Geek fun.

Just left my SI (that’s School of Information, for you non-Wolverines) class, “Understanding Networked Computing,” a.k.a. Technology Appreciation. It’s more interesting than you might think. Someday the authors of “Trivial Pursuit: Geek” will seek me out for question suggestions. A few:

1) Explain the inside joke of HAL 9000, the computer in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

2) Name the original seven internet domains. (Everyone knows the obvious .com, .net., .org., but the sixth and seventh will probably stump a few of you.)

3) On a peer-to-peer network, what is the slang term for a user who downloads frequently but chooses not to share? What is the usual corrective action?

I could go on. I won’t. But as long as we’re on the subject of technology, last night our screenwriting prof instituted a cell-phone fine rule. Robert McKee, the screenwriting guru played by Brian Cox in “Adaptation,” hates cell-phone interruptions. If one goes off in class, he immediately stops teaching, singles out the offender for abuse and collects a $10 fine. Our own fine is somewhat less — a dollar.

And yet, even after he instituted the fine and gave fair warning with the first offender, another phone went off. In the words of the walkin’ boss, “Some men you just can’t reach.”

And one more tech note: Poyter has a fond look back at Viewtron, a crude precursor to internet news online, promulgated by my own employer, Knight Ridder. Several of my FW colleagues in the ’80s came there directly from Viewtron layoffs, right Adrianne? Andrew? Yes. My previous employer, the Columbus Dispatch, was also online in this era, via Compuserve.

Both efforts were ahead of their time, as the story points out.

Side note: The Bloomberg user interface? Very, uh, retro. Very Viewtron.

Posted at 10:32 am in Uncategorized |

35 responses to “Geek fun.”

  1. ashley said on October 30, 2003 at 12:03 pm

    OK, this is ancient history, but we should all know that the term HAL was derived by taking IBM and going back one letter in the alphabet for each initial.

    What you may not know is that this was repeated in the 90s. Dave Cutler, chief engineer for operating systems at Digital, was hired by MS to create their new operating system. The operating system he designed at DEC was called VMS.

    People always thought that NT in Windoze NT meant “New Technology”. In fact, it was a homage to 2001. VMS became WNT.

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  2. ashley said on October 30, 2003 at 12:07 pm

    As stated in my class policies:,

    if a cell phone goes off in class, and you are not a physician or firefighter on call, you lose a letter grade. Or you have the option of letting me answer it. One time a guy let me answer it…

    I don’t think she went out with him anymore.

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  3. deb said on October 30, 2003 at 12:22 pm

    thanks, ashley, for explaining the provenance of HAL. now, nance, how about answering the other two for us non-geeks?

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  4. Nance said on October 30, 2003 at 12:44 pm

    .com, .org, .net, .edu, .gov, .mil, .int.

    The last two are for “military” and “international.” That one’s been pretty much eclipsed by the two-letter suffixes — .uk, .de, .ru.

    I read Russian jokes about Putin at

    Oh, and a downloader who won’t share is a leech. S/he is usally punished with restricted bandwidth.

    Thank you, class, and carry on. Ash — great penalty for phone infractions. That’s why they call you PROFESSOR Morris.

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  5. Jenny said on October 30, 2003 at 1:15 pm

    Well Ashley that policy would be cute except you fail to take into account single mothers, individuals taking care of elderly parents, on-call workers for domestic violence centers, individuals with sick mates, men waiting on their wives to give birth….

    While I understand you think they would remember to put it on vibrate, I bet your cell phone has gone off a time or two at inopportune moments when you “forgot” to turn it off.

    And a letter grade for a phone ringing? What in the hell does that have to do with learning? Sheesh.

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  6. ashley said on October 30, 2003 at 5:24 pm


    I guess you didn’t actually read the policy for which I provided the link. My classes usually do, and they realize that if they are in any of those situations you mentioned, all they have to do is tell me about it.

    And no, my phone has never gone off in class unless it was in vibrate mode. Many times I will, at the beginning of class, put the phone into vibe mode along with the whole class. Togetherness!

    The letter grade threat is one of the few things that will actually get them to pay attention. Have I ever docked someone a letter grade? No.

    OTOH, if there was no threat, phones would ring all the time. A colleague had one student who actually answered her phone during class. When he told her to hang up, she held up her forefinger in the air telling him to wait a minute. No shit.

    Last week, during a midterm in my class, a student went into the hall to make a cell call. During the test. No shit.

    What does this have to do with learning? Well, maintaining order and minimizing distractions in class has a whole hell of a lot to do with learning. I care about my students, and the ones that don’t fuck up my class deserve not to have their time and money wasted.

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  7. Nance said on October 30, 2003 at 7:35 pm

    I agree with Ashley. Cell phones are shaping up to be the new benchmark of rudeness. Never mind the world-is-my-phonebooth issue — I’ve heard them go off in church (on Palm Sunday, no less), in movie theaters and many other places where others around you have the right to expect an airspace free of tinkling ring tones.

    The Atlantic Monthly had a story on Wynton Marsalis a few months ago that began with a lovely anecdote: Marsalis was sitting in with the no-name house band at the Village Vanguard late one night, and the crowd was being treated to an anguished version of “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You.” As Marsalis reached the last two notes, this moment of exquisite beauty, someone’s phone rang. The audience actually laughed. Marsalis, without missing a beat (literally), started playing the insipid ring tone on his horn. He played it a few more times, started running improvisations on it, etc., for several minutes. He ended his diversion on the third-from-the-last note of the song he was playing before, then finished…”wiiithhhh…yooouuuuuu.” The crowd exploded.

    I’m sure the guy with the phone had already left the building. I would have.

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  8. KCK said on October 30, 2003 at 8:06 pm

    Original RFC for Internet DNS TLDs was published as

    in 1984, with 5 top level domains. .net added that year and .int in November 1988.

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  9. Jenny said on October 31, 2003 at 8:28 am

    Actually Ashley I did read your policy. The whole thing in fact.

    Did it ever occur to you that whatever tragedy/distractions/problems going on in a person’s life is really none of your damn business? Perhaps those individuals don’t want to “run to teacher” with the sob story that is their life, and perhaps they don’t want to tell you. When you put your phone in vibrate mode did you tell the class what was going on in your life that required your phone to be on?

    Not to mention the student-teacher relationship really doesn’t have to be one of authority-submission. The teachers I gave the most respect to were ones who treated me as an individual who was PURCHASING their services and didn’t have to demand respect from me in a policy. They not only got respect from me, we became colleagues after the fact. If your students treat your class with little respect, I can assure you it’s not about the cellphones….

    Finally, any teacher who likes to use “threats” to “keep their students in line” isn’t about teaching and sure as hell isn’t about treating those individuals like adults. And to then explain away your threat by saying “Well, I’ve never really done it” is a lame use of backpeddling. Sounds like you have some control issues to me.

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  10. Nance said on October 31, 2003 at 9:03 am

    Sounds like you have some anger issues, Jenny.

    I think his point is: The other students in the class have a right to take it free of interruption by others’ telephones. If you’re so desperately needed elsewhere that you simply cannot be out of touch for even an hour, maybe you need to be there and not in Ashley’s computer-science class.

    In the times phones have interrupted my own classes this term, no one has looked down at the caller ID display and bolted from the room to take or return this vital call. I suspect that, like 99 percent of all phone calls, it wasn’t very important, and hence, wouldn’t have suffered from being shunted off to voice mail in the first place.

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  11. Jenny said on October 31, 2003 at 9:14 am

    Sorry Nancy, did I interrupt your and Ashley’s mutual admiration society?

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  12. Nance said on October 31, 2003 at 10:09 am

    Strike one.

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  13. Jenny said on October 31, 2003 at 10:34 am

    “There is no conversation more boring than the one where everybody agrees.” Michael de Montaign

    “College isn’t the place to go for ideas.”

    Helen Keller

    Seems you strike out on both accounts.

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  14. Nance said on October 31, 2003 at 10:44 am

    Disagreement I don’t mind. Contempt and disrespect, I do.

    Ashley said: I have a policy against cell phones that punishes people for not turning them off.

    You said: Your policy is draconian. What about this, that and the other exception.

    Ashley said: If a student has these exceptions, all s/he has to do is come to me.

    You said: That’s none of your business.

    I said: If the phone is ringing in HIS class, it IS his business, as well as that of all the other students.

    Then you got shitty — “mutual admiration society,” etc..

    It’s my blog. You’re now at strike two. Improve, if not your attitude, then at least your tone. Or your IP gets booted.

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  15. Randy said on October 31, 2003 at 10:48 am


    “Strike one”…you rock! I’m still wiping coffee off my monitor.

    Looks like you’ve either got a troll on your hands, or an uppity undergrad writing cheques her intellect can’t cash…

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  16. Jenny said on October 31, 2003 at 12:04 pm

    Actually what I find contemptable is hypocrisy. I would argue that you actually like contempt and disrespect, or Randy would have had a “strike” against him as well…if you do indeed insist on respectful disagreement.

    Seems your methods are inconsistent at best. Not to mention that there have been plenty of smarmy comments on this blog, in which you never felt the need to “threaten.” Although now that I think about it I can see why you are so offended by my post regarding Ashley and her arrogance and condescension. You both think the way to educate is to threaten and throw a hissy. For your information, both techniques are childish.

    Feel free to block my IP. That is your choice and your privilege. If you didn’t want comments, or at least only wanted comments that fall in lock-step with your and your friends opinions, then you should have stated that at the top.

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  17. Nance said on October 31, 2003 at 12:17 pm

    All this over a cell phone discussion. I’m…amazed.

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  18. ashley said on October 31, 2003 at 12:35 pm

    “…her arrogance and condescension…”?

    Hissssssss. Feel again, Jen, before you call me a woman.

    Jenny, I would love to see you attempt to conduct a class full of 45 undergrads with your Dr. Spock techniques.

    Maybe that would work in a class of 15, all of whom desperately wanted to be in there. Not in a required undergraduate class with 45 sophomores, at least 10 of whom would rather not be there. At that point, my job is to get to the other 35.

    Oh, Randy, nice line!

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  19. danno said on October 31, 2003 at 12:38 pm

    Jenny, I believe it is time to take that big stick out of your ass…or is it a large Nokia ringing and disrupting your attitude in general? What is so goddamn important nowadays that wasn’t 20 years ago when very few people had cell phones? I don’t get people who believe they must, just absolutely must, be reached at all waking hours of the day??!!

    Use some common sense girl and mind your manners when addressing a teacher!!

    Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

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  20. Jenny said on October 31, 2003 at 1:32 pm

    Gee Nancy now I’m scared to say anything. I’m on the cusp on strike three…..

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  21. Nance said on October 31, 2003 at 1:47 pm

    No, no need to worry. No “gee” sarcasm necessary, either. People can judge your comments for themselves. Looks like they are.

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  22. John Ritter said on October 31, 2003 at 2:03 pm

    Nobody carped about “backpeddling”? Has the world gone mad? I once saw a Marine recruitment business card which featured the recruiter’s name and the phrase “See me to test your medal”.

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  23. Jenny said on October 31, 2003 at 2:07 pm

    Well I’d love to continue this discussion but right now I’m trying to figure out if it is a stick or a Nokia up my ass. At first I thought it was the Nokia cause I lost mine last week, but this feels thinner……

    Maybe the troll down the block can get his uppity undergrad to assist me in pulling it out…

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  24. Randy said on October 31, 2003 at 2:39 pm


    This is just a nice spot in cyberspace to comment on the musings that Nancy throws out there for her readers. If you’re looking to start an argument, why don’t you put on a t-shirt that reads “No War For Oil” and then lock yourself in a room with Ann Coulter.

    Or, just take a deep breath, Summer Donna, and play nice with everyone.

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  25. Jenny said on October 31, 2003 at 2:50 pm

    Randy….Hi pot? This is the kettle…

    I can see your point considering you “discussed” the issue and didn’t throw any fireworks into the mess….starting an argument, indeed.

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  26. ashley said on October 31, 2003 at 3:00 pm

    Sorry, Jenny,

    I hope the point doesn’t get in the way of your argument. Since you’re hiding behind anonymity (, keep t’rowin’ dem stones!

    No need to answer the issues with which you were presented, when you can become petty and accentuate your magnificent grasp of the English language.

    BTW, as I mentioned before, feel again.

    You go, girl!

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  27. Jenny said on October 31, 2003 at 3:12 pm

    Oh Ash, I always think it is sooooo cute when someone has an extremely weak argument and the assertions they make to defend it fall through like a rotted out floor. They then have to come up with an alternate tactic and that usually is….ta da! Your web address and/or web name isn’t real…so, uh, so, your point isn’t valid! (Yeah, that’s the ticket!)

    If you want to discuss the issue, discuss the issue, but pretending I’m “hiding” simply because I didn’t leave my web address is weak beyond all measure.

    And by the way. It is YOUR responsibility as a PROFESSOR (your ego is all wrapped up in the title isn’t it?) to make a class interesting enough that even 45 people want to attend uninterrupted. But then again, you’ve come to the plate assuming they won’t want to be there…maybe the real problem is the YOU don’t want to be there.

    P.S. It is a poor workman, who blames his tools.

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  28. Nance said on October 31, 2003 at 3:55 pm

    See, I know I made the right decision.

    It’s now YOUR job, Ashley, to be “more interesting” than any given cell-phone call. Tall order.

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  29. Jenny said on October 31, 2003 at 4:07 pm

    My, my Nancy it speaks volumes that you have so little faith in Ash, that she can’t be more interesting than a call you’ve said in a former post, wasn’t important enough to take!

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  30. Randy said on October 31, 2003 at 4:38 pm

    When I read Jenny’s last post, her vitriolic froth actually leaped from the screen and sprayed me in the face! Ewww.

    Jenny, if you don’t simmer, you’re gonna spend your whole weekend worked up over something that only you care about. Take the high road and move on.

    As someone said earlier, all this over a cell phone…so weird.

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  31. ashley said on October 31, 2003 at 4:50 pm

    I just wish she’d quit referring to me as a woman…

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  32. Jenny said on November 1, 2003 at 10:21 am

    Oh but Ash, there are so many other names that apply to you!

    And Randy, for an individual so “uninterested” in the topic, you sure don’t stop posting, huh?

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  33. KCK said on November 1, 2003 at 8:15 pm

    I think Ashley’s mom may have been a fan of “Gone With the Wind”; Herr Professor not Frau Professor.

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  34. deb said on November 1, 2003 at 11:25 pm

    oh my GAWD. jenny, you need to give this a rest. you are writing to peole you don’t know, on a website you don’t even seem to enjoy all that much, for what appears to be the sole purpose of…what? pissing everyone off? i agree with randy (GREAT line about the coffee, dude): get on with your life. this whole ridiculous argument has been played out, and then some.

    and, for the love of christ: ASHLEY IS A MAN, ALL RIGHT?

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  35. Castellano Steve said on December 10, 2003 at 1:27 pm

    Everyone is born with genius, but most people only keep it a few minutes.

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