Those of us whose careers span a fair number of years can remember discovering the magic of word processors and email as computers arrived on the scene as Commodore, Amiga and Kaypro, before the days of DOS, the PC-Junior, and ubiquitous IBM 8088. We shared a world of amazement and wonder as we explored this new technology. Computer clubs were the source of rudimentary skills we brought our cumbersome "lunchbox" machines, with hundreds of diskettes neatly stored in red mechanic's tool boxes.
There were good souls who helped each other master electronic bulletin boards, and primitive communications programs that enabled burgeoning electronic mail. Most of us enjoyed bending our minds around these new concepts and in the early '90's the stage was set in the organ world for an electronic pipe organ list.
At the University of Albany, a "list server" was made available by Ben Chi, a systems manager who, with Dave Kelzenberg and Dave Schutt, created "PIPORG-L," one of the first and, definitely, the longest-running pipe organ discussion list. The idea of pipe organ "conversations" caught hold and through thick and thin, persisted. This once fledgling list is now ten years old and going strong! It boasts over 1,200 subscribers and, though this number fluctuates, it gives an immediate indication of how popular the PIPORG-L list is. January 15, 2003, officially marked its tenth year. I hope the three "list owners" celebrated!
There is a certain recreational quality about these specialty lists, and that characteristic seems to be at the heart of PIPORG-L. One can "tune in" on a variety of themes, but it soon becomes clear that the list thrives on variety lots of it. Topics are as wide-ranging as one can imagine. Sometimes emotions rule, and exchanges can get heated. Flames lick at the fabric of the list, and from time to time, "owners" have to intervene. It's all pretty exciting, both to those who participate with gusto, and those who "lurk" in the shadows. There are some aspects that I have found endearing, if one may use that term in reference to an internet list. They are presented here, in no particular order, except as I remember them.
It is said that the internet has actually failed to accomplish some of the big-ticket items that its corporate sponsors hoped to achieve. The fact that it has grown in an independent way, without de facto leaders, does not mean that it has grown without leadership. It just comes from within. This is a subtle point, but important, that the entity we call the internet, and all its subsystems, of which PIPORG-L is one, are free to evolve according to the input and output of its own members. This is a happy thought, as PIPORG-L enters its second decade.