How old is the SDMB?

I remember seeing (but wasn’t a member of) the old SDMB when it was on AOL. When did that start? Are we headed for a 10-year birthday, or have we already passed that?

Eleven years and counting.

A short (long) history of the Dope online . . . from my dim memories. Anyone who was there can correct me.

As best I can remember the site was first spotted on AOL in . . . I want to say May or June of 1996. Those of us who stumbled in found ourselves sitting in the chat room talking to one another for hours waiting for something to happen. The rest of the site began to build around us over the next few weeks, the first columns got posted around that time, and Ed put out the call for chat hosts in July. We began having formal chats in August and that’s when I first went to work for the Master.

Original members from back then: Jillgat (first met in the chat room, one of our original chat hosts) . . . Eutychus . . . Lynn Bodoni came a little later but not much later. Am I missing anybody? Probably. If so I apologize.

The message board got started in September 1996, I do believe. (Lynn? Euty? Y’all were around, correct me if wrong, please.)

October 1996 was when CKDextHavn showed up, I remember that.

We were an entity on AOL until mid-1999, I want to say May 1999, but that may not be correct. I’ll have to go back and look at paperwork or something.

We stopped having chats when the AOL site was closed. By that point we had already started the move to the Reader site. First it was the columns, and then we had a board that started a little later, it took a little time to convince Ed and Mike Lenehan it was a worthwhile thing.

Mostly Cecil was above all of this though he did occasionally attend chat in the old days and he makes rare appearances here today.

We’ve been here ever since. Wherever here is.

FWIW, your profile shows you’ve been a member since

Join Date: 03-10-1999

There was some overlap between the closing of the AOL and content on the Reader site, it was not a “here one day and there the next” kind of thing, we had a foot on both sides for a while.

Thanks, Tuba! I’d been curious about that for a while.

I’ve never been a mod or anything, but I was there for much of it.

Your memory fits with mine. I began going regularly to the AOL site what must have been just a few weeks after the message boards opened. I may have even been in the chat room once or twice prior to that, but I don’t remember for sure. I’m fairly sure this was fourth quarter 1996.

Been on the message boards virtually every day since, although I read much more than I post.

Thanks, my dear. I always appeciate seeing the oldest members of all, still hanging in there. Makes me all sentimental and stuff.

I joined up as soon as I found that you didn’t have to join AOL. I was visiting the Column site before that, because you didn’t have to join AOL for that. They did offer a discounted AOL membership for a bit before the switch. It was AOL so what more is there to say, as to why it was good when the boards moved to the Chicago Reader’s servers. Luckily the board survived every crisis that occurred during the years. I was so thrilled that I could read the Straight Dope on-line, and not miss a lot. The nearest paper (The Isthmuth) was 50 miles one way only to be found at a couple places, and many times there weren’t any left. The Onion was in Madison at the time too.

It would be interesting to know who the oldest non-staff member is that still is around.

That would probably be member #33, GusNSpot.

Stpid pointless question, but how do you find your member number?

Your number is 63. Just go to your profile. The address bar will have userid=yournumber.

I wasn’t there for the start of the AOL board. I didn’t join AOL until they went to the “all you can surf for one low price” format, as I know some of my weaknesses. I knew that Cecil had an AOL presence from one of his books, and when I did get on AOL I looked up the SD. I lurked around the message board for a while, and then started posting.

A user could find the SD on AOL by typing in keyword: dope, which led to a lot of rather confused and pissed off stoners stumbling into the chat room or message board, looking for a connection.

I even recognize GusNSpot’s name.

That’s funny about the stoners showing up for a connection on AOL.

By the way is west of white house GUE there as a Zork reference?

Slight nitpick. That only works if you view a profile from the poster’s dropdown menu below a name. It doesn’t work if you enter your own profile thru User CP->edit profile. On that page, the number is not displayed anywhere.

It looks like about 2900 people signed up for the Dope between March 1999 and October, when I did. I feel like such a newbie.

Mouse over the screen name and the ID# will appear in the bottom of your browser.

Sez #32.

Just for fun, I looked up what seems like Ed Zotti’s first announcement of “The Straight Dope” going online at AOL, though the announcement took place on, which seems to be still going strong. Weird to see for me, as I never did use those alt groups at all.

The general reponse at the alt group was horror. “AOL!” Very few if any of them made it over, their fear of the stupid was greater than their love of the Master. There’s been very little interaction between us and them except for them to get all ugly if any of us went over there so we left them alone pretty much.

A quick glance through the recent posts at alt-fan shows no mention of Cecil Adams anywhere.

A correction: Chats actually started sometime in July of 1996 on AOL. . . the first couple rounds of chat were actually run by Ed and the AOL account person, “Sarah,” I think her name was. With the rest of us sitting in, it was on the job training. Maybe we started running chats by ourselves in August and that’s why it sticks in my mind, or maybe that’s when I began supervising the other chat hosts, not sure.

And apparently the message board was running at that time too – perhaps it was September before we assigned formal moderators to the board – in the early days it was so small it could be done very easily by one or two people with lots of time left over. Thems were the days.

Ah, memories. (Thanks for indulging me.)

For a long time I thought I remembered participating in the AOL SDMB back before the stick-pins (and with them the arrival of true threading), but a couple years ago someone posted the aol-URL (example of an AOL URL: aol://5863:126/mB:59300:54753) to the old boards, which astonishingly enough had not as of yet been erased; as of at least as recently as '05 or thereabouts, the SDMB posts circa 1997-9 could still be gotten to and re-read.

The combo of re-reading and scraping rust off memory caused me to realize I had been active on some non-SDMB AOL boards prior to stick-pins, but didn’t stumble across the Dope until fall of 1997.
More on the “before the stick-pins” thing: the AOL boards at one time were like usenet in a plain-vanilla usenet reader: you would make a post with a subject line, and if someone else wanted to respond to you, their response would appear as a separate line that just happened to have the same subject line. So when you hit the “New Posts” button you’d see post titles, not thread titles, e.g., [using some modern thread titles for examples]:

Cutting off a shark’s tale…chorpler
Bactrian & Dromedary camels…Zyada
How old is the SDMB?..chorpler
Bactrian & Dromedary camels…DSYoungEsq
Bactrian & Dromedary camels…panache45
Cutting off a shark’s tale…kanicbird
How old is the SDMB?..TubaDiva

Anyone could change the subject of their response, which had the effect of changing the thread title (since there WAS no true thread). That’s how a “Titanic Wallpaper” got transmuted into “Mundane Pointless Stuff I Must Share”, if I remember correctly. (and I’m remembering it being discussed, since the pre-stickpins era was before my SDMB time).

So one day AOL changes the structure of all their boards. All hell breaks loose, because it’s buggy AND because (again, if I remember correctly) all the posts prior to that moment just vaporized, poof!, never to be seen again. History wiped out. The “stick-pins” was an AOL decor (background image) from then on, on all boards. And from then on threads were actual threads: when you opened them all the posts to that thread would be in one scrollable window.

AOL horror was pretty clear in Ed’s announcement, alright. Quite honestly I’ve heard the same sentiment on this board, whenever the subject came up. Over here, there’s only been 1 post in the past day in “Comments on Cecil’s Columns”. I fear if we were jumbled into 1 long list*, instead of separate forums, a quick glance wouldn’t reveal much mention of Cecil either. From my limited poking around, alt.cecil has a pretty similar feel, people-wise, maybe a little less social.

*Didn’t you guys to have just one long running “MPSIMS” thread when you were on AOL?