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July 2003
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Oneupmanship, Nerd Style

This supposedly is a transcript of exchanges between posters on a technology bulletin board. Each paragraph is a separate comment from yet another contributor.


Back in the day when a 2400 baud modem was cutting-edge technology, there was a fellow on a local BBS who ended many posts with "but that's another story entirely . . ." which became immortalized as "BTASE."

I ran a BBS and dreamed of the day I could afford a 2400 baud modem.

(smiles, rocking in rocking chair, tapping cane) Why you young whippersnappers! I remember the days of my 300 baud modem the size of a los angeles phone book, wired to a dial phone. And those damn tiny switches, trying to get them right. And the contest to imitate the sound of making the connection.

You had 300 baud? We would have killed for 300 baud! We had 110 baud, half-duplex, and WE LIKED IT! Yellow-paper chattering teletypes and all!

Bah. We had to use punched cards and paper tape. I can remember how amazed and awed I was by my first teletype machine, chunking along at something like 4 or 5 characters per second. Then, one day, someone invented one that saved time by typing while the head was moving from both left to right AND right to left.

Luxury! We used to use semaphore flags to move data from one server to another in the same office.

Flags! We would have given our right arms for flags! It was so smoky in our offices (back in the day, of course) that you could not see flags from across the room. We had to relay data in envelopes hand- carried by midgets. I believe these were the first "packets". Occasionally the midgets fell over (hard to see in the smoke) and produced what we called "compressed headers". I think there's an RFC on that.

Midgets! We DREAMED of having midgets! We had to get up at 5 in the morning, go out to the woods, cut some sticks, sharpen the sticks, and punch the cards by hand!

Cards?! We had to chip flint into pieces with sharp edges, then use the edges to peel the bark off the trees and then use the sticks to punch pieces of bark.

Bark... ah, how we dreamed of bark! We had to chew wood fibers with our own teeth, spit them out and roll them flat with stones and leave them to dry in the sun!

You had stones? We had to mix water and dirt and let it dry in the sun for centuries!

How we used to dream of the sun! We had to wait for eons in the formless void, waiting for The Word to separate the light from the darkness!

Word? HA! All we had was an amino acid soup!

Amino acid soup! How we dreamed of amino acids! We had big piles of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen and had to assemble our own organic molecules. FROM SCRATCH!

You had elements?! All we had were protons and electrons. We had to mine our own subatomic particles to make neutrons and then in a single precarious step, combine the neutrons with protons and send electrons into precise orbits. And you think your system crashes were hard to deal with? Imagine the fallout *we* handled every day...And we didn't have any of that wussy lead shielding, either, back in the good old days, and we *liked* it that way.

Electrons?!?!? God, how we DREAMED of electrons, sitting there, all alone in our probability fields.

Matter? They had MATTER? Man, you guys are lucky! Back in my day we had to create the molecules out of quantum vibrations. BY HAND. And you had to be lucky enough to find someone to do it for you--it's not like we could go to www.outoftheformlessvoid.com and read the FAQ, you know?

Quantum vibrations!? A formless void!? We could only dream of a formless void... we were all packed into a singularity of spacetime having no dimension, and we liked it!


This page was last updated July 1, 2003.

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