8 Bit Underground

Non-Fiction

.: jobs

by on Oct.13, 2011, under Non-Fiction

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.

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.: phonelosers of america: book

by on Apr.09, 2011, under BBS, Non-Fiction, OldsCool, Telco

So I really didn’t intend this to be a book/movie review site, and it won’t be – but here is another book mention that  I think is relevant.

I have been a fan of phonelosers of america since the extremely early days – though I must admit that when I first saw them I assumed it was just a joke and since my sense of humor is extremely dry and doesn’t normally cross into my geek interests, I didn’t pay a ton of attention immediately.

They persisted though and I quickly realized that the take wasn’t just a comedy, but did involve some actual hacking and phreaking along with some anarchy (which has never interested me in the least – though I would think some people today would consider hacking and phreaking anarchy in themselves). They also eventually broke through my dry sense of humor barriers. I mean how can you read the “Dino” pranks and not absolutely be rolling on the ground laughing?? That story is priceless and worth the cost of the book in itself, even if I have read the story 100’s of times online for free.

Anyway – so I was browsing the shelves at amazon and stumbled across the book and decided I had to have it. Yes the book is basically all of their stories put into hardcopy (or ebook) format, and I will also admit that the way the stories are presented is a little bit odd as they don’t really follow any chronological order – but I have to wonder if this isn’t just more zaniness that makes the PLA so funny to begin with transcending itself into the structure of the book.

So for the uninitiated, the PLA basically consists of tricks suck as prank calls that they record and also persist at for extraordinary lengths of time, fairly basic hacking/phreaking stunts, anarchy type things such as cursing over the PA system at a store similar to Wal-Mart, and changing signs at McDonald’s so everyone who goes through the drive through gets to read them. At first those things might not seem terribly interesting for the type of people who might visit this blog – but unless you already know that you don’t dig the PLA stuff, I would at least recommend you visit their site and check it out or read some excerpts from the book. I say that because I feel like those who enjoy the dedication to the old school that this blog promotes will see some of the same dedication to more primitive pranks and stunts in the PLA – even if it isn’t *quite* as old school as what we normally talk about here. The PLA began formally in the early 90’s, and still exist today.

One other thing about PLA that has always been somewhat interesting to me is that they have never really considered themselves a “group”. I remember throughout my online history that this has always been somewhat of a source of frustration for lamers as they are always asking “can I be part of the PLA”, to which the core founders generally respond “sure, start a bbs or site for your area and tell us what you do..”. The core “group” has always been fairly small – RBCP and several friends. Everything else is simply community – not really anything organized by group activities.

I will once again caution though to not go into this book thinking you are going to read Mitnick/Poulsen level exploits of VMS or HP3000’s. Go into it understanding that voicemail hacking, prank calls, and code abuse are the order of the day. The PLA made being a k0d3z kid cool again.. 🙂

Finally – and I did not know this until I read the book; RBCP is quite the nomad. I knew he spent some time in Illinois, which I believe is where he “grew up”, but he also left home at 17 and moved to Galveston, lived in Austin, OH, OR, FL, and I believe SC as well. The thing that was even more interesting and actually raised my eyebrows was the fact that he spent a lot of time homeless – very young – and seemed to enjoy it due to the fact that his responsibilities other than finding enough food to eat and somewhere safe and hopefully warm to sleep, were none.

This takes serious balls, street smarts and maybe even a bit of insanity – which goes a long way to back some of the absolutely insane stuff that this book covers.

I have no association with PLA whatsoever other than enjoying what it represents for a long time now, and also being someone who purchased the book, but I will recommend it to anyone who has enjoyed what this blog has been put together for. I do not think you will regret the purchase.

For an excellent “one-two punch”, I suggest not only purchasing this book, but also purchasing Commodork by Rob Ohara as well – a book about growing up with a C64, bbs’s, long distance codes, and one again – a pretty big set of balls. Both books are pretty well written, easy reads, and if nothing else I applaud the authors for taking that big step and releasing novels about stuff they are passionate about.. Something I’ve been pondering and would really love to do some day.

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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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