n August of 1996, my boyfriend moved to Boston to go to MIT. He wrote a few articles for Wired and so was hip somehow to Spacebar and Cyborganic and TND and Ramona Street's T1, etc. Although I'd made fun of his "little friends in the computer" while we were dating, when he moved 3000 miles away and I was looking at an outrageous phone bill to stay in touch, the idea of using chat to communicate didn't seem so dorky anymore.
A week or so after he'd gone, I learned how to run: Telnet spacebar.com:7227 and kablam! a screenful of..
Welcome to space bar!
Type "new" if you are a new user.
Enter your user name:
You can see how someone utterly unfamiliar with terminals, shells, unix, online chat and, well, computers and the internet in general, would be confused. I got it right the first time. I typed "new" as I was a new user. Now, you are only a new user once, when you first log in and you don't have a user name, but because there was a waiting period to be "verified" by the "spaceman", I thought I was a new user until such time as I was verified.
I enjoyed a little newbie chat with my recently departed boyfriend. This was in the days of modems, so eventually at one point in the conversation, the connection dropped and we were disconnected. When I logged back in, I typed "new" again, thinking I was still new because I hadn't been verified, but when I typed in user name: "robyn", it said that that name had already been taken. By who!? (um, me.) I *JUST* had it. Someone stole my nick already? Ugh! I looked at the keyboard for inspiration. "ert" was phonetically legit and easily typed - being part of the qwertyuiop row, so I used that and logged back in.
Everyone thought it was terribly cute and has called me ert ever since.