Altered States Magazine - June 2002


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    By Philip N. Zeman

    The Transformers Mailing List is Born

    April 13, 1993. Two fateful posts changed Internet Transfandom forever. You can read for yourself on Google by looking at these two Usenet Message IDs:

    Olatunji Nowlin and Steven Mar decided to put together a Mailing list about Transformers. Ola, at University of Illinois - Chicago, and Steve, a Harvard student, were co-owners of this list, and they posted to both rec.arts.animation and rec.arts.anime advertising this new list. I have a vague feeling that Steve asked me prior to posting if I thought such an idea would work. I donít know if this is true or simply a delusion of Internet-grandeur, so if I hadnít been a member prior to this post on Usenet, I immediately joined upon reading it. (I told you this wasnít going to be an official history....)

    The list was off and running, and for those of you who laugh at the quaintness of an E-mail list, remember that this was a different Internet back then. There was no World Wide Web. There were no discussion boards. Chat rooms, if they existed, werenít made known. There were no TF MUSHes or MUDs. Usenet and gopher were the only ways information was spread, and FTP sites were the repositories of data.

    Even so, a mailing may not seem like a big deal in this day and age of majordomo and listserv lists. But when the Transformers Mailing List was started, we didnít know about such automation. Iím sure they existed; but we were just fans, not technical people. So to send a message to the entire list, the sender typed in every address by hand, did a mass reply to someone elseís E-mail that had reached the entire list, or kept a copy of the distribution list him/herself and referenced that list in some fashion when sending an E-mail.

    So Steve and Ola were the two people to formally post about the E-mail list; I also became a bit of an authority figure there, as I made sure to keep an up-to-date list of everyoneís E-mails, in case Steve and/or Olaís lists got trashed or if they were gone and someone asked for a copy of the list. But really, this was extremely informal. No moderators, no SPAMers, no trolls, just a group of people who liked talking about Transformers. All of us had gone through the original G1 line and had "grown up", but still kept the love alive. So finding people with whom to talk about Transformers was something we all cherished. This list was a welcome addition to all our lives.

    Over time, membership soared as repeated posts on Usenet advertised the list. Generation 2 was a great source of discussion on the list, but the original toys, cartoon, and series were not dismissed. In fact, I remember one day listening to "Dare to be Stupid" repeatedly over the course of an hour or two, writing down the lyrics, simply because someone on the list asked for them. No one had the lyrics handy, so I just did it. That was the spirit that existed there.

    Hereís a little bit of trivia for you: I was on the Mailing List and CMTF on Prodigy at the same time, as you could probably tell by the dates involved. Therefore, it was not uncommon for me to cross-post information from the list to CMTF and vice versa. One of the first things I posted to the list in April 1993 was an updated and rewritten version of my fanfic "Reconstruction" that had appeared in slightly different form on CMTF a short time earlier. This very well could have been the first Transformers fanfiction to appear on any form of Internet protocol and possibly any online medium. I donít remember any fanfic appearing before mine on CMTF or the Mailing List, so this appears to be a valid, if unofficial, claim. (Itís not that big of an honor; at the rate Iíve not worked on "Reconstruction" since 1993, it will also be the last Transformers fanfiction in any online medium, as well".) Fanfic started appearing with great frequency, as many Transfans let their creative sides show.

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      Copyright © 2002 Altered States Magazine
    A SkyJammer Enterprises Publication