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
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.
I won’t post too many “progress” posts as I feel they are somewhat redundant and also progress really means more to me as the person who is putting this blog/forum/resource together. But after spending some time in my Atari emulator this evening I have gotten some of the ATR files that had been provided to me to work.
As of right now, I have successfully at least partially been able to execute the following Atari Underground Apps, which I have not seen in nearly 23 years.
- TUFF Hacker
- Lightning Hacker
- Wizardry Seeker
TUFF Hacker was especially fun to see again as that was an application that I used heavily. Unfortunately the version that I was given is not the version I remember as it is a rewrite by someone other than the original author – Tracker. Even still though, it was a blast from the past and really made me happy to be putting this project together.
I truly hope that google searches and word of mouth will eventually bring more of the programs I remember for the Atari from the underground world of yesterday. There was never as much in the way of hacking/phreaking apps for the Atari 8-Bit as there was the c64/128, but there was certainly a good share of it, and I’m sure many more that I never saw.
With that said, I’m pondering of taking another step into this and actually putting together a database using something like Adobe Flex with a simple XML backend to catalog and present as many details of each of the apps that I find for the various platforms. It will be tedious for the Apple 2 and c64/128, but I think in the long run worth it not only for my own satisfaction but also for those who might stumble across the site.
More to come soon.
This is not your son’s Internet.
This is the 8 Bit Underground.