Friday Funnies: 24 spoof – 1994 technology

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Who has some good old-fashioned technology stories to share? Maintaining dial-up connections uphill both ways in the snow etc?

H/T Pam Spaulding at Pandagon

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writer, singer, webwrangler, blogger, comedy tragic | about.me/vivsmythe

Posted in fun, television
21 comments on “Friday Funnies: 24 spoof – 1994 technology
  1. Back in the mid-eighties when I was a (very) young lad, I used to figure out how to make my document headings print out in slightly fancier text on the dot matrix printers of the time.

    The word processors (glorified text editors) we had access to at the time didn’t properly support GUI formatting, so what I had to do was insert various arcane control codes (think HTML, only far more arbitrary) in the text that, when sent to the printer, would be interpreted as printer instructions that said in essence “until we tell you otherwise, make the next text in big bold print”. At the time I looked enviously at the Macintoshes that the high school had a couple of, where you could just select the text and change the font to whatever you want!

    Little did I realise that 20 years later, I’d be preferring to write my scientific documents in LaTeX, where you still insert all manner of fancy control codes to make text print in the font you want…

  2. Shaun says:

    I remember well the excitement back in 1997 when working for an ISP and V90 modems were about to be released. Oh how we yearned for 56K downloads.

  3. David Rubie says:

    Robert Merkel wrote:

    Little did I realise that 20 years later, I’d be preferring to write my scientific documents in LaTeX, where you still insert all manner of fancy control codes to make text print in the font you want…

    Printers are the bane of my existence. Or at least they were before decent printer drivers became available. We’ve had ’em for 40 years and they still get jammed, forget their settings, can’t be stopped half way through that mistaken 300 page print job etc.

    Back when I was in high school, we had a Microbee (little australian computer) that had very basic word processing capabilities, but no printer. Back then, nerds like me would scour magazines and (latterly) bulletin boards for code snippets to build our own games. One of those games I wrote ended up getting published by the Microbee people, landing me with a $500 cheque.

    What did I spend it on? A printer, of course! Said printer was a fancy/schmancy dot matrix model that you could upload your own fonts into. That is, as long as the font fitted in the little 8×8 grid (fading memory). Lawdy did we have fun making rude fonts and suchlike.

    Thankfully for us crusty old timers, there are still bulletin board archives on the web for when we get all misty eyed about the 300bps dialup past so we can re-read all about revenge files, text pr0n and US phone phreaking that didn’t work here but sounded utterly cool.

    I’ve got to say though, I’m ambivalent about LaTeX – I used to work in a CompSci department at university, formatting the professors papers. Peering at an orange tinted, flickering glass tty using vi trying to get a 20×20 matrix full of simultaneous equations formatted correctly still gives me nightmares. Now HTML and CSS gives me nightmares instead. Nothing changes much in the tech industry if you’re a programmer.

  4. mick says:

    David, LaTeX has many fancy editors now which look much nicer than vi. Check out WinEdt for instance.

    Now there’s something from back in the day – text editor wars. Makes the “Culture Wars” look like a freakin’ skirmish.

    Emacs is teh shiznit by the way.

  5. mick says:

    “Lycos is dry, trying Encarta now.”. Hehe.

  6. David Rubie says:

    Mick – wash out your mouth. vi is the one true editor. There is no way you will catch me with fourteen fingers on the keyboard while I try to remember which alt-ctrl-doublebucky-shift- combination does anything useful. That and the 10 minutes you have to wait while it starts. Plus, every time you start Emacs, god kills a meercat.

  7. Chris says:

    David – but you never have to shutdown emacs – starts
    up with the computer and stays running until maybe a year
    or 2 later when you might need to reboot the machine). You haven’t
    lived until you’ve used an editor which requires footpedals 😉

    (never thought I’d see a vi vs emacs argument on this site)

  8. David says:

    Ah, vi … the beer man’s text editor. (I still sometimes press when I’ve finished typing in Word – it plays merry hell with the document.)

    I used to use a Data General mini for spatial stuff – the text editor (SED) wasn’t too bad, but both vi and Emacs are much more pleasant to use. The scripting language was pretty ordinary too. If you needed to do a counted loop, you’d recursively call the same script, decrementing the counter (passed in as a parameter) for each iteration. It still gives me nightmares.

  9. David Rubie says:

    Nerd talk frightened the punters again. And Chris, that isn’t a foot pedal, it’s a mouse 🙂

  10. Dave Bath says:

    Robert Merkel:

    Back in the mid-eighties when I was a (very) young lad, I used to figure out how to make my document headings print out in slightly fancier text on the dot matrix printers of the time.

    Aaah – do you remember PianoMan, which let the old line printers and dot matrix play music by controlling how fast the paper was hit? See old slashdot
    David Rubie:

    Plus, every time you start Emacs, god kills a meercat.

    Back in the 1980s I used emacs on pr1mos before falling in love with vi
    :%g/anchor/?lookback?+1,/lookforward/-3s/\(first\)\(second\)/\2 ha \1/g
    and we punned on GNU, that emacs stood for Emacs Makes All Computers Slow, or (remember the memory even on multi-user boxes of the time) Eight Megabyts And Constantly Swapping.

  11. David Rubie says:

    Dave Bath wrote:

    I used emacs on pr1mos

    Just think, we could be a short decade away from working out which zimmer frame is the coolest.

    Mine will be painted flat black. With flames.

  12. anthony says:

    “emacs stood for Emacs Makes All Computers Slow”

    Dude, recursive acronyms make my head spin

  13. FDB says:

    Yeah, way to generate a paradox, guys.

    Maybe that’s why it crashed so often?

  14. anthony says:

    Dude, Dude understands dude expressions

  15. BeeTee-Ess says:

    I used to work on an ICL1902, with 8192 24-bit words, divided into 4 6-bit characters each. After the operating system, called Executive, was loaded (from puched cards), we had 5188 words left to run our programs – and multi-programming was supported!

  16. philiptravers says:

    So have you any useful stuff in your personal memories, or is it all part of the brain tumours you cannot solve by eating six cloves of organic garlic a day!?

  17. David Rubie says:

    Chris wrote:

    You haven’t
    lived until you’ve used an editor which requires footpedals

    Double Bucky

    Yes, semi-serious suggestions were made about adding foot pedals to get more shift key combinations.

    I’m very happy I missed the punch card era BeeTee-Ess. I’m sloppy enough without having to worry about hanging chads and the like.

    Oh, and Dude looks like a lady!

  18. tyro rex says:

    I used to dial up to my university computer using a 1200 baud modem. There was only one dial up line to the computer that was 1200 baud – the others were all 300 baud. I also ran a dial-up fidonet BBS with two 9600 baud dial-in lines. Woo hoooo!!!!

    In the Navy, the fire control program for the missile fire control system was loaded off tape into the mini-computer’s core memory by manually entering register instructions with flip-switches.

  19. BeeTee-Ess says:

    David Rubie wrote:

    “I’m very happy I missed the punch card era BeeTee-Ess. I’m sloppy enough without having to worry about hanging chads and the like.”

    Heh heh…

    Those chads had their uses. If you made a punching error somewhere around column 60 or so, you could pick up a chad or two, and plug the hole(s). A brisk rub with a findernail, and the chad was there for good. Better than re-punching the whole card.

    And of course, a bag full of them made ideal confetti!

  20. oldskeptic says:

    Ah, punched cards. The joy of typing for hours creating a program, on one of the card punches that didn’t type the text as well. Then dropping them on the way to the reader!

    Amazing how you quickly learned to read the hole sequences.

    Better still was paper tape. Boot sequence for a 1974 PDP 8 (I vaguely remember):

    Place start of tape in the reader.
    Enter initial boot sequence by switches (click, click, click … enter; click, click, click … enter…).
    If you did it right, paper tape starts being read.
    If it doesn’t jam, tear, stop, operating system now loaded.
    If it tears, fix it by sticking ends together and punching holes manually.
    Collect tape at other end and rewind.

    Ah, the good old days! Actually come to think about it, not that much slower than a Windows boot these days.

    Never used Vi,instead Vedit was my thing on the 1st PC’s. Totally programmable, great for setting up your keys for all sorts of actions and it had the advantage of being able to select box sections without wordwrap interfering. Great for editing data to select out a single column.

    Actually I could use that feature now, I always end up having to paste stuff into APL and doing it there, progress eh?

  21. […] this YouBute clippy from Larvatus Prodeo because we like being reminded of the speed with which communications technology – and culture with […]

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