Friday, April 22, 2005

Back to BASICs

Back to BASICs

We had a school computer. It cost a fortune and the monster and its sixteen kilobytes of RAM and cassette-loaded operating system were guarded like the crown jewels.

Mr Dupree used it for his own nefarious taking-over-the-world plans and the rest of us hardly got a look in. Typical conversation:

Us: "Can we have the key to the computer, sir?"

Mr Dupree: "No."

The rare occasions we got hold of the key were invariably morning break-time, where five minutes were spent getting hold of said key, five mniutes burned loading the operating system, giving us just enough time to type

10 PRINT "Fuck off"
20 GOTO 10

The truly l33t programmers would enter 10 PRINT "Fuck off "; - the semi-colon giving a full page of filth. Mr Dupree went fucking ballistic and we didn't see the key for months.

However, being a girly swot, I managed to learn enough of BASIC and the none-more-mind-boggling 8502 machine code to become a reasonably handy programmer, skills I would completely fail to use in my subsequent career in computing.

But my interest in the dork arts was sufficiently high to pursuade the parents to buy me a BBC Model B for Christmas one year. Four hundred notes and a massive 32kB of memory and no more loading BASIC off a tape, you just don't get that kind of value these days. I played Elite and Sam Fox Strip Poker on it for three years and it was possibly solely responsible for dreadful grades in both O and A Levels, not bad for a so-called educational tool.

And my dad called me a no-good layabout. He was probably right, too. But little did he know that I was still maintaining my programming skills - not only by writing my fellow layabout Martin's A Level Computer Science project for him (he had spent two years avoiding lectures by making sure he was sitting in a pub every time his presence was required. The bloody hippie could have at least turned up for the exam.), but also spent working on a little project of my own.

They say that sit an infinite number of monkeys at typewriters, and sooner or later they would come up with the Works of Shakespeare. And thussly, I worked several months writing up a little number called Project Hamlet. It was a pseudo-intelligent prose-writing programming - a neat little bit of coding and huge amounts of data, all nicely sorted into vowels, nouns, pronouns and adjectives. Type RUN, and it would turn out page after page of genuine-looking, if virtually plotless manuscript. In fact, I'm entirely certain a copy of this program went missing shortly before Jeffrey Archer started his distinguised "writing" career, but that ould be just idle conjecture.

With college lecturers, parents and other hangers-on mightily impressed with my l33t skills, I took the beast home and filled it with the names of every female I knew and every filthy sexual perversion in the book. Not to mention several that the book didn't know about. Et voila! Instant lesbian porn! Writhing, naked, thrusting, squirming red-hot flanges straight from the deranged mind of a teenage virgin. This was surely the greatest invention, ever, and not incredibly sad in any way whatsoever.

Good grief, it was all based in reality - I had resisted the urge to add Janet Ellis and what's-her-face from Rentaghost, because even I have standards. There was this girl who worked on the checkout in the supermarket where I had a Saturday job. Karen. She featured quite heavily, I recall, and for two very good reasons, neither of which I ever got to see first hand.

The computer churned out reams and reams of some of the most disgusting filth known to man starring my latest crush, most of which now forms the bulk of the William J Clinton Presidential Library, and cupled with the greatest computer game known to man - the 8-bit goodness of Sam Fox Strip Poker - it saved me all kinds of top-shelf embarrassment. Until I got bored with it, about a week later.

And that, dear reader, is how the letters page in Fiesta is written. I could have made a fortune from it, but hey, it was my gift to the world.

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