World’s first and oldest GIjOE Forum still bringing fans together after 17 years

After 17 years, the Internet’s first-ever GIjOE forum, a Usenet newsgroup affectionately dubbed “The Sandbox,” continues to serve as a reliable gathering place for fans and collectors online. According to its “About this Group” activity history, the first-ever recorded post to the ‘box was made back on October 2, 1995 by a collector named Paul Shaffelburg who was offering some of his 3 3/4″ GIjOEs for sale. From that little seed, thousands and thousands of other posts would follow, with the “Top Posters” of all time including such familiar collector names as J. Steven York, Rudy Panucci, THOR, Lanny Latham and of course, Dave “TANKER” Matteson. 

Over time, the Sandbox would evolve from a simple bulletin board for placing ads into a living, breathing, “Virtual Town Hall” of GIjOE and action figure collectors. Countless deals were made and many of the posters would go on to forge close, personal friendships. Even if the individuals never met in person, many grew to know each other quite well through their daily, mutual interactions in the ‘box.

Unfortunately, the Sandbox has had its darker times as well. “Flame Wars,” or heated, online arguments, would occasionally erupt between individual fans. If they got bad enough, the arguments could consume much of the daily discourse of the group, driving some collectors away in frustration. Some of the worst “flamers” became virtual online pariahs, largely unwelcome and verbally attacked whenever they reappeared. Eventually, fans learned that if they weren’t happy with what was being said, they could simply “block” or skip over the posts by individuals they disliked and the Flame Wars subsided.

Nowadays, with all the newer websites and forums competing for a fan’s attention, daily traffic in this first, simplest GIjOE forum has crawled to a virtual standstill. By today’s standards, it is dramatically outdated. You can’t view fancy animations, post photos or “chat” in real time. In an attempt to keep its legacy alive, one of the ‘box’s top posters, Dave Matteson, created a newer version of the ‘box over on Facebook. Matteson’s new site appears to be doing well, but the first and original Sandbox continues to hold a place very dear to the hearts of GijOE fans.

Ominously, according to Google, “The old Google Groups will be going away soon.” It appears that they plan to either revamp, remove or replace the old newsreader groups entirely. At this time, it’s not clear if that means the original Sandbox is in danger of facing “online extinction” or not. Let’s hope Google doesn’t completely erase over 17 years of online GIjOE history!

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3 thoughts on “World’s first and oldest GIjOE Forum still bringing fans together after 17 years

  1. kneonknight says:

    Fortunately, there is a a service dedicated to archiving the internet – Internet Archive: Wayback Machine uses Alexa’s Robot to crawl websites, and does have an image of The Sandbox. Unfortunately, said image is only up to date as far as March of 2008, and it wasn’t entirely clear from the FAQs if anyone other than the “owner” of a site could request archiving. Further, The Sandbox is more of a bulletin board than an actual site, so it is not entirely clear who the owner or owners are. I’m looking into this, and will bring everyone up to speed as soon as I find out anything.

  2. kneonknight says:

    *Phew* After digging around a bit in the rather draconian (or is it Byzantine?) layout of Wayback Machine, I discovered that anyone may submit a site for review and possible inclusion, HOWEVER, there is no absolute gaurantee that the submission will be accepted.

    Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that they find this historic and memorable site worth preserving.

    (Additional submissions couldn’t hurt as long as they are not from the same user. Hint, hint…)

  3. ALX2000 says:

    Thank you for this brief trip into memory lane. In 2006, I dedicated part of my free time to documenting some of the history of the Sandbox in a blog at this link:
    http://sandboxbattles.blogspot.com/
    There is so much more I would like to post but the Google usenet search tool developed bugs and my spare time has become rather scarce. Maybe some day I’ll return to this project.

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