ZIP Beep #42
WAITING FOR THE 21st CENTURY
by Susan L. Aubey

I will open this offering with a confession: This is being written on a thin slip of wood pulp product using a wood encased stick of graphite.

I don't own a typewriter or a word processor. I don't dictate to tape for a secretary to transcribe. Yes folks, I use pencils and paper to communicate.

This archaic activity during a communications revolution is only one way in which I demonstrate my reluctance to participate in the late 20th century.

I was born in this half century (barely); I don't consider myself an old fuddy-duddy. It's just that some of my fondest childhood memories have not set me up to actively share the bounty of the technical advances made in my lifetime.

My family had a "summer home" that we used year round. Talk about treasured times to remember! Fresh asparagus and berries in the spring. Pumping up a cold, clear drink of water on a hot summer day. A thick slab of home-made bread toasted right over the cookstove's firebox after your first trip to the outhouse on a chilly autumn morning. Winter evenings in the rocker, writing friendly letters, cranking the Victorola to hear Enrico Caruso sing "Basso."

Others of my age remember their first telescope, chemistry set, or walking/talking robot. I cling to those memories of our grandparents' era. Next to my writing technique, my memories and outdatedness shows mostly in the kitchen. I have a sharp knife; why do I need a food processor? I have cold and hot running water right in the kitchen so why do I need a digitally controlled machine to wash the dishes? (Friends with dishwashing machines have learned to not even let me try loading it up.) My apartment also has an electric stove that I have learned to use; but when it comes to microwave cooking, I can't even boil water.

There's an excercise craze now and I miss the old pump -- now THERE'S a way to build up your upper body strength! The Victorola helped, too.

Now we have a wall of audio-visual equipment covered with dozens of switches, dials and touch pads. You don't even need to be within arm's reach to make it all work! Just the other day my five year old daughter showed me the finer points of this button box she and her dad keep on the couch to turn on the T.V. and VCR's and change channels and do all kinds of tricks. (Now I just need to figure out why I should watch T.V. instead of reading a good book.)

I am being dragged into the late 20th century kicking and screaming; but to prove that this old dog can learn new tricks, ponder this:

- I have a watch now with numbers that change instead of hands that move.

- I use a ballpoint pen to write checks.

- I shop at a supermarket instead of going to a butcher shop, my garden and pantry.

- I even believe that any advances that give us velcro sneakers 5-year-olds can use can't be all bad.

My husband is getting a new computer delivered that uses a rodent to activate it. His selling point to me is, "Even you can learn to use this."

Maybe I can learn and maybe i'll be ready to use it within the next decade or so. The truth is, I'm about as excited about the next millenium as the next guy. I may actually feel I fit into the 20th century by then.

ZIP Beep #42
STUPID COMPUTER TRICKS
by Steve Israel

So you have a computer now. So what do you do with it? Does it just sit there looking stupid? Or does it do boring things like word processing or Lotus macros? If you can read these words, you probably have a modem and can at least call your local BBS that carries ZIP Beep. But what happens when you hang up? Does it go back to being a piece of furniture or an "objet d'art?" Does it provide video game entertainment? You can buy video games a lot cheaper than a computer, you know. Besides even THAT can get boring after all the aliens are dead. Or worse, YOU!

Well did you know your computer can do tricks? Stupid tricks? It probably never told you but did your dog or cat ever tell you that THEY know tricks that you never taught them? All you have to do is know how to say or do the right thing. Like wait for a car to go by and say to your dog, "Poochie, go chase the car!" or throw your cat in the air and say, "Friskie, land on your FEET!" Amazing! Nine times out of ten they'll do just that and you didn't even have to teach them.

Well, so it is with your computer. Here are some of my favorite STUPID COMPUTER TRICKS (SCT's). These should work on most IBM or MS-DOS systems but in future issues I hope to have suggestions for stupid tricks you can do on your MAC and other systems. Look for SCT's that your printer can do, too. After you've tried these, maybe you can come up with some of your own. If you have some good stupid tricks to share, send them to me in care of this BBS's Sysop. I'll take the best and stupidest. And naturally I'll give you full credit.

There are only two rules. You have, no doubt, heard the old salesmen's slogan KISS for Keep It Simple Stupid. Our slogan is KISAS for Keep It Simple And Stupid. Amaze your friends, be the hit of the party, maybe even be on the David Letterman show. (No promises, of course.)

Now as the day gets long and it's time for your computer to entertain YOU, sit back and try these SCT's. One suggestion though: Unless you have an exceptional memory for details, you should probably print this onto hard copy to follow the instructions exactly. It's difficult to read this from the screen and attempt the SCT's at the same time.

First of all here are some tricks NOT to try:

Computers don't yet chase cars so don't try to show off this trick to your father-in-law. Your dog, yes; your computer, no.

Don't throw your computer in the air and expect it to land on it's feet. It won't.

Don't expect it to run to the kitchen when you open a can of computer food. Purina Computer Chow is not yet available in your local supermarket.

Don't expect it to use a litter box or beg to go outside. The "garbage in, garbage out" law refers to screen or printer output only.

Don't try to plug your computer into a 220 volt outlet. That trick is TOO stupid. Besides, it might hurt YOU!

But your computer CAN do these:

Play dress-up: Get some Groucho glasses and carefully place them on top of your monitor so the nose is hanging over the top part of the screen. Next get a silly hat and put it on the top too. Now stand back and have everybody point and laugh. Your computer doesn't even have to be turned on for this SCT.

Long and Skinny, Short and Fat: Turn on your computer and put in a diskette that has a rather long directory (your DOS disk will do just fine) or if you are using a hard disk, go to a directory that has a large number of files. At the DOS prompt ENTER (which means type what is between quotes followed by a carriage return) the following: "dir". Notice how long and skinny it is as it scrolls along. Now ENTER: "dir/w". Gee, what does it look like now?

Disappearing directory: With your short and fat directory still on the screen, ENTER "cls". Where did your directory go?

Spitting Cursor: Press and hold down the ESCAPE key and watch your cursor dance all the way to the bottom of the screen, leaving a trail of slashes. But once it gets to the bottom it gets mad and, opening and closing it's mouth, it spits little white darts at the side of the screen. It works best if you have a long winded prompt so the darts have farther to go. In fact, if you know how to put your prompt far enough to the right, your spitting cursor may even make obscene noises at you after awhile. This SCT is also known as Domino effect, Marching Soldiers, and Dancing Cursor (or Cursing Dancer).

Disappearing prompt: ENTER "prompt $". What happened? Now ENTER "cls". Where is everybody? Where's your prompt?

Ghost Command: If you did the last trick, the only thing on your screen should be a blinking cursor. ENTER the following: "Nose nose anything goes, now you see it, now you don't!" What happened? Well this trick doesn't always work! Before you push ENTER again try the spitting cursor trick once more. Press the ESCAPE key until there isn't anything but cursor droppings on the screen. Now follow my instructions carefully! Press the "INS" key (it should be the same one as the "0" key on the number pad to the right of the keyboard). OK now that you've pressed it -just once now!- TYPE (but not ENTER) the following magic words: "Hocus Pokus, come in focus!". Now press and hold down either the key or the RIGHT ARROW key. GASP! Where did THAT come from?

Machine gun fight: For this SCT we're going to shoot part of the prompt right out of our environment. First ENTER this: "prompt 123". AH HA! Now we have a new prompt. OK now push . WHOOO that was neat! That should have been a trick all to itself. But now right where the cursor is TYPE (withOUT pushing ENTER!) this: "$h". Now load the machine guns. Hold down your space bar for a bit. When the cursor gets to the end of the line, it jumps down to the next line and just keeps going until...UNTIL - SUDDENLY the fighting has begun! The prompt shoots first but soon the computer fights back with it's own machine gun fire! You can keep up the war as long as you want but the computer will always get the last few shots. As soon as you give up and let go of the trigger the computer will finish off one of your prompt members. After the smoke has cleared push ENTER. What happened to your dismembered prompt? Sometimes your computer will even tell you where it went. Now where's your cursor? Can you blame it for not wanting to hang around where there's trouble? Let's clear out the war zone. Try this. Push then the space bar. WOW! You should be getting used to surprises by now. Push ENTER and what do we have? Our old friend has finally rejoined us. ENTER:"cls" and wipe away the battle scars. You're probably glad to be back in familiar territory, but what an adventure!

The following SCT's require DOS in the current drive and directory.

Expanding prompt: With this SCT we can double the size of the prompt and everything else you type too. First ENTER this: "prompt Hocus Pokus E-X-P-A-N-D$_$n$g". What's going on here? Don't worry, it takes time to grow! Now at the A> prompt ENTER: "mode 40". Watch what happens NOW. Type some text and see what it looks like. Grandma can read it now! Then ENTER: "prompt".

The following SCT's require a Color/Graphics Monitor Adapter. If you can't get these to work but want to get your prompt back down to size, just read on.

Marching Screen: We all know what the screen looks like as it scrolls up. But what if your screen could just march off sideways? Let's see. ENTER: "prompt $". Then ENTER the following exactly (upper OR lower case): "mode,r,t". In response to the question, hold down the "N" key until you hear a beep. Sing either the cavalry's "Attack!" fanfare or "Charge!". No need to use a bugle or know the words, da's and dum's will do.

Disappearing Cursor: If you got carried away with your singing while performing the last SCT, you may not have noticed that your cursor has just marched right off the screen along with everything else. Hmm, this can be a bit disconcerting.

Disappearing EVERYTHING!: Well your cursor may be hiding but it's still around somewhere. So even though you can't see what you type (pretend that you're Ray Charles) ENTER: "cls". Now whistle the "Twilight Zone" theme. Another way to make this trick work is to press the POWER button on your monitor.

Well, by now you may be on the verge of panic. In fact, you may have just given up and re-booted (yes that would indeed fix everything). There is another, more daring and cunning way to find what we've made disappear. Pretend you're Ray Charles again. Now ENTER: "mode,l,t" and hold down the "N" key. As the troops return, sing "Oh When the Saints Come Marching In" or "When Johnny Comes Marching Home". After you have everything under control again push the "Y" key (if necessary).

OK I suppose you're wondering how to shrink this monster back down to size now. Remembering how we got so big in the first place, ENTER: "prompt Hocus Pokus shrink$__$n$g". Then ENTER: "mode 80". When things appear again ENTER: "prompt" and -presto- everything is back to normal.

Perpetual Motion: Here is a neat SCT that defies science. Start at the normal DOS prompt and carefully type what I tell you. Make sure you have a few bytes of disk space in the current drive. ENTER: "copy con perpetmo.bat". You'll notice your cursor has now gone down to the next line. Now ENTER each of the following with everything between quotes on a separate line. If you notice a mistake after you press ENTER you can't go back and correct it, you need to start all over. Press CONTROL-C or CONTROL-BREAK to get out of this if you need to go back to the beginning. Now the text: "echo off", "dir", "dir/w", "perpetmo". When you have ENTERED the last line, press and then ENTER again. Never mind that Zorro was here. After a few seconds the DOS prompt will reappear with a cute little message about what it just did. Now the wheels are set to turn. ENTER: "perpetmo" then sit back and watch. Skinny then fat, skinny, fat, skinny, fat, etc., etc., etc. When you get bored, go make a cup of coffee, eat a sandwich, play a game of cribbage, take a shower, read a Masked Marvel comic book, play another game of cribbage, watch an old rerun of "Gilligan's Island", take a nap, make another cup of coffee, and come back to your computer. What do you suppose it's doing? When it comes time to stop this nonsense, press CONTROl-C or CONTROL-BREAK then press the "Y" key when the next question comes up.

That should keep you amused for now. In future issues we'll pass on readers' contributions, if any, SCT's for your MAC, Printer SCT's (SPT's), harmless sabotage of a friend's computer, and more. Stay tuned and let us know what you think.

ZIP BEEP #42
IS NASTY BACK?
by Dennis Wallaker

"Hey, hey, we're the monkeys." - Charles Darwin: log entry New Year's Eve circumnavigating the Galapagos Islands.

I steer clear of taking a stand on major issues because of their tendency to dissolve. Who wants to take the time to develop an opinion on something important and then have a USA Today poll tell you it's no longer a concern to the average American?

I was a media crank for a long time till I figured it'd be better to shave and take out the garbage because the difference between People Magazine and the New York Times Book Review isn't worth worrying about.

Taking the time to decide what to watch on T.V. is about as dumb as taking the time to choose which one of the less than ten items available you might want to purchase at Taco Bell. Which is as ludicrous as trying to find a decent magazine at a fair price in one of those trend ridden chain bookstores. Which is equally as stupid as trying to find a decent movie to go to with decent actors in it; because most of the actors, directors, writers and producers were doing television as of a couple years ago.

A lot of the bowtie types around here thought the Holiday Season '87 was going to cure me of my iron bile, but I'm still the same old manic-depressive prong that I've been since the age of 13. Except now I realize that I can't continue to blame it all on the outcome of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 without someone calling me on it.

In other words, I want to fall in love.

A lot of the guys who choose to live next door to me say, "Yeah, Dennis, what about that one babe from the other night!"

These fools don't realize I don't want to date. I don't want to get serious about someone. I want what the Little Rascals and Our Gang had: Darla and Alfalfa, Alfalfa and Ms. McGillicutty or even Stymie and Ms. McGillicutty. Put that red pencil down, I'm in control: I'm just asking for the "Gosh, ain't she pretty" kind of fallin' in love!

I was out the other night with this lady I totally adore and she looked into my eyes, whispering, "You know, I'm taking this course in Entrepreneurism that you'd just love. Next time, I'll bring over my notes."

I know it's important to communicate as intellectual equals. Unfortunately I'm intellectually equal with the rest of the human race on three or less subjects. Otherwise I spend most of my time trying to figure out why Van Halen still has the rider in their contract about no brown M & M's on the backstage buffet even though David Lee Roth is no longer with the group.

In other words, as our eyes met, I needed to talk about us and she wanted to project ahead for at least the next two years.

I said, "In two years we might all be dead."

She said, "I don't plan on being dead."

I said, "O.K., so there you are. The last person on earth sitting in front of Steve Chen's newest Supercomputer and plotting marketing curves for a non-existent species."

"O.K. Dennis, so what would you do?"

"I'd restructure the taxation system."

"Why?"

"Revenge, Sweets, and besides that I'd like to do something to impress you, to make you proud of me."

"But I'd be dead."

See how the conversation was getting down to my level? No more grumbling about there not being enough light for her solar calculator to work "like it should" but good substantial lunacy -- she trying to bum a cigarette from me who has quit smoking and finding out to my chagrin that she has quit smoking, too.

"Well, Dennis. I'm certainly not going to buy a whole pack if I'm only going to smoke one and you'll wind up smoking the rest."

"Then don't buy one."

"Well, whoever has quit the shortest amount of time should be the person to buy." Ad Infinitum.

These are the kind of conversations people should be having but aren't due to the influx of foreign films over the last 35 years in this country. Instead of getting into the car and screaming, "Oh no...are there any Kleenex in the glove compartment," they silently stare at the dash board until one of them whispers, "I guess you know that I want a divorce."

That's not the way to break up with someone.

Any personal interaction that is "hopefully something we can both learn from" is bogus. Somebody always winds up hurt so why be coy? Buy off their grief with kitchen items, favorite records, photo albums, etc.

Find somebody else real quick and don't worry about repeating the same mistakes, you'll do it whether you worry or not. In a happy ending society, nothing lasts forever.

I used the term "coy" earlier and people are being coy with each other a lot these days.

Coy is half the dialogue you find in soap operas. Coy is the line delivered at the end of half-hour sitcoms implying the characters are going to go upstairs to conjugal bliss while you mumble through your Doritos as the credits roll. Coy is TV and whenever life imitates cheap art, people from all over, laboring under its influence, wind up falling flat on their faces.

When people are coy with me, I tell them where to stick things and then they act offended because I don't want to go along with this self-delusion. Captain Beefheart said, "There'd be no game, Brother, if no one would play it." Well put!

Somehow adults have gotten the idea that they can't be playful with each other unless they wrap the whole thing up with tongues in cheeks. Makes me sick; that's why I used to prefer to make love when I was drunk: it's a matter of setting up enough obstacles so you can ignore the rest of the guano.

I'm a hard case, aren't I?

But seriously, if you could see the nice way I fold my clean handkerchiefs, you'd think Roddy McDowell and I should be rooming together. I'm not bitter or angry and frustrated. I want to be in love.

And that desire to be in love is something I want to spread. But like canned tomato sauce on a pre-fab pizza crust, you always have to remember one thing: "What can you expect at 2 in the morning?"

AND therefore -- I want to fall in love with a dental technician who hates her job because she's never seen her boss wash his hands once and is willing to give me the straight dope on the situation.

OR I want to fall in love with a slightly overweight woman who doesn't want to go into real estate, and who's perfectly satisfied with her job as an exotic dancer as long as they keep the front door closed during the winter.

OR I want to fall in love with an ex-nun who took one look at me and said, "Dennis, you're my kind of guy." Especially if she looks like Grace Jones.

I want to fall in love (actually I'm already in love) with Whitney Houston 'cause she sings real neat when she feels like it and is more attractive fully clothed than most women are naked.

So you can see that I'm not just stuck on one kind of person.

All creeds and races, physical types, etc. All I demand is that we avoid playing the rules invented by bored Paris, London and New York types.

Clothing is protection and Mao had the right idea: everybody wears the same thing. How can you properly seek out a person's true individuality when everybody is dressed different? It's too hard on the eyes.

We're caught between personal desires (demands) and personal needs (freedoms) so people get into complex arguments about the intricacies of each other's situations and wind up drinking too much coffee.

Here's the ideal conversation:

Me: Hello, can you come over?

She: No I can't.

Me: Is there sometime soon you can come over?

She: Yes, tomorrow. Do you want me to bring anything?

Me: Bring "Frank's Wild Years" by Tom Waits and a newspaper.

She: O.K. Goodbye.

Me: Goodbye.

No innuendos, no recriminations; just two people looking forward to tomorrow and Tom Waits selling another record because she lent her copy of "Frank's Wild Years" to the other boyfriend that she hasn't told me about.

At the same time, if we become less judgemental and more willing to accept people as they really are, then this problem would, like the others, dissolve itself.

There'd be no preconceptions, people wouldn't have to seek bourgeois forms of self-improvement.

It's a complex matter and I still want to fall in love.

Of course, that lady with the class in Entrepreneurism is giving me a ride to work in the morning. And she'll kiss me goodbye and tell me to have a nice day. I'll shudder at her tenderness and think of an old Bobby Goldsboro song and then I'll have to go and get nasty all over again.

ZIP Beep #42
CURE FOR THE COMMON CODE
by Don Fitzwater

Recently, a psychiatrist published a medical report of a well-documented case of "Programmer's Syndrome." This report covers the case of a young man who required a year of hospitalization, having become incapacitated by his gradually developing tendency to live his life in source code. His every thought, his communications with others, all eventually became a series of numbered statements in code.

This, at first, might seem an unusual (and uncommon) extreme. But we have discovered that "Programmer's Syndrome" is far more wide-spread than at first believed. Several hundred cases have already popped up in Europe, and recent studies show that an ever growing number of cases have been reported right here in the good old USA. Understandably, a large number of cases originate in California near Silicon Valley. But the facts also point out that a growing number of adolescents (male and female) are succumbing to this disease.

The first symptoms are mild and unalarming. The patient shows a tendency to spend more and more time at their computer, and actually starts to prefer their computer over human contact. Eventually the patient confines all of his or her relationships to their computer system. The computer has become an appealing substitute for human companionship due to its perceived lack of personal demands, its apparent responsiveness and its seeming perfection. Then there's the very real sense of power that owning a computer can give an individual.

As the disease progresses, the siren lure of the computer hinders the normal development of skills needed for humans to relate to each other. The ability to compromise, oral communication skills, and simple courtesy fall by the wayside -- thus increasing the patient's isolation and throwing them into their perfect world of functions, calls and sub-routines. Human language skills atrophy, and the patient spends less time sleeping and more time at their computer console. Sometimes, the patient maintains the barest contact with the outside world through BBS's and network services, but these relationships tend to be with other sufferers of the syndrome, and short lived at best. Usually, the relationships collapse over differences in data structures.

The final stages have the patients speaking, thinking and living in source code. Every activity in their waking lives is reduced to smaller and smaller sub-routines, repeating over and over, until the patient drops into the human equivalent of a program crash.

Surprisingly, there is a strong amount of interaction between victims in the late stages. But unfortunately it is full of strife. Patients have already been implicated in violent crime -- bringing a new dimension to the term computer crime. Recently, two programmers were involved in a violent fracas that left both of them hospitalized.

"As far as we've been able to determine," said a police spokesperson, "they had what amounted to a file collision. Evidently both of them were inexperienced in programming for multi-user enviroments. When officers arrived on the scene, both programmers were screaming source code as they attempted to kill each other with their bare hands."

Later examination of both programmers at the hospital by physicians and a team of software developers revealed some new insights into the disease.

"Both of these guys had met on a BBS by exchanging snippets of source code. Finding their data structures compatible, they arranged to meet in person at a local software store," explained Dr. Ray Cursion. "According to store employees, they seemed to hit it off well at first. Soon they were exchanging code at speeds approaching 4800 baud -- an amazing performance for human beings. Apparently some sort of glitch developed, and when they attempted to debug, the fight broke out."

Perhaps the most sinister aspect of this disease is its spread among teenagers. More and more teens are falling victim to the perceived romance and security of the world of programming. They become addicted to acquiring as many different snatches of source code as they can for later disection and copying. Some behaviorists are speculating that this insatiable drive for source code may account for the high rate of computer crime among teens. And there is some evidence that a parallel to youth street gangs is developing in this computercentric universe. Theft, beatings, vandalism have all been traced to roving alliances of youthful "hackers" who seem to live for source code.

But the future is not entirely bleak. Treatment programs are springing up all over the country. One of the most successful programs was developed by Denny Goodman, distant cousin to Danny Goodman (famous for his book on HyperCard).

"What we try to do," said Goodman in an exclusive statement to ZIP Beep, "is slowly divert the hard-core programmers back into human speech by teaching them to program in natural language systems. Gradually, as their language skills are redeveloped, we introduce them to word processors and spelling checkers. If the disease is spotted soon enough, and treatment started promptly, recovery is often only the matter of a year or so. Soon they'll be back among human society and still able to deal with their computers."

Whether the disease will die out or grow to epic proportions remains to be seen. But rest assured that we here at ZIP Beep will keep you apprised of any developments in this disturbing trend.

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