In the beginning

Jorvick was originally the creation of one man, Nigel Gregg, an electronics undergraduate in the late 1980s who took the online nickname of `A Sister of Mercy' (usually abbreviated to `Sis') from his fondness for goth music. At the time, the UK's universities were electronically linked by an X25 network called JANET (Joint Academic NETwork).

In these pre-tcp/ip (the switch to JIPS, the JANET IP Service, didn't occur until the early 1990s), webless days, a number of text bulletin boards, talkers, and MUDs ran on various university computers throughout the country. If you knew the right number to call, you could log on to these systems and converse, debate, flame, or play games with other students. They were in some sense the fore-runners of the web-based forums and `chat rooms' of today, albeit without flashy graphics.

Two prime examples were Monochrome, originally at City University, in London; and Cheeseplant's House, at the University of Warwick. Monochrome is still running, while Cheeseplant's House was taken offline in early 1992.

Sis, and many other York students at that time, frequented a bulletin board called `Bullet II', running at Kings College, London, and occurred to him that it might be a good idea to write a similar system for local use at York.

Jorvick III

The University of York Computing Service then, as now, provided and supported a central multi-user computing facility, which at that time took the form of a small cluster of DEC VAX machines running the VMS operating system. The first version of Jorvick, named `Jorvick III' in reference to its origins in `Bullet II', was a somewhat ramshackle collection of scripts written in DCL (the VMS default commandline interpreter language) and was as a result prone to extreme flakiness.

This flakiness was added to by the fact that, to assist the board's survival in contravention of the strict Computing Service rules against recreational use of the central facilities, the scripts were spread across several different accounts. This measure, primarily intended to enable the board to be resurrected should the system adminstrators discover and delete the relevant files, decreased the overall stability and reliability of the board further.

Jorvick (I)

At some point, Sis failed some exams and dropped out of his engineering course, and Jorvick disappeared with the deletion of his account. Shortly afterwards, somebody in the Electronics department set up their own bulletin board, which inspired Sis (still living in York) to borrow a friend's VAX account and rewrite Jorvick (this time in VAX Basic). This new version (called simply `Jorvick', and also later known as `Jorvick I') was more stable and had more features than the previous incarnation.

All versions of Jorvick had a hierarchical system of levels which amongst other things affected what one could do on Talker (from whispering to other users, right up to changing their names, and causing what they typed to appear differently on screen). As far as the discussion folders were concerned, there were only really three levels: ordinary user, editor (who had the responsibility for moderating the discussions), and the Demon Princes (who were in charge, and primarily responsible for keeping everything ticking over, fixing the code when it broke, and so forth).

At some point, Sis was joined by other DPs. Geoff (Mad Tommy), Steve (Bilbo), Steve Dodd (Magic), Doug Clow (ERiK THE ViKiNG), and finally myself - I had the rather more down-to-earth online name of `Nick'.

Originally, the levels system was horrifically (and strangely) corrupt, with bribery often securing a promotion. At some point during this second phase of Jorvick, and after Mad Tommy graduated and left, Magic took over as head DP. As Sis later put it, Magic was the `Elliot Ness' of Jorvick, smashing the bribery and corruption rings, setting up the serious discussion folders, and bringing a new era of respectability to the board.

At some stage, Sis decided to rewrite Jorvick in C - possibly as an exercise to help him learn the language. This new version was `Jorvick II'.

Date: 2002/12/13 17:00:15