Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Occasionally I think about how much software distribution has changed over my lifetime. When I was younger, I remember that COMPUTE magazine would come with a big, thick newsprint pullout section in the middle that contained hex codes that you could type into a command line editor to produce a program. Back in earlier versions of MS-DOS (maybe before DOS 5?) there was no command to list all of the directories under your current directory. (It's dir /ad today.) So, one issue of COMPUTE came with half a page of hex codes to type in to produce a program that would do just that, called dirdir.

That seemed like it would be useful. So, one day I sat there in front of the computer and typed something to the effect of

e 0000 0A 4C 33 28 DE E8 12 08 78 C3 B7 DA AD E2 C3 9A

over and over again for like half an hour. It was awful. After a line (or several lines?) you'd get another code that you'd match up to the one printed in the magazine. If they differed, you'd know you made a mistake and had to go back and retype the last chunk.

Now we have programs that automatically download updates to themselves from the internet, and games that stream new worlds and new characters in the background to you while you play.

Technology is great.

(I think that's as close as I'm going to ever get to a "punch cards" story.)


Swid said...

Each issue of 3-2-1 Contact included a BASIC program or two. If I remember correctly, I tried to run one of those programs once, but was unable to for one or more of the following: we owned an Apple II-compatible computer, I didn't realize that I needed a BASIC compiler to actually make the program do anything, etc.

Andy Misle said...

Yeah, sadly, we were born a few years too late for punch cards...

This is a strange transition, but I tought of you when I read this article:¤tPage=all

Larry said...

All that hex code reminds me of what I've been doing a fair bit of in the last few days: hacking my WinXP registry to fix the time zone data. I know that's not really your area there at MS, but whoever does that deserves a good ass-kicking over how horrible it is. :-P

More on that in my latest blog entry at .