My Early "'L33T H4X0R" days

So I was just listening to Ben Folds’ iTunes Originals interviews today. In one of the tracks he talks about how he’d write obnoxious songs and put them on a tape to see how people would react. Then he’d go to JC Penney and put it on a stereo and play it in the store. So all of a sudden memories of one of my old favorite pastimes came back.

My first computer was the venerable Commodore 64, and I quickly taught myself to program by typing code out of magazines and then seeing what happened, and then trying out my own ideas.

I got to be pretty good at it. And like most kids, I had to go to various department stores with my parents or grandparents and they’d often leave me in the computer section while they were off getting socks and cat food.

The little impromptu program I’d write would:

  1. disable the “Run/Stop” key
  2. start a countdown timer for 1 minute
  3. put an obnoxious message on the screen
  4. start the screen flashing through every possible combination of text & background colors
  5. play a terrible siren-like noise

Then I’d turn the volume all the way up, run the program, and get far enough away that I wouldn’t be seen, sometimes I’d go down the escalator, just close enough to hear.

I did that to every department store Commodore 64 that crossed my path for quite a few years.

So to all you department store computer salesmen (they were always men) who had to figure out how to make it stop… well, you got what you deserved. I did it because every one of you would treat me like an idiot if I had any questions or wanted to chat with you about computers. I laughed my ass off every time, and you never caught me. Sometimes it took you a long time to figure out where the volume knob was.

Remember this story next time you’re busy underestimating a 12 year old.