The Nostalgia Forum first saw the light of day on 13 November 1999. It was a new forum on the Bulletin Board of what was then Atlas F1. It was not the first internet forum to be focused on the history of automobile racing, but there was a time it was undoubtedly — and by far — the very best such forum on the Web. Period.
None of the other similar fora really came close at the time, and none have since then.
The Nostalgia Forum, or TNF as it was always referred to, was both the outgrowth from my Rear View Mirror column for the Atlas F1 Journal and the need for a dedicated history forum given the persistent problems with the general Atlas F1 forum.
It did not get off to a great start, but it did manage to grow and develop over the years. That it managed to attract a great number of literate and knowledgeable people, many of whom who had a good grounding in the history of motor sport. It played a central role in several hard looks at various stories or myths associated with the sport, as well as being literally the forum for several important research efforts. Halcyon days, indeed.
Due to a number of issues and conflicts with the editor of Atlas F1 that I will not go into, some trivia and some very serious, I departed Atlas F1 in September 2004. I quit both writing my column and serving as the moderator of TNF. Although I did return after a period and participate in the discussions, things for me were never quite the same, of course.
After Atlas F1 was acquired by Haymarket and re-branded as Autosport.com, there were few noticeable changes on TNF, the forum continuing to function, almost on cruise control, which was one notions I had attempted to embed into the forum from very early on. That my successor as moderator took a very hands-off approach to the forum made this self-policing trait a fortunate one, one that, however, was less and less evident as time passed and there was little — if any — direction to the forum.
In the Spring of 2010, as Joseph Heller put it, Something Happened. Several members of TNF, Michael Ferner and Allen Brown, for reasons of their own, decided to “out” one of the long-time characters on TNF, “Buford.” This was actually an attack on Buford. I was still deployed on my second tour in Southwest Asia when this happened. Having known Buford for many years at this point, I protested and condemned what Michael Ferner and Allen Brown had done.
Both Ferner and Brown were suspended for their action. Ferner returned using a new “name” — using his own in place of the previous “Fines” — and Brown served out whatever the term of suspension was, relatively short as I recall, and then returned and continues to participate. Unfortunately, this incident led to Buford pretty much abandoning TNF. His absence was something of a blow, at least to me, given that Buford was exactly what he said he was, to say nothing of his adding some much needed color and character to the forum.
In the sort of bizarre scenario that Kafka would have truly appreciated, I was tossed into the outer darkness, banished or banned or exiled or something. No warning, no explanation, no nothing. Needless to say, this did not go over well with me. It was a matter of simple courtesy, if nothing else.
Although I continued to “lurk” at TNF, it was evident that the forum was missing something, my absence being rather inconsequential in all honesty. In August 2013, after a few efforts to return, none of which were very serious, I managed to return to TNF. This was due in no small part to a massive forum update and the usual lack of involvement by the moderator, Stuart Dent.
The implementation of the new format and layout of the forum was seriously botched by the Autosport.com folks. It is now literally an eyesore, the bland, uninspiring layout being difficult on the eyes. The “upgrade” also dropped into the “archives” all those threads and posts prior to 1 January 2011 being locked away. Of course, more than a few of the threads genuinely deserve that fate, but one of the things that made TNF unique was that nothing was ever archived given that information might later emerge regarding the issue and, thus, updating the thread. Needless to say, this demonstrates the regard — obviously very little — with which Autosport holds TNF.
Since the update, there seems to be a very noticeable drop in both quantity and quality at TNF.
At any rate, I managed to last on TNF until the forum’s 14th birthday, when I was once again tossed out, Stu Dent being unable to tolerate my presence — as muted and low profile as it was, it would seem. What is different this time around is that it really does not matter. It was the unfortunate dullness and lifelessness of the forum combined with the irony of being booted on the forum’s anniversary that finally cut the Gordian Knot solving the situation that, unfortunately, allowed me to stay tied to the forum.
So, at least as far as I am concerned, The Nostalgia Forum and dead and gone. Given the direction it seems to be headed, this might be the case for many others — and, perhaps, the forum itself. The only way for TNF to begin to save itself is to finally ditch Stu Dent, who is for all intents and purposes an absentee landlord and scarcely involved in its activities, and finally replace him with someone who might be able to turn the forum around and point it along the correct azimuth. Nine years is long enough, especially given that the forum is clearly in a serious decline, something Obvious to Even the Untrained Eye. Along with this, there should be some effort put in making the site layout and format more akin to what it once was, along with restoring the archived threads.
Needless to say, I am not holding my breath…
RIP, TNF, it was great knowing you!