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Corporate culture, personal experiences, and unique observations about Giganews, Usenet, Newsgroups, and Usenet related technologies.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Usenet and the History of the Poke

You log into your Facebook® account and find that one of your friends from junior high has poked you…and the battle begins, poking back and forth until one of you gets horribly annoyed and a truce is called. This is an experience that millions of users have every day. The poke is ubiquitous in Facebook culture. But where, you must ask yourself, was the first poke war fought?

According to Andrew Girdwood at e-consultancy.com, the poke is a comfortable middle aged concept born in 1963 with the BASIC computing language. This is a far cry from the rambunctious poke that Facebook addicts recognize today.

The poke of 1963 turned into a "social currency for the gamer geeks" who used it to cheat games and shared their knowledge with friends and fellow users over Usenet. Girdwood's article goes on to compare the poke to Linux's finger command, which allowed users to get personal information such as phone numbers and real names from their friends on the network. Nowadays, the poke has devolved into something more playful and, says Girdwood, something not "quite so simple and elegant" as its ancestors.

So the next time you get poked, nudged, or winked at, think of the 45 year old father of the poke hanging out in Usenet newsgroups, facilitating gamers in accumulating unlimited lives, hordes of ammo, and more, and let the battle wage on.
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