On Friday, July 24, 2009, Karen Ackoff posted the 100,000th message on the "new" TCS, a Web-based forum run by Washington Apple Pi. While the TCS dates back to the very early 1980s, and was once based on a single modem talking to a single Apple II, the current TCS has more modern underpinnings, and is a 21st century creation.
From the very beginnings, the TCS (which originally stood for Tele Communications Systems, but now stands for nothing except "TCS") was a social networking community, even before the term "social networking" became popular. Bringing together owners of Macintosh computers, iPods, government workers, contractors and other members of Washington Apple Pi, the original modem-based system accepted over a half million telephone calls, keeping a small fleet of Apple II computers very busy for two decades.
The current version of the TCS is a single machine, and like almost everything else in the world is connected to the Internet via the Web. Using nothing more than a Web browser, Pi members can log in to the TCS 24 hours a day and ask, or provide, advice on hardware and software, job opportunities, or almost anything else they care to discuss. This single computer handles a much heavier load than the fleet of Apple IIs ever did, and far more reliably: on average, one Apple II or modem needed to be reset every week; some weeks, repairing accumulated damage and getting all the pieces working again took days.
Karen Ackoff's posting was typical for the TCS. Karen was concerned about a security system she was installing in her home. Two different sets of contractors were blaming one another for setup problems, and Karen asked if others had any experience that might prove of value. This sparked a string of 30 messages over the next four days as members discussed different ways to wire security systems, different issues the installers might encounter, how to deal with prickly neighbors when you do anything "modern" in an historic neighborhood, and similar topics. Some messages were posted in the morning, most in the afternoon; one was posted at midnight.
The “new” TCS, by the way, had its first posting on April 22, 2003 at, ahem, 3:39 a.m. On average, roughly 120 messages are read by members for every one posted; about the only quiet time is between 4 and 5 a.m.
Karen, by the way, lives in the Midwest, and not in the DC-Baltimore metro area. The TCS has also had members post messages from Europe, Asia, South America, and a few U.S. Navy ships in the Indian Ocean.
For nearly three decades, in any and every incarnation, the TCS has served as the Pi's 24-hour-a-day general meeting, a place where you can ask, and receive, technical advice, wax lyrical about new restaurants or old movies, or share a pun or silly joke. It is the place to be if you or your Mac (or iPod, or iPhone, or Newton, or...) needs a friendly ear at noon, or closer to midnight.
Try it: http://tcs.wap.org/