Memory – Hacking the Mainframe

mnfrmIt was the early 1980s.  Computer programming was just beginning to be taught in high school.  The Personal Computer as we know it did not yet exist.  It was the time of the Commodore 64 and the Radio Shack TRS-80.

My programming class was basically a bunch of dumb terminals connected serially to a huge Datapoint “mini-computer” in the back room.  I put min-computer in quotes because it was approximately 4 feet wide and 3 feet tall.  Hardly “mini” by today’s standards but small in its time.  Funny.

We learned the BASIC programming language and were at one point allowed to write a game.  Computer resources were pretty simple back then and ASCII graphics were all we had to work with on a dumb terminal.  I wrote a pretty cool horse racing game that advanced a row of icons across the screen by random amounts until one turned out the winner.  No doubt I got an A for that.

I also wrote a Bulletin Board System that the students could use to post messages to each other.  It was modeled on the Commodore 64 dial-up bulletin boards that were all the rage at the time.  You won’t remember that.  It was kind of like the internet before the internet ever existed.

One time the teacher was in the back room working on the main console when I cam in to ask him a question.  I saw the modem on the desk with the phone number taped to the top.  I quickly memorized it.  It didn’t take much more poking around to find the administrator account and password written down nearby.  It was a scene right out of “Wargames” which came out just about the same time.  This had to have been just before the movie.

One day I was sick and stayed home from school.  I was apparently well enough to use the computer so I dialed into the school mainframe, used the admin password and ran a small program that made the printer go “beep bitty beep beep……beep beep.” and printed a message to the teacher to go the main console in the back.  We had a brief text chat session before there was such a thing for the common people.

I didn’t get in trouble for it and he never mentioned it later on.  I’m pretty sure he was impressed.  I did very well in that class and it was a precursor to my current life as a computer guru.

I always was, and still am ahead of my time.