Many years ago I discovered IRC which is short for Internet Relay Chat.   Now, it is considered an ancient form of communication but it was the precursor to instant messaging and chat rooms.  My involvement started when I became interested in rubber stamping.   Ok, I’ll just pause here while you try to figure out why I would be interested in rubber stamps.  Got it?  No?   Are you really going to make me admit that I want to be an artist but I can’t draw for the life of me and rubber stamped images kind of give me a head start?  Do you feel better now?  Do you!?

Now that I’ve been totally humiliated, I’ll get back to my story.  I found out there was a place online where I could join a chat room and talk to other people who like rubber stamping, too. Yes, there are others!  It was fun till this guy came in and threatened to take over the little server we were on.

That was the beginning.  The guy’s nickname was Froolap.  This geeky guy kept telling us that he was exposing our security flaws and tried to tell us how to fix them.  Most of the middle-aged ladies there had no computer savvy whatsoever and I was in the same boat. Froolap obviously had skills, and who knew what he was capable of?  They were afraid, but I was intrigued.  I wanted to learn more.

Sure that he was just an internet troll, the ladies banned him.  Now it is true that he played a lot of pranks on them so he sort of deserved it.  He put a bot in the channel that would spy on them and when he reentered the channel he could repeat the things they said in his absence.  That freaked them out, they thought he was some sort of hacker who could divine their very thoughts.

I think it was his CC Grabber scam that put the ladies over the top.  When they wouldn’t believe him about the very real security flaws the server had, he figured he’d scare some sense into them.  He told them that he had a way to get their credit card numbers.  I imagined their eyes growing large with fear on their faces.  Their fears were soon realized when he told them to hold their credit cards up to the screen and he would recite the number.  They must have thought he put his swami hat on because he started saying “I see a 3 oh and I see a 5.”  By that time they were totally going crazy and completely convinced that he had read their cards through their computer screens.  Hey, Kellyanne Conway had nothing on them.  It was about that time that they banned him.

Before that happened, I had asked Froolap how I could learn some of these techy things and he took me to a channel (that’s what they call chat rooms on IRC) on the Efnet server.  It was chock-a-block full of real geeks.  These guys knew their stuff.  I had no idea what their stuff was because I didn’t understand the jargon, but they sure did know it!  I was on a real server now.

I had a blast there.  I created my own little channel called #papermoon.  I learned the jargon and the commands. I learned 1337speak where numbers take the place of some letters. I learned how to run a bot!  All of this happened more than a decade ago and I’ve forgotten half of it.  However, the channel is still there, though it’s just greatly diminished.  IRC is dying in favor of newer technology.

While on IRC I also saw the underbelly of the internet.  A lot of the people I hung out with were hackers.  Real hackers, not just pranksters like Froolap.  Some were the good-guy white hats, some black hats, but mostly they were gray.  I was really glad they were my friends and not my foes.  I experienced real internet trolls who tried to take over my channel.  I learned first hand that some of the people on the internet are truly evil.  In jest, I mentioned to a friend that I wanted to be evil.  He joked that I was “almost evil.”  That made me laugh.  How fitting for a geek-wannabe.

Then it struck me.  So many years before, Froolap came to a little channel and tried to help, but was looked upon as evil.  I guess he was “almost evil” long before I was.

Without him, I never would have had those wonderful experiences or made the friends I still hold dear to this day.  We lost Froo a year ago to suicide but he and I got to tell that story to a lot of friends that drifted through the channel over the years.  I owe Froolap a great deal and I’m grateful that he knew that before he died.

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23 thoughts on “Almost Evil

  1. Almost evil, is that anything like almost pregnant? This was a well written piece. I, as so many others, were not aware of the existence of this side of the internet. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow what a story and what memories to marvel in. We never knew what is waiting around the corner and what new memories we are about to make. And if we are lucky, then some stay with us for a lifetime. Great story and enjoyed reading this while being totally oblivious to the existence of such server.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m glad there’s no duality in the world. Ok, there is sometimes, but you totally destroyed it in your text. Well done! Favorite part: “I had no idea what their stuff was because I didn’t understand the jargon, but they sure did know it!”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A froo. (“Bless you” J0lle would say right about now…) He sure was interesting in his ways. I sensed a misguided, but somewhat endearing, feeling of awe that he held for me. I remember long discussions how about to “secure” his environment, would have loved to have seen his setup. About his desire for anonymity and me “reassuring” him that unless he was poking some dark best, he just wasn’t that interesting to the seedy black hats.. I guess I can be heartless at times (tho I did gave him my actual IP at that time and told him to have at it, I don’t think he took me up on it)..

    For a while there you truly had a gaggle of us “brokens” in that chan. Each of us with our own quirks and yearnings, commonly united by your friendship and unrelenting attentive ears..

    News of his passing hit hard, had to deal with it in the midst of a prolong exposure to strangers. Froo, ya shall not be forgotten!

    And as for you, keep on at it, someday you’ll rise from “almost” to “nearly evil”!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When you first came to the channel he was beside himself. He messaged me to let me know that a god was amongst us, and yes, he used the word god. He idolized you. No one else had your skills…no one.

      Griz could probably give you a sense of what his setup was. It was complicated and ever-changing. As for you giving him your IP, I doubt he would dare try to breach it. He would be sure that you would have a way to figure out who he was.

      Froo’s passing did hit hard, as did J0lle’s. Of course, it hit hard, we were a dysfunctional family. Where else could being called “almost evil” be an endearing jest? I’ll work toward being “nearly evil” but till then, I’ll leave you with J0lle’s favorite portmanteau. Snugs, my dear friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. OMG! – that takes me back — Internet Relay Chat! I went to school and then in the Navy served with those guys who could bend “security” into pretzels. Of course, the white hats wanted them, at great salaries , to work for them. Back before we knew that BIG BROTHER or BIG BUSINESS was monitoring you, I was one of those geeks who used BBs and IRC. When texting came along, I first sent incomprehensible messages . “Dad, don’t text, you SUCK at it”
    Oh for the slower paced world of dial-up modems, BB and incomprehensible chat messages.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Awe, Froo sounds super sweet. I’m sorry for your loss. Did you guys end up getting in contact in the real world at some point? Also, may I recommend a book? I think, based on this it might be a fun (if young adult-y) read over the summer for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Book recommendations are always welcome! Thanks for your kind words. I’m not sure I’d characterize Froolap as sweet, but he was one of a kind and he had a good heart….even though he didn’t want anyone to know about it!

      We never did meet in real life, but as time goes on, I realize that online life can be just as significant as “real” life. When two people click, and a friendship is made, geography is meaningless.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, a fellow bibliophile. Try out Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, it’s sort of talks about the intersection between coding, books, cults, and friendship. Sounds like a weird combination but it’s an easy read and fairly cute in the end. You’ll have to tell me what you think, but I felt in the beginning as though the bookstore was the object of importance and the main character was just the mode of exploration… sort of like an avatar. Anyways, I won’t spoil it!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I just downloaded it and I bet I’ll like it. Thanks so much for the recommendation! I am a fellow bibliophile and would love any other recommendations you might have.

        Like

  7. Good story! I remember the IRC times even I didn’t spend mcuh time in it. But I guess those years was unique for the internet.

    By the way I wonder how to do rubber stamping 🙂

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    1. Dino, I’m so glad you liked it. How to describe rubber stamping..umm A rubber stamp is a piece of rubber attached to a wooden block, just the like the typical ones for offices. However, the artistic ones have images on them. They can be very plain outlines of any item really, or they can be very intricate. Maybe I’ll do a post on them and you can see what can be done.

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  8. Hi. I also used IRC. I was already alive and kicking when Internet was still a thing between universities (hey, I’m only forty!). Funny days… Much more than know, for me. Jsut because everything was new…
    By the way, I’m sorry to hear that your friend died. 😦

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  9. Wow, I am surprised to find that others here are familiar with IRC. BTW, forty is very young in my book! Thanks for your condolences. I am trying to make my peace with it knowing that it was his time because he chose it.

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