Thursday, September 07, 2023

The Vic20 Mischief: A Teenage Tale of Tech Pranks from the '80s

cartoon of a shop assistant in a computer store
Hey there, fellow tech enthusiasts! Today, I want to take you on a nostalgic journey back to the 1980s when I was just a mischievous teenage boy armed with a Commodore Vic20 and an insatiable curiosity for all things tech. Back in those days, personal computers were still relatively new and exciting, and I couldn't resist the temptation to have a bit of fun with them.

Picture this: It was the '80s, and Commodore Vic20 computers were all the rage. You could find them in electronics stores like Dixons and even at unexpected places like Boots the Chemist. These computers were encased in metal display boxes, making them the perfect playground for a mischievous teen like me.

The setup was simple yet diabolical. I had committed a tiny BASIC program to memory – a program that would wreak havoc in the most harmless way possible. It was just about ten lines long, but it was enough to turn an innocent Vic20 into an instrument of chaos.

Here's how it worked:
  1. I'd saunter into one of these stores and nonchalantly approach the Vic20 on display.
  2. With the confidence of a tech-savvy teen, I'd quickly type in my carefully memorized program.
  3. The program was designed to start a timer for about 60 seconds, and then crank up the volume to full blast.
  4. After the countdown, the Vic20 would emit an annoying, high-pitched sound that could wake the dead.
  5. The final twist: I programmed it to lock the keyboard. No matter what the frantic store staff pressed, they couldn't silence the alarm.
  6. The only way out for them was to find the key, unlock the enclosure, and either remove the power supply or cycle the power to stop the commotion.
As soon as I hit the "RUN" command, I'd make a hasty exit, knowing that the Vic20 would play the siren-like alarm, causing chaos and confusion behind me.

Looking back, it's clear that my friends and I were quite the teenage troublemakers, finding endless entertainment in this tech prank. The alarm wasn't some sophisticated sound system; it was just a tiny speaker playing a simple, high-pitched note. But to our teenage ears, it was the epitome of hilarity.

Little did I know at the time that these early experiments in programming and mischief would eventually lead me to a career as a software engineer. Those innocent days of Vic20 pranks were just the beginning of my journey into the fascinating world of technology.

In today's world of high-tech gadgets and complex software, it's easy to forget the simplicity and charm of those early computers. But it's important to remember that every tech enthusiast has a starting point, and for me, it was the mischievous adventures with a Commodore Vic20 that ignited my passion for all things tech.

So, there you have it – a trip down memory lane to my teenage days of Vic20 shenanigans. As a software engineer now, I can't help but smile at the thought of how far I've come from those innocent pranks. But hey, we all have our beginnings, and mine just happened to involve a mischievous little computer and a whole lot of curiosity.