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Undergound. Go to Table of Contents.

   action and greet friends. Others, such as Nom, were part of the

   close-knit PI family. Nom helped Bowen set up PI. Like many early

   members of the underground, they met through AUSOM, an Apple users'

   society in Melbourne. Bowen wanted to run ASCII Express, a program

   which allowed people to transfer files between their own computers and

   PI. But, as usual, he and everyone he knew only had a pirated copy of

   the program. No manuals. So Nom and Bowen spent one weekend picking

   apart the program by themselves. They were each at home, on their own

   machines, with copies. They sat on the phone for hours working through

   how the program worked. They wrote their own manual for other people

   in the underground suffering under the same lack of documentation.

   Then they got it up and running on PI.


   Making your way into the various groups in a BBS such as PI or Zen had

   benefits besides hacking information. If you wanted to drop your

   mantle of anonymity, you could join a pre-packaged, close-knit circle

   of friends. For example, one clique of PI people were fanatical

   followers of the film The Blues Brothers. Every Friday night, this

   group dressed up in Blues Brothers costumes of a dark suit, white

   shirt, narrow tie, Rayban sunglasses and, of course, the snap-brimmed

   hat. One couple brought their child, dressed as a mini-Blues Brother.

   The group of Friday night regulars made their way at 11.30 to

   Northcote's Valhalla Theatre (now the Westgarth). Its grand but

   slightly tatty vintage atmosphere lent itself to this alternative

   culture flourishing in late-night revelries. Leaping up on stage

   mid-film, the PI groupies sent up the actors in key scenes. It was a

   fun and, as importantly, a cheap evening. The Valhalla staff admitted

   regulars who were dressed in appropriate costume for free. The only

   thing the groupies had to pay for was drinks at the intermission.


   Occasionally, Bowen arranged gatherings of other young PI and Zen

   users. Usually, the group met in downtown Melbourne, sometimes at the

   City Square. The group was mostly boys, but sometimes a few girls

   would show up. Bowen's sister, who used the handle Syn, hung around a

   bit. She went out with a few hackers from the BBS scene. And she

   wasn't the only one. It was a tight group which interchanged

   boyfriends and girlfriends with considerable regularity. The group

   hung out in the City Square after watching a movie, usually a horror

   film. Nightmare 2. House 3. Titles tended to be a noun followed by a

   numeral. Once, for a bit of lively variation, they went bowling and

   drove the other people at the alley nuts. After the early

   entertainment, it was down to McDonald's for a cheap burger. They

   joked and laughed and threw gherkins against the restaurant's wall.

   This was followed by more hanging around on the stone steps of the

   City Square before catching the last bus or train home.


   The social sections of PI and Zen were more successful than the

   technical ones, but the private hacking section was even more

   successful than the others. The hacking section was hidden; would-be

   members of the Melbourne underground knew there was something going

   on, but they couldn't find out what is was.


   Getting an invite to the private area required hacking skill or

   information, and usually a recommendation to Bowen from someone who

   was already inside. Within the Inner Sanctum, as the private hacking

   area was called, people could comfortably share information such as

   opinions of new computer products, techniques for hacking, details of

   companies which had set up new sites to hack and the latest rumours on

   what the law enforcement agencies were up to.