Monday, October 13, 2008

Stealing Online Identities & Meeting Complete Strangers

I can remember the first time I used email. It was back in my college days, circa 1995.

My statistics teacher said the computer lab had several VAX units which could be used to communicate with others who were logged onto the same system. It wasn’t email in the sense that you could send a message to others and they received it later. The other person had to already be logged on. The way to find this out was to go on the VAX and enter “finger” followed by the person’s name. I am not joking. Don't believe me? Check this out. Needless to say, I thought a number of nasty thoughts when looking for various females I was acquainted with.

The thing I most enjoyed was when someone had forgotten to close their VAX account before going to their next class. Most people who came across this would simply close out the other person's session and open up their own, but not me. I proceeded to “finger” a number of people that I knew and play with them a bit. I really went to town one morning.

I saw my high school friend, Brian, was on, so pretended that I was a woman interested in him. At first, he was suspicious, but then came around. After about 10 minutes, I looked up at the clock and saw that I needed to leave for my next class. Yikes! I had to burst his bubble in that time, so he wouldn’t contact the person whose identity I’d temporarily hijacked. I basically said I’d changed my mind and wasn’t interested in pursuing him.

I did a similar trick with a guy named Andy who was gay. We were in Hardee’s one evening and he asked me if I knew who tre321 (the identity I borrowed) was. It took all I had not to bust out laughing, but I was able to keep it together.

I actually met a woman in this way. We chatted on the VAX, fingered each other a few times, and ended up meeting for dinner at Perkins. We were both in relationships, so didn’t go any further, but I have to admit it was quite cool going out with a total stranger. By the way, her nickname was Squeaky. I sometimes wish I’d found out why.

Lastly, I met a cute couple one evening though the VAX. We had been chatting on it without knowing what the other looked like, so agreed to meet downstairs at a specific time. We talked for a bit, laughed a little and then went on our way. About a week later, the boyfriend contacted me and asked if I wanted to get together. I said, “Sure” and we went to a pizza joint which was located just a few blocks from the residence hall where I lived (It was called Fingall Hall, but I always referred to it as “Finger Hall”). We talked a great deal at Papa John’s, got to know each other better. He said sometimes he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be with his girlfriend for the long haul. I said this was normal. He gradually brought up the subject of being attracted to males at times. I let him share his feelings, not having any fear of hanging out with someone who may have homosexual tendencies (as mentioned above, I already had a friend that was gay).

After our dinner, we headed to my place for a short time. We talked some more and he stated that he’d like to experiment with a man one day to see if that was his actual preference. He strongly implied that he’d like me to be the one, but I said I was hetero and that was that. Poor guy, going out with a girl which is the supposed norm, but having feelings for men.

I’m sure he’s decided which way to go all these years later, but from time to time, when thinking of the angst he displayed, I can’t help but feel that non-judgment is one of the most important qualities one can have in life.


houstonmacbro said...

I am so liberal with the use of my online identity. The one good thing is that I use a Mac (I know I am not immune to online identity theft, so I need to stop pretending) and I almost always use my personal laptop instead of public computers.

You kinda lost me on the whole VAX thing, but the 'fingering' sounded interesting. ROTLFLMAO

Happy Monday.

Rocketstar said...

you said "fingered"

houstonmacbro said...

Ah ... there is a difference. Sorry.

Stephanie said...

"I’m sure he’s decided which way to go all these years later, but from time to time, when thinking of the angst he displayed, I can’t help but feel that non-judgment is one of the most important qualities one can have in life."

Spot on, mister! :)

Mags said...

You pranked people via computer? That's the greastest!!

Brian said...

Finger Hall! Haha!

Timothy Smith said...

My mother knew John when he was running the computer department. He was overjoyed when my brother and I left the university and moved to Boston. We hacked WSU starting back in the mid 80s with an Apple IIe and a 300 BAUD modem.

By the mid 1990s he could nothing to stop our access as we had numerous hidden administration accounts and knew everyone at WSU so when we were purged we always had a way back in.

Ah yes...finger! Remember Gopher and Veronica?

Security on the VAX system was beyond lame. Using a teachers ID which was always uniform and trying class IDs, kids names and the like we could access almost anything.

We never did any real damage, this was before Winona had internet access and that's all we were after. This was before the WWW, we just needed telnet access to get to the outside world. Finally Staffard surrendered and gave us accounts and promised not to monitor for terms of use. We backed off after that.

He was the one that told my mother my brother and I should be in computers not law enforcement and chemistry.

In the end we both ended up network engineers.

Thomas said...

Houston, so that's what the Mac in your online identity means. Hope your Monday was good as well.

Rocket, appeciated the Butthead reference (and I'm not talking about Dubya).

Stephanie, as Sarah Palin would say, *wink*.

Mags and Brian, good to hear you enjoyed it.

Tim, hacking into WSU when you were still in high school?! Damn....

I remember how proud a friend of mine was when he got his first Apple II (this was in 1984).

I don't recall Gopher or Veronica, but that's probably because I only used VAX during my last year of college (95-96).

Good to hear you were able to find your calling in life. Many don't.

Timothy Smith said...

Not sure I found my calling. My mother always told me if I can find something I don't mind doing and get paid for it I found my career.

I cant stand computer work now, maybe because I have to do it.

I would love to work with guide dogs and the people that need them. I love dogs and helping people so that seems to be the dream job for me. One of the biggest companies doing this is located in Oregon to boot!

Maybe when I make enough money to secure my childrens future I will have to head back to school. 40 is the new 20 or so they say.

By the way....

If you click on "start" then "run" and type in "cmd" it will bring up the command line prompt. From there type in "finger". You will see the command still exists!

Thomas said...

I would also love to work with dogs. That might be my dream job, to tell you the truth. I also wouldn't mind deprogramming the 18% who continue to approve of the job Bush is doing.

I don't know which surprises me more: that the "finger" function still exists or that you knew that it did.

Timothy Smith said...

Let me know Tom, we can start up a guide dog school.

Thomas said...

Sounds good. Would it be based in Arizona or Oregon?

Timothy Smith said...

Have to be Oregon. If you are going to a dream job it might as well be in heaven right?

Thomas said...

Absolutely. Even a non-believer would have to admit it's God country.

disestablishingpuritanism said...

As much as I love the internet for a means of convenience, I've said all along how it can also dumb down and deteriorate our interpersonal communications. I miss the simple days when computer software programs were easy to understand. I guess I just don't find them interesting anymore. Windows 95 I vaguely remember. It was pretty primitive and it was pretty cool learning how it started when I took a college course on P.R. and the Web. My professor was one of the first to use what basically was intranet in the late '70s with colleagues and showing what the screens looked like. It was like watching a computer screen from "Alien" with all the old green font on a small, black computer monitor.

Timothy Smith said...

"I've said all along how it can also dumb down and deteriorate our interpersonal communications."

It sure has. My 18 year old daughter speaks the same way she converses online and sometimes I have no idea what she is talking about.

Thomas said...

PJ, love the "Alien" reference. I remember watching it on HBO late one evening. I musta been about 11 years old. Shortly after viewing the chest-burster and face-hugger scene, my parents told me I had to go to bed.