Forbidden names, revisited

Forbidden names, revisited

Flashback a few decades to the glory days of online service CompuServe, when anyone could get an account -- but not everyone could use their real name

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Flashback a few decades to the glory days of online service CompuServe, when anyone could get an account — but not everyone could use their real names, according to a pilot fish in the know.

“You logged in with your account number, but to join a forum — a chatroom focused on a specific topic — you had to give a real name,” fish says. “The name on your billing record was the default.

“Of course there were fraudsters who used an official-sounding name to phish people for personal info and credit card data. So users were not allowed to have words like ‘billing’ as any part of their in-forum real name. This could only be overridden by the forum sysop. I was one.

“I never knew how many fine people were named ‘Billingsley’ before I served as a sysop.

“In our busy forum, we had about one user a month with that problem. I had to apologize, explain the stupid rule and go into the back-end interface to set the desired name manually.

“We sysops agitated for a special-case exemption, but it never happened.”

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