Now listen up children...once upon a time, the Internet was a much smaller place. Try to picture it....graphical web-browsers were unheard of. Lynx was considered a new-fangled invention. AOL was actually struggling against the mighty CompuServe (remember commas and numeric usernames? you don't?) and Prodigy. IRC as we know it was still a few years away. Bill Gates wasn't an asshole yet. (Okay that last one is a lie.) Anyways this was a time when BBSes and Usenet newsgroups were the place to be for the digerati of the machine age.
I, however, was not one of those people. Like countless others, I was a lowly prole, thankful for my university-provided email account and thinking I was so clever to be able to access ARCHIE from the public terminal at the student union building. Somehow, I managed to finagle my way into the Independant Studies program, a self-directed program that came with the perq of one's own office. In reality, this was a small windowless room barely large enough to hold a desk and a filing cabinet. But it had much-coveted 24-hr access to a private computer lab that largely went unused. Most importantly, it had its own printer.
Those of you who have ever had to sprint across the building to a shared printer to snatch up your boyfriend's latest email (you know, the one with the bitmap email attachment of him naked with "I feel empty inside without you" written in magic marker on a rather revealing portion of his anatomy) before your Engineering Materials prof gets there to pick up his midterm scores will know EXACTLY what I mean. (Those of you who haven't will just see a really long run-on sentence.)
Anyways, in those days, I used to hang out on the Usenet newsgroup soc.motss. The "motss" stood for "members of the same sex" and it was sort of like hanging out on channel, only in stop-motion, like a bad infomercial. A newsgroup (or NG -- now called "Internet discussion group") is sort of like an online cork board. You post messages to the newsgroup and other people comment on it in their own postings. It's not quite real-time, but responses are often posted quite quickly, especially on the high-traffic NGs like soc.motss.
I contributed here and there to the newsgroup traffic and even met a few members of the group IRL at get-togethers called "motss.cons". At the 1993 March on Washington, I designed and carried a banner for the Canadian delegation, and met up with other motssers. After I left university, I lost my computer access for a while and disappeared from soc.motss. When I joined the channel in 1996, I discovered that some of the #gaysfers (Erik, fruitbat, UCCityTop) were people I'd known and chatted with in my soc.motss days.