OS/2: A Trip Down Memory Lane
I’m taking a slight detour from my usual posts to share something which happened a few months ago. I was doing a web search on my name (don’t judge, you do it too) and I found my name referenced on a wiki, which also listed my physical address and e-mail address, from when I was in my last year at university in 1995.
This threw me, but it was a different time for the Internet. Privacy wasn’t something we thought about then. The World Wide Web hadn’t been around all that long and hosting your own server was prohibitively expensive for most people (or businesses) as broadband was not ubiquitous like it is today. There was no social media and there were certainly no smartphones.
I was just transitioning from accessing the Internet through the Delphi online dial-up service to a dial-up PPP connection. This meant I could access the World Wide Web from my Netscape Navigator browser rather than through Delphi’s Lynx text-based browser.
Widows 3.11 didn’t have a built-in TCP/IP stack, but you could add one with a Winsock driver. Windows 95 had a built-in TCP/IP stack and it had been released, but I was a poor college student and I hated all things Microsoft. I thought OS/2 was going to be the winner of the desktop OS wars because it was clearly superior to Windows. Of course, I preferred Linux/Unix but a decent desktop environment would be years away.
But I digress. The wiki I’d found was the “OS/2 Wiki” and at the bottom of the entry containing my information was the heading “Software” and the name of a program. I had to do a specific search on the name of the program. Only after I located it in an OS/2 software archive and downloaded it did I recall actually writing it. The documentation in the archive, clearly written by my 21 year old self, brought it all back.
Apparently while taking a full load of classes and working two part-time jobs to complete my Computer Science degree, I found time to write a program for OS/2 which randomly picked a line from a file and appended it to another file. The source code, of course, is long gone and there was no GitHub back then.
It’s not as common today with web-based e-mail, but you could store a signature for e-mail and forums posts in a file. The contents of the signature file would be appended to the e-mail or forum post. I was using an offline reader program called Internav which allowed you to download and read messages as well as compose replies without using valuable online time. See, you were actually charged by the minute to use early dial-up services such as Delphi and America Online. It cost even more if the POP was outside of your local calling area and you had to use long distance minutes.
As described in my own words from 1995 (misspellings and all):
Here it is, a msall (sic) program I wrote to read a tagline file, and randomly pick one. I originally wrote it for use with Delphi’s Internav program which allow signature line files, but doesn’t provide a way to put taglines in it short of cutting and pasting it yourself. Put this program in your startup or a cron program to generate a new tagline everytime your computer is booted or every x minutes. I don’t know how ‘random’ it really is, but the more taglines you have, the less chance of repeats.
This program is totally free and I don’t gaurantee (sic) it to do anything but take up hard drive space. If you find it useful, I would appreciate $5 or at least an email message!"
Now I’m wondering why those checks didn’t just come rolling in! I even included several files with about 11,000 taglines including a partial fortune file (i.e. I violated copyright law).
There were gems such as:
- I have gone to find myself. If I should get back before I return, hold me here.
- A friend: someone who likes you even after they know you.
- Alex, I’ll take “Things Only I Know” for $1000.
- As easy as 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716
- Borg spreadsheet: Locutus 1-2-3
Oh, but the best part is the version history:
1.1 : 12/19/95 - 12/20/95 Added ability to use a delimeter (sic) besides a carriage return. Special thanks for redacted for helping me figure out what line to change after 4 hours of debugging myself and not fixing it and redacted (e-mail redacted) for suggesting I make it more flexible.
1.0 : Written 4/28/95 in four hours under Borland C++ 3.1 for DOS. Ported to OS/2 on 12/3/95 in five minutes with Borland C++ 2.0 for OS/2.
The first person I thanked was my roommate at the time who I had a pretty serious falling out with later and the second person was someone who was actually using it and made a suggestion to improve it (my first feature request!). I remember being floored that 1) someone was using it and 2) they took the time to send me an e-mail.
I then go on to describe what features I might add to version 2.0 and provide my contact information:
I am thinking of doing a version 2.0 that is a Presentation Manager Program with it’s (sic) own built in timed execution. Also, instead of specifying command line parameters, I could use an INI file. If you are interested in me trying my hand at this, please let me know.
I welcome any comments, suggestions, critcisms (sic), etc, etc….You can contact me at:
Email: work email, personal email, university email
Snail Mail: redacted
There you have it, proof that anything you put on the Internet, no matter how cringe, is FOREVER. Reading my old writing makes me glad smartphones and social media weren’t invented until after I did all of the stupid, naive, and immature things everyone does in their youth. Not that I don’t still do them, I just know better than to post them on the Internet.