Stupid Raymond talent: Screaming carrier


Similar to Mike, I was able to scream (not whistle: scream) a 300 baud carrier tone. This skill proved useful when I was in college and the mainframe system was down. Instead of sitting around waiting for the system to come back, I just went about my regular business around campus. Every so often, I would go to a nearby campus phone (like a free public phone but it can only make calls to other locations on campus), dial the 300 baud dial-up number, and scream the carrier tone. If I got a response, that meant that the mainframe was back online and I should wrap up what I was doing and head back to the lab.

Mind you, this skill isn't very useful nowadays.

What stupid computer talent do you have?

Comments (109)
  1. Erno says:

    I can play a lot of old arcade games by just listening to the 8-bit sounds. This allowed me to play while reading a book, keeping track of what was happening around me and eating. Nowadays games are not that predictive anymore…

  2. Mike says:

    I could make a pretty good estimate what the picture looked like listening to an 8s SSTV signal (http://mscan.com/?page_id=2).

  3. GregB says:

    Was the scream very loud? I've got visions of you wandering round campus and every so often…

    "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA­HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH­GGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG­HHHHHHHHHHH!"

  4. captain Kronos says:

    type

    rewind,*

    really fast.

  5. David R says:

    This isn't a computer talent but when I was in middle school, whenever the announcements would come on I would try to mouth the words in real time.  I found I could do it pretty effectively and when people watched me, they thought I had memorized the announcements or something.

  6. DWalker59 says:

    I know what a 60 Hz buzz sounds like.  Does that count?

  7. kdawson says:

    I used to be able to tell how the Dymo Pacesetter phototypesetter was setting text by listening to the clicking and whirring sounds as the escapement advanced across and down the page and changed fonts.

  8. Dan Fleming says:

    DWalker: I work in live sound routinely — that is an insanely useful talent!

  9. Aiur says:

    I used to be able to tell whether a CRT monitor or TV was on or off being in a different room. I guess I could hear the 50Hz?

  10. kdawson says:

    I used to be able to read phototypesetter-bound paper tape by eye. I also knew how to fold/wind it into a little nest from which it could freely scroll out as the paper tape reader demanded.

  11. Mc says:

    I could convert a C64 single sided 5 1/4" disk into a double sided one by cutting the appropriate notches.

  12. James Curran says:

    I remember once working with a (poorly single-threaded) app (under Win3.1), which would go into some process and just lock the machine for 10 minutes at a time.  However, know that Windows could buffer 16 keystrokes, It's just type out what I wanted done when it complete (as I recall, alt-tabbing to Explorer ..er.. FileManager, copying a newly created file, alt-tabbing to different fileman in a different directory, pasting the file, and running it from there.)

  13. scm says:

    On a TV-based computer, I can tell roughly how a program is behaving by listening to the audio interference.

  14. prunoki says:

    On a C64 I could write a small program starting in the upper left corner of the screen (looked like something in wingdings) and then execute it by sys 4096.

  15. Antonio Rodríguez says:

    After using an Apple //c (the one with the single-sided 5.25" floppy drive's door in the right side, beyond the keyboard) for more than ten years, I was (am?) able to open the door, extract the floppy, flip it, insert it again, and close the door – all in less than one second. Using just my right hand. A very useful ability back in the floppy days, because many programs came in two sided disks, and you had to manually flip them so the program could read the "B side", sometimes with exasperating frequence.

  16. Rogue_Leader says:

    I used to be able to adjust the azimuth of tape drive heads by ear. It's a fairly redundant skill now :)

    I also wrote a password cracker for a popular test management and version control suite. It was shamefully easy.

    "I used to be able to tell whether a CRT monitor or TV was on or off being in a different room. I guess I could hear the 50Hz?"

    Me too.

  17. ron says:

    I could reboot a PC by going to the command line, using the built-in Debug assembler utility and typing a one line ccommand. I would also use it to detect the video card, number of COM ports, and so on.

  18. Slippery Slope says:

    I could read a FORTRAN IV program listing backwards, looking for typos and bugs, by spreading out the punched card deck that contained the source code. And I memorized the old EBCDIC alphanumeric and special character codes for looking through IBM mainframe dumps.

  19. DG says:

    Computer equipment starts working when I touch it (literally, have done this many times)

  20. Scott says:

    Back in my days of dialup tech support, I could tell what speed the modem had connected and what modulation type by the connection tones. It was very useful for troubleshooting line condition problems when customers weren't savvy enough to find the connection speed, or they had bad modem drivers installed that reported the serial port speed (115200 when you knew they only had a 33.6k modem didn't make sense!). Also if you knew they had a v.90 modem but were only hitting 28.8, or the classic "endless handshake" problems… ahh, memories.

  21. Brian Marshall says:

    When singing, I can "pitch leech" off other singers very quickly, even for songs I've never heard before. When I'm "in the zone" it can also extend to the words and vocal patterns. I once sang a duet with somebody I had just met. She was surprised that I knew an obscure Japanese folk song. It took me a while to convince her that I actually didn't speak a word of Japanese, much less didn't know the song.

    As for computer talents, I can keep a straight face and not laugh when a customer calls and tells me they can't find the "any key" on their keyboard. That takes skill, and actually happened to me (not a "friend of a friend story) at my high-school programming job.

  22. Steve says:

    I used to knock dialup-based Windows spammers offline by sending a ping packet with a payload of the Hayes modem string "ATH0", which the stack dutifully replied with, hanging up the modem. I used to use the forth RPN calculator in SunOS's firmware to do simple calculations. I turned off compression in my Hayes init string to keep the connection from needlessly trying to recompress GIF files when surfing the early Web.

  23. Xymostech says:

    "Computer equipment starts working when I touch it (literally, have done this many times)"

    My friend once spilled an entire cup of chocolate milk through his laptop, and I was the only one who could still turn it on after that. Indeed, a useful talent.

  24. Chris L says:

    I think the frequency you get from a CRT television is around 15 kHz, a high pitched whine that many folks can't hear well, but drives others up the wall.

  25. OnyxRaven says:

    primitive networking between a pc and a old macIISE involved a crossed-pair telephone wire and two 9600bps modems.  The trick was always getting the carriers to detect dialtone and dial and force a 'pickup'.  We generally accomplished this by putting a handset in the middle and emulating the dial tone.  Almost always worked.

  26. Danny says:

    I have a 1997 P2 350Mhz with upgraded 512 MB SIMM RAM and 8 MB video plus 20 GB MATROX HDD. It's used by my wife and my 6yo kid as a terminal to connect to my PC and run in XP a different user (yes, you can connect 2 or more users, each with his own desktop under XP, using Remote Desktop Connection) for browsing web mostly. The wife for e-mail/eBay mainly and the kid to play the so many free games internet has to offer. They launch XP on that machine then use RDC to connect to mine and do the stuff.

    My stupid computer skill regarding that PC is that I know what they are doing only by listening the motherboard/hdd sounds does without requiring me to watch on their monitor. The motherboard does some squishy sounds and the hdd is quite loud when crouching tracks. What the XP in that PC does internally don't ask me (ask Ray, he sure knows) but I am able to say based on sounds at what kind of page they are on web based on those sounds only. The most annoying is when my wife is starting to respond to a query on internal message eBay provides. Until she exits the response page the MB is literally crying out loud. Was fun at beginning (5 years ago), not so much today.

  27. Adrian says:

    I'm the guy who has to fix all the obscure bugs, because they only ever happen on my machine.

  28. Brian says:

    I can disable a popular Mac OS Classic (System 7+) "security utility" called FoolProof by patching it out of memory using the built-in debugger. Thanks, elementary school!

  29. pm says:

    i could tell, by listening to the mode screeching, if my dial-up connection was going to connect, or fail (because of wrong password, or something else). also, i was able to predict the connection speed, 56k or 32k.

    also, like many others, i can hear crts too. i don't think its 50Hz though. its a very high frequency, possibly 15kHz or 16kHz, out of range for most adults.

  30. Isaac says:

    Please create a youtube video of this amazing tallent and share it with the rest of us!!!

  31. Rama Kanneganti says:

    A friend of mine could read punch cards,back in the 80's when we were using main frame computers. Very useful skill, as the print cartridge did not work well.

  32. Ray Trent says:

    I suppose being able to toggle in the bootstrap sequence on the 9 front panel switches of an IMSAI 8080 in machine language has to count.

  33. Joshua says:

    Applying patches to Win98 machines that have broken monitors.

    Came in handy years later when I managed to break my video driver on Linux so badly the failsafe didn't work either.

  34. Amit says:

    The ability to tell if a floppy disk drive is actually reading a disk by placing my finger on the front of the drive and waiting for a pulse, which was actually the drive's mechanical movement.

    I'm sure many people knew how to do that, though.

  35. alexcohn says:

    @Rama not only reading EBCDIC but also fixing typos with a razor blade (to punch a hole) or glueing in the tiny rectangle to unpunch. Even more, around 1977 I met a blind programmer who could read the IBM punchcards by multi touch interface.

  36. Anonymous says:

    prunoki: Surely you mean SYS 1024

  37. Alex Conway says:

    CRT Television Scanline frequency is 15.625kHz in the UK and 15.75kHz in the US

    (625 lines x 25 frames/s and 525 lines x 30 frames/s)

  38. Jonathan says:

    As a child in the 80's, I had a Sinclair ZX Spectrum who used an analog tape for storage. When loading, the computer would play the audio. Now, some games had a "splash screen", who would load directly into the oddly-layed-out video memory. The sound of these screens burned into my memory, and 20 years later I used that memory to figure out the data rate of the tape storage (~200 bytes/sec).

    I too can hear the ~15KHz sound of CRT TVs and mono computer monitors. I have to get a 100Hz TV to avoid that sound.

  39. Sam Jackson says:

    For the CRT-listeners out there – I too was / am able to do this, and found the noise maddening. I had heard that it was the high frequencies generated via the en.wikipedia.org/…/Flyback_transformer which produces the noises as a function of the scanning.

  40. DWalker59 says:

    Speaking of hearing CRTs:  Someone once reported that their dog knew when they switched from DOS into Windows (probably 3.1) and would start whining.  Something about the sound emitted by the "flyback transformer" when going from text-mode into graphics mode.

    And my sister can hear flourescent lights, which are also out of the range of most people's hearing (but annoying to her).

  41. Dale says:

    Not a skill exactly but I did make the police come to my house at midnight during stormy weather (and loosened telephone wires) by trying repeatedly to get my first modem to connect to my ISP.  It seemed it was generating multiple 911 calls.

  42. Stupid Computer Talent:  I can work any Windows-based PC solely with the keyboard and never have to touch the mouse, or mouse-pointer replacement.  

    Computer-Related Trick:  In high school I used to memorize PI and was able to recite it to over 100 digits.  Can still remember 20 digits or so.

  43. Kevin Connolly says:

    I used to be able to predict the connection speed based on the handshaking sounds.

  44. Christian G. Warden says:

    I was able to mimic the beeps, memory check, and hard drive sounds of my 486 DX2-66 booting up.  (I ran a Microsoft OS at the time…)

  45. JenK says:

    I know how to partition hard drives using INT 13.  I also know what later-MSDOS versions of FDISk do the the FAT when you delete and recreate a logical drive. I also know how fix it with DEBUG or Norton's DiskEdit.

  46. jmthomas says:

    In my old mainframe operator days, I would monitor the system by listing to an AM radio placed just right near the expanded core storage box.  Almost never had to look at the console, and was always ready when the WTORs and mounts popped up.

  47. JM says:

    @ChuckOp: there's nothing stupid about that talent. Good for your health (avoids RSI, since the mouse is a much bigger contributor than the keyboard) and can speed up productivity tremendously by avoiding costly switches. I can do this and the opposite as well (operate the computer solely by mouse when there's no keyboard). Entering text with any sort of speed is the challenge, of course — if you don't install a third-party program, charmap is your only hope.

    I can't think of any stupid computer talent I have. Even the esoteric ones have all been useful, I'd hesitate to call any of them stupid lest my luck abandon me. The one I least use is probably the ability to discern the type and rough content of embedded binary data through its text representation, but I suspect almost everyone who's done even slight reverse engineering can do this. Least useful in this day and age is probably the ability to write 6502 assembly — in hex. A9 0C 8D 20 D0 A9 06 8D 21 D1… 60.

  48. jms says:

    I could low-level format an MFM drive in the MS-DOS debug console on an IBM XT. C=C800,5 or something like that.

    Oh, and on the same XT I ran a small BBS…my brain would wake me whenever the old HDD spun up (I liked to chat with anyone bored enough to dial up.)

    Nowhere near as cool as screaming at a modem, though.

  49. JM says:

    Phooey. Two values are wrong there, one semantically and one functionally. If you can spot them, you're a comrade in nostalgia.

  50. JamesW says:

    @Jonathon I was going to mention ZX Spectrum screen loading too. With a standard loader you could easily tell the difference between loading the bitmap and loading the attributes. The former was like fast morse code, the latter a rumbling fart!

  51. Pete Hunt says:

    I could read the binary battle.net profile in hexdump matrix-style way back when.

  52. Jacob Shea says:

    While in High School, one of my friends dad was a sysadmin at ISP in 94' – he had a wicked setup of a desktop tower, every time his computer would write to disk I had feel a tingle in my body.  The tingle felt like a small shock. His dad didn't believe me, so they blind folded me and covered my ears, again, I could feel a tingle.  Through out my years I'll randomly feel a tingle when around some sort of electronic device that may not have a full "protective" covering over it.

    I can also tell when a tv or monitor is still on (though no connection), my ears hear a faint high pitch noise.

    I hope to live a long life around all these devices :)

  53. Rawbert says:

    Using a cassette deck to find my code on a tape that stored my Commodore 4032 programs.

  54. ton says:

    LOL Raymond could you post a .mp3 recording of you screaming the 300 baud carrier tone? It would really help seal the mental image I'm having right now.

    As for my special computer talent? I don't have any talent like that everything is something that I had to develop over time.

  55. BlinkinLights says:

    I frequently had to admin a display-free server but didn't always remember the paths to scripts I needed to run. I got very good at using the HDD indicator light to confirm I typed things correctly. I could handle most all admin tasks this way much to the amazement of the people sitting nea me in lab.

  56. NT says:

    I can pretty quickly count in binary on my fingers.  For numbers < 32, I basically don't have to think about it at all, but carrying from the LSH (least significant hand) to the MSH takes a few cycles.

  57. @steve:

    Sorry, ATH doesn't work that way. To switch a modem to command mode, you have to wait 2 second pause, then +++, then 2 sec pause again. Only then it will handle the ATH command. Otherwise it's just data.

  58. deltriggah says:

    i can convert binary oct hexa dec in my mind

  59. faith says:

    I could detect if my boot floppy was infected by a virus by the sounds the floppy drive made while booting up.

  60. Gamini says:

    I can ballpark hex color codes. Quite useful in Fireworks!

  61. Joe Random says:

    Used to be able to operate the ole' win98 machine keyboard-only. Much like the early war-proof Siemens M35, certain functions didn't need visual feedback. The fun part was when we didn't have a power strip handy and only 2 sockets on a party. Box, speakers, keyboard and getting everything else running blind. Foobar2000 is one helluva player.

  62. dghughes says:

    I can tell if the light in the fiber optic cables we use isn't right just by looking at it.

    I know it's not good to do and after seven years of doing that I should stop but I figured my glasses (not safety or laser safety glasses) deflected some of the energy so I was a bit safer with them on.

  63. dcook says:

    People ask me questions about EXE, DLL, LIB, or OBJ files. I open the file in Vim (my favorite text editor), look around, find the answer, and tell them what they need to know.

    Sure, I could use a hex editor, but my hex editor isn't nearly as good at finding strings in the file.

  64. Anonymous Coward says:

    I can do tech support and rip the bong at the same time

  65. Lonemonk says:

    JM: Not sure if other post came through, but G=C800:5 was the debug command for low level format on many drives, but there were some other memory locations as well.

  66. brokemagician says:

    I can travel outside what most people call "the universe" a bit. I see some stuff. I can also push people's minds a little, but it isn't really worth it.

  67. JamesNT says:

    My stupid computer talent is the ability to have patience with end users while working on their computer.

    JamesNT

  68. Borkbork says:

    Somehow, screaming rather than whistling seems very fitting. I want to believe that you managed to frighten the mainframe into submission rather than hitting the carrier tone.

  69. yuhong2 says:

    Brian: Someone was asking about it on Ars just recently:

    arstechnica.com/…/viewtopic.php

  70. Cheong says:

    Back in the university, I can know whether a computer in computing lab have been infected with virus by merely hearing how it's harddisk spins. (I remember in year 2, I know the PC I'm using is infected the instant I'm working on it, and later proved it was Nimda.)

    Then again, I have much better ear at that time, and the harddisk sound are much louder than today's.

  71. Pngelo Serera says:

    I cracked my high-school email system (it used student's birth-dates) by brute forcing all possible day/month/year combinations until 1988 by creating a DOS SMTP Application.

  72. Dave says:

    @Aiur:

    I used to be able to tell whether a CRT monitor or TV was on or off being in a different room.

    I guess I could hear the 50Hz?

    Nope, it'd be the 15kHz.  I'm guessing you're old enough now that it doesn't work any more :-).

  73. DaveM says:

    I knew my floppy drives were about to go out of alignment by the sound they made.  I could also realign them using the same method. Remex 5 1/4" floppy drives would misalign every 100 hours or so and make a weird high pitched sound.  I still have the old computer that houses those drives. Sadly the upper end of my hearing is now shot.  Oh, and I could scream a 1200bps return carrier. ;)

  74. TC says:

    As a uni student, I got special access to the university's CDC 6400. (I think this was the most powerful computer in the southern hemisphere at the time.) I eventually learned how to program the deadstart panel: a 12 x 12 matrix of switches that bootstrapped the whole machine. I reprogrammed it to do something funky, when you pressed the system deadstart button! Unfortunately, I've forgotten what that funky thing was :-(

  75. kd says:

    I wrote a ZX Spectrum game in two (or was it 3?) lines of Spectrum BASIC at school by exploiting the draw() function and the cursor keys.  It was the most popular game at school because you could just type the code for the game in in under a minute rather than waiting up to 20 minutes or more for the error prone cassette storage to bring up a commercial game.

  76. John Muller says:

    I can walk into a lab with 50 PC's whirring away, and instantly hear which one of them was not whirring (power supply fan failed)

  77. Marcel says:

    @alegr1: Hayes had a patent on the 2 second waits, so many modem manufacturers didn't enforce them to avoid licensing costs. See en.wikipedia.org/…/Time_Independent_Escape_Sequence

  78. Myria says:

    I can hear old-style fluorescent bulbs and CRTs, and even some LCD monitors.

    I can tell whether a PlayStation 1 passed the copy protection check by the sound of the laser unit.  Don't ask why I know that =)

    I can read parts of a hex dump of Phantasy Star Online character data blobs.

    I can hear any song from Rockman/Megaman 1 through 10 and name which game and which level (barring ambiguity).

    Random facts I can just recall without looking them up:

    * F000:E05B is where the typical PC BIOS jumps immediately from 0xFFFFFFF0.

    * mov ax, 0x4CYY int 0x21  exits the current DOS program with code YY.

    * mov eax, fs:[0x30] movzx eax, byte ptr [eax + 2] ret  is a 32-bit IsDebuggerPresent.  The real one has an extra instruction, but I don't remember it =)

    * IMAGE_FILE_MACHINE_I386 is 0x014C and IMAGE_FILE_MACHINE_AMD64 is 0x8664.

    * offsetof(IMAGE_DOS_HEADER, e_lfanew) is 0x3C.

    * F0 0F C7 C8 (lock cmpxchg8b eax) locks up pre-MMX Pentium processors.

  79. George says:

    I am curios how Raymond found about his talent :)

    Maybe it will be interesting post.

  80. Neil says:

    I was able to perfectly optimise my UMBs. This included things like optimising the load order of TSRs and device drivers (DEVICE.COM helps here), which standard utilities aren't able to do.

  81. James says:

    Use GDB to break the securom DRM on titles such as Civilization IV so I don't have to find that damn DVD!

  82. Jonathan S says:

    @alegr1

    That's only true (requiring a pause around the +++ and the AT command) for modems that licensed the Hayes '302 patent. (en.wikipedia.org/…/Time_Independent_Escape_Sequence)  

    Modem manufacturers who were unwilling to pay the license fee had to go with a straight guard character scheme which was vulnerable to the type of tricks Steve was describing.

  83. Amr Ali says:

    "I think the frequency you get from a CRT television is around 15 kHz, a high pitched whine that many folks can't hear well, but drives others up the wall." — drives me up the wall!

    "Back in the university, I can know whether a computer in computing lab have been infected with virus by merely hearing how it's harddisk spins. (I remember in year 2, I know the PC I'm using is infected the instant I'm working on it, and later proved it was Nimda.)" — same here, but also used to know that by just looking at the HDD led.

    "I used to be able to predict the connection speed based on the handshaking sounds." — same here, was really fun times!

    Used to tell if a program is corrupted by listening to the sound of it loading off of a cassette to my AIX-170 machine.

    I can most of the time accurately estimate the entropy of a file contents by listening to it. Hence being able to tell how much you can compress that file regardless to the algorithm you use.

    I know ASL/AML.

  84. Clovis says:

    Still knowing the significance of "pull rod, push rod, touch plastic"

  85. prunoki says:

    Anonymous: Sure, $0400. No idea why I wrote 4096. I can still remember that $78 was for SEI and $A9 for LDA :-)

  86. jtlien says:

    I was able to figure out what character was on a punch card by looking at

    where the holes where.   Sometimes you would "dupe" an incorrect card up to

    where you wanted to make a correction, then type the correct char but sometimes

    there was no ink on the ribbon so you could not see if you really typed the correct

    char so you had to have the ability to read the chars just by where the holes were.

    You also had to use a magic marker to put a squiggly line down your card deck so that

    if you ever dropped your deck and the cards got mixed up you could restore the order

    by restoring the squiggly line.

  87. alexcohn says:

    @jtlien – also build deck holder of three spare cards, basic punch-card? origami.

  88. Dave says:

    When I used to work with barcodes all the time I could read them by looking at them.

  89. enkurs says:

    Back in the mid-90's I cracked the PIN-code algorithm on prepaid phone cards in Sweden. Very useful during a time when phone booths were more common than mobile phones :)

  90. Organum says:

    Personally I found just blowing a jet of air into the phone would actually create the necessary distorted sounds to incite a response from most faxes and modems.

  91. IdrA says:

    Making carriers is a useful talent toi have.

  92. Erik Novales says:

    I used to be able to tell, by pitch, the keys that were being pressed on an Apple IIe keyboard. http://www.eriknovales.com/…/my-reflections-on-apple/ I used this to cheat when playing my brother at Micro League Baseball, until I used my psychic powers too often and he got wise to my racket…

  93. Maurits says:

    A couple of times, I sent mail by telnetting to an SMTP server and typing the SMTP commands directly.

  94. baltasarq says:

    I can hear a ZX Spectrum program saved in tape, and tell whether that's a Basic block, machine code block, or screen block.

  95. D says:

    I can play Doom and Doom 2 in Ultraviolence killing all monsters and not loosing any life… And worse, I play it yet!

  96. lixiong says:

    I am good at measuring keyboard. In a old video game, to produce some action, you need to press several (>15) keys in a specific sequence, and you need to press two or even three keys together in the middle of the sequence. I can produce the action very smoothly in a good keyboard. So every time when my friend buys new keyboard, they bring me together. We just install the video game, and let me run my fingers and count how many actions I can produce in 1 minute.

  97. Cheong says:

    @Maurits: Me too. I demonestrated how to use my teacher's email address to send email to me on computing lab, solely to prove that this is possible. (For why I had do that… my university had a Unix server with SendMail enabled at that time. I told her that the system admins didn't secure which account and send email by what email address, so basically everyone who has normal user account on the server can send email as any valid email address on the server)

  98. ender says:

    I could tell if RAM on my 286 was being used by the high-pitched sound it made. I could also unlock the keyboard lock on it with a small screwdriver (which proved very useful when my father wanted to prevent me from using it).

    Sending mail by telnetting to the SMTP port is something I regularly do to test mail servers.

    I also have the ability to just be near a computer, and it magically fixes itself (proven to even work over the phone).

  99. Pugo says:

    Back in old Amiga 500 days, while playing adventure games such as Dungeon Master and The Faery Tale Adventure you could get alerted that a monster was appearing by listening on the disc drive that started to load the monster data. For some games I learned to distinguish what kind of monster it could be by hearing how far the reading head was moving and how the drive sounded while loading. It didn't work all the time, but often.

  100. Adrian says:

    Running into all kind of installation issues with various software. Most of the times I can troubleshoot such issues, but not always.

    I used to have an old Comodore computer. As the games I had were saved on cassettes, I was great at rewinding, guessing where a game is.

  101. Luis says:

    I can convert a 3 1⁄2-inch floppy of 720 Kb to 1,4Mb only making a hole. I didn't it a lot of time, but was pretty easy and cheaper.

  102. DavidR says:

    On the old 2G cell phones, I could always tell when someone's phone was about to ring based on the interference generated on the cheap office speakers by the initial radio handshake.  Usually got a good 2 – 3 seconds head start.

    Me: "Someone's cell is about to ring"

    cell phone rings

    Cube mate(s): "How the hell?"

  103. Horst Kiehl says:

    I recognized that cell phone handshake sound in a TV commercial for a cell phone service somewhere (I think it was in Greece, several years ago). They used it at the end of the commercial, seemingly for brand recognition!

  104. James Schend says:

    Late to the thread, but at one point I had the bytes to the smallest-possible GIF image memorized… now I have to look it up to be sure, but they are:

    byte[] aImage = { 0x47, 0x49, 0x46, 0x38, 0x39, 0x61, 0x01, 0x00, 0x01, 0x00, 0x80, 0x00, 0x00, 0xFF, 0x33, 0xCC, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x21, 0xF9, 0x04, 0x01, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x2C, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x01, 0x00, 0x01, 0x00, 0x40, 0x02, 0x02, 0x84, 0x51, 0x00, 0x3B };

    Not very impressive compared with 100 digits of Pi I guess. But eh.

  105. Myria says:

    To protect myself from the +++ attack against people's modems, I disabled the +++ mechanism entirely with ATS2=255.  Another setting allowed programs to hang up by dropping the "terminal ready" status bit, so I could still hang up.

  106. steveg says:

    I have l33t protection cracking skillz on the 6502 BBC Micro. Cracked every game I tried except Exile, which was a doozy:

    exile.acornarcade.com/devel.html

    <quote>

    The disk loading mechanism was entertaining. After all the clever disk encoding it loaded the program into memory, but the entire thing is encrypted. At the end of this is a decoder routine with self modifying code (it just updates the arguments such as the #40 in LDA #40, not the code itself). This starts low down in memory (&1100 for example) and starts decrypting code byte by byte. It has no check for when it's reached the end though – it just keeps stepping through memory until it reaches itself at which point it "decrypts" the decrypting routine, turning it into a jump statement to start the game proper. To decode it you have to copy the decryption routine elsewhere in memory, but update both your copy and the original so that the decryption works. With PC beeb emulators I'm sure this all becomes trivial as we can just set a break point when the program counter reaches a certain point. Takes half the fun out of it though – to me cracking the code was always a significant part of the fun (sometimes more fun than the game itself). Kevin Edwards was the king of copyright protection and the only game author that truely defeated all my attempts :-) He had the bright idea of encrypting using the 1MHz hardware timer values, the code doing the encryption, and the program counter. This means that the code cannot be modified, it cannot be moved (as it's position dependent) and it cannot be easily simulated due to the real-time nature of the hardware clocks. Truely a genius. It'd be interesting to see if any of the beeb emulators can work with his software.

    </quote>

  107. pcooper says:

    10 years ago or so, working part-time during college, I diagnosed a problem we were having with our web server by telnetting to it and typing in HTTP commands. My boss was over my shoulder watching, a little surprised at this talent, and said quite sincerely, "You need to spend more time with your girlfriend."

    (Now I'm happily married to that girlfriend, and can still type fluent HTTP, so I suppose I've got the best of both worlds‽)

  108. @JM:  I was never a 6502 hacker.  I did my share of RCA1802 machine-level programming around my own wire-wrapped SuperELF around 1980.  I remember that F8 is Load Accumulator and that's about it.

    I did some digging and I think you're changing the background and border colors on a C-64.  The functional error is possibly STA $D121 should be STA $D021.  Not sure what the other error is.

  109. BrotherLaz says:

    I still know my Win95 product key by heart. This was useful because I had to reinstall it… quite a lot.

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