Before there was CompuServe

The Age: Feb 9th 1982

The Age: Sept 21st 1982

There was “The Source”.

My first employer looked at The Source, and saw that it was good, and set about creating a local equivalent. He called it The Australian Source, and it was the first project I ever got paid for programming on.

Reader’s Digest got wind of The Australian Source, and told my employer that if that’s what his service was called when it went live they’d sue his socks off. So he changed the name to The Australian Beginning. It started off doing rather less than what he said it would do, and went downhill from there.

The system was hosted on a Data General Eclipse minicomputer (called a “mainframe” in all the publicity material) and written in DG Business BASIC (not a compiled language). There was a rack of about a dozen 300 baud modems. The host-side developers always used in-house 9600 baud connections, and never actually used the system at 300 baud - and the result was a clunky nested menu structure whose pages took ages to repaint at 300. Even at 9600 bps, though, Business BASIC made the whole thing fairly sluggish.

We had our own terminal programs for Apple II and Tandy TRS-80 clients, featuring a file download protocol that I designed. We couldn’t use XMODEM because (a) neither the Apple nor the Tandy ran CP/M, meaning that XMODEM’s 128-byte rounding of file lengths was problematic and (b) the DG minicomputer’s modem I/O and BASIC string handling was not 8-bit clean and (c) what’s XMODEM?. Buried in the download protocol was a bit stuffing technique that would have worked more like uuencode if I’d ever seen uuencode. If I recall correctly, I actually wrote a bit of DG assembly code to deal with that encoding on the host side as well as doing the 6502 version on the Apple.

We had three or four people working on the client side, frantically adapting games from 100 BASIC Computer Games for Apple II and TRS-80 just so that there was actually something to download.

I was terribly proud of our do-nothing information service, and remember being quite miffed when the Microcomputer Club of Melbourne set up its own BBS with one competent guy working on the software rather than an enthusiastic but essentially clueless team, and made something ten times as useful with only the club membership fee to get access and no hourly charges.

I don’t believe The Australian Beginning ever made money. In that regard, it was ahead of its time. posted by flabdablet at 6:30 AM on July 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

Original Posting

Quote: March 1984: There is an Australian attempt at emulating The Source's capabilities, called "The Australian Beginning" (TAB, they call themselves). This is Melbourne-based, and has suffered a few problems in its short lifetime. It is quite good, though it is very limited compared to The Source. Its electronic mail facility is cheaper, but it has never caught on with the business community.

Tandy Computer Centre (Bourke Street Melb.)

I first heard of “The Australian Beginning” around 1985. I was working in the Bourke Street Computer Centre (There were 3 Tandy Computer Centres in Melbourne back then.) as a Training Instructor.

The previous TI had moved onto “The Australian Beginning” as a “programmer”.

Sometime later I got a phone call from him. He wondered if I would like to “visit” TAB and have a look at what they were doing there.

Of course (being a total nerd) I accepted immediately.

When I found the place. (Plush building.. Total professional setup) I was impressed.

The “computer room” was an almost dust free environment. With filtered air being forced out constantly.

I was amazed at the hardware. (Never having seen a Minicompter system with my own eyes before.. Except in Photos)

After giving me a tour of the place. I was presented with some very thick 15” printouts.

It’s at that point that I knew there was something funy going on.

I was asked if I had been “hacking” their system. Which I hadn’t. I was shown many printouts of “someone” who had been hacking their system.

Many times they tried to get me to admit that I was responsible for the hacking of their system.

But I wasn’t.. I didn’t even know their dialup number.

Obviously they were clutching at straws.

I was told that if I was the one who was responsible for hacking them. They would offer me a very highly paid job. Because whoever had been into their system knew it better than they did.

Unfortunately I never did find out who was responsible. I dont know if they ever found out who did it.

A year or so later I’d heard TAB has gone belly up.

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