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 Digital.
Kroupa’s 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.