A photo of Stu Ashby, James, and Phil Ashby recording this episode.

Playing with Wires

James is joined by Phil and Stu Ashby, twin retired hacker types who were instrumental in the creation of a truly interesting online gaming service from the '90s that worked through dial-up modems whilst keeping latency relatively low, even by today's standards.
RSSApple PodcastsOvercastGoodpodsPocketCastsSpotifyPandoraAmazon MusiciHeartRadio

Show Notes

Imagine a time when internet access meant using an analogue modem to dial a phone number in order to connect to the internet at speeds of up 7 kilobytes a second! Now imagine trying to play online games such as Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, Quake, Euro 96, and even Bridge, over that connection.

Our guests this week, Phil and Stu Ashby, helped to create and run Wireplay, a dial-up based online gaming service from BT (yes, the telephone company) in the mid-nineties. We go on some really deep tangents on the workings of modems, why just enabling anonymous dial-up internet access may spark some questions, and the challenges of keeping latency in online gaming at a (for the time) remarkable 100ms over dial-up. There’s also a discussion of how having Windows Servers in your backend can be somewhat painful.

Do you remember using Wireplay, or a similar service? We’d love to hear from you, so please send us a note to [email protected], or why not come join the discussion on our Discord server.

If you liked this episode or any of our content, we’d greatly appreciate any little bit of support you can throw our way over at our Ko-Fi page.

Affiliate Promotion

“Don’t you people backup? I backup, and I don’t even know what backing up means!” – Nicola Murray, Secretary of State for the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship

If you have any kind of file that’s important to you, be that a treasured family photo, your latest research paper, or just the list of the co-ordinates of your best places in Minecraft, you’ll want to make sure it’s kept safe, right? Well, just syncing that to the cloud isn’t really enough, you need a proper backup strategy too. 

Part of a good backup strategy is having a backup that isn’t in the same place as your computer, and this is where a good cloud backup service is so important. Our friends at Backblaze provide simple, reliable, and affordable backup options for your Mac or Windows PCs for just $9/month. You can get a 15 day free-trial when you follow this link to sign up.

Chapter Times

  1. 00:00:04: Introductions
  2. 00:05:00: BT Primer
  3. 00:10:07: Internet in the 90s
  4. 00:16:58: The Rise of Multiplayer Games
  5. 00:29:14: The Birth of Wireplay
  6. 00:53:22: The Incident 
  7. 01:04:08: Windows Servers In The Backend 
  8. 01:12:06: Half Life
  9. 01:22:51: The Aftermath
  10. 01:36:43: Museum Pieces
  11. 01:41:23: Wrapping Up


Intro and outro theme: Ace of Clubs by RoccoW

We'd love to hear your thoughts...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


check out some more episodes

James, Jon, and Jae recording this episode.


James and Jae are joined by Jon von Tetzchner, the CEO of Vivaldi. Jon shares his experience with building two different browsers, the early days of the browser-scape, and why we need to regulate or flat out ban the increasing profiling of users on the web.

View Episode
An image showing the Crossed Wires podcast logo, with a sound wave design at the bottom.

Why Not Blind Accessibility?

Accessibility is something we’re very passionate about here, after all both James and Jae have their own challenges. So, it was an absolute pleasure to chat with Brandon Cole (aka SuperBlindMan) to chat all about how video games can be accessible to those with a wide range of vision issues.

View Episode
A photo showing Jay, James and Jae recording this episode on SquadCast

OnLive: A Cloud to the Past

Cloud Gaming is something many of us have probably heard about or toyed with. But, have you ever heard about OnLive? Jae and James talk with Jay and Omega of Thoughtable Network about a storm in the history of Cloud Gaming and how that might portend the future of this innovative gaming delivery method.

View Episode