Time Trip – Geekdom, by Decade, Part 1

For a few Time Trip posts (not necessarily the next few–those are gonna take lots of research) I thought I’d take a look at all things geek throughout the decades of the 20th century. This list is by no means comprehensive.

I’m going to start with the easiest – what I remember. And a little beyond.

mosaic-browser1990s – The Internet

When I took my UNIX class in the early 90s, I was intrigued by all the geeks playing a Dungeons and Dragons-like game by computer. They were using MUDs, or multi-user dungeons, the precursors to today’s multiplayer games. UNIX could have doubled as an early Internet course, because back then, the only way to get to the Internet was via UNIX. By the end of the course, everyone was talking about the new Mosaic browser, and accessing the Internet via a slip account and telnet. I taught my husband the basics of the pine email client, and we managed to get Mosaic installed on our Windows machines. What a blast.

… and build-it-yourself computers

In the 90s, you could not claim certifiable geekdom without building your own computer. So I went to Incredible Universe, bought all the necessary parts, and built my dream machine. So I did it once. I never did it again.

BTW, in the mid-late 90s, it was geek chic to sign your emails with your own personalized Geek code. Here’s mine. (I left out the politics sections.)

GIT D+ S+:+ A+ C++ U+ P- L+ E— W++ N O– K- W++ M+ V– T+@ 5 X R+ TV- B++ DI+ D++ G E+ H—- R+++

If you want to figure out yours, have at it here: http://www.geekcode.com/geek.html. But you may not understand some of it–it’s a bit dated. And there’s nothing in it about building your own computers.

pc101980s – Personal Computers

If the Internet was geeky in the 90s, then even owning a computer was geeky in the 80s. At least, owning a DOS computer was geeky. There were Commodore 64s and MACs that weren’t nearly so geeky. In order to qualify as a geek in the 80s, you had to know your way around a DOS prompt, program a little in GW/BASIC, understand the 640k barrier, and have the ability to edit batch files.

… and amateur photography

I include this because a special hallmark of the geeky tourist was the 35mm camera. Preferably one with a big lens. I didn’t have a big lens, but I got my 35mm camera for my 18th birthday. I used it for twenty years. I even started using slides and eschewed regular film, so I have a slide projector, screen, and lots of slides.

And I never really caught onto digital photography at all.

PlayersHandbook8Cover1970s – Role Playing Games

In the 70s, being a geek wasn’t chic at all. They took actual abuse. See Revenge of the Nerds (which actually came out in the 80s) to see what those geeks were like. I was too young to be geek a 70s, but I have known enough older geeks to know what they were into back then.

Anyway, RPGs got their start with tabletop games like Axis and Allies, Panzer Blitz, and, of course, Star Fleet Battles. These morphed into role-playing games, Dungeons and Dragons, and then AD&D, being the biggest of them all. I never played them until my 80s, but I remembered seeing it played in the movie, ET.

… and UNIX

UNIX got its start in the 70s as well. My dad used to get a kick out of all the long-haired and bearded UNIX geeks at work. When I was a software developer, I didn’t use any graphical tools at all. I’d have two windows open with vi pointing to my code, another one open for sedding and grepping, and a fourth for miscellaneous tasks, such as executing code and pouring through log files. It was pure geeky bliss.

Do you have any cool (or maybe not-so-cool) geek memories to share?


I came up with the idea for these Time Trips while writing my time travel novel, HIGHWAY TO YESTERDAY. For all the Time Trip posts I’ve written so far, click here.

New Excerpt, Website Updates, and Upcoming Time Trip

I posted an all-new excerpt to HIGHWAY TO YESTERDAY. The scenes that I previously opened the story with are still in the novel, but I wanted an opening that showed how alone Adele and Mike are in the world, and which gives a bit of a teaser of things to come. Here it is:


I also updated this website to reflect the new name of HIGHWAY TO YESTERDAY.

Since I’m done tweaking that story (for now) I have turned my attention to the second book. I know there will be at least two books, but I’m not sure if there will be a third–at least not in this storyline. I have some a few characters who I like very much, and who I would love to write more about. Plus, it might be fun to do time travel way, way back in time such as during the Crusades, or during the expansion of the Roman Republic.

Upcoming Reviews

I still owe you a review on Poison Priestess. I spent last weekend sick and totally offline. Was I that sick? No, but I did get a book in the mail, which I immediately read. I still get some publisher review copies, and I still read a few of them, and try to get reviews written when I do. However–and I want to stress this–I am no longer actively book reviewing, and I no longer respond to review requests. There are a few publicists out there who have my address, and with whom I have longstanding relationships. If they still want to send me books, then I really cannot stop them. I review very few of them, but I’l review this one.

Upcoming Time Trip

I wrote another time trip post. As soon as I put some images on it, I’ll schedule it for later in the week. I also have some cool things from my mom’s move that I want to blog about, including my Dad’s old slide rule. I’ve been trying to figure out how to use it, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do anything on it other than multiplication and square roots. Unless I want to re-learn logarithms. Anyway, that’ll be a fun post to write. This week’s post is about something else.

(As an aside, I should invent some kind of graphic for my Time Trip posts.)

Missed Post

I knew it. I should have scheduled my latest Time Trip post on Sunday. Because I sure as HECK did not have time to get it posted on any night this week. However, I CARVED some time out of my schedule for “just me” time tonight, so I shall schedule it now, to post at, say, 10:00 tomorrow morning.

(My first impulse was to pull it till next week, because I didn’t think Fridays were so good to post on, but my inexplicable spike in traffic last week started on a Friday, so what do I know?)

In other news, I downloaded a borderless map of Europe, and divided it into three large kingdoms. Now, why would I do such a thing? Just a tad bit of worldbuilding for a potential alternate history fantasy that’s in its very early preliminary idea stage.

Too many ideas … not enough time!

Time Trip – Fill ‘er Up!

I am old enough to remember gas station attendants. Barely.

mobil4Here’s the procedure for getting gas during the 70s, as I recall it:

  • Pull up to the pump.
  • Wait.
  • Boy (always a boy) comes up wearing a shirt and pants of a particular shade of blue. He smells of fuel. On the chest of the shirt is an oval tag with his name stitched on. A simple, short name, such as “Bob,” “John” or “Mike”.
  • After some sort of polite greeting, he asks, “regular or unleaded?”
  • You reply, “Fill ‘er up with regular.” (or unleaded, but not common until the 80s)
  • The kid activates the pump, sticks the hose in your car, pulls the lever, and locks it in place.
  • You watch the dials spin. The dial that indicates the number of gallons just whizzes by, while the dial that indicates the amount of dollars performs a slow crawl You know–the opposite of today.
  • While the gas is filling up, the boy cleans your windshield. You watch the squeegee swipe the splatted bugs away. The smell of gasoline drifts in the open windows, because you have no AC.
  • Something clunks. The kid takes the hose out–dumping fuel everywhere and dousing down the side of your car–and hangs it back up on the side of the pump.
  • He gives you some dollar figure that now seems improbable, like, “Three-fifty-five, sir.”
  • You hand cash out the window. This amount includes the tip. You say, “Keep the change.” If you need change, it’ll be a while.
  • He thanks you and tells you to have a nice day.
  • You drive off.

In the 80s, the concept of the self-service gas station arose. There were different lanes for self-service and full service. Full service seemed to be a way to screw over old ladies, like my aunt, who was daunted at the idea of pumping her own gas and always paid extra for full service.

But eventually, even full-service went the way of the gravity-operated gas pump.

Advantages over Modern Tech

This is easy–the service. Getting gas was a leisurely activity, during which you just sat there. Disadvantage? These gas stations weren’t a good place to grab a snack. The tiny room that housed the cash register only seemed to sell automotive things like cans of oil and windshield-wipers. And maybe cigarettes. They were not places where women–or girls–ever ventured (unless maybe, you smoked). Cold drinks were sold out of vending machines outside. Oh, and you could get gumballs. Eventually, they started advertising snacks for sale inside, which morphed into the modern convenience store.


I came up with the idea for these Time Trips while writing my time travel novel, HIGHWAY TO YESTERDAY. For all the Time Trip posts I’ve written so far, click here.

Offline Update, Upcoming Stuff, and a Traffic Spike

My life calmed down some this week. I work in the health care payments industry, and we had a product launch a few weeks ago, and I worked an unusual number of hours during those weeks. In fact, I had some work I needed to get done Sunday afternoon. However, we are establishing a schedule that should reduce the number of times I have to scramble to get requirements written so the developers will know what to develop when the next sprint starts.


When I was dreaming up my Time Trips posts, I write three of them in order to establish the habit and to prove to myself it was something that I could stick to. In the past, I have gotten all fired up by new ideas, written half a post, and then it languished there in my drafts folder as other things bubbled up in priority. So I will post that last post this week, and I have two more in the hopper. One is from the box of stuff that I brought home from my mom’s.


I’ve written a new scene to open my time travel novel. I’ll post it later this week, after I get some feedback for it. I’ve also renamed the novel to better reflect the road-trip aspect of the story. So I’ll need to update the excerpt and change the title everywhere on this site, which sounds like a Saturday chore to me.


I had a traffic spike this past week, where Facebook all of a sudden sent a bunch of links to either my home page, or my Infographics page. I have never before had 600 hits in one day, but it happened on Thursday. At first I thought my Time Trip post was the source, but no, they split almost evenly between the homepage and the parent infographic page.

I am perplexed, but hey! I’ll take it. If you’re new here, welcome!

Time Trip – Home Entertainment Back In the Day

When one mentions “home entertainment”, they often think of electronics. But when I was a child, there was more to it than that. When you really only have 4 TV channels, there isn’t always something on TV that will satisfy the diverse interests of a large family. On such occasions, Mom would troop us all into the living room to do something else. Like what? Here are some things that stand out:

Board Games

Monopoly was a big favorite, as it continues to be today. We also wore out our Parcheesi game, The Game of Life, and Clue. In a family of five children, sometimes the games ended with ugly fights, but most of the time, the games went on for hours before a winner was determined–especially Monopoly.

In the early 80s, Trivial Pursuit became a brief favorite. However, when my Dad won every game, time and again, the rest of us lost interest.


I hated playing cards growing up, so my mother sweetened the deal by issuing M&Ms in order to bet. It taught us to carefully husband our quantity rather than gulping them all down. We played Crazy Eights, Spoons, and other kid-friendly games with names that I no longer recall. Again, these games often went on long after our usual bedtimes.


Mom would get a 1000 piece puzzle and work on it in the evenings. She kept it on the dining room table under the table pads (I don’t know what to call them–they covered the whole table). We’d work on them night after night.

Hide and Seek

This was a favorite while there were still young children in our house, and we could slip into the smallest spaces. After a while, we just got too old to hide effectively. When before, we could squirm under the bed, after a point, there was a danger of getting stuck, even if you were skinny. And suddenly you realized just how dusty it was under there.


My Dad had a telescope that was old even when I was a child, and on autumn and spring nights, when it was clear, we would often go stargazing in the front yard. We never did this in the summer because the air was thick with mosquitoes.

I remember one time, when I was very young, Dad was excited because there was an eclipse of the moon. Thankfully, it was a clear night. However, I was terrified. The thought of something different happening to the moon was totally out of my realm of experience, and scared me enough to get me crying. However, Dad persevered and got me to look through the viewfinder. At which time, I was so relieved to see the moon that I stopped crying immediately, and didn’t even notice it’s odd color.

Home Movie and Slide Shows

My Dad was an amateur photographer and had an 8mm movie camera and projector, and a 35mm camera. While they were functional (5 kids are hard on things like that), he filmed and photographed us at every occasion and once a year or so, we’d have movie night. I thought of this because I recently toted home all the slides and movies, along with the old movie projector and slide projector. I actually have a projector screen, so we’ll be able to have movie night here as well, once nice dark night in late fall or winter.

Since all this tech is so old, I’ll be sure to have a fire extinguisher handy that is safe to use on electrical fires. (Just kidding–I hope.)

Electronic Games?

We didn’t have any electronic games in the 70s. Richer kids might have, but no one that I ever heard of had one until the 80s. We ended up reading a lot of books. I was a reluctant reader, but was still reading novels regularly by age 11.

Advantages over Modern Tech

I can’t think of any. Why? Because you can still do all of the above today. Home movies and slides are now reborn in the digital sense, and you can easily play both on your TV. It’s hard to see the advantage of the old tech, except maybe in atmosphere. There’s nothing like the smell of an old slide projector burning … something. Dust, I hope. Along with popcorn, it somehow adds to the experience.

When you were growing up, what did you family like to do on a boring Saturday night?


I came up with the idea for these Time Trips while writing my time travel novel, HIGHWAY TO YESTERDAY. For all the Time Trip posts I’ve written so far, click here.

A Trip, Recent Writings, and Upcoming

Life is just so busy. I haven’t been posting lately because I usually use Sunday afternoons to prepare my posts for the week (all two of them, on a good week), and lately I’ve had to use that time to put in some extra hours at work. Hopefully, that’s all finished for now, but this weekend I went to my Mom’s to help her move her things into her new apartment.

I also toted home a LOT of what my sister calls the “historical items”. This includes the home movies and projector that I wrote about a while back. My Mom pointed out that I now have the paperwork for five dead people. This covers at least 3 generations, and includes ancestors born during the 1880s. Among those items are some old ration cards and a stamp album. So I can foresee some interesting posts coming up.


I tentatively renamed my time travel novel as HIGHWAY TO YESTERDAY (“HTY”)  to better emphasize the fact that much of it consists of road trips. I’ve been working on the second book, plus I’ve been doing some world-building for an epic fantasy that I may or may not get serious about. I need to write some more pilot scenes with the main characters to see how well we click. So far, I like the main character, but am seriously considering making her a supporting character and putting the main focus on a man, instead. And when I seriously consider things like this, in means I’m going to do them. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in HTY, it’s to go with my instincts when I think of things like this. When I resist, the story suffers.


I owe you a Time Trip post. This week’s going to complement the last post on old-style television. Plus, I have finished POISON PRIESTESS and want to get a review written, but that probably won’t happen till next week.