September 9, 2006
Just wanted to drop a note and mention that basically every single day, someone buys a copy of this documentary from me. Maybe by the standards of a lot of films that isn't much, but compared to the budget, size of crew, and the subject matter, it's a rolling runaway hit.

What's most important to me is that of the people buying it, a portion are doing what I had hoped to do in 2001: browse the internet about Bulletin Board Systems, find out someone made a documentary on them, find out that in fact they made a massive documentary series on them, and that I could buy it and get 3 DVDs with tons of interviews shipped to me. Holy crap, I'd have been beside myself with joy. I hope that happens a lot for people; that's what makes it really worth it.

May 3, 2006
I've added an item to the store, and I'm also trying a somewhat bizzare experiment in sales as well. Let's see how this works out.

Of course, you can continue to buy the BBS Documentary DVD set for $40 from me. That's right there, at the top of the order page.

But now there's a DVD-ROM called "Dark Domain", which is a silly name, but I didn't name it. It was put together by RaD Man of ACiD, who ran the ACiD Artpacks archive for many years, and in doing so, brought together (with the help of many others) a great collection of artwork created for computers. The DVD-ROM is packed full of drawings, text-based screens, music, and a bunch of other weird stuff, 4+ gigabytes in all.

If this whole "artpacks, artscene" thing is confusing, there is an episode of the BBS Documentary called ARTSCENE that talks about it. Think of this DVD-ROM as being a collection of background material showing what everyone was talking about.

RaD Man doesn't "own" this thing, per se; he just compiled it. Since it wouldn't be right to sell this packaging of the material and not make it available for free, I do so by providing it at the site that I run, where you can pick up any piece you want. This DVD-ROM is available basically for the packaging and the convenience.

So, you can buy the DVD-ROM on the order page both alone (for $15) or packaged in with the BBS documentary (for $10, making it a total of $50). It's a good deal if you were looking to get my documentary anyway, a way to pick up a little more background on one of the episodes in the documentary.

The second "new" item I'm selling is even weirder.

My printing company, Bullseye Disc out of Portland, Oregon, printed a lot of my nice packaging for this documentary. I love this packaging, having spent months to get it right. From Scott Balay's excellent artwork on the front to the 200 photos inside, I really tried to make it work buying and not just copying the data from the DVDs. Of course, copying is perfectly OK, since that's how the documentary is licensed (under Creative Commons), but I wanted there to be a nice feel to the whole package if you bought it.

So they turned out to have hundreds of extra copies of my packaging lying around, and they offered to send it to me. I said "oh YEAH!" and had the boxes show up a week later. So now I have tons of extra packaging.

So why not sell them? I figure people lend out copies, or download the whole documentary off the internet (which is a huge amount of time and effort but people seem to be willing to do it), so they might as well get the packaging for their dupes or copies. So I'm selling just the packaging, NO DVDs INSIDE, for $10. That's at the bottom of the order page as well.

Let's see how this little experiment works.

April 1, 2006
Here we are, a full year from the original release of the BBS Documentary DVD set. We've sold thousands of copies, and the inventory is starting to shrink.

Don't worry, we're not sold out yet, but we're getting down further every day, and the stack of boxes in my attic is shrinking. Likely I'm down to the last thousand and a half of the copies, but that number could vary wildly (I haven't counted all the boxes lately). Since I ordered five thousand boxes originally, I'm happy so many have gone out the door, and gone out my door; as the continued sole owner of this DVD set, I don't have to watch it be pushed into the face of people who don't want it or watch it get marketed as something it's not. As a result, my numbers are not as huge as they could be, but the people who get it, love it. The great feelings I get from the fan mail could power an airship.

I continue to digitize BBS Documentary raw interviews and put them up on the BBS Documentary Collection. We're well past 20 hours now and growing; it's going to be quite the collection when I'm done.

I've been updating this site's BBS Software directory, and people have been kind enough to continue to send me copies of the programs and track down bits of trivia and facts for it. I really appreciate it.

People have asked me, "So, what's next?" and the answer is that I've been working on a documentary about text adventures. Check it out over at I have no idea when it'll be out, but that site will have progress just like this.

And if you want to keep better track of my daily work, check out, my general weblog of all things and documentary.

December 23, 2005
It has been a spectacular year for me, and for the BBS Documentary project.

In May, after months of post-production and duplication work, I sent out hundreds of copies of the 3-DVD set to waiting customers around the world. Some had purchased copies years in advance; others had just pre-ordered it the previous fall or bought it during the beginning of the year.

Within two months, I'd broken a thousand copies sold.

I spoke with newspapers, radio, TV, magazines. I presented it at a number of conventions and conferences. And I got letters. Letters thanking me for what I'd done, pleased with the work, happy that someone took a shot at telling the story of the BBS.

It all started in 2001 with a pitch and an idea. And here, years later, it all came true. Thousands of copies are now out there, people have long ago grabbed copies off the DVDs and file-trade them, and still, every week, another set of people purchase copies from me.

By my rough estimation, nearly 8,000 people have watched this documentary, and the number may be even higher. And I am very very pleased.

It wasn't all happiness, of course; two of my interviewees, John Sheetz and Jeff Chapman, passed away this year. I have uploaded their full interviews to (which I will be doing for most of the interviews, but this was done so people could see them sooner).

Thanks so much to everyone who has helped this dream become real.

September 23, 2005
As we head into the school and holiday season, I've lowered the price of the BBS Documentary from $50 to $40, a twenty percent savings! My producer isn't delighted about this choice of mine, but there we go, I've done it and I'm sticking with it. If you've been on the fence, this is it, this is pretty much the time to buy. When I'm out of copies, I don't know when/if we'll do another run of these (although in my heart I'd order new batches again and again if it makes sense to), so go for it, empty my attic. (Alias the "BBS Documentary Delivery Depot").

There is now a new Production Information page, which will have lots of information about the actual creation of this documentary. It'll be of interest to filmmakers and folks who enjoyed aspects of the episodes and want more information. I want the section to grow over time and will add stuff upon request.

The "Fidonet" episode played at Toorcon in San Diego and was a lot of fun, especially my off-the-cuff commentary after the showing. I met lots of good people and saw some real smart folks. I'll be at several events this year and next, hopefully resplendent with copies of the doc. Good stuff!

August 21, 2005
There is now a reviews page up with some of the reviews that have come out for this movie, with more coming. I have something on the level of a few dozen, but a lot are shoved into livejournals and weblogs, and I don't know if people think I'm cherry-picking by using those. Likely, however, I will add more and more over time.

Lots of fun ahead.

August 12, 2005
I gave a talk at Defcon that went very well, about the nature of technical documentaries and the unique (and not so unique) problems that they hold within the medium. After the talk, a bunch of people came up and bought copies and got autographs.

It's kind of surreal, being the "sit at the table and sign and chat" guy, even for 15 or 20 minutes. I always feel like I'm not giving people the conversations they deserve, and who knows what having my signature across the back will do for the packaging. But everyone seemed to enjoy the talk, which was another one of my rambling trips across 100 years of history. I never get tired of giving them.

The big burst of sales is now down to a gentle hum, and we have our evenings back, without having to spend them sending dozens of packages out to customers.

...I hate it! Bring back the sales! Next thing you know, I'm going to get fresh air!

I'm also still sending out the free copies to everyone who was interviewed. Tracking down 205 people is not an easy task, especially considering what weird circumstances I interviewed some of them under. Grabbed moments at conventions, and stolen interviews arranged by phone calls while visitng a state for the first time. But it progresses; about half have gotten copies and more are happening every day. Everything about this whole project has been so massive.

So I'm speaking at TOORCON next, as well as PHREAKNIC. It never ends!

July 15, 2005
Sales are doing swimmingly. Thanks to everyone who is putting down hard earned plastic and cash to purchase this DVD set. I've gotten a lot of positive response and a handful of "professional" reviews, and I can tell you the letters and comments I get one-on-one from everyone means an awful lot to me. The years were definitely worth it.

I will be speaking on making tech documentaries at the DEFCON hacker conference in Las Vegas at the end of this month. (July 29th-31st, 2005). Full information on my talk is here. I always enjoy my trips to Las Vegas, and I hope to meet a lot of people there. Multiple interviews of the documentary were filmed at a couple DEFCONs, so this will be like coming home.

A lot of my tasks ahead involve "getting the word out". If you think there are any libraries, rental stores, schools, or other organizations I should be contacting, let me know. I've already got the documentary being rented in a couple stores, and on the shelves of a couple libraries! Hot stuff.

July 6, 2005
While getting together addresses and information to send out free copies of the documentary to interviewees, I have discovered the sad news that one of them, John Sheetz of New Jersey (K2AGI), passed away in January of this year.

Mr. Sheetz was a complete shot in the dark for me, interview-wise; in trying to make an episode about using BBSes for artwork, I wanted to show that this urge and approach was around long before people were using modems to connect to each other. I looked out on the internet and found out there had been Teletype art contests going back some time, which were run by Don Royer and others, and which were massive in scale. Mr. Royer had died some time ago, but Mr. Sheetz was around and when I called, he was obviously a little confused as to why I contacted him and the subject matter of this documentary, but he agreed to be interviewed for it.

I drove from Boston to his home in New Jersey, which also confused him ("You came all this way just to talk to me?"), but I saw that he had made the massive effort of bringing out stacks and stacks of Teletype art for me to see and take pictures of. I took a bunch of shots and then sat with him for an hour interview.

We talked about how all this art had come about, about the process of creating it using the technology of the time, and the unique ways people could use ham radio to send these pictures around. He talked about his own attempts to create these artworks, how a local business got in trouble using Peanuts Characters in teletype form for christmas calendars, and a bunch of other great stories.

We also checked out his garage and his old teletype machines which he still had. I took photos of these as well.

His interview made the perfect introduction to the ARTSCENE episode, and in fact a good 5 minutes of Mr. Sheetz discussing teletype art is in the documentary. He is one of the longest appearances of the 200+ interviews.

Here are photographs from the interview.

After interviewing Mr. Sheetz, I went into further interviews and editing, and we never talked again. I don't know what he thought of the strange guy with long hair and the camera equipment who came to his house for a few hours one morning, but I thought he was a great person and worth every mile of the hundreds I drove to see him.

When a Ham passes away, he or she becomes known as a "Silent Key", because you will not hear their call sign over the air again. I am truly sorry that he never got to see himself on film.

June 29, 2005
Some housecleaning issues. If you ordered a copy up to over the past weekend, your BBS Documentary went out. If you ordered a copy and it hasn't arrived yet, please let me know so I can go track down what the story is. We had a few people who had invalid addresses, followed by non-working e-mail addresses, and your BBS Documentary DVDs are sitting here, very lonely.

Also, if you were interviewed, you are due a free copy of the documentary. Please let me know if you haven't gotten your free copy. (Be prepared for a quick and minor verification of you being who you say you are). There are a LOT of interviewees whose mail addresses I am having trouble finding in the 5,000+ (!) e-mails I have associated with the documentary. So let's get that cleared up; I have a number of interviewees who have mailed me going "Uh... Jason..." and they're entirely right in wondering what's up.

For the benefit of the general audience, it's my belief that if you interview someone for your film and you do not give them a free copy, you are a cad. I am working hard not to be a cad.

Speaking of not being a cad, an "about the production" section will be coming soon, with hints, information, and instructions on how I pulled all this off. For the benefit of not-yet-realized filmmakers who want to get a boost.

June 22, 2005
These kinds of letters come in nearly every day, now. You can imagine how good they make me feel:

Dear Jason,

I cannot really put into words how amazed I am by the work you
did on the documentary. Never in my entire life have I ever been so
blown away. The music. The interviews. The information. Was all
perfect. I watched every single part of it. I was very very involved
in bbs's.. I ran my own obv/2 board for quite some time. I can safely
say that if it wasnt for bbsing I wouldnt know half of what i do
about technology today. Your documentary is something i will hold
onto for the rest of my life. I will show my children and
grandchildren it. I cannot thank you enough for this jason. You have
captured the pure feeling of what the scene was. Now anytime I wish i
can get those felings again.

ps- You made a grown man cry several times. GREAT JOB!

thank you!!

Jason:  Never did I dare to hope that the documentary would have a such a professional
appearance.  You'd said before that it was a "labor of love" ... and let me tell you:  it shows your
passion for the topic, along with your capabilities as a director under trying conditions.

The editing, the pacing, the image overlays -- even the crisp legibility of the captions -- are excellent.
The sheer volume of research must have been mind-boggling.  How you did this on a small budget
(as compared to Big Film) is a mytery to me.

I have only watched part of the first DVD, but I was moved to send you my early impressions, which
are overwhelmingly positive!  I'm particularly entranced by the shining eyes of the people talking
about those transformative early years.  People who weren't there at the time simply have no idea
how the word "neat" could fire the soul.

I'm not sure how much the average person would enjoy watching techno-dinosaurs reminiscing
about the days when you had to wire-wrap your own circuit cards, or design your own "smart-dial
modem" with a clunky relay, but I nevertheless wonder if there's any chance that this film can break
out of small distribution and reach a wider audience.  This isn't "Cable Access" quality; this is PBS

At the very least, the people at TechTV are sure to be interested in serializing the movie.

I'm sure I'll have some other comments as I see more, but I wanted to dash off this quick "tip o' the
hat" to you.

Is it possible for me to overdose on nostalgia?

- Timothy Campbell
  (Creator of the Pyroto, Free Speech, and Sapphire BBS systems)

P.S. Feel free to use this email, in whole or in part, in your promotional material.

June 13, 2005
I knew when the documentary hit the streets, I'd have to hit the ground running. I didn't realize the running would then continue and I'd never be able to stop any time soon. It's now been a couple weeks of release, and I am over here going in a thousand different directions, handling many related documentary issues, working harder than I think I've worked on anything in my life.

The documentary itself? I split the effort across years; I definitely was working every night for a good number of months, but the effort was progressive and I could stop and go to sleep and then wake up, and keep working. There were pre-orders out there initiating me to keep the pace going, but it wasn't a relentless torrent of needs. Now it is.

A lot of this is because I chose to do the distribution myself. There's pros and cons to this, mostly pros; I know the stuff is going out, is being treated well, and it's easier to handle custom or specific requests by folks (autographs, included greeting cards, and so on). A couple orders were skipped from the pre-orders because I transcribed them wrong, and a few people who got pre-orders that were hand-assembled got missing discs. In all cases, I did my best to make up for those screwups.

An aside about customer service: sometimes I can't believe what passes for treating people who give you money with respect. I recognize that for some people the $50 documentary is an impulse buy, but for others, it's a walk-outside-for-a-while, bring-it-up-with-your-spouse-for-discussion investment. I am not being superlative; I have recieved letters indicating it was a bit of a hardship to pay this money, and some people had to save up for it, as others might save up for a new stereo or TV. For that kind of personal cost, people deserve and should get the best response from me they can get. If they are missing pieces, they get the pieces sent. If they need a question about shipping answered, I answer immediately or tell them I need to find out... and then tell them as soon as I can. Anything else is unacceptable, to me or to the people who are buying this documentary.

I have recieved a good amount of online attention at this point; articles in Wired News, BoingBoing, Creative Commons Weblog, and a bunch of other places. I've had some interesting mails come out of these articles, including a lot of corrections on the data on the website, and additional information.

With each wave of publicity and exposure, a new wave of people hear about this documentary for the first time. I can imagine their reaction, which would have been mine: an open-mouthed, stumbling walk towards this unbelievable pile of personal history, presented in a professional package and ready to bring home immediately. This was the reaction I had when I found out about the Mindcandy Demo DVD, which was a personal inspiration for this project. There's so many projects like this out there for us, and getting the word out is tough. A bunch of online high-profile sites was relatively easy; it is going to be difficult for me to go in further directions. But I am trying.

I appear on Christopher Lydon's Open Source Radio this upcoming tuesday, talking about a side archiving project I'm involved in. It doesn't tell people about the documentary, but it does let them know who I am. I'll be doing a few more appearances during the year, including at:

The Deviant Art Summit



So yes, my days are full, full of packing and shipping, of labelling and sorting, of getting yelled at by the post office, and recieving dozens of letters, thank yous and insights and wishes and dreams.

It is a very nice life I live.

NEWS ARCHIVE (04/2005-06/2005)
NEWS ARCHIVE (01/2003-04/2005)
NEWS ARCHIVE (08/2001-10/2002)