BIFF: Wikis

  

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This article is about the Usenet pseudonym. For the Berlin International Film Festival, see that article. For other meanings, see Biff (disambiguation).

BIFF, later sometimes B1FF, was the most famous pseudonym on, and the prototypical newbie of, Usenet, the precursor to the World Wide Web. Now virtually unknown outside of a hard core of pre-web internet technophiles, BIFF was created as and widely taken up as a satire of a partly amusing, partly annoying, mostly unwelcome intrusion into a then fairly rarefied community.

Contents

BIFF

BIFF was apparently a pre-adolescent American who had no real computer skills (or social skills) but possessed a then novel home computer and a then even more novel internet connection. Posts from BIFF were characterised by all-uppercase typing liberally interspersed with bangs, typos, "cute" misspellings, use (and often misuse) of fragments of chat abbreviations, a long sig block ("Signature"), sometimes even a doubled sig, and a combination of extreme naïveté and overweening self-confidence in this new (to "him") domain.

A sentence exemplifying BIFF would be:

EVRY BUDY LUVS GOOD OLD BIFF CUZ HE'S A K00L DOOD AN HE RITES REEL AWESUM THINGZ IN CAPITULL LETTRS LIKE THIS!!!

BIFF posted articles using his elder brother's Commodore VIC-20. (At a time when most active internet users were sophisticated computer scientists sharing centrally managed "big metal"—mainframes or minicomputers—the VIC-20 was a landmark entry-level machine targeted at the general public, was typically owned by pre-adolescent teens, and was considered to be laughably incapable by the majority of internet users at the time: it and its users were a common subject of parody and disparagement.) BIFF's location was a mystery, as his articles appeared to come from a variety of sites. However, BITNET seemed to be the most frequent origin. The theory that BIFF was a denizen of BITNET was supported by BIFF's "(unfortunately invalid)"[1] electronic mail address: <BIFF@BIT.NET>.

Origin

BIFF was originally created by Joe Talmadge, also the author of the infamous and much-plagiarised "Flamer's Bible" (1987). The BIFF filter he wrote was later passed to Richard Sexton, who posted BIFFisms much more widely and was credited by Talmadge as popularising BIFF.

Richard Sexton:
I make no claim to inventing BIFF. Blame Joe Talmadge. Joe wasn't too busy one year at HP and invented a whole cast of characters such as SYSTEMS ADMINISTRATOR MAN, Bobby Joe (Dedicated Wobegon listener), Joe Supportive (soc.singles reader for 1.5 years) and off course the big bad BIFFSTER. ...

Joe Talmadge:
Oh. Hey. Don't blame me. It's Webber's fault.

Anyway, I may have invented BIFF, but Richard made him famous. Richard is the Roy Crock[2] of BIFF; meanwhile, I fade quietly into obscurity.[3]

Versions have since been posted for the amusement of the net at large.

Richard Sexton:
I posted a few BIFF articles from my account at gryphon, but now there are about 20 people, well connected, posting BIFF forgeries. You probably don't want to hear that the people doing them had to find something to occupy themselves after they dissolved the backbone cabal.[4]

Cultural significance and later decline

BIFF served as a satire of an exceptional behaviour in a fairly homogeneous environment.[5]

The explosive growth of the web led to the rapid decline of BIFF, as on the one hand Biffisms became no longer exceptional, and on the other the web rapidly became a much larger much more heterogeneous environment, leading both to newcomers not being aware of BIFF's existence and to BIFF becoming less contrasting as an exception in the increasingly more "noisy" internet.

By 2000 BIFF was virtually unknown among even dedicated internet users.

Continued existence

In the sense of caricaturing the prototypical pre-adolescent or over-self-confident noob on the net, BIFF's legacy lives on, in practice if not in name.

Over and above apparently inspiring the naming and style of the precursor to leet,[6] BIFFisms continue to be seen today in many internet forums and comment threads, both in direct posts and in deliberate ironic imitation. Every internet user who has used leetspeek ironically ("the ph34r!") or mocked pre-teen gamers or IRCers ("OMG WTF!!!111 kthxbye") is essentially using a modernised BIFF. BIFF, like Eliza Doolittle, appears to be a specifically created yet immediately classic shibboleth of some fundamental human behaviours, on the part of both the parodied and the parodying. Further examples of this can be seen in regards to JeffK.

An example Biffism

This was posted on the Usenet Oracle mailing list digest 775-06:[7]

The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply. Your question was:

> Oh great oracle,
>
> what do you do with a supplicant who leaves his .sig at
> the end of his questions?
> --
> --
And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

} WHAT R U TALK1N' ABOUT MAN?  SIGZ ROOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
}
} LATER MAN.
}
} BIFF.
}
} --
}     BBBBBBBBBBBBB          IIIIIIIII            FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF
}     BBBBBBBBBBBBBB         IIIIIIIII           FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF
}      BBB        BBB           III             FFF         FFF
}       BBB        BBB          III            FFF         FFF
}        BBB        BBB         III           FFF         FFF
}         BBBBBBBBBBBBB         III          FFFFFFFFF   FFFFFFFFF
}          BBBBBBBBBBBBBB       III         FFFFFFFFF   FFFFFFFFF
}           BBB        BBB      III        FFF         FFF
}            BBB        BBB     III       FFF         FFF
}             BBB        BBB    III      FFF         FFF
}              BBBBBBBBBBBBB IIIIIIIII  FFF         FFF
} BIFF@BIT.NET  BBBBBBBBBBBB IIIIIIIII FFF         FFF  BIFF@PSUVM.PSU.EDU
} BIFF@BIFFVM.BIT.NET                                 BIFF+@ANDREW.CMU.EDU
}   B1FF@AOL.COM  B1FF@DELPHI.COM  B1FF@PRODIGY.COM  B1FF@COMU$ERVE.COM
}          B1FF@NETCOM.COM  B1FF@WORLD.STD.COM  B1FF@MCS.COM
}            B1FF@B1FFNET.FIDONET.ORG  B1FF@WELL.SF.CA.US
}              B1FF@ATHENA.MIT.EDU  B1FF@CYBER.SELL.COM
}                             BIFF@MSN.COM
}
}   MY SIG         /^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^\          WAITING
}  CAN BEAT        !@@@@@@NUKULAR@@@@@@@@!                 4
}   UP YOUR       -------------------------            ARMAGEDIN
}    SIG           !@@@@@@@@BIFF@@@@@@@@@!          IT"LL B
}    !!!           \--------!   !--------/            AWESOME!!!!
}                           !   !
}                         ---------         THIS SPACE 4 RENT CALL BIFF
}      /\\\                 !   !               HA HA FOOLED YOU!!!
}       |||                /     \
}       /-\
}  /----/-\------------------------------------------------------------\
} | BIFF|@|AOL.DELPHI.PRODIGY.COMPU$ERVE.NETCOM.WORLD.MSN.B1FF.EDU DUDE!>
}  \----\-/------------------------------------------------------------/
}       \-/
}       |-|     BANG THE FALSE METAL HEAD THAT DUZZN"T DRINK BEER!!!
}      \///          HOT METAL TUBS RULE IN A MAJOR WAY DUDEZ!!!
}
}   __________      __________       ___________     ___________        __
}  /         /\    /         /|     /          /|   /          /|      / /
} /         /  \  /         //     /          //   /          //      / /|
} **********   /  **********/      ***********/    ***********/       ** |
} **  |____** /       **           **  |______     **  |______        ** |
} ** /      **        **           **  /     /|    **  /     /|       ** |
} **/      **/ \      **           ** /     //     ** /     //        ** |
} **********/  /      **           *********/      *********/         ** /
} **  |____** //    __**______     **  |           **  |              **/
} ** /      **/    /  **     /|    **  |           **  |              / /|
} **/      **/    /   **    //     ** /            ** /               ** /
} **********/     **********/      **/             **/                **/
}
} BIFF@BIT.NET BIFF@PSUVM.PSU.EDU BIFF@BIFFVM.BIT.NET BIFF+@ANDREW.CMU.EDU
}   B1FF@AOL.COM  B1FF@DELPHI.COM  B1FF@PRODIGY.COM  B1FF@COMU$ERVE.COM
}          B1FF@NETCOM.COM  B1FF@WORLD.STD.COM  B1FF@MCS.COM
}            B1FF@B1FFNET.FIDONET.ORG  B1FF@WELL.SF.CA.US
}              B1FF@ATHENA.MIT.EDU  B1FF@CYBER.SELL.COM
}                           BIFF@MSN.COM
}
}                     K0M1NG S00N T0 THEATREZ NEER U!!!!!!
}      _______ _______*_______ _______   _______  _______   _______ __  __
}  +. /____  //______//______//______/  /______/ /____  /  /______//_/ /_/
} `  _____/ /   __    _____ . _____   ,   __    _____/ /  ______  ____
} , / ___ _/.  / / . / ___/ '/ ___/  +.  / /   / _  __/  /  ___/ /   /
}  / /__/ | __/ /__ / / . , / /   ,  .  / /   / / \ \   /  /___ / /\ \
} /______/ /______//_/ * + /_/   *, ` ,/_/   /_/   \_\ /______//_/  \_\
}
}              FEETUR1NG THE GRATE B1FF1NSK1 AS C4PTA1N B1FF!!!!!!
}
}                    B1FF 4RUOND TH4 W3RLD!!!!!
}                                   .
}                               _--_|\
}                     P3RTH--> /      \<--SIND3Y
}                              \_.--._/
}                                    v<---B1FFSM4NIA!!!!!!!
}
}                ___                          (_)
}              _/XXX\
}             /XXXXXX\_ <-- MT. B1FF1NGT0N                 __
} __    __   /X XXXX XX\     MT. K1BO (SHORT3R    _       /XX\__      ___
}   \__/  \_/__       \ \    TH4N B1FF'Z) ----> _/X\__   /XX XXX\____/XXX\
} \  ___   \/  \_      \ \               __   _/      \_/  _/  -   __  -
} __/   \__/   \ \__     \\__           /  \_//  _ _ \  \     __  /  \____
}  __    \  /     \ \_   _//_\___     _/    //           \___/  \/     __/
} /_______\________\__\_/________\_ _/_____/_____________/_______\____/___
}                                    /|\
}                                   / | \       _____ _____
}                                  /  |  \      \    V    /
}     THE RO4D T0 B1FFN3SS!!!!    /   |   \      | R00T  |
}                                /    |    \     |  666  |     +---------+
}     ALL MUST TR4V3L 1T        /     |     \    \___ ___/     | B1FF    |
}                              /      |      \       V         | R00LZ!! |
}     SUMD4Y!!!!!!!!          /       |       \      |       o +---------+
}                            /        |        \     |      o
}                           /         |         \    |   |\__/|  .~    ~.
}                          /          |          \   |   /o=o'`./      .'
}                         /           |              |  {o__,   \    {
}                        /            |                   / .  . )    \
}                       /             |                   `-` '-' \    }
}                                     |                  .(   _(   )_.'
}                                     |                 '---.~_ _ _|

References

  • The Jargon File — a primary canonical reference for early internet esoterica, latterly maintained and preserved by Eric S. Raymond ("ESR")
  1. ^ Eric S. Raymond ("ESR"), Jargon File
  2. ^ Apparently a mis-remembering of Ray Kroc, who came upon a single family-run "restaurant" and turned it into the global phenomenon that is McDonalds
  3. ^ USENET postings, 1990.01.08-16
  4. ^ USENET posting, 1990.01.08:1711
  5. ^ for an example, see Letter from B1FF (1995)
  6. ^ B1ff
  7. ^ Usenet Oracle, Usenet Oracularities #775 (1995.09.15), compiled by Steve Kinzler

See also

External links








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