In the summer of 1986, I graduated from high school.
I got a nice sum of money for graduation and was able to buy myself a 300 baud modem for my Tandy Color Computer II with Microsoft’s Disk Extended Color Basic 1.1.
This was the kind of modem where you had to dial the phone number with a phone, wait for the carrier tone, press a button on the modem and then hang up the phone real quick while the modems shook hands.
I remember that summer with fondness.
I would call BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems), all over the United States–mostly Atlanta though. Calling out-of-state from Barnwell, SC then was actually cheaper than in-state long distance. I have no idea what it is now since all of my long distance is free.
I eventually figured out how to get it for free then too from an LD carrier that I won’t name. There were codes you could dial before making the call that would make the call not show up on your bill. I have no idea whose bill it showed up on.
Before I learned how to phreak though, I racked up a huge phone bill that I paid for my Dad for several months. I was working at a Greek restaurant making pizza’s. It was hard work but the pizza was awesome.
That summer, I would wake up around 10:00 am, go to work for a while during lunch, come home, sleep some more and then go back to work around dinner time until around 11:00. Then, that’s when the fun began. I’d connect to BBSs, check my mail, download new files and try to hack into systems.
I managed to hack into a few weather stations, a large grocery chain, and the serial network front end to a large, super computer company by making the device crash and then playing around in the debugger.
I was pretty active on CompuServe as well and racked up a hefty monthly bill there too. My CIS id was 75457,2535. You can still find files that people have pulled from CIS with my name and number in it. Here’s one from years later with some neat Delphi code that I wrote. I haven’t looked at that in years. I eventually became a SysOp on several CompuServe Time Warner forums and hung out in the Zenith forum’s chat rooms.
This was all way before the Internet and AOL. I learned a lot that summer.
I didn’t have a lot of money back in those days. So, my CoCo was my only machine. I had written a new RAM disk that I hand assembled into machine code and then wrote a program to write the binary file so that I could execute it. At the time, I didn’t have the money to buy the EDTASM cartridge for that. I didn’t know that what I had written was called a RAM disk. I just knew that I had figured out how to access and put to use the extra 32k of memory that was in my second bank of RAM that the OS didn’t know how to reach.
One night, I downloaded this really neat program called Canon. I didn’t really know what it was and the description said that it played some really nice classical music with faked multiple voices. The CoCo could only generate one tone at a time but if you oscillated the tone fast enough you could fake it well enough that your ear couldn’t really distinguish the fact that it was changing so quickly. The end result was really impressive.
That’s the first time that I ever heard Pachelbel’s Canon. I must have listened to that song 100 times that night just staring at the screen and day dreaming about what I was going to do with the rest of my life. All I knew is that I wanted to figure out how to create software like this.
Now, as I sit here working on this new interface to iiX that I’m documenting, I’m listening to the Shoutcast Internet radio station DroneZone. There’s an ambient/techno version of Canon playing.
I can’t help but marvel at how much things have changed in the last 22 years. It seems that my life has become a canon upon itself. This time around though, my daughter and son are near their graduation in a few years.
I wonder what they’ll be doing after they graduate from high school. I can’t help but to be reminded of E. B. White’s "Once More to the Lake" and the sudden chill of death.