This is how I began to find out about what the procedures are concerning computerised porn in this country - until then I'd only had the lop-sided and biased view of The Cook Report to rely on. It ends up that the real picture is slightly different.
The micros that pornography is most rife on are the Amiga and the PC - most of the porn around reaches the computer owning public through this route. They are passed around in the form of GIF and IFF files through circles of disreputable bulletin boards, along to spotty teenagers in their anoraks, hunkered down in front of their monitor screens in darkened rooms. Of course, this is a stereotype, but if we normal people didn't have people to blame for this "scourge" it'd have to be us looking at it and, of course, we wouldn't do that kind of thing, would we!
Other than these big two, you can find pornography filtering down into the other computers - as far and wide as the Spectrum with colour clashing nipples to the SUN workstations that you'll find in the Computer buildings dotted around Manchester - where you'll also find some of the material. Allegedly. But it's more difficult to find, so if you want to see Animal Farm in full digitised colour, the Amiga and the PC are the only ones to go for.
The Press has a habit of scandalising the material that is produced. Most of it is no stronger than the page 3's you see in newspapers such as the Sun or the Sunday Sport, and the Government really just doesn't give a damn about this - as far as it's concerned, people can shove this stuff around until they're blue in the face - it isn't illegal, and it isn't viewed as a problem.
The rest of the material, however, comes from such sexually liberated countries as Denmark, Holland, Italy and others in the European block - normally captured from their bottom-shelf magazines and comics (I kid you not). These feature such things as full penetration, anal sex (as an aside, it is perfectly legal for gay men over 21 to have anal sex, but never for a hetero couple. Why? Do only men have arseholes? Clearly, the law is an ass. But I digress.) In very rare circumstances, there are pictures of animals and children - the sick stuff. Oh yes, and also viewed as illegal is anything featuring a hard-on. It's when things like this start appearing on screens that the Government gets worried...
The way that it tries to stop material from coming over to this country through the post is through the Customs offices - when computer discs are sent in to the country the envelopes are opened up and the titles are read. If anything like "Snow White-Stain and the Seven Leather Bondage Dwarves" is in there, it's immediately snaffled by the Customs guys and taken down to their computer room for a quick peek. (Or a long peek... or an incredibly long peek... sometimes things have to be viewed for a very, very long time before a decision is made - better safe than sorry). If they haven't got the equipment to view the material, and they just want to show it to their friends down at central office, or things are a little more serious, the discs are sent down to the main Customs Depot in London, where when enough discs from the same machine are collected, a specialist is brought in. Wearing incredibly thick lensed glasses and a dirty raincoat. He checks the discs, and if they can be read on the computers, they are either destroyed, sent back to their country of origin, or sent to the addressee.
In serious cases, follow-up investigations are started, and it is these that are glamourised to form the basis of our friends The Cook Report, The Ronson Mission and The Sooty Show. If we were to believe what these shows had to say, we'd have children carrying discs full of Busty Belinda and her peep-show into school in their satchels, horrific and disgusting material on everything from the ZX81 to the Atmos Oric, and that when Sooty sticks his head in Matthew Corbett's ear, he really is saying something.
No matter what attempts are made to monitor our post, most of the material has one main route into the country, and it's one that Customs can't really do anything about - over the phone. Billions of "Bulletin Boards" (which are computerised notice boards and software swap-shops) across the world - the majority of which are in the States of Germany and Denmark, are set up to send full-colour pictures down the phone lines to computers which are able to receive them. This is where we get back to the Amiga and PC. The equipment needed to receive this saucy software is a fast modem to connect your computer to the phone lines, and nothing more. Not a sausage. (Well there might be... if that's the kind of material you're getting your hands on...) Most of these BBS's (as they're known in the trade) have a very limited amount of protection to prevent minors from getting their hands on the goodies, and some of the boards are illegal, so their numbers aren't published. Some of them carry "child-sex" pictures, but I am assured by the people running the more reputable ones (NixPix and Windy City) that they do not involve children, but are just staged to look like it. Admittedly, even simulated child-sex is a sick concept, but at least it shows that the BBS sysops are not totally without a sense of morals.
So this amazing problem that threatens to swamp our schoolgrounds, clutter-up our computer rooms and offend the public doesn't really exist to the extent that has previously been reported in the press. I'm not saying that it doesn't exist at all - there are problems there, and something has to be done about them, but overally it's dangerous drugs coming into the country that we should be worrying about. So, dear readers, if you want to (and we're not recommending that you should) go and see what's out there, feel free at your peril. But, and I can't stress this enough, don't try to look for anything involving kids or animals - if you do, you're terminally sad. Thankyouverymuch.
Oh yes, if you're having any problems finding the exact kind of interesting material that you want, I can get hold of... (Snip! That's enough of that! Ed).
This article and its contents are copyright � 1993,1995 Simon Cooke, and appeared in GRIP 113 on October the 12th 1993.