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I will have some things to share shortly – as always life has gotten busy.. Hang in there if you are going through the same stresses I am. Hopefully it will get better, or maybe I will meet you at the ledge and we can talk each other down to have a beer?
So its been a week or so since Steve Jobs passed away and I’ve gone through quite a few emotions during that period. I was lying in bed reading pulse news when I saw the news initially on the day of his passing, and of course initially I just lay there without really doing anything other than reading the bold headline and feeling my heart sink a little.
As anyone who still visits this blog knows, I am a geek and I am a geek since the true first generation of computers (i.e. home computers). So for me, the Jobs/Wozniak saga has been one that I grew up with and lived with as an adult for some time.
There were no tears, but I was close. Beyond just the fact that someone who I hold incredible respect for died – there was also the fact that he died pretty young.
So the week trudges on and I make the mistake of reading some of the blog posts and comment sections of places that posted the news of Steve’s death (now that he’s gone, I can call him by his first name right?) and it was pretty disheartening seeing the negative reactions towards those who feel as I do – sad that the guy is gone.
A lot of my family is gone too, and I miss them just as much – granted Steve Jobs was simply a human, but he was by no means a simple human. To a large part of the world consumer products are important, and while Apple might not be right for everyone, they are right for a good percentage of people. I would be willing to bet that its those people who do not care for Apple and the way they sell somewhat of a “closed box” in the ipad/ipod line.
Everyone is entitled to your opinion but to me it is sort of like believing in God.. A lot of people don’t and that is fine for them, but I’ve always wondered what it could possibly hurt to believe in something good.
Steve Jobs holds no comparison to God in my eyes, but he was definitely something good to believe in.
Rest in Peace Steve, it will be interesting to see what the company you co-founded does in the next 10 years.
I really didn’t mean for the entire dead of winter to pass without making a post to this blog.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
The Holidays, along with a business trip caused a slight delay in writing this installment. I must also admit that I have a bit of a problem occasionally handling multiple items on my plate and unfortunately there have been many things going on.
I guess the subject matter is somewhat of a stumbling block for me as well. In some ways, this article covers things that opened up a new world for me in several different ways, and I have always held the things it will discuss dear. Call me melancholy, call me stuck in the past – it is what it is.
Before any computer aside from Atari Pong and the Terminal my dad brought home ever entered my house I had a fascination with the telephone. I spoke often to a female friend I had growing up who lived only a few houses down and also to another friend who I spent time with on the weekends. I would sit there in the kitchen, sometimes on the old wooden bar stool we had underneath where the telephone hung and I would gab away for as long as my parents would allow. Sometimes this would be 5 minutes – possibly due to someone else in the household needing to use the only phone we had, and sometimes the calls would stretch into the night - even after my parents went to bed.
There were two phone numbers that I dialed on that rotary phone over and over again – especially during the winter months. One number was 214/844-1234 (or any 4 numbers actually), and the other was 214/787-1111. The first was GTE time and temperature and the second was the local Weatherline number which was provide forecasts as well as time and temperature for my area.
But its the first number – the GTE time and temperature number that I will be waxing melancholy with you about here.
I can only guess, but I would think that I probably started calling the T&T number sometime in the late 70’s as it was then that I became aware of the fact that if it snowed or iced up outside, it meant that chances were good that I wouldn’t have to go to school. Many calls were made in evenings and early mornings to check on conditions with my fingers crossed that the temperature would be below 32 degress – especially if it was precipitating outside.
Though I started calling the number that early, it wasn’t until around 1981 or 1982 that I made a discovery.
It was one of those cold months, and I had called to see if the dark skies that day might equal snow for a friend and I to enjoy when I stayed on the line for some reason past the recording and I heard something. I listened as closely as I could but the line went dead.
I quickly dialed again, and then again, and finally after a few times I realized that what I was hearing after the automated female voice announced the time and temperature was a voice – and not just one, but several voices.
Dialing back that afternoon I finally thought to say something, “Can you hear me?? Hello????”.
“Yes, Hello… This is Charles… “, followed by – “… and this is Amy..”
I was awestruck… “What was this??”, I asked myself. “What did I find???”, I asked again.
Over the next few days, weeks, months and eventually years, I “chatted” with many people. Even though the “conversations” could only last for 10-15 seconds, it was enough time to say hello and introduce yourself or hear who else was on, and eventually people began trading phone numbers after the lady would announce the time and temperature information.
The discovery also catapulted my interest in the phone system and I dialed numbers similar to the time and temperature number endlessly in search of other “neat things” similar to what I had found – and I did find several other things before I even became aware of what a “phone phreak” was.
By the time I finally had the guts and social determination to try and meet others I had an Atari computer sitting in my bedroom and had already stumbled across things like “loop lines” and “conference bridges”, but I still dialed in to the time and temperature from time to time because it seemed as though it was just “ordinary people” who called it and not computer geeks like I found on the BBS’s and loops/bridges I called.
By the time I dialed into the number and realized it was dead I was pretty much knee deep in telephone/phreak related resources.I didn’t really “need” 15 seconds worth of chat when I could have hours upon hours via any number of bridge or loop I had access to, but it was the first of its kind and was special to me because of that reason and more.
To this day, I wonder about the technical reason behind why this existed, about what other relationships good or bad might have been created via the number and also what finally happened that ended it.
My hunch is that we finally got upgraded to ESS and this alone eliminated whatever anomaly that caused the voice bleed through after the recording, but I may never know for sure.
If you have a similar story or possibly lived in my area and “used” this “feature” I would love to hear from you.