Two teenagers, a microphone, and a phone line. Last Modified: Tuesday, 26-Apr-2005 11:12:32 PDT
Ah, the summer of 1985. Perhaps the most interesting summer I ever had in my entire life. Okay, well, maybe not the most interesting, but certainly on the chart.

It all began, actually, early in the school year when I discovered a number for a "comment line" called the Orange County Connection in Fullerton/La Habra. Now, having been somewhat of a phone phreak, I'd called the "last listing in the Orange County phone book" many times... but Orange County Connection opened up a whole new world to me.

After spending a few months calling various lines (including the BS Line, and others), I decided that a voice comment line might be the best way to add something to my BBS. So, over the next few months, I started assembling the stuff I needed to produce audio recordings.

Right around that time I was getting my computer BBS set up. I was fiddling around trying to figure out what to call it when it struck me: what does my phone number spell? After banging out a simple BASIC program on my C-64 to print out all possible alpha combinations of the phone number 633-6619, one stuck out as being a good name: NEEON-19. Thus was born NEEON-19 BBS, "That's the name, that's the number." A few calls to the telephone company, and soon I had my second phone line for my new comment line: 633-7610. NEEON-19, plus 1001 (almost).

John "OCC" was helpful: he provided me with an answering circuit allegedly constructed by "Joe Zzygot", the guy who ran the aforementioned "last listing" line. It was quite a complicated piece of machinery, and I later learned it had a bit of history as well. Without a lot of fanfare, that summer NEEON-19 went on the air with a sloppily assembled 20-minute cassette of myself (aka "Wally the Weirdo") and a good friend Nick (aka "Neon Nick") generally being silly teenagers with an open mic and nothing better to do.

Over the next year or so, NEEON-19 produced a tape more-or-less once every two weeks. We had our high points ("California Cooler Count") and our low points ("Rodney Flips Out", perhaps the filthiest 7 minutes ever heard on a SoCal comment line).

High school buddies started hanging out at Nick's house, the "official NEEON-19 studio." Demented David, Mr. X, Antonio DeNoNo, Municipal Mike (aka Mike Stand) and a cast that sometimes seemed to number in the hundreds all would barge into the unused bedroom at Nick's house that functioned as our studio. We had no real equipment (a Radio Shack mixer was eventually bought and juryrigged into Nick's Montgomery Ward stereo), 300-ohm twin lead was used for telephone wire (I'm ashamed of that, actually), and once Nick darn near caught the studio on fire (and caused actual damage to my hearing by missing while throwing lit firecrackers out the window).

Ah, the heady days of youth.

Unfortunately, darn near all the recordings of NEEON-19 have been lost to the sands of time. I do have two recordings: our first real tape and the aforementioned "Rodney Flips Out" recording. The quality is poor, and mp3-ing them dosen't help, either. But, here's a quick trip back to my youth: days where it seemed like all you needed to have a good time was a cheap Radio Shack mixer, some good friends, and the energy to make it happen.

Epilogue: I should probably point out here that comment lines are probably the distant cousin (twice removed) of many of today's podcasts. Funny, how back in 1985, we were doing essentially the same thing that would later become an Internet "fad" exactly 20 years later..

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