I honestly don’t remember what the first BBS I joined was, though it was probably something like Allentown Tech or The Nucleus, both of which were boring-but-dependable local boards. I probably had to use my real name on whatever it was. Eventually, of course, I found out about boards that focused less on PD software and HAM radio, and more on 0-day warez and post/call ratios. A handle was required. Now, I’m not sure about all the handles I used, or their order, but I’ll try and reconstruct the history as best I can.


In retrospect, this handle really wasn’t so bad. I’m pretty sure it was the first one I adopted, though it might have originally been Sherlock Holmes. I think I generally felt out of place because most of the handles around evoked spooky or geeky images, and mine evoked a stodgy English pipe-smoker in a goofy hat. Beyond that, it was just setting me up for a fall.

<Sherlock>  I can't get minicom to store numbers
<Azerty>  Try reading the man page, **Sherlock**.
<Sherlock> NO CARRIER

This never happened, to the best of my knowledge, but that’s probably only because this was only my handle for a few weeks, tops.


This handle came directly after Sherlock, its obvious descendant. I’m not sure what possessed me to drop the ‘l’ from Holmes. Possibly I thought it would be more ‘hip’ and ‘edgy,’ but it’s at least as likely that I just wasn’t paying attention to my spelling. I was probably twelve, and hadn’t actually read any Sherlock. That’s probably why I couldn’t get over the silly-hat-wearing Sherlock image to begin with.

Homes was my handle for just about the same amount of time as Sherlock, and remained my handle for a while on some boards where I’d registered under that name and never bothered to try and get it changed. Changing your handle was, after all, an annoyance for the sysop and a sign of newbiehood. I do remember at least one person’s derision for this handle:

Mr. Turtle: Homes, are you black?
Homes: No.
Mr. Turtle: Do you want to be black?
Homes: Um, no, I guess?
Mr. Turtle: Hmph.

Granted, BBS folk are surlier than most, but I still feel like this was a particularly strange conversation.


My shortest lived handle of all, I used this handle only briefly on one board, and even there not long. I don’t remember the board’s name, but it was magic-related. The sysop was, I think, The Accolyte. “Ha-ha!” I thought, “How about a magic-related name?” I figured it would be thematic and amusing. The sysop broke in to chat with me.

<Accolyte> Are you a real neophyte?
<Neophyte> Um, what?
<Accolyte> Are neophyte, like, in magic?
<Neophyte> Er, this is just my handle
<Accolyte> Oh.  Because did you know, magic is real?
<Neophyte> Um.  I didn't know that.
<Accolyte> Yeah.  I've been learning it for a while now!
<Neophyte> Gee, that's great... +++ATH0

Maybe he was just being hilarious. I just figured that the less attention I garnered from nutzoid sysops, the better


Speaking of nutzoids, I’m pretty sure that was my username on Cuckoo’s Cocoon, an excellent Galacticomm multi-user BBS where I spent hours and hours playing a multi-player door game called Flash Attack. Of course, nutzoid might have been my password. I’ll have to seek some confirmation on this.


Several times, I tried to run my own BBS. It went through several incarnations, names, and software modifications. I picked this handle when my board was “The 31st Century.” I think it was, at the time, running UltiBoard, my lame WWIV-derived system. It was all pretty gimmicky and silly, but running it taught me a lot about C, most of which I’ve since forgotten.

This board stayed up a while, so I used this as my handle just about everywhere. Being the sysop of a board didn’t really get you any sort of perks, especially when your board was mediocre, but it did get you some mild recognition. By the time I stopped BBSing, this was my handle just about everywhere. I also used this as my handle during my brief foray into CB radio. Of course, that interest died before my BBSing hobby.


This is without a doubt the handle that’s seen the most hours logged against it. When I got my first ISP account, it was under this name, which I’d read in Sandman and in which I’d gotten more interested as I read more about theology and especially the Gnostics. The name was relatively obscure, which meant it was usually available. I managed to get it at my first and second ISP, at Boston U, and on many other smaller systems.

The only notable conflict I had was on, where I had used the nick during my first few IRC sessions. IRC didn’t, at first, interest me, and when I came back a year or so later, I found that ‘samael’ had been registered and was now always in #cybersex and #hottub. I pleaded in vain to get my nick back, or at least keep it out of those chans, but to no avail.

After a few years of using this username, people began to ask me, with growing frequency, when I had first read Wheel of Time, and “isn’t Robert Jordan great?” I hadn’t ever heard of him, and still haven’t read his books. To be honest, I actually resent that his books became popular enough to make me look like a fanboy – even if they came out before I picked the handle. (Actually, I think my first ‘samael’ account and the first Wheel of Time book are pretty contemporary.)

I heard this annoying question enough to write a web page to which I could refer people.

Apart from lots of Robert Jordan questions, the only other problem I’ve had with this nick is people who think it means my name is Sam. Even once they’ve been made to understand that it’s Samael, not Samuel, they think my name is Sam. I am not Sam. Well, and then there’s the fact that my username is one of the more formal names of Satan. It’s really less evil-sounding if find the character the same places I read him.


I’ve been using Acestus, lately, because it’s generally never taken and has little to no connotation in people’s minds. It’s usually free because it’s an intenional misspelling of Acestes. Acestes is a name found at least twice in notable places of antiquity. In the Aeneid, he was a demi-god who fired an arrow with such force that it ignited in mid-air, from the friction. I picked the name because of St. Acestes, however. I haven’t seen it many places, though there’s an entry in the Saints Index at According to their index, Acestes was one of the guards assigned to escort the apostle Paul to his execution. On way the from his cell to his death, Paul converted Acestes. At the execution, Acestes professed his faith, and was subsequently executed himself.

Maybe it’s grim, but better (I think) to associate myself with a martyr than with Satan.

2002-04-24: So, now I find out that Acestus was a character on Xena. Maybe I should just go by my name. Or social security number. HUGHLGUAHGL.

Written on March 23, 2002