Back in the day, (and I mean BACK in the day, like 17 years ago) me and a bunch of friends used to get together every Wednesday night for dinner. Generally we went to Red Robin at Lougheed because at the time, the guy who was organizing it (Rich) worked at Compucenter in Lougheed Mall. They were open til 9 on Wed, Thurs and Fri (I remember because I too used to work there back in the day as well, along with everybody else) so it was a late dinner. Eventually there were crashers who would show up un-invited, so the gang took to roving around on Wednesday nights. We all coordinated by email. Yes, Email, seventeen years ago. That's how we all knew each other, was from online.
Seventeen years ago, there was no Internet as we know it now. When I was in grade 9, I got a 1200 baud modem (that's 1.2kbps) and you would dial up to another computer with a modem and read/write email, read messages and that was about it. Over the years, modem speeds improved to 2400 baud (2.4kbps) and single-line bulletin board systems (BBS) gave way to multi-line BBSs that still had email and message boards, but also had multi-user chat and multiplayer games.
The ones that stand out in my memory are Infinity Complex (text-based precursors to Wolfenstein 3d and ultimately Halo3/Gears of War/Resistance Fall of Man first-person shooters), Galactiwars (turn-based strategy game of planetary conquering) and Galactic Empire, a cross between Galactiwars, Infinity Complex with a bit of Starcraft thrown in for good measure. All text-based games, so if you had a terminal emulator that supported it, and knew how, you could capture strings of incoming text, process it and fire out commands more or less in the same cycle through scripting languages. Rich was the undisputed king of Galactic Empire, he went so far beyond the simple autopilot and targeting scripts that he wrote a complete front-end almost-GUI for the game, a database of all the ships' capabilities that would look up stats on the fly and adjust it's flight envelope accordingly. Awesome.
So from playing games and chatting together, we took the natural extension and all met up face to face. Undesirables (of which I was included from time to time) heard about the Wednesday Night Club and by hook and crook started showing up causing aggro for other people, so we started roving. We had a few standbys where we went fairly regularly and Red Robin, where it all started, was one of them. We must have gone there a couple hundred times over the years. Boys and girls in their late teens and early twenties who "met" online and came face-to-face in meatspace even sometimes hooked up. One pairing in particular got married just last year!
Last night I was supposed to go bowling with Ork and Pooks and her brothers & their girlfriends. After work, Ork wasn't feeling too well so when I showed up at their place, he was semi-catatonic on the couch. I downloaded a bunch of stuff from my portable hard drive onto his computer, did some troubleshooting on his media PC (bad ram, does it everytime) and he didn't feel like going bowling. After an hour or so he said he was feeling kinda hungry, so we decided to go get a bite to eat. I suggested Red Robin over at Lougheed, since we were so close, and then said "hey, it's Wednesday, how can we NOT go to Red Robin?" and he giggled like a schoolgirl for a few minutes. Too bad Rich is out of town or we would have called him up to come out, too! As it was, we sat up at the bar, watched the Canucks game and had some dinner, old-school style. I seem to remember it being better than it actually was, but hey, that was 17 years ago!
We went back to his after and watched the rest of the game on TSN HD. Phwwwoooooaaar! There's NOTHING like hockey in HD... NOTHING! After the Canucks pulled the game out of their ass, we switched over to the xbox 360 and tried out Oblivion for awhile til it was time to go home.
Going back to Red Robin last night brought back a lot of funny stories, a bunch of "where-are-they-nows" and an old familiar bout of indigestion, too!