8 Bit Underground

Author Archive

.: 8-bit underground forums are back!

by on Mar.04, 2011, under OldsCool

Yes, you read that correctly. I have decided to reopen and restructure the forums. They will contain fewer sections in the actual underground topics, and maybe a few more sections in the general areas.

As I believe I mentioned in the last post, I will be coming up with a new way to update and link the software that I am cataloging. Still trying to figure out the best way to do this.

Anyways – I should be adding another relevant post to the blog later this weekend so keep your eyes peeled.

Finally, I am offering a bounty for several OLD pieces of software. If you have them, let me know and you can make some coin.

  • CodeSuck – Atari 8-bit Codehacker
  • TransPhor – by Brew Associates and Phortune 500 (AE Style BBS software)
  • Fone Conspiracy BBS Software
  • Genesis PC and Genesis Deluxe BBS Software (and code if possible)
  • Happy Hacker – Atari phone tone program

There are likely more – but those come to mind first. Really just about any hacker or phreaker type apps for either the Atari 8-bit or the Atari ST would generate a bounty – though I will be honest that its TransPhor that I want more than anything else..

Check back later for a newer post.

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.: spring is near

by on Feb.27, 2011, under Other

Tell me why I have to be a powerslave.

I really didn’t mean for the entire dead of winter to pass without making a post to this blog.

Really.

I apologize for 1/3 of the content here consisting of my apologies for a lack of posting. I have kept this domain for another year as I have every intention of continuing down the path of documenting the underground of yesterday but it seems like as I get older the more things that are trying to pull for equal access to my time.

Work and my side work has been claiming my time more than anything else. Stress has been fairly high lately and there have been a few other things going on as well. Additionally, I have decided that collecting 8bit gear isn’t really something conducive to me freeing up time and (more importantly) paying off my bills on the quest towards being debt free. With that said, I will be getting rid of most of what I have accumulated other than things that will likely be placed on display in my office such as my Apple Cat acoustic coupler, my Atari 830 Acoustic Coupler, my GameLine Modem, etc. Going on the block will be my prized C128-D, several commodore monitors, several C128’s, about 4 Atari 1050’s, an Atari 800xl that’s been modified with additional RAM, and the list goes on.

This is not to say that I won’t be looking out for special items, nor that I might not build a c128 or c64 hardware system again sometime, but I just haven’t really found anything that I can’t do within an emulator as it pertains to my endeavors of documenting the underground of the 70’s and 80’s.

I may also abandon my pet project of coding my own software database – which I did in Adobe Flex. Its not really the most flexible language despite its name, and the fact that it cant hook into MS Access, SQL, or any other true database natively is just kind of stupid. The way I am adding things to the database now is one of the reasons the project has stalled a little bit. The work flow is just slow and tedious.

Anyways. I will leave “all of you” with that to chew on as you wait for a real update from me, which I promise before summer. 🙂

One nice thing was that I did recently get a comment from a reader stating that he enjoyed the blog. I really appreciate that, and it was something that really made me want to continue on with this site.

See you soon.. Get your sunglasses ready! Spring is right around the corner.

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.: merry Christmas 2010 / full circle.

by on Dec.23, 2010, under Other

So we sort of come full circle with this blog in a sense as I believe that it was Christmas of last year that I basically got it “started” even though I think we had a post or two prior to the Christmas 2009 post, it was really the one that got me feeling nostalgic and wanting to write about all of the things that I remembered from computing, phones, etc from my youth.

So my image above that I believe comes from the Atari Historical Society (full credit due to them – great site!!!) because the 2600 was the first Atari hardware that entered my house, and really started my love affair with Atari that still exists today.

As I watch my nephew grow up, I am somewhat sad that he won’t have the same feelings to look back on that I have today – but maybe it is a blessing in disguise as those feelings are so intensely happy that they are also pretty sad in the fact that they are gone.

With that said – I am going to enter 2011 with resolve to continue the blog, and likely get the forums back up and running as well. So look forward to more rambling late night after maybe a few too many vodka tonics or whiskey’s on ice and pouring out of my blue heart to all 3 of my readers about how much I miss the old days as I allow the present to just slip by.

Yep, I’ll be one of those who will complain about how quickly life passed me because I sat around and dwelled about an 8 year period or so and the smell of styrofoam and silica gel packets that I can still smell in my nose as if I had just unwrapped them from under the tree.

Merry Christmas – 2010.

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.: misdialing leads to tornado alarms

by on Sep.26, 2010, under Telco

Just goes to show what you might find with a little handscanning.

This article was ripped from http://www.engadget.com – an excellent gadget blog.

Sounds like fun, no? Find the super-secret phone number that triggers a citywide tornado alarm, dial it up, and watch as Hutchinson, Kansas goes berserk. That’s essentially what happened this past week, when an AT&T “software glitch” caused the security systems surrounding the tornado lines to vanish. When the system operates correctly, these sensitive phone numbers can only receive calls from three specific phones; if and when those phones call, alarms are set off to warn residents of impending danger. Due to this here “glitch,” all phone numbers were able to dial in, which led to a smattering of false alarms when locals misdialed and accidentally rang the tornado hotlines. Thankfully for everyone involved, the issues have since been fixed, but there’s been no word on whether these folks were simply trying to guess Dorothy’s unlisted digits.

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.: we’re still alive

by on Sep.19, 2010, under Other

just thought i would post a quick note that we are still alive and while I have closed the forums for now, the blog will remain open.

through the nearly year long existence of this blog, i’ve only received one piece of correspondence indicating that people actually visit and enjoy this site, so it was somewhat easy to let summer fun get in the way of posting articles for a little while. i do still have an interest in sharing my love for old underground computing with others who might enjoy reading it though, so this site will remain.

for those of you who do visit and enjoy the site i want to say thank you very much for making this site part of your life.

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.: archive updated!

by on May.09, 2010, under Other

First of all I’d like to apologize for taking so long for the software review I promsied.. I look forward to doing it, but I had a wild hair to get some more stuff on the underground software archive and ended up adding about 16 new items to it. There are 15 new C64/128 hacking/phreaking apps added, and one Atari 2600 phreaking app added.

I was also able to clean up some of the Adobe Flex code that I’ve been using for the software archive and in turn the code makes a little more sense to me now. There are several other things I will be doing such as adding lightbox to the blog, and if you haven’t noticed there is also a new “special projects” link at the top of the blog. The reason I added this section was that there were several things I wanted to cover that I thought were going to be much too extensive to dedicate just a blog post to. Things like the Atari Gameline Modem, Games Computers Play for the Atari 8Bit, Phone Man for the C64, and more. This will likely be a pretty exciting page to hit every week or two to see whats changed – though I’ll be posting updates on the blog and forums when something new hits as well.

With that said, the archive will continue to be updated – usually on the weekends, but potentially a new item or two during the week as well. The system for updating the archive isn’t as simple as just updating some HTML unfortunately, so I have to sit down and dedicate some time to it – which I usually have little of during the week.

As always – to the one or two of you that may be following this blog, thanks for the hits.

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.: GameLine

by on Mar.12, 2010, under Beginnings, Hardware, OldsCool, Telco

I’m back!

As is obvious from my blog, and the forums – I am a telecom/datacomm freak (phreak?) and developed quite an interest in modems at an early age.

Well – around 1980 or so I was thumbing through a gaming magazine and I stumbled across an advertisement about a device called the “GameLine” for the Atari 2600:

The gameline allowed you to plug a cartridge into your 2600, then plug a phone line into the cartridge (which obviously was also a modem) and then download games as well as do things such as primitive email, message boards, etc.

Well obviously when I saw this I was absolutely stunned, and begged my father for it for quite some time. Unfortunately dad knew that things like this would incur long distance charges, online time, membership fees, etc as he was already doing some timesharing type computer work for his employer. In short, I never got a GameLine – nor did I ever even see one in use.

Ebay has always sort of been a fountain of youth for me in that I have been able to buy some of the things that I was never able to have yesterday and play with them – or at least worship them – today.

I had watched the Ebay auctions for the GameLine unit for quite some time starting maybe 5 years ago, but the auctions were always ending with a bid much higher than I was willing to offer. About a month ago I saw one and just for fun bid $100 – about the most I would ever offer for something that I would never actually be able to use – and what do you know? I won the auction.

The box is in good condition, and the unit and all documentation – including a certificate for some free hours which looks like it was bundled with the unit as part of a local radio station contest – are in excellent condition.

I will be adding a page to this site to dedicate to the GameLine where I will post all images, links, and information about the device for any and all to peruse. I will also be dedicating a page to another somewhat similar service for the Atari 8-bit called “Games Computers Play”, or “GCP”.

I realize that the GameLine isnt an “underground” topic – but it is an item in the history of my life that certainly led to or at least added to my desire to get into telecomputing that led me into underground computing. Additionally its another one of those items that was only in production for a very short time and then was basically forgotten until people began archiving things on the Internet.

8 Bit Underground GameLine Page

8 Bit Underground Games Computers Play Page

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.: iWoz

by on Feb.15, 2010, under Hardware, Non-Fiction, OldsCool

Well so it’s pretty much the same as anything that I get involved and interested over – life gets in the way and things get placed on the back burner to cool. Yet while the pot was sitting there congealing, 8 Bit Underground was on my mind the entire time as I worked on this and that which was required of “the real world” for the past week or two.

Now then – on to something relevant.

I read quite a bit. About 10 percent of the books I read I enjoy, and about 1 percent I would recommend to someone else. iWoz by Steven Wozniak is one of those books that falls into the 1% category, and initially I thought it was going to fall into that 90% category of which I don’t like.

Wozniak obviously wrote most of the book, or – his editor totally sucks. The prose is rough, and the writing mistakes for a book that were made are probably trumped only by the mistakes that you might find in this blog. 🙂

But those things aside, it was Wozniak’s somewhat self righteousness that I didn’t like. He is pompous and full of himself, and that draws out very well in the text. As I read on though, I began thinking about who this person is that I am reading about. This is Steve Wozniak – co founder of Apple and the engineering genius behind a machine that pretty much set the stage for everything that I love – and everything that this blog is about.

To add a little sauce, we have an entire chapter – really a little more than a chapter – dedicated solely to phreaking. Most of it is about Woz and Jobs blue boxing exploits, but there are some other morsels there as well.

I am about halfway through with the book now and I am just getting to the part where Jobs is working at Atari under the Bushnell regime and Wozniak is being asked to come down and code Breakout. By this point I am taking the book, and the man – for what they are and I am enjoying the thing.

If anyone would like the book, drop me a private message on the forums (or here) and I will be happy to send it to you when I’m done with it – free.

I will not plug many things here – and certainly not many “modern day” things – but I think the book is a good read for most of the audience that visits this site. Pick it up – or be the first to tell me you want it.

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.: when a stranger calls

by on Jan.25, 2010, under OldsCool, Telco

So I was trolling around on a message board (binrev) the other day and I stumbled across this picture and thought it was pretty neat.

Obviously this was placed in print around the same time that the phone company began using digital switches and gained the ability to (easily) establish caller ID of those troubled souls who did things such as make profane and prank type calls.

The thing that I really enjoy about the ad is how the phone company really tries to give the reader a sense of “we can get you”. I think it was somewhat a sign of the times; the digital age was beginning and the phone company knew that there were all kinds of ways that it was going to benefit them and they wanted the public to know about them.

This type of attitude though probably helped a lot of people continue to think that the phone company was nothing more than a money sucking, “big brother” type entity and made them fear and loathe it even more than they already did.

Something else that I find somewhat funny is that while my friends and I certainly made plenty of joke calls back in the day, I never once remember getting or hearing about anyone else getting any type of obscene phone call. I’m sure it still happens even today, but this was the kind of stuff that happened in movies, not in real life – and I grew up around a very large city.

Taking this ad even further into the context of this site, I have to ask myself – were there more people in 1970 making obscene phone calls, or more people defrauding the phone company by exposing and using loopholes that they found such as blue box control tones?

I have to answer that question and imagine that there had to have been more people abusing the phone system in ways other than prank/obscene calls that their advertising dollars would have been better spent trying to ward off those who were stealing from them rather than the 1 in 1000 people who got off by making calls to old women at midnight.

The ad then goes on and dangles some futuristic term “voice print” in front of us. As if they were taking a sample of the human voice and somehow matching that to our identity – something that not even the current day phone company could do for every customer.

Finally the reader is told that if they aren’t scared enough that they should be “because we haven’t told you everything”.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sure glad that we get to deal with the happy, sunny phone company of today rather than the “voice print” agency of 1970.

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