There's A Party in my Mind... MindVox!
By Andrew Hawkins
Before it was even born, the hype around MindVox was unbelievable.
"Have you seen it?"
"A work of art."
Comments like this were echoing everywhere the day "Voices in my Head, MindVox:
The Overture" began floating around the Matrix. It seemed that within hours
every resident of every virtual community around the globe had read "Overture."
This birth announcement for the BBS of BBSs, MindVox, was itself a sensation.
Was it poetry? Is it art? Well, actually "Overture" is a thoughtful, emotional
apologia for a life in cyberspace. It's a journal of the rise and fall of the
computer underground, a personal tour of the decade in modemland that led to
the implementation of MindVox. The author is Patrick Kroupa, also known as Lord
history is turbulent. He was like many of the War Games generation -- too smart
for his teachers, too shy to date a cheerleader, and too deeply immersed in
the online world to have a firm grasp on external reality. In "MindVox: The
Overture," we follow him through his chemical explorations, his desires to be
"bigger, better, faster"to conquer in what is his reality: the computer underground.
And then something happens to K. The drive to success and excess gives way
to a more honest vision. Where do you go when you feel you have been everywhere,
experienced everything? Maybe you want to go back and do it right. K. meets
up with some old friends from his online days and after a long downtime re-enters
cyberspace. It's a shock. He sees it as a clonefilled suburbia, presided over
by thousand of used-car-salesman sysops catering to a subculture interested
only in obtaining as many megabytes of X-rated GIF pictures as possible.
If this were a science-fiction story, you know what would happen next: K would
band together with his few close friends, and, armed with a NeXT computer, go
in and clean up the karma in Cyber City.
And in fact... Kroupa and his buddies set out to design the cyberutopia that
we have found only in William Gibson novels... and in our dreams.
You see, Kroupa is not only a writer. He and his friends at Phantom Access
pack some of the best technical minds around. Phantom Access Technologies Inc.,
has as its kernel the team of Lord & Lord. Lord Digital, right, plus Dead Lord,
aka Bruce Fancher. Together they are alleged to be the Lewis and Clark of the
Matrix. Whether you buy that or not, Phantom Access is certainly behind some
of the legendary software that emerged from the underground in the 80's like
the ICEbreakers. While you were reading Neuromancer in 1984, Lord & Lord began
making it reality.
Fancher describes MindVox this way: "What we're doing is pushing the limits
of the technology... What we envision as our primary goal is connecting people
together in extremely detailed, interactive virtual environments... using whatever
technology is available right now, but exploiting its full potential."
So, MindVox: an electronic bulletin board system whose amenities expand that
category, which will bring the latest advances in cybercommunications into your
living room. Imagine the Matrix as you have known it combined with the latest
practical advances in VR.
Now, obviously, international networks linking participants in data suits is
still a distance away. In the meantime, Phantom Access is working on more realistic
virtual environments. MindVox will allow you to enter the Maelstrom, a multi-user
fantasy role-playing game complete with graphics and sound. Maelstrom will be
aceessible from NeXT, Sun, 386, 486, Mac, or Amiga computers. The future is
due to arrive in November, 1992. With an update in January, 1993.
It's not gonna be all happily ever after. MindVox has its problems. For one
thing, Phantom Access has its inescapable roots in the hardcore hacker underground.
Patrick and Bruce were involved with the legendary Legion of Doom. Two of the
most illustrious/infamous figures in hacker history Len Rose and Phiber Optik
worked on the design and implementation of MindVox. And with the Internet connectivity,
there's the paranoia that MindVox will become a hangout for hackers. System
administrators could take a NIMBY not in my back yard attitude to MindVox, since
the Internet is already a hotbed of hacker activity.
Nevertheless, MindVox is not intended to be an exclusive club for hackers,
or for any other group. As Kroupa says: "We wanna amass all humanity to party."
The intent is to bring together artists, scientists, musicians, hackers, politicians,
writers to form a critical mass, for an explosion of information and ideas.
The initial topics in the discussion forums on MindVox read like a syllabus
for futuristic philosophy. Much of the discussion revolves around legal and
philosophical aspects of cyberspace, hacking, and the meaning of intellectual
property. There are forums devoted to cyberpunk literature and culture. There
is a MONDO 2000 room: say "go mondo" and step right in. Watch yer head: that
doorframe is bionic. The Panther Moderns have been lolling around in here for
hours. I think they're spoiling for a fight. Go on -- mention the cyber word.