Ratsnatcher at work on his macho XT, circa 1988

You people think you have macho cats. I used to have a rabbit that after it escaped was brought back by the POLICE because some old guy found it "digging at his foundations." I also have 115 pound doberman pinscher who has bitten so many people that by LAW, I have to walk him with a muzzle. My cats beat the shit out of him and he is constantly terrified. I can kill them all with a remote control device that I keep on my person at all times.
- RatSnatcher

RatHead was the first BBS I ever called. That's probably for the better, because if I had called "Comp-U-Pal" or "Deep Sea Divers Hangout" first time out I probably never would have taken those first tremulous steps on this path, which ultimately leads here. I called RatHead because the ad in Computer Currents promised "Bad Crazyness" and nothing else. No files, no 16-node Mega-system, no 3l33t WaReZ, just a misspelled promise of insanity.

I remember striking up a conversation with Ratsnatcher early on--probably in my first email-- about Hunter Thompson. I had made up some sort of Gonzo-like gibberish for my feedback letter, expecting nothing but bewilderment in return, but he had replied, "Yeah, Hunter's crazy. Check out his new book." That's when I knew I had found a home.

I came to know the regulars, and through NirvanaNet, the regulars of the other five or six boards that RatHead was netted together with. Everyone in those days had a strikingly singular personality. I imagine MoD would be similar, except that these were just regular people - scientists, not hackers, for the most part. And before I met any of them I had them all pictured in my head. Rabid Liberal would be in his mid-thirties, with long stringy hair and a denim jacket with all sorts of freak buttons all over it. Ratsnatcher obviously looked like a rat - thin and vaguely radioactive. Doctor Murdock could be anything, but it was he who later came closest to resembling the mental picture I had made of him. (As it later turned out, Rab was basically a little kid... who called himself, at times, "The FunkMeister" and bragged non-stop about the size of his dick. And Ratsnatcher... well, see above photo.)

One of the things that was happening when I started calling was the Gulf War. NirvanaNet mobilized and became a giant meeting place for people to discuss and debate the war, plan marches, whine about protesters, and essentially have their voice heard in an open forum. The net was almost crushed under the deluge of calls in those few, angry weeks. Ratsnatcher was always looking for a fight back then - one of my favorite of his ongoing feuds was the one he had with a fellow named Ra-Lugi. Snatcher would accuse him variously of being a "tree-hugger," or an "Amiga-lover," and the two would whip round in circles for days over the latest hostility. Snatcher has this gift, you must understand, of being able to take either side of an argument and debate it successfully. He would tend to just pick whatever point of view Ra-Lugi would despise, and go from there. (Years later, Ra-Lugi got booted - unfairly, in my opinion - from the Good Company on NirvanaNet boards because of his contrarian views. Snatcher probably fueled the fire by ridiculing his "dirty toilet computer," but a few people took it a few steps too far, and today, as far as I know, Ra-Lugi is Not Welcome Around Here. Which is too bad. Because he was Ratsnatcher's greatest natural enemy, mongoose to a snake, and I think deep down he misses him.)

RatHead Systems was run on an old PC-XT, with a 20 meg hard drive and 512K RAM. It existed in this state for more than five years, and had more than 2000 users, averaging 70+ posts a day. One 2400bps line, and that was it. People from all over the world - Europe, Argentina, Zimbawbwe - still call the 510.524.3649 number and ask about the old RatHead. It exists now, in a much different form, as the PolySpock Project.

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