Our story began with a disasterous date. It was Monday, 4th of October 1993 and I had been out on a date
that turned into one disaster after another. A missed bus meant a six kilometre run, a mutual friend decided to
tag along when he spotted me and the restaurant I picked up was closed. She went home with the friend and I was
left to pay for the meals. I felt the universe owed me a big dose of good luck after all of that.
Back home, I logged on to Internet Relay Chatting to share my tale of woe with
my online friends. IRC enables you to textually chat to groups of people in rooms called channels. My
nickname is allrite and my channel of choice was called #Romance. It should be said that there
was very little actual romance in #Romance. It was one of the few larger channels where the people
were generally friendly and the talk wasn't too offputting.
I was watching the conversations scroll past when somebody new joined the channel. This new user's name was
blink and they responded to "hiya's" by giving the sender a *blink*. A quick "/whois" command and I saw
that blink was a Beatrice Lang and was using an account at the University of Tasmania.
In a strange mood, and taken by this playful person's actions, I fired off a quick email along the lines of
"I think I'm in love". Thankfully I got the address wrong, otherwise you probably wouldn't be reading this
today. Instead I used a variation on a standard pickup line on blink. "What's your email address?" I asked,
pleading that I'd never sent an email to anyone outside of my uni before. She relented, and I sent off a much more
I waited two days for a reply, but that night I dreamed of blink. When the email finally arrived it was full of
:)'s and giggles. She said she was waiting for my letter and sent me a ---<@@. I didn't know what a ---<@@ was
was. When Beatrice replied, saying that it represented a rose, I was terribly excited. I didn't realise at the
time that her alter ego, blink, was a bit of a flirt!
We continued to chat via email and IRC, our conversations were full of laughter, the sharing of two crazy senses
of humour. It was amazing how honest and unselfconcious we could be talking to each other via simple text. With each
conversation my feelings for Beatrice grew stronger. I arranged for Interflora to send her a real rose and received in
return the most wonderful, most exclamation mark filled reply ever. Soon afterwards I opened my letterbox to find a
envelope containing a couple of photographs. I was delighted to discover that the wonderful personality I had been
conversing with was beautiful too.
The final term of the year is very busy for university students. We had to cut down our IRC sessions in order to
study for exams. We organised to hold a big IRC session the evening after Beatrice's last exam finished. However, on
that night a large storm hit Canberra. Normally, I unplug the computer from everything during the storm, but that
night I placed love over my PC. A couple of close lightning strikes caused extra characters to appear in my terminal
screen, but still I kept on chatting, until, with an enormous crash, the lights dimmed momentarily. A second later
they were back, but computer repeatedly froze upon rebooting. With incredible speed I whipped out the modem card and
put it in my old black and white PC. It booted up, connected and... no blink! In fact nobody outside of NSW and the ACT
was talking. I later found out that the very same storm had washed away our link to the rest of the world. It was an
eerie experience, that feeling of being cut-off, knowing that the other was there, but unable to talk to them. Not until
midday the following day was the link restored.
Beatrice's parents lived in Sydney and she was returning home for the summer holidays, so we arranged to meet there.
I stood outside the Woolworths near Town Hall Station, waiting until a frowning face appeared in the crowd, then ducked
into the supermarket. I followed her in, hoping it was just nervousness and not disappointment. Thankfully it was the
former, and we spent the day wandering around, she trying to embarrass me in public. That night I was very excited that she had agreed to see me again the next day. We lay in the Sun on the grass of
the Botanic Gardens, and suddenly our electronic passions extended themselves to the physical world.