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 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.
Welcome to the 8 Bit Underground blog system – web based radio clash on pirate satellite.
This blog, along with the accompanying forum, have been two things that I have pondered placing online for quite some time. Now, after a few false starts, I have finally found the right software, themes, and attitude to go forth and make my ideas a reality.
A few things led to this, but one of the main ones was this blog on vintage computing. I found it last week and spent the better part of a day reading through all that the author had to post. As always, I was taken back to the 80’s where my computing life began and I made a promise to myself to move forward on both the blog and the forums and that enough people would be interested in my sites even though they are even more focused than the wide ranging topic of “vintage computing”.
So what am I going to offer the web that hasn’t already been done multiple times over?
In answer, I will be focusing on how 8-bit and 16-bit computers of the 1980’s and early 1990’s were used for underground purposes such as hacking, phreaking, BBS’ing and the 80’s non-pc/mac warez scene.
I grew up using 8 and 16-bit computers such as the Atari 400/800 and Commdore 64 as a lot of people did. I gamed, learned how to write code, and used them for all of the “normal” tasks that many families used them for.
In addition to the mundane tasks though, I also quickly found myself in the middle of the online underground that communicated using phone lines and 300 baud modems rather than TCP/IP and home FIOS connections that are faster than a lot of business Internet connections today.
The entire experience was very surreal and I look back upon the things I learned, things I did, places I explored, and people I met with a fondness that most people reserve for things like first girlfriends, weddings, and the birth of their children.
Today when I see a Atari 1200XL sitting in a dumpster or at a flea market, I do not see a piece of plastic that has yellowed with age thats worthless and “junk”. I see a machine that provided a window to a world that was absolutely teaming with activity in the 80’s and that provided me with several different foundations that would come in very handy later in life.
This “underground” that I speak of consisted of community, software applications such as BBS programs, wardialers, code scanners, and tone programs for doing things such as red boxing and blue boxing. It consisted of groups who came together to share information and trade software. It consisted of hardware that did amazing things even by today’s standards such as the Novation Apple Cat modem.
With all of that said – 8Bit Underground is about revisiting the 80’s online and underground scene. You will find product ad scans for software, hardware and services, text files from groups of the day, BBS lists from the 80’s and early 90’s, links and direct downloads to software such as BBS programs, terminal software, and the various underground appliations that were used on the different computer platforms that were common in the 80’s and early 90’s along with many screenshots from these same programs.
Along with those things you will find commentary by me as the author of these articles and by those who choose to join in and post comments. Ever present will also be a link to our forums where discussion is held in a much more open landscape with some additional topics being included there as opposed to the blog.
While it wasn’t always the case back when the 80’s were the “Now”, this blog will contain only information that is 100 percent legal. There will be no current day information here either “white hat” or “black hat”. There are hundreds of other sites that provide that type of information. 8Bit Underground is instead a time machine where you can ALT-TAB from your spreadsheet or IDE and remember a time when you were young, noone was going to tell you “No”, and you were doing something that nobody older than 16 or 17 had a clue about.
This is not your son’s Internet.
This is the 8 Bit Underground.