priced licence to even use the name "West Point" in it. The Academy, strapped for funds to do anything not by Congressional Appropriated Funds, started licencing its identity to all comers, profit making or charitable purposed. Virtual West Point got caught in that bureacratic, legalistic web, even though it - far ahead of West Point's own traditional Public information system was heading to be designed so it would appeal to potential candidates through it multi-media online rendition of the 200 year history of West Point, insights into the lives of graduates (I already had published my "Eisenhower at West Point' booklet on it) an original documentation of the historic old Chapel and Cemetery where famous grads were buried - and all in an 'online Internet' environment appealing to youth who were online even if their parents, or the facutly or Administration of West Point were. By that time I had donated over $30,000 to its creation as a way to educate online America, about the United States Military Academy.     

My creation of it's novel idea aimed at all Americans who knew little about West Point, but who were coming online in droves, and my substantial donation were cited in the Nomination of me to become a Distinguished West Point Graduate in 2004.

Metanet's 'Virtual West Point' was the home base for its original planning.

Frank Burns died in 2003, but Lisa Kimball and Burns son have kept Metanet going, with private organizational conferences and other things that supports her professional pursuits.

It still operates with a fairly small number of devotees logging in and commenting on things generally. At one time when my son Ed was in China during its turbulant Tiennaman Square  troubles in 1989, I posted all the online stories Ed sent me via my clandestine direct-over-telephone-lines messaging system connected to him. (under the unwary nose of the Chinese secret service who had armed guards at all Fax machines in China) Right through his courting and marrying Ha Ning in China before bringing her back to the States - where she runs the entire Chinese Language program at the Air Force Academy.

Another signal event came when a journalist named Brock Meeks, who claims to be the first Journalist who specialized in writing about the online world, logged onto my Roger's Bar BBS and reported on it in the San Diego Chronicle. Later he tried to go to Afghanistan through Pakistan during the Taliban - Soviet war and got caught up in the very dangerous insurgent warfare - that scared the hell out of him and he was lucky to stay alive and escape without being kidnapped and ransomed as an American. He gave metanetters a blow by blow description of that adventure.

                                                       THE NAPLPS ADVENTURE

 

The famous roll out of Wired Magazine, in 1992, an 'intelligent' high tech magazine (which copies were in Clinton's White House, ran, in its very second issue - Jan 1993 - a lengthy piece by a New York Time writer, on me.

Here it is below:

Wired Magazine
Jacques Leslie Magazine
Date of Publication: 02.01.93.
Time of Publication: 12:00 pm.


The Cursor Cowboy
 

Dave Hughes is the best-known online personality in the country, and he's on a mission: to hook up the 5.5 billion brains on the planet. Jacques Leslie reports.
 

Even though Dave Hughes and research scientist George L. Johnston had conversed innumerable times by phone and computer network, Johnston still wasn't entirely prepared for his first face-to-face encounter with the self-proclaimed "cursor cowboy." It was the night before the two men were to speak at a Washington D.C. computer technology workshop, and they were registered in the same hotel.
 

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"I knocked on Dave's door," Johnston said, "and here's this big guy with a cowboy hat sitting on the side of his bed disassembling his telephone and hooking his computer to it with gold-plated alligator clips."
At first Hughes's behavior struck Johnston as extreme; appropriate, perhaps, for a teenage hacker, but unseemly for a 64-year-old highly decorated retired Army colonel. But Johnston eventually came around. "Now it makes completely good sense to me," he said. After all, "if the hotel doesn't have jacks, how are you going to connect without taking the phone apart?"

 

And connecting – using his computer and modem to exchange ideas with some of the millions of people who subscribe to computer networks throughout the world – is precisely what Dave Hughes has been doing for the past 14 years, with a passion that some might label obsession. Hughes estimates that during that time he has been linked to a computer network or bulletin board an average of four or five hours a day, has read 30 or 40 million electronic words, and has posted at least a million of his own.
 

Thanks to his loquaciousness, Hughes is unquestionably the best-known online personality in the country. His postings are staples of computer conferencing systems as far-flung as the WELL in Sausalito, California, and Metanet in Washington, D.C. To his admirers, he's "the prairie populist," "the cowboy poet laureate online," even "the Ben Franklin of the Information Age." Playing upon the cowboy persona that he has cultivated in his postings, Hughes himself says his "great equalizer" is not a six-shooter, but his laptop computer.
Jack Rickard, who as editor of Boardwatch Magazine has monitored the proliferation of computer bulletin boards to their current level of more than 60,000 US systems, calls Hughes "the online bumblebee – he cross-pollinates a lot of things. He gets the Unix people involved with bulletin boards and the bulletin board hobbyists involved with Unix, and then he gets both of those involved with the Internet and ties in the educators to all of them."
Sometimes the online controversies Hughes inspires evoke a hornet more than a bumblebee, as when he unapologetically violated WELL guidelines a year ago by distributing pro-Ross Perot postings without permission, or, more recently, when he became the only WELL user to express ardent support for the military's ban of homosexuals.

 

Eat!
 

Considering Hughes's down-home comportment, it's tempting not to take him seriously. He customarily packs his snowman's girth into attire that includes a Stetson hat, string tie, and cowboy boots, and his online writing style is heavy on "ain'ts" and casual with spelling. He is, moreover, just as garrulous in person as he is behind a keyboard. Ask him a question, particularly about telecommunications, and be prepared for an hour-long response whose riverine course can be diverted by interruption but not halted.
 

On a recent Saturday morning, for example, Hughes greeted me at his home in Colorado Springs with a monologue about the utility of packet radios in linking laptop computers around the world. We then sat down to breakfast, and although Hughes's wife Patsy placed scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast on the table, he declined to take a bite, for fear of slowing down his narrative. Ten minutes later, Patsy silently emerged from the kitchen displaying a paper on which she'd written one word: "Eat." Hughes laughed and kept right on talking.
 

If Hughes's discourses are meandering, however, they usually have a point – often one that has escaped telecommunications entrepreneurs and policy makers. He has earned his volubility, in a sense, by focusing extraordinary energy and inquisitiveness on telecommunications issues and compiling a significant record of achievement, usually without the support of any major institution, by dint solely of the clarity of his perceptions.

He's both a gadfly and a visionary, whose cowboy trappings disguise the singularity of his purpose. Louis Jaffe, Hughes's former business partner, was not indulging in overstatement when he said, "Dave has been one of the key figures worldwide in legitimizing computer communication for the average person and for illustrating its potential." Hughes, for once, is more succinct: "My life's mission is to hook up the 5.5 billion brains on this planet."
 

Although that objective is surely beyond even Hughes's expansive reach, his accomplishments point tantalizingly in that direction. More than a decade ago he taught the first college course (on the nature of electronic discourse) for credit using asynchronous computer conferencing, thus pioneering a pedagogic method that has since become widespread. After starting his own computer bulletin board system in Colorado Springs in 1981, he used it to marshal support for local political campaigns, and enjoyed enough success to demonstrate the usefulness of bulletin boards in politics.
 

In 1987 he branched out, providing the inspiration and technical knowledge necessary to establish the Big Sky Telegraph regional conferencing system in Montana, which links isolated rural communities and schools by computer. In 1991, after an eight-year campaign to popularize a potentially low-cost telecommunications graphics standard, the North Atlantic Presentation Level Protocol Syntax (NAPLPS, pronounced NAP-lips), he persuaded Microstar Software, a Canadian company that developed two key NAPLPS programs, to release its software as inexpensive shareware, dramatically enhancing NAPLPS's prospects. After being rebuffed in efforts to develop his own integrated NAPLPS software in this country, Hughes hired two Russian programmers to do the work for one tenth of what the effort would have cost in the United States (he plans to market the product this year).
 

As if to confirm his expertise in building inexpensive telecommunications networks, Hughes was one of three people asked in December by a member of President Clinton's transition team to estimate the cost of establishing a computer network for the nation's public schools. With NAPLPS conceivably poised for public acceptance and an Administration newly ensconced in the White House that appears to grasp the importance of telecommunications, Hughes believes the culmination of a decade and a half of work may be at hand.
If that happens, Hughes may at last be in position to reap substantial financial benefit from his labors. In addition to his military pension, he says he only earns between $20,000 to $35,000 a year from consulting, giving speeches, and operating his bulletin board systems. Income, however, is clearly a secondary concern: Hughes is a preacher whose keyboard is his pulpit, and whose satisfaction is proportional to souls converted to the gospel of computer telecommunications.

 

Networking for the Middle Class
 

Part of Hughes's underlying motivation seems to stem from class consciousness. It's possible that he first felt the sting of class distinctions just after his father, a wholesale food salesman, died of a ruptured appendix when Hughes was six years old. His mother moved to Denver with his three sisters and left him with a wealthy aunt in Colorado Springs; even now, Hughes speaks of his aunt with an edge, as if her upper-class world were not entirely congenial to him. "I'm not concerned about the elites – they'll take care of themselves," he said. "I'm not concerned about the disadvantaged – we have central systems coming out the ears for them, working pretty well. I am very much concerned with the middle class, particularly the lower-middle class. What the hell does the Information Age mean to them? We haven't answered that question." Unless we do, Hughes asserts, we're headed for a division between the information-rich and information-poor.
 

Hughes's empathy for the common man was apparent by the end of his military career. A West Point graduate, he emerged from the Korean War as the most highly-decorated member of his class; later he fought in Vietnam and worked as a Pentagon counterinsurgency expert. His ideas formed the basis of a seminal 1966 speech by then-Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, which argued that economic, social, and political developments were as important as military considerations in determining national security.
 

But it wasn't until Hughes retired from the Army in 1973 that the full extent of his class concern surfaced. Living once more in Colorado Springs, he volunteered to head a local centennial celebration, and then transformed the affair into an effort to revitalize an historically significant but economically depressed seven-block working-class neighborhood he dubbed Old Colorado City. When Hughes discovered that landlords were reluctant to rehabilitate their ramshackle properties because the improvements might lead to increased taxes, he invited state legislators to march in the centennial parade and participate in a five-day reenactment of the town's glory days. He then used the opportunity to persuade the lawmakers to enact legislation declaring a five-year moratorium on tax increases for commercial buildings more than 30 years old. Hughes eventually presided over a rejuvenation so successful that even now, not one vacancy sign appears in the windows of Old Colorado City's commercial buildings.
 

When Hughes joined the online world in 1979, he demonstrated the same qualities of vision, persistence, and political acumen to attain his aims. Hughes's first computer conferencing experience was on a McLean, Virginia-based system called The Source. He quickly realized that the value of this new medium lay in its users's abilities to converse and provide information to one another, and he tapped into The Source to consult experts in urban redevelopment for the Old Colorado City project.
 

It's likely, in fact, that Hughes understood The Source's business better than its own managers did, for they believed the system should focus on providing information services from institutions like the Associated Press. Hughes suggested various stratagems to enhance user-to-user communications, and when they went unheeded, he closed his account and started his own bulletin board system in Colorado Springs. The Source was eventually sold.
 

Colorado Springs was fertile ground for computer bulletin boards: Because the town was surrounded by military installations and high-tech companies, many residents were already comfortable with digital technology. Now Hughes showed them the political potential of computer networks. His first notable foray into electronic politics occurred when he discovered that the city planning commission was promulgating a zoning ordinance that would place stringent restrictions on home businesses. Hughes believed the proposed ordinance was based on the out-of-date Industrial Age notion that businesses such as backyard auto body shops were likely to disrupt neighborhoods, when in fact the people who worked at home were more likely to be harbingers of the information age.
 

He attended the commission's next meeting, persuaded the officials to table the ordinance for 30 days, then wrote a letter to the city newspaper inviting citizens to discuss the proposal on his bulletin board. The result was that when the commission held its next meeting, 175 people attended. "When I walked into the meeting," Hughes said, "I knew I'd done something, but I hadn't organized anything. All I did was run a goddamned bulletin board. " Responding to the public pressure, the planners twice rewrote the ordinance, which was eventually passed by the city council.
 

From then on, Hughes says, residents began expressing their political views on the bulletin board, and city and county officials began reading it to stay politically attuned. Hughes tried to insure that the board reflected popular sentiment by naming its political discussion area after a working class tavern in Old Colorado City called "Roger's Bar." Although Hughes drinks sparingly, he made it a point to visit the bar at least once a week, and persuaded its owners to install a phone jack at one of the booths so that he could connect his laptop to his bulletin board. Hughes then invited patrons to use his laptop to log on from the bar. And when Hughes logged on to other conferencing systems, he did his best to make the bar famous, extolling it as "the neighborhood bar in the Global Village."
 

Hughes's interest in telecommunications was not limited to the political realm. After Frank Odasz, a self-described "retread carpenter" with an interest in networks, contacted Hughes in 1984, Hughes became Odasz's mentor, and the two men developed the idea for a low-cost regional network based in Odasz' home town of Dillon, Montana.
 

Called Big Sky Telegraph, the network was designed to counter the isolation that is a fact of Montana life by providing a cheap, multipurpose alternative to the long-distance phone calls that are Montanans's principal means of communication. Funded by various foundation grants, the system went up in January, 1988, and soon linked more than 100 one-room schools, as well as bigger schools, women's centers, organizations for disabled people, and many other groups.
 

Eventually the system grew to include six "Tiny Sky" networks dispersed around Montana and Wyoming. Since most people consider teleconferencing forbiddingly complicated, Big Sky offered free online lessons and sent "circuit riders" with computers and overhead projection systems around the state to give demonstrations.
The system proved so useful that the state government decided to emulate it, establishing 17 more local computer networks under the aegis of the Montana Educational Telecommunications Network (METNET). With so many local networks, users could connect while paying lower long-distance or even local phone rates, and their postings could be distributed to all networks on the system overnight.

 

Using similarly ingenious low-cost techniques, METNET enabled students in tiny rural schools to communicate with students of the same age around the world. Cynthia Denton, until last year a teacher at the only public school in Hobson, Montana (population 200), describes the benefit of such links. "When we got our first messages from Japan, a wonderful little fifth-grade girl named Michelle was asked if she was a boy or girl. She was extraordinarily indignant at that, and said, 'I'm Michelle – I'm a girl, of course.' Then I pointed out the name of the person who had asked the question and said, 'Do you know if this is a boy or a girl?' She said, 'No, how am I supposed to know that?' I said, 'Oh, the rest of the world is supposed to know that Michelle is a girl, but you have no social responsibility to know if this is a boy or a girl?' She stopped and said 'Oh.' And then she rephrased her reply considerably."
 

Hughes promoted computer networks as teaching tools again when George Johnston, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's plasma fusion center, offered to teach an online course in chaos mathematics. Within two weeks of their conversation, in the late summer of 1990, Hughes had assembled a class of 20 high school students in Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming, and Johnston began teaching the semester-long course. Johnston ended up teaching the course three times, and considers it a qualified success.

One junior high school teacher reported to Johnston that it led the students to "taste the excitement of research that I did not have until my senior year" in college. Another student's success in the course emboldened her to apply for admission to MIT, where she was accepted and began her freshman year last fall.
 

Yet Johnston believes that the biggest lesson he learned in teaching the course was about the limitations of online instruction — something Hughes had grasped a decade earlier: "In order to teach science and mathematics, you need symbolic and graphic capabilities," Johnston said. But standards now in use on computer networks enable low-cost transmission of text only. Johnston tried to make up for the absence of the online equivalent of a blackboard by using words to portray graphs and mathematical equations, but found the alternative inadequate. Johnston now understood why Hughes had been an ardent supporter of NAPLPS since learning of its existence in 1983, and became Hughes's vocal ally in gaining acceptance for the standard.
 

Unlike ASCII, currently the dominant telecommunications standard, NAPLPS facilitates the transmission of foreign language text, mathematical equations and scientific graphs, images, and even crude animation. Furthermore, it has the potential to transmit simple imagery far more economically than methods now in use, because it uses text-like symbols rather than data-intensive bit maps. Nevertheless, until now it has failed to catch on, among other reasons because its advantage of economy decreases in the case of complex, high-definition images that many high-end telecommunications users require. To Hughes, however, this was no major drawback, since the uses of telecommunications he found most compelling did not demand such sophisticated imagery.
 

Hughes became NAPLPS's most prominent and outspoken advocate. Using the software, he conducted a two-day workshop for impoverished Native American artists from five northwestern reservations, showing them how to create simple images that could be transmitted electronically. Some of the results can now be downloaded for a minimal charge from Denton's Russell Country bulletin board system in Hobson; 85 percent of the proceeds are passed back to the artists. Hughes also has been working to create a word-processing program that uses NAPLPS to enable deaf people to communicate in written sign language.
 

Based partially on the enthusiasm that some bulletin board operators are at last showing for NAPLPS, Hughes is confident that the standard will gain widespread acceptance in 1993. But that development will not be universally cheered. Mike Liebhold, a senior scientist in media architecture research at Apple Computer, endorses Hughes's notion that low-cost software is essential to provide schools, libraries, and communities with access to telecommunications services, but he considers NAPLPS too dated to accommodate the video and sound uses of telecommunications that he believes are coming soon. "Five years ago I would have had no reason to object to a NAPLPS strategy, but now I think we've crossed the threshold," he said. "It seems foolish at this point to work with such a retrograde software architecture."
 

Liebhold's criticism infuriates Hughes, among other reasons because Hughes believes that Apple has a vested interest in NAPLPS's failure. Hughes argues that the "improved communications environments" Liebhold envisions are too complex to function within the vast majority of computers now owned by schools and other low-end users. They therefore would be forced to buy expensive computers, such as Apple's Macintosh line. NAPLPS, on the other hand, works on virtually all computers in use today.
 

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Hughes is clearly irrepressible, even more so than his response to Liebhold's criticism suggests. Indeed, if he has his way, nothing – not even his death – will deter him from promoting his vision of a connected world. His list of projects includes software that would facilitate transmission of his ideas from his gravesite. His plan is to encode his thought processes within a heuristic program that, after his death, would digest new information and offer Hughesian responses. He has gone so far as to draw up a codicil to his will calling for installation of a solar-powered, radio-linked computer above his crypt that would begin transmissions precisely six months after his death. Hughes says, "It will come alive on bulletin boards and say, 'This is Dave Hughes – wanna chat?'" With a laugh, he adds, "Nobody will know the difference!"


Postings from a Net Cowboy

 

Excited by Ross Perot's enthusiasm for "electronic democracy," Hughes became an ardent Perot supporter during last year's Presidential campaign, and used one of his bulletin board systems to promote Perot's candidacy. When Perot dropped out of the race in July, Hughes posted this message on the WELL.
I hope all *you* cynics – who bitched about Perot running, and are now bitching about his not running – are happy he is out of it. But let me give it to you loud and clear. I *refuse* to vote in this election and take the *slightest* responsibility for the next bullshit 4 years which promises to be absolutely mnore of the same avoiding of the hard questions, promises none of them can keep, and whch will lead – if there is no collapse of the national governments ability to pay (as has occurred in California) there will be vastly more cynicism than you have ever seen. So don't you *dare* lecture me as if there is something wrong with *me* because i refuse to support either of the two party choices – or their parties. It is you who will be the ones contributing directly to 'no change' when change is desperately needed. There will be NONE now. And I'll be back here in June of next year to tell you – I told you so.

 

In November, 1992, Hughes visited Moscow to meet the Russian computer scientists he had hired to develop his NAPLPS program, and posted a serialized account of his trip on the WELL. In this excerpt he visits a McDonald's Restaurant in Moscow, accompanied by his Russian acquaintance Tania and her daughter Zhenia.
On the way out in the busy dark, we happened across the spot where that lifesize cut-out of Gorbachev stands for tourists to have their humerous picture taken. I put my Stetson on Gorbachev, a fur hat on myself, and had Tania snap the flash picture. Everyone standing around was laughing loudly, as the hat 'did' something for Gorby.

 

But Moscow had its revenge, after all. A gust of wind knocked my $200 Stetson into the wet street where it smudged quite a bit. And in walking further on Gorky Street I stepped where I thought solid ground was in the center of a huge man-hole cover and sank up to my booted ankle in dirty black Russian muck, leaving a scum on my $165 Justin boots for the rest of the stay.
 

As Tania noted, "The dirt in Moscow is very dirty." But I had a taste of what swallowed up Hitler and Napoleon's armies in the Russian winter.

 

 

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