Short Story Title: Good Riddance

Story Type: Fiction


This Short Story is Chapter One of "Early Microcomputer Experiences"

Date Written: June 14, 2019

Written By: Joel T. Kant

Copyright (c) June 14, 2019


The gray-haired professor said in a strong voice for looking so old, "I'm Doctor McCullen, and my doctorate is in Mining Engineering. You will address me as either Doctor or Professor, not as Mister and never as merely McCullen. I'll be taking roll, but this is the only time I will do this all semester because attendance is not part of your grade in Computer Programming for Engineers."

A tall, slender, black-haired man seated in the back of the lecture hall asked, "Doctor McCullen, do you really mean if I only come when tests are given and for the final exam, and get A's on them, I could get in an A in the course?"

Professor McCullen asked, "What's your name?"

"Albert Rose," the student answered nervously like he feared he was getting in trouble when the class was one-minute old!

The professor made a checkmark about two-third down the list before saying, "Theoretically, as long as you also turn in all the required FORTRAN computer programs, you could. This is my fifteenth year teaching this course. You aren't the first to have that idea. So far, nobody has done it. Only one who tried it pulled off a D rather than actually flunking, that happened a dozen years ago, and it was his second time through! Just because I am not taking attendance after today does not mean we won't cover important material you need to know every lecture! Now, is Tom Anderson here?"

A medium-height but stout guy called out, "Here."

Professor McCullen put a check at the top of his sheet, then called out, "Bruce Brown."

A guy about as tall as Albert, but brown-haired and heftier than him so a physique like a football player responded, "Here."

Professor McCullen continued, "Xavier Carter?"

A slender guy, shorter than me, who sat in the seat to the right of me held up his arm and said, "Here."

As Professor McCullen put another check on his sheet, Xavier muttered, "Coming next is the turn to the right and left speech."

Just as Xavier was saying this, Professor McCullen called out, "Joshua Cistern?"

I turned to Xavier as did a medium-sized guy with a mustache on the other side of him, clearly as interested as I was about Xavier's prediction.

Professor McCullen called out louder, "Joshua Cistern?"

The man with the mustache gave a jerk, then called out, "Here! Sorry, everybody calls me Josh, so I am not used to being called Joshua."

Professor McCullen seemed to accept Josh's excuse for inattentiveness and continued with his attendance.

Once his attention had moved on, Xavier whispered to me and Josh, "The turn to right and left speech claims about two-thirds of us will never become engineers. My older brother graduated from Cornfield University last year as a mechanical engineer and told me about it. He had Professor McCullen for many classes, including this."

While I was interested and listening to Xavier, I promptly answered that I was here when Professor McCullen called out, "Joel Kant?"

As the professor worked his way to the end of the alphabet, Josh whispered to Xavier, "Why's a Mining Engineer teaching computer programming?"

Xavier whispered back, "Lots of computer simulations in the field of mining. The..."

Xavier cut off instantly because the professor had reached the end of the attendance list. I had never before seen any teacher act like merely taking attendance was such a distasteful thing to do!

Professor McCullen called out, "Stand up. Yes, all of you. You in the back, Albert Rose. You aren't a cripple, are you? Come on, everybody stand up."

We all stood up.

Professor McCullen ordered, "Turn and look at the guy or gal to your right."

Xavier was the guy to my right, so all I saw was the long, flowing, brown hair at the back of his head because he had also turned to the right. Xavier in turn was looking at the short curly brown hair at the back of Josh's head. I could tell Xavier was snickering.

McCullen followed this, "Now turn and look at the guy or gal to your left. Okay, now look forward. Although this class is titled Computer Programming for Engineers, so all of you have a declared major of engineering, less than a third of you will ever get a degree in it. Most likely, the man or woman you just looked at will never become an engineer. On the other hand, maybe he or she will, but you won't! Even though I will never again take attendance, think about those odds...and never miss my class!"

I glanced around the room. A few were treating this warning as a joke, but most were not. I realized that these were likely truly the results of how few would survive! Although Professor McCullen had carefully said "he or she," out of the approximately fifty students, I saw only four women.

For the next fifteen minutes, Professor McCullen explained the syllabus. Xavier paid little attention, telling Josh more about what his older brother had told him about this place.

I whispered, "Xavier, please quiet down. I'm trying to hear."

Xavier said, "You better listen because it would be bad if Joel Kant is one of the two-thirds that KANT handle engineering!"

Josh sniggered at Xavier's joke, but the two of them did stop talking. I was glad they did because I was paying close attention to the grading scheme.

Professor McCullen then told us to gather up all our belongings. We were leaving this large lecture hall in the engineering building to walk over to the Cornfield Computer Center, which was located in the next building. It was in the basement, but this was was a big building, so there were many large rooms all linked together to form this computer center.

We went to a room that Professor McCullen said was for the punchcard machines. He explained one way to get a program into the IBM mainframe was with punchcards. This room was filled with fifteen punchcard machines. Each punchcard was slightly smaller than a business envelope, deliberately so since designed to fit in them. Each held only one line of code or data. These were called punchcards since rectangular holes were literally punched in the thin cardboard for the cardreader to detect later when the cards were read.

Professor McCullen sat at one of the four empty punchcard machines. He demonstrated making a card. He handed the card around for us to look at.

Xavier asked the professor, "Is there any difference between these punchcards and the ones sent for bills?"

For easier processing, many bills back then came with a punchcard to mail back with your check for your water bill, electric bill, and various other bills. I had seen my Dad putting them in the envelop along with his check each month when he did the bills.

It would be decades yet before one could pay a bill online!

Professor McCullen said, "Essentially the same punchcards, but these cards are tan. My bills come on punchcards that are other colors like yellow or red, depending on what company or government agency. Buying punchcards of other colors that tan is restricted to cut down on fraud."

Xavier said, "I heard if behind on your bills, you should just take a hole puncher and add some holes to the card before mailing in the check."

The professor replied, "Unless you really know what you are doing, that would just make random changes. It would be easily detected. I don't see the point."

Xavier explained, "The point is not to get out of paying, but to delay paying. In a situation like that, the messed up punchcard would be taken out and passed on to a human to process. The text printed on the top of the card can still be correctly read by a human."

Professor McCullen dismissively said, "That seems a lot of work without much benefit. You won't get out of paying bills by messing with the punchcards."

As the professor went on, Josh whispered to Xavier, "I've heard of what you said about mangling punchcards used for billing. If the company is so accustomed to the punchcards working properly, it can take weeks to straighten out the messed up one because a human has to do it. If a person gets paid every two weeks, that delay can be enough to save them."

Xavier nodded and whispered a reply, "I'm glad somebody follows what I was getting at, as DOCTOR McCullen clearly missed the point."

While the professor didn't seem to notice this, a tall, black-haired man had and said, "Of course you heard about it, Josh. I told you I had an uncle do that successfully once."

Josh said to Xavier and me, "This is my roommate, Albert Rose."

Xavier was about to ask for more details, but they all clammed up after a look from Professor McCullen. The professor went on about the necessary cards to start and stop the deck with. He called those cards the JCL cards. JCL stands for Job Control Language. As the JCL cards were passed around, Xavier looked closely at one, and got a strange smile. Xavier passed the card to Josh, who instantly had the same strange smile. Albert took, looked at, then passed on the cards without getting that weird smile. It would be months before I found out what Xavier and Josh had figured out.

The professor then took us to the adjoining room. This large room had about thirty CRT terminals that he called VT-100's. He said, "The VT-100's are also called dumb ASCII terminals."

That drew a snicker at them being called dumb, but the professor had clearly anticipated that. He said this really is what they were called, then asked if anybody could explain why.

Albert Rose said, "Dumb means they do not work as a computer of their own like a microcomputer. Instead, all their brains came from the mainframe computer to which they are connected. ASCII is the encoding of the characters that the terminals displayed, and stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. The cardpunch machines instead code the characters in EBCDIC, which is Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code, and used exclusively in IBM computers. Almost all other companies use ASCII. For simple FORTRAN programming, ASCII or EBCDIC will not really make much difference from a user's point of view."

Professor McCullen replied, "Correct. Albert, you already seem to know as much about computers as this inattentive and talkative fellow, Xavier Carter."

Albert beamed while Xavier looked embarrassed that all his chatting had been noticed, but Xavier recovered and asked, "There are three Apple II computers in the Math Science Learning Center. Could they run a program to act like a VT-100 terminal?"

The professor did not answer that one very quickly, but took some time, then said, "I don't know if such software exists to emulate a VT-100 terminal on an Apple II. The big issue is the connection. Those Apples are in the MSLC, which is one floor up and at the other end of the building. The only way to connect right now would be through the phone line using a modem, and that would be slow. The VT-100's have direct cable access running at 9,600 baud. Even high-speed expensive phone modems only run at 2,400 baud, while a more common rate is 300 baud. Look down at the floor."

The floor looked like one square foot white tiles. However, walking on it gave a hollow sound that did not mesh with this computer center being on the basement floor. The professor explained the floor we were walking on was raised up about six inches from the real floor. This space was used to run all the communication cables between the terminals and the PDP/11 mainframe out of sight.

He chose Bruce Brown as a victim, and had him sit at a VT-100 terminal. The monochrome screen displayed what nearly everybody is familiar with, "LOGIN:"

Following the professor's instructions, Bruce typed so the screen read, "LOGIN: BROWNB"

The professor explained the importance of keeping the password secret. Bruce tried to look at the sheet with his password on it without all of crowded around him seeing it. He started to type the password, and we all noticed no characters appeared on the screen. Still, Bruce seemed to have typed it correctly because the screen changed after he hit the Enter key.

Bruce looked around at the large group with what seemed concerned we had memorized what keys he pressed to type his password even though it had not appeared on the screen and asked, "What is the worst thing that can be happen if somebody does get your password?"

Professor McCullen answered, "A year ago, somebody was careless with his password. Another student who learned it came and deleted all his files for this course."

The class gasped.

The professor went on, "Fortunately, the mainframe has tape backups made every night. We were able to restore the student's files with him only losing one day's work."

The students in our group looked relieved.

Josh wondered aloud, "That must be a lot of data. I wonder what they used to hold all that?"

Xavier answered, "Big magnetic tapes."

Professor McCullen overheard, stopped what he was saying, then said in a snide tone, "You love to talk over me, Mr. Xavier Carter. Since you want to be the teacher, tell us all more. Speak up so the entire class can hear you!"

Xavier looked embarrassed, but rebelliously said in a deliberately loud voice, "Nine-track data tapes look just like those big spools shown in the background in Star Trek and other science fiction movies whenever the director wants to show you it is a computer. The spools are about a foot in diameter, and the tape itself is half-an-inch wide. Look through that big window there, and you can see a system administrator mounting one right now."

He had pointed where there was a big picture window about eight feet wide and four feet high. It looked like a picture window of a house, but this went between interior walls. Though the glass, we could see a well-dressed young man who even wore a tie mounting up a tape that looked just like Xavier's description.

Professor McCullen seemed stunned that Xavier had been up to the challenge, but was a good sport as he gave him praise, "Very good, Xavier. Maybe some years from now, you will be the teacher for this class. Not just yet, though, so please don't talk over me anymore. We have a large room with racks of tapes that are used for backups."

The professor said that if we do our FORTRAN programs on punchcards, the backup was the stack of cards rather than files on the hard disk. Dropping a deck so the cards get shuffled could be very painful to sort out. He added, "I'm not joking about that. I've seen it happen more than once."

Josh asked the professor, "Having the file on the hard disk seems so much better than using the stack of cards. Why not just use only the VT-100 terminals to the PDP mainframe? You told us both mainframes use FORTRAN."

Professor McCullen indicated that the paper sign he had taped on the VT-100 terminal earlier before we came to reserve it. He said there were lines to use these terminals most days. He showed us the sheet on a clipboard where students put in their name to wait their turn for VT-100 terminals. There were many names on it. Various students that had those names on the list sat up and down the hallway, doing homework for non-computer classes while waiting their turn. A few glared at the professor, clearly unhappy that he was tying up one of the VT-100 terminals for our class!

The professor had us look back in the punchcard room. Four of the punchcard machines sat unused. He had made his point.

For each assigned program, we had to get a printout and turn it in to get credit. The printer was behind the same big, glass picture window as where the big magnetic tape was mounted. The printer was called a lineprinter, and about six feet away from the tape reader. Rather than a head that moves like in a consumer-grade dot-matrix printer, the entire line printed at one time. The paper was 14 inches wide and held 132 columns. There were tractor feed holes on the side of the paper. The paper rapidly flew out the lineprinter at an amazing rate. Every so often, an entire sheet was filled with nothing but a LOGIN name written very, very large.

The same man wearing the tie who had earlier mounted the tape took the printout to a very long table, still behind the glass. He looked for the printing of login name sheets, and pulled apart the attached papers at those points. He then came to stand behind a large shelf. We could not see him for a moment, but then a wood panel behind the shelf was swung away. The shelf was separated into small sections with labels like A-B, C-D, and so on. The human operator tossed the printouts into the appropriate section based on the first letter of the login name. When he finished, he swung the wood panel back to close off the mainframe area from us mere mortals once more.

The professor explained that the printouts were put out every ten minutes in the fashion we had just seen.

I did the first program for the course using punchcards on the IBM mainframe, but Xavier, Josh, Albert, Tom, and Bruce all did theirs on the VT-100 terminals.

Something that infuriated me with the punchcard machines is it only had a shift key on the left side. Programming in FORTRAN as we did it back then, all the letters used were in uppercase. However, one still needed to use the shift key to get the special symbols !, ", ', $, and so forth. Since I had a typing course in high school, it drove me insane not having shift keys on both sides of the keyboard. IBM made both the IBM Selectric typewriters that we used in my high school typing course, as well as these punchcard machines. I wondered how a company so famous for their typewriter keyboards would do this to their punchcard machines. It made creating the cards much slower for typists than it had to be!

For the second program, I waited through the lines and used a VT-100 terminal like the others had done. To my horror, as bad as I found typing on the punchcard machine, it was much worse on the PDP/11! Conceptually, it should be much easier because the VT-100 terminal had shift keys on both sides as a keyboard should.

At the VT-100 terminal next to mine, Xavier could see that I was struggling with my typing, so explained, "These terminals have a small amount of memory called a keyboard buffer. It can hold about 80 characters even if they don't appear on the screen. Those characters slowly appearing on your screen is what you typed earlier into the buffer because the PDP mainframe is so overloaded."

What I was seeing on the screen then made sense. For this kind of work, being a relatively fast typist was a detriment. On his VT-100 terminal, I saw Xavier was a hunt-and-peck typist, so was having an easier time of it then me. Albert was on the next VT-100 terminal over, and was also hunt-and-peck. Josh was at his own VT-100 terminal. He was sitting with his fingers motionless, but I saw characters that he had obviously typed earlier trickling out as he waited for the keyboard buffer to clear. Josh was also a touch-typist.

I found typing on the VT-100 terminals to the overloaded PDP so unbearable that I went back to using the punchcard machines despite the shift key on only one side. Josh seemed to have the same idea, so went with me.

I discovered Xavier knew about the three Apple II computers in the Math Science Learning Center (MSLC) because he loved playing games on them. The tutors kept kicking him off since games were officially banned. I would see this kicking-Xavier-off procedure myself because I was hanging out at the MSLC to do math, specifically Calculus. The three Apple II computers were at the far end of a long room, with a sign-in desk almost making it into two rooms.

Most college students don't like to get up early, but the MSLC opened at 9:00 am. All the math tutors but one named Karen eventually relented and let Xavier play Apple II computer games if Xavier came in early. This was until the other two Apples were in use and then a third student had a real academic task to do on the third Apple. Only then was Xavier kicked off, but the Apple microcomputers were so popular this usually happened in less than an hour. Eventually, even Karen seemed to get too worn out to bother kicking Xavier off if no other students needed an Apple for real work.

Thus, one morning at the MSLC right after opening at 9:00 am, I went over by three Apple II computers. Xavier sat at one, and Tom Anderson at another. The other Apple computer sat unused this early. Xavier pulled out a 5.25" diskette shoved it in. He typed some commands, and then started the game Paratroopers, where one had a pivoting cannon and had to blow up small icons of paratroopers floating down to destroy the cannon.

Looking over at Tom, I could see that his screen also showed Paratroopers game, and he was good at it!

As for Xavier, after showing me this game, he switched to a version of Space Invaders. It was a pretty good implementation.

A student I did not know then came in and got on the third Apple. He looked older, not a Freshman like us. He started doing something that made a graph of a parabola on the screen.

Xavier brought up a new game on his Apple, stored on the same disk. It was a version of ABM, where one used a crosshair to blow up incoming missiles. I had played it for the cost of a quarter in an arcade with a trackball in a mall back in my home city. I could not get the hang of using the keyboard rather than a trackball for a control for this type of game.

Xavier had about ten games on that one disk. All decent games, I thought. After about forty minutes, Karen led two other students into this part of the room and announced, "Xavier and Tom, get off the computers. These two have real work to do."

Not wanting to get banned in the future, Xavier and Tom hurriedly complied. As they did that, Karen gave a highly approving look to the older guy already on the third Apple who had the parabola on the screen. That seemed the use that Karen believed should be made of the Apples!

Until Karen kicked Xavier, Tom, and me off the Apples, it had been like going to a coin-op arcade, but playing games without putting in any quarters. Since all these games were loaded off one diskette, I doubt Xavier had purchased commercial copies himself. I think these were...gasp...pirated!

Later in the semester in the Computer Programming for Engineering lecture hall, I came in to see Xavier in an extensive conversation with the instructor before class started. Xavier looked furious.

The bell had already rung before Xavier came and sat down by me and Josh. We tended to sit toward the front, unlike Tom Anderson and Albert Rose, who preferred sitting further back.

I asked Xavier, "What's going on?"

Xavier curtly replied, "Listen to the prof. He's going to tell the whole class about it."

The professor said that there had been a problem on the VT-100 terminals. Somebody had written a program that recreated the login screen, but really was still logged in to an account. It was a clever program where it would have the login name appear when typed in, but not the password, just like really logging in. However, then it would store the login name and password in a file, give a message about the password being wrong, then log out of the original account.

The professor said that if one sees that an account is going through an entire log-out procedure after it seems you had merely typed the password wrong, rush and get a worker immediately! This was password harvesting.

Tom Anderson pointed out that earlier in the semester, the professor had told us about somebody whose password was stolen. It had been used to delete all their files, but backup tapes had restored them.

The professor explained, "That's not what happened this time. Harassing e-mail filled with profanity was sent to a bunch of professors including me. It took a while before we realized the students who owned the accounts had not sent them, but instead their passwords had been harvested. Tom, you would have been in trouble yourself, only we knew by the time harassing e-mail came from your account what was happening. That is, unless you wanted to send me e-mail calling me pretty bad things."

Tom looked completely shocked and answered, "No, sir! I never did anything like that!"

I personally had not yet done e-mail, although I had heard of it. There was no way to do e-mail on a punchcard machine!

With a grim determination, the professor promised, "Going through the backup tapes, we will track down who is doing this."

The professor then went on with the rest of the lesson.

After class was over, Xavier told Josh and me, "You know Karen, the tutor from the MSLC?"

I said, "She's the one that doesn't like you playing videogames on the Apple."

Josh asked, "You mean the tall, dark-haired woman?"

Xavier said, "That's her. Karen thinks I sent her a very crude e-mail! She banned me from the MSLC, even for tutoring help!"

"That's awful," I said.

Xavier added, "I got Professor McCullen to promise he will explain the password harvesting to Karen. He said the ban will be removed."

I said, "One good thing about my using the punchcard machines is there are no passwords on those."

Josh added, "No e-mail on them either. Plus, it isn't overloaded so that you can properly touch-type!"

"Guess so," Xavier agreed.

For the next program we were assigned, Xavier joined me and Josh in the punchcard machine room.

With the ban removed, Xavier continued his habit of playing games on one of the Apple II computers in the MSLC by getting in right at nine am. I had not really paid attention to his gaming for quite some time since so busy with other things. However, one morning at nine am where I came in just as the door was unlocked, I went to sit at the tutoring tables. I got out my work, and Karen came over. As Karen explained to me there was a trick to this problem by using a double-angle conversion formula, a loud voice came from an Apple II. It was in German and yelled out, "Achtung!"

Karen yelled out, "Xavier, I'll get you banned again if you don't keep the sound off!"

Xavier hurriedly fiddled with the computer, then called back, "Sorry! Won't happen again."

After Karen had me straightened out on my math problems, I went over by Xavier. I was intrigued by having heard the computer talk, even though not an English word.

Xavier now owned a box of ten disks, not just one. In 1981, a single disk went for five dollars, not like the fifty cents or less by the time I owned a disk drive. Thus, a box of ten floppies was fairly precious since worth about fifty dollars.

Xavier told me this game was called Castle Wolfenstein. It was a top-down maze game. One controlled a character who could shoot up, down, left, right, and in diagonals. The game idea was to try to escape a prison by shooting the guards.

Xavier said to me, "I read that this game is banned in Germany."

"Why?" I asked.

"The swastikas."

Given the low resolution of a game like that, the soldiers looked more like stick figures then artistic drawings of people. One did have a swastika on his chest, though. It was roughly done, but I could tell what it was supposed to be.

I said, "Before Karen made you shut off the sound, I heard it say Achtung."

Xavier nodded, "If I had the sound on, you would hear the guards scream when they die. Sometimes the guards say, 'Halten Sie!'"

Bruce Brown showed up behind the two of us and said, "Hello, Xavier. I bought a disk."

Both of us looked up. Something about the posture and facial expression of the man behind us reminded me of a dog erect on his hind legs, begging for a treat.

I took my leave of the two. I went back to the tutoring tables to work on Chemistry. That fit the S part of MSLC. Karen was better at the math than the chemistry, so I ended up working with one of the male tutors. Over by the computers, Xavier was copying files onto the new disk owned by Bruce.

I briefly wondered if I went and bought a disk myself over at the college bookstore if I could talk Xavier into giving me a copy of the game Castle Wolfenstein. I thought I probably could, but also it would be a tempting time-waster. I had no time to waste. So, I never asked Xavier for any copies of any Apple II programs.

By now, the end of the semester was getting close, so the required FORTRAN computer programs were getting longer. Both mainframe computers were more overtaxed than ever before. Even Albert Rose finally gave up on the VT-100 terminals and joined us on the punchcard machines after Josh showed him how much quicker those of us using punchcards were getting our programs done.

One day, I ran a deck of cards though the card reader in a small room across from the room with the punchcard machines. That thing was a mechanical marvel. In just a couple seconds, my deck was done. I merely had to wait for the printout. Directly behind me, Xavier then put through his deck of cards.

About ten minutes later, the wood board rotated away behind the shelves. Xavier got his printout, but mine did not appear. As the guy behind the shelf was about to put the board back, I called out, "Where's my printout?"

"We're behind and catching up. It'll be out next time," the guy said, then put back the board.

I looked over at Xavier, who grinned widely.

I said, "You were behind me in line, but you got your output first."

Xavier said, "Let me show you something. These are the JCL cards. Look at yours, then look at mine."

I did so.

Xavier remarked, "I changed my JCL deck so the computer thinks I'm a professor. That changes the priority so my job gets run before any students' programs."

I said, "It seems you could get in trouble for that."

Xavier said, "I've been doing it since I switched to using the punchcard machines, and nobody has said anything. It just took the computer getting this overloaded for you to notice."

Josh overhead the two of us and remarked, "I've been doing the same thing."

Josh and Xavier argued over who figured out the trick first. I never figured out which did. I was never brave enough to change my JCL cards this way. I just waited until my printout eventually got printed with my JCL correctly identifying me as a student.

A couple weeks after this, we were gathering in the large lecture hall to take the final exam in Computer Programming for Engineers. Bruce Brown had left the class halfway through, but the rest of us were all there. Yet, Bruce was still in my Calculus class and doing fine in that.

Xavier said to our group, "I wanted to let you all know I won't be back next semester."

In shock, I asked, "Are you dropping out?"

"No, just transferring to a college closer to home. The only reason I came to Cornfield University was because it has engineering," Xavier said.

"I thought you were doing fine in engineering!" Josh protested.

Xavier remarked, "I'm getting good grades, but I am not liking it the way I thought I would."

Josh said, "I don't get it. I've been loving electrical engineering so far."

I had too, but we were only finishing up our first semester.

Xavier speculated, "I might change my major to Math, but I don't have to stay at a university that is known for engineering to do that."

We then all took the final exam. I felt good about it when over as it was much easier than I had expected. Josh, Xavier, Albert, and Tom all agreed it had been much easier than they had expected too.

I never saw or heard of Xavier Carter again.

Early during the second semester, I stopped by the MSLC. Karen was there.

I told her, "Xavier told me he wasn't coming back."

Karen replied, "I know. He told me during finals week. Good riddance!"

I said, "Xavier said that somebody stole his password and sent you a rude e-mail."

Karen confirmed this, "I initially thought he sent it, but Doctor McCullen explained what was going on. Apparently, professors were notified what was happening, but nobody thought to tell us tutors until Xavier told Doctor McCullen what happened to me. Doctor McCullen let me know they caught the guy who stole the passwords and expelled him."

I said, "I hadn't known the guy who did it was caught."

"He used another account to get more stolen passwords once he got his first working stolen password, but he started from his own account. Once backup tapes went far enough back, he was nailed! Definitely the right guy. He used to come by the MSLC. He was so angry at the whole world. He asked me out once, but I declined. I'm glad he's expelled," Karen elaborated with a shudder.

I remarked, "I can understand being glad that guy's gone. But why did you say, 'Good riddance' about Xavier? I liked him, and you know he wasn't the one who sent you the offensive e-mail."

Karen pointed over to the three Apple II computers. Bruce Brown sat at one. Tom Anderson sat at another. Both of their screens showed the Castle Wolfenstein game. I did not know the student at the third Apple. Instead of Castle Wolfenstein, the unknown student was playing Paratroopers, which Xavier had shown me months ago back when he only owned one disk.

Karen explained, "Xavier copied his game collection over to anybody who asked and brought a blank disk. Students play those games on the computers all day. It has gotten very hard to kick them off the computers if somebody has to use an Apple for real work. The students lie, saying they have real work to do, but then play the games. Despite my pleas as well as pleas from the other tutors, students just won't keep the sound off. All day long, every day, I hear ARRGH, Achtung, and Halten Sie! So, good riddance to Xavier and his collection of pirated games! He's gone, but the games aren't!"


Back to Joel Kant Home Page: Joel Kant Home Page.