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.
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.
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.
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.