Today’s tip for lonely nerds: Forget the present, it is over by the time you think about it. Instead, relive the past and play a text-based adventure game. Like this:

Welcome to Zork. This version created 11-MAR-91 (PHP mod 25-OCT-2001)
There are 2 users playing Zork.
You are in an open field west of a big white house with a boarded front door.
There is a small mailbox here.
> open mailbox
Opening the mailbox reveals:
A leaflet.
> read leaflet
Welcome to Zork!
Dungeon is a game of adventure, danger, and low cunning. In it you will explore some of the most amazing territory ever seen by mortal man. Hardened adventurers have run screaming from the terrors contained within.
In Dungeon, the intrepid explorer delves into the forgotten secrets of a lost labyrinth deep in the bowels of the earth, searching for vast treasures long hidden from prying eyes, treasures guarded by fearsome monsters and diabolical traps!
No DECsystem should be without one!

I get very sentimental playing these games. The simulated command lines and monochromatic display of modern online versions effectively invoke that special 80’s hacker nostalgia. I fondly remember going to basic programming workshops in the summer and coding my mom a scrolling ASCII birthday cake for her next birthday (“just type R-U-N, mom!”). My parents were pretty cool that way, come to think of it – maybe the reason I never really got into the dark side like some of the other kids was that I was raised in a home where computing was openly encouraged from an early age.
Disclaimer: I did get busted once by my parents at about age 13 for calling phone sex and dial-a-joke numbers. I had failed at my attempts to make the calls for free and charges showed up on the monthly bill for 1-900-SEX-TALK or whatever. That ended my brief career as a phreak, and quite possibly affected the timing of the “birds and the bees” talk from my dad a short time later.

4 thoughts on “Cake

  1. /The Conscience of a Hacker//
    +++The Mentor+++
    Written on January 8, 1986
    Another one got caught today, it’s all over the papers. “Teenager
    Arrested in Computer Crime Scandal”, “Hacker Arrested after Bank Tampering”…
    Damn kids. They’re all alike.
    But did you, in your three-piece psychology and 1950’s technobrain,
    ever take a look behind the eyes of the hacker? Did you ever wonder what
    made him tick, what forces shaped him, what may have molded him?
    I am a hacker, enter my world…
    Mine is a world that begins with school… I’m smarter than most of
    the other kids, this crap they teach us bores me…
    Damn underachiever. They’re all alike.
    I’m in junior high or high school. I’ve listened to teachers explain
    for the fifteenth time how to reduce a fraction. I understand it. “No, Ms.
    Smith, I didn’t show my work. I did it in my head…”
    Damn kid. Probably copied it. They’re all alike.
    I made a discovery today. I found a computer. Wait a second, this is
    cool. It does what I want it to. If it makes a mistake, it’s because I
    screwed it up. Not because it doesn’t like me…
    Or feels threatened by me…
    Or thinks I’m a smart ass…
    Or doesn’t like teaching and shouldn’t be here…
    Damn kid. All he does is play games. They’re all alike.
    And then it happened… a door opened to a world… rushing through
    the phone line like heroin through an addict’s veins, an electronic pulse is
    sent out, a refuge from the day-to-day incompetencies is sought… a board is
    “This is it… this is where I belong…”
    I know everyone here… even if I’ve never met them, never talked to
    them, may never hear from them again… I know you all…
    Damn kid. Tying up the phone line again. They’re all alike…
    You bet your ass we’re all alike… we’ve been spoon-fed baby food at
    school when we hungered for steak… the bits of meat that you did let slip
    through were pre-chewed and tasteless. We’ve been dominated by sadists, or
    ignored by the apathetic. The few that had something to teach found us will-
    ing pupils, but those few are like drops of water in the desert.
    This is our world now… the world of the electron and the switch, the
    beauty of the baud. We make use of a service already existing without paying
    for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn’t run by profiteering gluttons, and
    you call us criminals. We explore… and you call us criminals. We seek
    after knowledge… and you call us criminals. We exist without skin color,
    without nationality, without religious bias… and you call us criminals.
    You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us
    and try to make us believe it’s for our own good, yet we’re the criminals.
    Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is
    that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like.
    My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me
    I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto. You may stop this individual,
    but you can’t stop us all… after all, we’re all alike.
    +++The Mentor+++

  2. Thank you for completely ruining my productivity in the office today. I was in nostalgia land for the entire day. God only knows how long it has been since with words. “lurking grue” last passed through my brain.
    This led to my marveling at the marvels of the internet as it progressed from the days of waiting for 30 minutes while the PET computer read the damned tape to pay about five minutes worth of Bullfighter, that stupid landing a rocketship game, or that techincally amazing Star Trek game.
    All of this led to me wandering around the memoryscape and ruminating on the days of bitnet relay chats in the mid and late 80’s and the frustration of nodes dropping in and out for no apparent reason. Jeez, kids (and adults too) have it good these days.
    -Jeff H.

  3. Geez, did I forget to have a mom-to-son talk about birds and bees? You were a clever, overly-gifted and very curious kid who survived all of my best intentions in saving you from institutionalized boredom and underachieving mediocrities. Now, go have fun and pass on the good stuff to your future progeny, as I’m sure you’ll be a much wiser parent than were we!

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