When I was very young, my parents very presciently saw that personal computers were the wave of the future. We got our first computer early enough that I’m not quite sure how old I was, but it was when we lived in our first house so I was less than 9. Thus, I grew up learning how to use a computer. However, they were not particularly on board with the whole Internet thing.
When I was in middle school, my friend got a subscription to AOL. For those fortunate enough to not be familiar with AOL, it stood for America Online. They were part of the transitional phase between bulletin board systems (BBSes) and the Internet. While they originally offered a “walled garden” where everything available was under the purview of AOL the company, they eventually provided access to the wider ‘Net, allowing web browsing. It’s a little bizarre to think that all this occurred within my lifetime.
In any case, I desperately wanted to be online, for several reasons. First, AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM. I could use it to talk with my friends, create chatrooms for several friends to hang out, and communicate electronically. Second, video games. I could research video games, figure out which ones I wanted, and also (occasionally, when the game permitted) even play games online with my friends. And finally, computers themselves. I was very much into tinkering with computers, and I knew that online there were immense resources for the sort of jiggery-pokery I was doing.
My parents were not interested in paying for an online subscription. But my friend let me have a login on his account. We couldn’t be on at the same time, which somewhat defeated the whole purpose of being online in the first place, but I could at least talk with my other friends and classmates, send and receive email, and do important video-game-related research.
I also, and this wound up being a key strategic move, let my parents use my account. My dad in particular found a lot of utility in using the Internet to research everything from stock prices to sports scores, and he wound up using the Internet himself more and more.
As my friend’s account was the primary account, whenever he tried to log on then it would kick us off. This was annoying, but I recognized that it was only fair. As we became heavier Internet users, though, it became more and more frustrating.
I don’t recall whether my parents relented first or whether my friend switched off of AOL onto a different Internet provider, but eventually it happened…we wound up getting our own AOL account! I was over the moon.
However, I was faced with the challenge that most denizens of the modern age know well: I needed to choose a name (AOL called them “screen names,” though they also served as the email address).
Those who know me know that I’ve always had a strong individualistic streak. One way this shows up is that I absolutely refuse to have a name with a number in it (knowing this adds more color to the Nathan22 story!). If I’m not the first one, I don’t want it. Unfortunately, this meant my options were quite slim.
I was also a huge fan of Star Wars, including the Star Wars video games. And especially the space flight games like X-Wing and the follow-up TIE Fighter. In fact, in both of those games I had achieved “Ace” status, bestowed for shooting down a certain number of enemy fighters.
I decided to take the name Rogue Ace, as in an ace pilot in Rogue Squadron.
Unfortunately, my spelling has never (well, rarely) been the hottest, so I accidentally signed up under the name RougeAce. If you don’t know the difference between rouge and rogue, you’re certainly not alone.
Imagine my embarrassment when I discovered the problem! Unfortunately, the name RogueAce was already taken, so I couldn’t switch. The only actual saving grace was that most of my friends didn’t know the difference either so I didn’t really get made fun of for it that much. Those who did know the difference assumed I was going for Red Ace, also a Star Wars reference (Red Squadron, of course, destroyed the first Death Star!), and later that became more or less the story I would tell people.
Still, it was embarrassing. Eventually, Hotmail came along and I created a different email address and abandoned the AOL one. RougeAce@aol.com has been no more for a couple of decades now. But you can bet I know the difference between the two!