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.
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.
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 Games Computers Play Page
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.
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.
Check the forums tonight – I will be adding the first files to the download areas.. I very likely will NOT have time to add the app list to the blog tonight – but without a doubt *will* add some downloads to the forums.
NOTE – The archive page is now live – albeit only with two entries. Please let me know if you have any issues. I will be updating the archive, blog, and forums quite a bit in the coming weeks/months. There is a GOB of material to sort through, screenshot, and document and I look forward to every bit of it!
I apologize for the delay and thank you very much for the hits here.
Well its been about 2 months now that the blog has been alive. From watching the hit tracker it appears there is at least a small amount of interest in what I am doing here – though I assumed there would have been at least some spam comments posted by now.. Don’t worry though, I am not discouraged at all by the response. As a matter of fact, the past two months of delving back into 8 bit computing and the underground of yesterday has really been somewhat healing for me in some odd way.
With that said – the next several months will be a challenge. I have a few things going on in real life, as well as the task of categorizing, documenting, and presenting as much 8bit underground propaganda to you as I possibly can – and the amount of information that I have to place online is beginning to grow beyond even my own expectations – though sadly not much of it is Atari related.
Either I am just not looking in the right places – or it seems like the Atari underground related stuff – especially hacker/phreaker stuff (programs) just didn’t make it to the new millennium with all of the c64/128 and apple stuff that did.
I will keep my fingers crossed though and continue to badger as many collectors as I can with the hopes that among their 1450XLD’s, and 3.5″ XF551’s that there lies some box, wardialer, and long distance code scanners from yesterday that will only run on my beloved Atari 8bit series of computers.
I will most likely update the blog again with an “on topic” post this coming weekend – but I just wanted to drop a note of thanks this evening.
Well I put this blog up to be a site for those of us who are melancholy over the old school underground with an emphasis on the applications we used on 8/16 bit computers but so far I’ve not placed any of the promised reviews of those apps online.
Today that all changes, and I figured I would start things off with what I consider to be one of the best of the best of this breed of utility, Phone Man for the Commodore 64/128.
So without further delay, lets get on with review number one on 8bit underground. Please note that the actual download of this application for emulation will be provided on this sites forums which are located here.
At his age, there wasn’t a whole lot going on the night before Christmas. His brothers had both gone out to hang out with friends and discuss what they would be getting for Christmas and drinking rum and cokes. In their eyes, a fine Christmas morning would be to find a new Stratocaster, or Holley Double Pumper carburetor under the tree.
But it wasn’t Max Headroom or Back to the Future cast across the screen – it was the user interface to TUFF Hacker by The Underground Fone Federation, and it was running on his Atari 800XL computer complete with disk drive. TUFF Hacker was a code scanner – a program that would dial a long distance carrier number, wait for a dial tone and then enter a code followed by a known carrier number. If the program detected carrier then it knew that the code was good and it would log it to file to be (ab)used later.
The only problem was that he had no modem.