An Interview with the Anonymous Creator of Telehack

By Jason Fitzpatrick on June 16th, 2011

Last month we shared a Telehack, a really awesome earlier-internet simulator, and now we have an interesting interview with the creator to share.

Andy Baio, over at, hunted down the anonymous creator of Telehack and interview him via the Telehack network–which is perfectly fitting. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

Speaking of old files, the way you used the and Usenet archives feels brand new. You’ve created a playful environment for exploring archival material in a new way. It made me wonder what other data sources could be reinvented by making them game-like.

What Jason Scott did with is heroic. He’s saving away all this stuff that is completely unique, and irretrievable otherwise. But to make people want to see it, byte by byte, I thought it would be neat to offer it up, a piece at a time, in a format similar to how the files were originally experienced.

You dial some modem number — not busy! It actually connects and then you see what files they have and download some of them. Most of them are crazy stuff but period-relevant. So it’s a way to animate old text files.

Same thing with the Usenet archive, although my Usenet reader needs some work. It’s pretty crufty. There is so much in there, I haven’t really found a good way to get people back into it yet.

Folks would wait in anticipation for Usenet — the daily poll — where your modem would call some hub and get you the news. I have to find some way to bring that back to the archive.

Google Groups doesn’t give that feeling. Neither does Telehack’s usenet command currently. Still noodling on that.

It’s an absolutely fascinating interview and if you were still trying to wrap your mind around the Telehack project it’s full of insights.

Playable Archaeology: An Interview with Telehack’s Anonymous Creator []

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 06/16/11
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