Math Lab Geeks

I was the first kid in my high school in Colorado to have a computer, a kit from a financially shaky company called ‘the digital group’; it had a 2.5 Mhz Z-80 and 26K of RAM, and I permanently borrowed my mom’s cassette recorder so I could load and save programs on audio tape.  When I moved to a better high school in the Washington, DC area I fell in with a group of friends who either had computers or really wanted them.  My friend Jack got an Exidy Sorceror (a fine Z-80 based system with, I think, 32K of RAM), and our mutual friend Richard (who had a job and could afford nice things) had some kind of CP/M-based box with 64K and real disk drives (hard disks for personal use, in those days, were science fiction).

The Math Lab (geek hangout) at school had some Ohio Scientific micros (6502-based pieces of garbage, pretty much what you’d expect from a low bidder to a mostly clueless school system administration in those days).  We hung out in the lab a lot, hacked in BASIC and found ways to crash the county’s IBM mainframe (it wasn’t hard; they told us to stop, and we did — not out of fear, but mostly boredom and disdain).  We wrote games on those stupid OSI systems; some group efforts included a massive banner generator program, and a juvenile hacked-up version of Star Trek retitled “Star Fuck!!!” which was the perfect embodiment of teen-age boy humor of the most predictable kind. To put snoopy teachers off the scent, Star Fuck!!! was usually kept in a file named “assignment” or “homework” or something.

During the school’s parent invitation night, the teacher in charge of the math lab wanted to show off what “his kids” were working on. He found some random disk that was sitting around and started up a likely program on it labeled “demo,” whereupon “Star Fuck!!!” unlimbered its proud, majestic and definitely not subtle start-up animation.  The teacher yanked the power and formatted the disk, right then and there in front of the aghast parents, and over the next few days he zapped all the other copies of “Star Fuck!!!” he could locate. This was our first lesson in the wisdom of keeping off-site backups.

Author: landon

My mom thinks I'm in high tech.

5 thoughts on “Math Lab Geeks”

  1. By the time I was in high school and an evil little bastard, Pentium III machines were just about on their way out. Either way, I decided to abuse the incredibly liberal policies on the computers at the place, fired up Visual C++ 6.0 and wrote a small application that would run “start tracert ” for every ip address in existence. I then actually executed this program on four boxes before I was informed that every switch in the school had crashed, and our proxy server had hung it’s self.

    Fortunately for me I was in a networking class at the time and was given the instruction “Make some network traffic”

    It was on that day my teacher learned that clear instructions were key with me.

  2. Nice,

    We had a PDP11/70 running RSTS in our ‘computer lab’ with green-screen terminals, and even a teletype terminal (printer – with a keyboard!). Lots of the usual suspects as you wrote about above were in attendance 🙂

    I still remember sitting there typing in games from David Ahl’s 101 BASIC computer games 🙂

  3. Aris,

    We had a PDP11 with plenty of Volker Craig terminal and a couple printer terminals as well. Fun stuff. We also had these ICON (or maybe IKON) systems and Commodore CBM 80 hooked together to a 5.25″ floppy drive.


  4. Heh we had Trash-80 Model III’s back in ’85 while I was in Junior High. I believe we had 16 of them with no floppy drives that had a crude parallel network running into a hub machine with two floppy drives. It did not take long to figure out that all the class assignments were saved on one floppy disk on the hub machine.

    Much to the music teacher’s surprise (That’s right, no one in the school was qualified to instruct on computers so they used our music teacher who merely had the free time to do it) all the class assignments looked strangely alike. Almost as if someone had finished the assignment early and then copied his work to all the other student’s files.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *