Heritage games. The legacy of all-uppercase terminals. Where README came from. What “core” is. The ARPANET. Monitoring your computer with a radio. And more…
The response to this document has been nothing short of astonishing. More than half of my non-spam mail over the last three weeks has been people writing to suggest additions and corrections or just to thank me. The count of respondents must be over a hundred by now.
A reminder: This document is not intended as a mere ramble down memory lane – it’s much more focused than that. New content has to pass three filters: (1) was common knowledge at the time, (2) has since been forgotten or seems very near forgotten, and (3) might be useful knowledge to younger hackers working on open-source platforms – or is, at the very least, entertaining.
Some matters of potential interest:
1. The largest category of suggested additions that has failed to pass my filters is facts of the form “specified set of obscure ASCII control characters was or is used in specified obscure point-of-sale or financial-transaction protocol”.
2. The most popular single suggested edition that I’ve rejected is that DEL is 7 1-bits because of the paper-tape rubout character. Sorry, guys, I had to draw the chronological/generational line somewhere; just forward of paper tape and punched cards is it.
3. I myself became a direct observer of all this in 1976, about a year after VDTs matured into their final form and at about the earliest point that they were replacing printing terminals in Ivy League computer labs (the rest of the universities lagged this by a few years).
4. I’ve had two mildly protesting emails out of a hundred or so from people who identify as hackers but came up through mainframe-land and never dealt with the whole scene around serial terminals, micros, BBSes, and so forth. Had to tell them that I can only write what I know – and that the ex post facto justification for caring about what I happen to know is that it morphed into today’s open-source culture.
And a final reminder: If gratitude were cash this document would make me a rich man. Since it isn’t, and I have no funding, please express your thanks more tangibly by joining my Patreon feed.