In 1972, a crack commando unit ... No, wait, that's the A-Team.
In 1992 a number of young and fresh-faced students were inducted into the Computer Science Department of the University of York. Later they would become lovingly known within The Department as "the biggest bunch of tossers they've ever been". What The Department didn't know was that those tossers were the chill trickle that heralded the first wave of the Nintendo Generation.
CompSci students before were the kind of people who soldered their own computers together because they couldn't buy them, and wrote their own languages in rainy corners of the playground. Students after knew all the A-A-B-A-X1-X2-Y1 cheat codes for Streetfighter III, but thought that GIF89 was the industry standard format for typesetting documents. In between, us. And amongst us, I.
Being a total jerk, and an 18 year-old total jerk at that, I was the kind of person who had to make a noise. Desperate for the constant affirmation of peers, I was forwarding memes before you'd even heard of the internet, and long before you'd mistakenly and irrevocably confused "internet" with "worldwide web". Of course, internet memes were truly funny back then, not just pointless wastes of precious time, like the garbage my parents send me every day.
Back to the story. I loved memes, I loved USENET. I loved my .sig. I loved bangpath addressing. I loved ncftp. I loved tin and mush and mutt and muds. I loved mailbombs and cascades. I lived and loved on IRC. You get the picture.
I loved The Simpsons and Terry Pratchett. I collected my own fortunes. For some forgotten reason -- probably loving something too much the night before -- I didn't immediately understand the reason why fortune required an indexed file and wouldn't read my plain old text file. And anything I don't understand immediately is bad, right?
So, I wrote my own. In Ada.
I said I was a jerk already, yes?
Being so obviously wise, and so annoyingly insecure, I thought it a great idea to share my wisdom, and the fruits of my labours, with all my great buddies. I forget what shell I was using back then; maybe sh, or ksh, or rc. I tried a few. You've got to remember that this was before the vast unwashed army of bedroom h4X0rz had vomited forth bash and won the shell wars. We love you, bedroom h4X0rz!!1
Anyway, I set my shell up to email a bunch of people a random fortune every time I logged in. You see, they had to be told that I was around, and funny, you know? Heck, they might not be polling me with finger every 60 seconds, and they deserved to know so that they could talk me and be amused.
Or preemptively mesg n.
Our local MTA (probably a sendmail hacked by Forsyth) allowed us to create our own exploding alias mailing lists just by sticking a file containing list of recipients in our mail directory. Mail to username-filename would be exploded, as if by magic. But what to call that file? Well, they were a bunch of poncey southern jessies -- by definition: they hailed from further south than I -- so that'd do. And so, from email@example.com, came firstname.lastname@example.org, and the jessies list was born.
Over the years, The Jessies have lived, loved, caroused and collaborated. They write software, they bitch about everything, they lie about their UNIX skills. They holiday, in subsets. They go hiking, but it often ends in chaffing. They crash motorcycles when they can. They cast their pods. They write terrifying music and mix it terribly. They disgrace themselves across continents.
A few have left, a few have joined, the core remains the same. They don't hold drinking competitions any more, but they still drink with their pinkies out. They don't try to out-weird each other with perverse advent calendars, but some of them do remember to send a gift now and then. They stay in touch. They're a fine bunch of men. There's not a subject on which at least one of them isn't an expert, though he's usually bullshitting.
And that, dear reader, is the story of the of the origin of The Jessies. Now let me refill my pipe and I'll tell you of the time that someone set fire to the terminal lab, while a fine Yankee chap tried to help NotBob diagnose mushroom poisoning via IRC.