Remember the good old-fashioned days of Bulletin Boards? .net does, and we've just found a very '90s answer to them...
Did you ever use modems and conventional telephone lines to call up Bulletin Boards? I know, primitive and outmoded compared to our twisted pair ethernet cables and information superhighways, but don't you sort of miss the BBSs? When I first started netsurfing, I was quite surprised that there weren't any around. Sure, combine a few sites and you've got a BBS-type structure - an ftp site here, an IRC channel there, a sprinkling of newsgroups - but that's not a traditional, single-site kind of BBS, is it? The thing is, does anyone care about them, now we've got hypermedia to entertain us?
Well, the folks at Monochrome City certainly do. Their site in the UK, based at City University, London, is rather excellent - and the closest approximation to a BBS I've seen, right down to the cute ANSI colour graphics. And it's huge too - like a vast information server for all the pointless guff Trivial Pursuit players relish, with some serious stuff thrown in for good measure. Sadly, because there are so many different parts to Mono (as it's affectionately known), I can only highlight a few choice examples here.
First off, let's look at the leisure sections. You access everything via hot-keyed menus, so a few button pushes are all that's required. The music area caters for a wide variety of tastes, and includes information on many different groups, from discography to lyric lists. A change to the movie section reveals reviews of the latest movies, a huge section on anime (Japanimation) and an excellent bit on cult flicks. Did you know, for instance, that the woman who shot Mr Orange in Reservoir Dogs was actor Tim (Mr Orange) Roth's voice coach? You do now. There's a section on horror movies too, as well as big discussions on things cinematic.
One feature that I really liked was the ability to download scripts from various movies (it's probably a severe violation of copyright laws, but great nonetheless). Zipping around again takes us to the art gallery, and on offer here are various gif masterpieces - including a section filled with digitised pictures of some of the users on Mono (although you'll only get access if you upload a picture of yourself). There are Stereogram-creating programs available too, and even a library of PostScript-format Stereograms that you can download, print out and go squiffy-eyed at. My favourite part of the gallery, however, is the ASCII art. Some of the stuff here has to be seen to be believed - people creating pictures with simple ASCII characters that look positively brill, provided you squint your eyes and stand back a bit. There is also a section on ASCII animations, which are worth checking out if your terminal supports them.
Moving along, we come to the on-line games section. There are three on offer here: a MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) of some sort (I couldn't get it to work); a lovely old game called Sokoban, and a little oddity called Mornington Crescent. The idea in the latter is to get around all the stations on the London Underground as quickly as possible. It's quite funny, actually - you see people quoting the "1940 King's Cross derailment rule" and other strange stuff.
Next stop (like that link there?) is the Role-Playing Game section. There's support for all the usual stuff - AD&D, Warhammer etc. - but many others are supported, with great amounts of literature and new source material. If you play any kind of RPG, check this out. There's even a section for Magic: The Gathering, a card game not dissimilar to the old Top Trumps, but a million times more addictive.
Moving on to the serious stuff, the Computing area is definitely worth a rummage. Most formats are well supported, and I'd say the majority of UK computer students hang around here, so if you've got a problem, odds are you can get it fixed. The health area is well done too, with serious discussions and info on all kinds of subjects, from jabs to contraception, and all done in an adult fashion. There are huge numbers of sports areas here too, including a rather cool dangerous sports site - bungee jumping, BASE Jumping and so on. If you have a death wish (or like to read about people with a death wish) give it a go.
And if religion, politics and psychology are your bag, you'll find relevant stuff here too. However, my personal fave among the serious material has to be the Mind Games Conference. For all you nasty little manipulators - come here and swap tips on screwing around with other people's heads! Who knows, some of it may come in useful...