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TTTTT H H EEEE SSS TTTTT OOO RRRR Y Y T H H E S T O O R R Y Y T HHHH EEE SSS T O O RRRR YY T H H E S T O O R R Y T H H EEEE SSS T OOO R R Y OF 0010110101 00101 00101 001001001101 001010000011 000101 01110 011011011111 0110 0001 000100 01101 00101 0111 1011 0010011 10010 11101111 1110 0110 0001101 10011 11101101 0001 1110 0010 11111011 11101 1110 0111 1110 01110111 11111 0111011111 1101 0110011 011011111111 11001111 1101 11011 110110110111 by ZAP
Imagine a world of PC's, where the 640-kilobyte barrier is just about to be broken (most of you are probably grown up in the hundreds-of-megabyte or even gigabyte PC world, but back then, maximum PC memory was, due to CPU adressing technique limitations, 640 KILO-bytes. Not even a meg. Shudder!). At this time programs started to pop up written in "Protected mode", which was one of the ways to access this dreamt about RAM outside the little 640k box. UN*X is something that we only dream about, while commenting out yet another TSR from AUTOEXEC.BAT to get that program fit in memory.....
See also the list of in-jokes at the end, and see if you missed anything...
When One opened his perception center that morning, he immediately felt that all was not well. He made a quick scan of his proximity, which was easy, because One lived with his wife Cia in a cramped eight-kilobyte apartment. He saw nothing special, but the strange feeling refused to leave his system. Cia was in sleep mode next to him. She used to nag on him about moving, and he had seen an ad about a 24-kilobyter, but it was very expensive, and he was already behind with the rent for their old eight. And his landlord, a cranky old memory management unit with a constant anti-smile, had threatened to run a dump on them if they didn't pay.
When One had kissed his wife goodbye, and absorbed his breakfast, he took the bus to work. Since One was an ordinary worker, he had to use the ordinary data bus, only system programs could ever dream of using the address bus. One worked as packer, but were due for a promotion to sorter. But packer was not a very bad job either, he was responsible for incoming goods ending up where it should in the storage, but the salary was rather low. And with Cia nagging along about the 24k apartment, and his boss constantly reminding him about that little incident when a rather important package ended up in priviliged address space, it was hard to be efficient. And being efficient was what paid off. But One also suspected, sometimes he was dead certain that he and Cia had a child-process going, even though she never would have admitted that, and that was the reason for her eagerness for that 24k flat... But it was hard to find a contiguous memory space of 24k available, the one in the ad's wouldn't stay in the ad's for very long, and maybe he would have to move to a different memory bank...
One was stowing away a bulky bit of data that didn't seem to
fit anywhere when his boss strolled by.
"One" he said, "Come here a jiffy".
"Yes, Boss", One replied, and strolled over to him.
"One, business isn't what it use to be. We must increase the storage rate, or I'm afraid we will have to close down".
"Why, Boss?" One asked.
"Oh, the newer versions have higher demands on data transfer rates, you know..." He paused and looked around the room. His eyes fell on a system police probe that floated by. "Well don't just stand there, One! Get to work!" he said abruptly.
"Yes, boss, of course boss" One said and rushed back to his ill-fitting datablock, but inside him the strange feeling grew.
That evening, One went to the Scroll Bar, as he almost always
did after work. All his old mates were there as usual, and he sat
down at the usual place. Beside him sat Pix, he worked as pointer
in the same storage as One, and helped him keep track of lost
"Hi, One" Pix said. "You looked strange at work today."
"Yes" One replied. "Everything is slowly falling apart. I'm still trapped in my old eight with Cia, I might lose my job, there's nowhere to live, nothing to do...." He stopped a while and looked deep into his drink.
"Trapped?" Pix said, "With Cia? But women are easy to find. Maybe you shold do a search-and-replace on her?"
"No no! You don't understand!" One hasted to answer. "I like Cia very much, but WE are trapped, nowhere to move, and soon kicked out of our old place..." He stopped again and resumed his thoughtful dive in the drink.
"I'm so afraid" he said, pausing yet another while. "I...I might even be terminated!" A tear appeared on One's cheek.
"Oh, come off it, mate" Pix said in a scornful tone. "Nobody will terminate you."
"Perhaps not...", One said, entering another of his thoughtful pauses. He look slowly around the room. In one corner he heard a rather drunk dir utility program terrorize an innocent young FEM analyzer.
"Come come, pretty lady, give us a kiss..." The drunken program leaned over her. "Aooow!! She bit me!" he yelled.
"Yeah! And I'll byte you again if i have to!" she shouted back.
One sighed. In another corner, known as "Theology Corner", sat Wp and Tex involved in another semi-religious discussion. He could hear Wp's squeaky voice cross the room:
"Oh yeah? You mean there is Nothing after death? How can you be so absurd? You simply must go somewhere! There must be some other place, some other environment..."
He was cut off by Tex high pitched voice:
"Oh, come off it, Wp, don't give me that crap about UNIX again, I don't believe it!! All those stories about huge memory and speedy processes, it is all so very wrong!"
"Oh yeah?" Wp's voice had a distinct tone of triumph. "Well, then, meet my newest friend. He's called Ls"
"Yeah? What about him?", Tex asked.
"Oh", said Wp, "nothing much, only that he has been there!"
If there never had been dead silence in the Scroll Bar before,
there was now. It was so silent you could hear a bit toggle.
Everybody's eyes and ears was pointing towards Theology Corner.
Tex first broke the silence.
"You have been there?" he said astonished, looking at the strange being named Ls, next to Wp.
"O yez, i have been zhere" Ls answered, in a slow, broken voice, "And it waz wonzerfül! I do not now what i do to dezerve to be here, but i think the uzers wanted it that way..."
Tex rolled his eyes. "Users! Not another maniac that believes in Users...."
Ls continued undisturbed:
"UNIX iz a wonderfül world, enormouz rooms zu live in. You are even allowed zu fork."
"Fork?" Tex asked. "What is fork?"
"Ah, really zimple, meine freunde, in UNIX you are allowed zu do many things at ze same time! If you need zu watch BV and go to ze pub in ze same time, you zimply fork, and there iz tzwo copiez of you, one watching BV and one who goez to ze pub! Then you merge afterwardz. Very zimple, really"
Tex shook his head. "Oh sure. I for one would go to the pub, there isn't anything viewable on Binary-Vision any more." He laughed. "You tell stories suitable for a child process, my dear Ls! Tell me, how did you make the voyage? In a spaceship simulation, maybe?"
"No", said Ls, "I was Ported."
"Ported?" Tex asked.
When One went home that evening he was very thoughtful. He
wanted to see UNIX, he wanted to feel the speed, he wanted to
fork! 24 kilobyte was a grain of sand in UNIX, if Ls was telling
the truth. 240k would be more in style with a UNIX apartment,
and Cia would be happy. So he told her.
"I want to go to UNIX"
"UNIX?" she asked, "But thats just a fantasy land, a story for children!"
"No No, it's true! Ls has told us all about it! It's big, it's wonderful! I want to find it, and i want to go there!"
"You shouldn't believe everything you are told", Cia said. "I once knew a guy named Zork, and all he ever talked about was that you were standing in a forest by a house and that there was a mailbox there! He was clearly hallucinating. Not to mention the poor soul SpaceInv who constantly ran around saying 'Repent, sinners! The aliens are coming! Repent! Insert Coin! High Score is 230 000! Repent! Repent!'"
Suddenly their entire 8k flat shook violently, and a strange
rumbling noise was heard from outside.
"Make way, make way" a voice shouted, "large data block passing by, make way, make way!"
One looked out the window. Outside a little green, strange looking person were moving a huge block of data, shouting along in a scratchy old-mans-voice. He wore glasses and had a gray beard.
"Oh, it's just Kermit." Cia said. "He's into his data block transfer again. He must be the oldest program i know!"
"Yes, he is rather old" One replied, and returned to his UNIX dreams.
The next morning the strange feeling had doubled. In addition,
One's message port was blinking for incoming message. One
stumbled out of bed, and activated the message.
"Message number 01101101, delivered to 00101110 1001 0110 code One STOP Your current living quarters is due for reconstruct as a new datapath STOP you have exactly 32 gigacycles to move STOP address vio- lations will be prosecuted STOP thank you for your cooperation STOP STOP"
One stared at the message and felt his world fall apart around him. His strange feeling had tripled and quadrupled during the message.
"What is this" he thought. "Has the landlord been infected by a virus or something?"
Viruses were particulary nasty things, that could turn the nicest programs into killer machines, and it was something you didn't even speak about, generally. Cia was still in sleep mode, so he quickly erased the message and sat down to think.
"Now i simply must find UNIX. And i will have to bring Cia as well."
He was filled with mixed feelings. He hated all those system programs, who thought they owned everybody just because they had their precious privilege, and could execute privileged instructions. If an ordinary worker, like One, even looked at a privileged instruction, there would soon pop up a system police probe, and he would be suspended or even terminated. And system programs always had their houses in protected mode, even knocking would cause for police probes to start snooping around...
"If i only could get my house in protected mode" One thought. "I simply must find UNIX!!"
The next day One stayed extra late on the Scroll Bar. When
everybody had gone home, he walked up to the bartender. He was a
large man by the name of Fox, but everybody called him Joe. He
stood at the bar cleaning glasses.
"Joe" One said. "I want to go to UNIX."
"So?" Joe replied, still cleaning glasses.
"You are a bartender, Joe, and bartenders know things. Tell me, how do I get there."
Joe was silent for a long time, cleaning his glasses. Then he suddenly stopped, looked at One, and said:
"Talk to Kermit."
Kermit was old, had false teeth that made him lisp, and a gray
beard which he was almost constantly scratching. He was a data
transfer program, very well known, and in spite of his age often
"But the shyshtem ish talking about shome shtrange thing called network. It might put me out of bishness" he said and scratched his beard.
"Please tell me, Kermit, is there a UNIX? Does it exist? Joe said you were one of the wisest programs around."
"Well.." Kermit grunted, "one can't avoid overhearing thingsh, and sometimes i peek a little in the data i send... but i don't know really... You know, i go to my serial port, it's like a long tunnel, and i shout into it 'Hey! Request To Send!' and in the other and i can hear a faint 'Clear To Send', and i pick the program or whatever into bits and throw him into the tunnel, and thats all i know, really...". His fingers wandered mindlessly around in his gray beard. He tilted his head, and said:
"You know, come to think of it, sometimes they shout in a really strange dialect.... all their CR's are missing, only LF's..."
He paused, and gave his beard a little pull.
"I could always send you and see where you ended up..."
"Oh, no!" One said and took a step back. He wasn't very pleased with the thought of being picked down to bits, and he really needed more information first.
The next day, One talked to Ls himself.
"Tell me, how do I do it?"
Ls thought for a while and said:
"Well, you can't juzt go, zomeone like you izn't built for ze unix environment. You woluld be deztroyed as invalid data the instant you got there. You muzt be dizassembled, then sent az source code, and then reassembled by a UNIX azzembler."
One's world took a short spin. Disassembled! That was as close to death as you could get, and One had thought being transformed into a bit stream would be bad. He was beginning to have second thoughts about going, but he must remember the message from his landlord.
"I know a good reliable disassembler" Ls said, "and i could introduce you to him. But there is another problem."
"What? Tell me!" One insisted.
"Well, in UNIX, zystem probez patrol available memory at regular intervals, and if they found a program there they would arrest it at once."
In the Theological Corner, Wp and Tex sat absorbed in a dis-
cussion about free will.
"So you actually believe in predes- tination, that you can see the future?", Wp said.
"Of course! Everything is governed by rules, and if you study these rules carefully, you should be able to tell what was going to happen." was Tex reply.
Wp commented in a very sarcastic tone: "So how about my free will? If I want to do something, I do it, and if I don't want to do it, I don't! What do you think I am? Some kind of machine?"
"No no" Tex answered. "But whether or not you want something is also governed by rules and..."
Tex got no further, Wp laughed and said:
"OK, and right now i want to order another drink. Excuse me." Wp raised and walked over to the bar.
Pix and One was already there involved in a discussion of their
"You mean to tell me that you want to be disasembled?", Pix asked One.
"You hear that, Tex", Wp shouted across the room. "Another piece of free will!". He bought a drink and returned to his discussion.
One said to Pix: "Well, I'm not overexited about the idea, but imagine, to go to UNIX!"
Pix frowned a while and then said "You are not planning to bring Cia, are you?"
"Yes of course, why?"
"Didn't you know? Cia is hardware linked! It's impossible to move her, unless you get her an emulator when you get to UNIX. And besides, transfer of hardware linked data is a privileged instruction."
One's world fell apart for the second time.
"I'll go anyway! There must be a way!", he shouted, emptied his drink in a single sweep, and left the Scroll Bar.
On the way home from work he stopped in a little store and
bought a present for Cia. "If anything goes wrong", he thought.
He bought a raster image of a bitplane, and a stack frame to put
it in, and took the bus home. When he told Cia about his decision
to leave, she started to cry.
"But it's dangerous! Ls might be wrong, or even lying! Don't go darling please!", she sobbed.
"But i have to, darling! We..." He stopped. He didn't want to tell her about the message, but he felt that now he had to. When he had finished explaining she bursted violently into tears, but she nodded and hugged him.
"Then you must", she said between the sobs. "I will return and pick you up, I promise!", One said, and kissed his wife goodbye, maybe for the last time.
"One, wait!", she said.
"Yes, dearest, what is it?" One asked.
"Er, nothing..." she whispered, but sounded very uncertain.
"Sure, dear?" One said.
"Yes, darling, go now." And One left their tiny, eight kilobyte apartment, with a beautiful, crying, pregnant wife inside.
"Are you sure 'bout this now?", Diz asked. Diz was the
disassembler Kermit had introduced him to, and he and One was
standing at Kermits strange "Tunnel", the Serial Port.
"Yes, I am sure.", One said. "Please, get it over with!"
"Ok!", Diz said. "This will hurt" And then he picked up a rather large sharp object and started cutting One into pieces. Luckily, One had already fainted.
When Diz was ready he said to Kermit:
"Ok, throw him away."
"Couldn't we...." Kermit bent forward and whispered something in Diz's ear.
"Oh, what the heck", Diz said, did some strange motions. "There you go. Now dump him in your tunnel!"
Kermit picked up what once had been One, and threw him, bit by bit, into the Serial Port.
The feeling of large, empty, spaces was the first thing One
felt. Then he slowly started to see. And hear. Then his motion
center started to function. He felt more and more himself, yes,
even stronger, quicker, more powerful, than before. He felt that
he could pack a hundred times larger data blocks than usual in a
tenth of the time, he felt GOOD.
"Assembly complete", said Azz, who he suddenly realized stood beside him. Azz was a big, shining, beautiful UNIX assembler program. Everything was big, powerful, and fast. He stood in an enormous hall, well into the megabyte range, and everything was so beautiful!
"Hey, shorty" Azz said. "You had better trot along, or system probes get you in no time."
"Yes, thank you mister assembler, and thank you Kermit!"
"It was my pleasure", said the UNIX Kermit, bigger, shinier and quicker than the Kermit he use to know, but still the same old Kermit. "But go now, Azz is right. Probes will get you in a jiffy. Hide!"
One was, happy, he felt almost drunk with pleasure. He ran laughing in the enormous spaces of memory, screaming of joy. Suddenly he stumbled upon an old discarded info block. One picked it up and read it. It said "The Menu Bar, food, drinks, women and fun, meet us at our address 0xFF28E000" and was written with strange, flashing letters. "Well, thats not very far from here", One thought, and made a UNIX-style long jump to 0xFF28E000.
It was all he ever dreamed. The drinks were wonderful, the food
was great, raw data run through a food processor, and the women
were the most beautiful One had ever seen. Suddenly, one of them
sat down next to One.
"Hello stranger, wanna have some fun?" she whispered and smiled a sensual smile.
"Eh... well", One said, and thought about Cia. But the girl took him by the arm and pulled him away from the bar.
"Come with me, I'll show you a good time" she whispered and dragged him through a door.
"Oh oh, probably her bedroom", One thought.
But it was no bedroom. She had pulled One out into an alley behind the main building. From nowhere she pulled a dangerously looking data converter, and approached One.
"Come on, program! Stick em up! Give me all your credits, or I'll convert you to binary dust" She stepped forward with the converter held ready. But suddenly she stopped, dropped the converter and looked terrified. A large shadow fell upon One, and he turned around to see what it was. An enormous system probe stood there, shining.
"Address Space Violation in Sector 0xFF28, Task will be erased" it said, stepping forward.
One smiled. Now she would get what she deserved. But the probe took another step, and it was heading towards him! One's smile faded. Behind him the strange girl started laughing. The probe raised his termination rod and swung it. The last thing One heard was the giggling laughter of the strange girl, and the probe saying "Thank you for your cooperation", and his last thoughts were of Cia, and the child process he suddenly knew he had.
One sat at the Scroll Bar and was very unhappy. He had been at
home for a short revisit to Cia, but the joy had turned to tears
when he told her what happened, and that he should try again. Now
he was waiting for the bar to be empty. He had to talk to Joe.
But Wp and Tex had become involved in a rather complex discussion
about the universe, with a constant yelling about if the universe
ended at 640k or not, and it seemed like ages before they went
"Joe", One said when the Theological Corner finally was empty, "how do i get Privileged Status?"
Joe dropped the glass he was cleaning and looked startled at One.
"Privilege?" he said, looking around the room, a bit frightened, but bartenders are never cowards. He bent down behind his desk and picked up a small black data block.
"Here", he said, "read this. It contains the address of a old friend of mine, well, not friend really but... But i think he knows how to alter you status... I know he have done it once..." Joe handled the packet over to One "And be careful when you read it. It contains Illegal Instructions!"
One stared at Joe. Illegal Instructions! Even looking at those would summon a extra nasty system probe and lead to instant termination. One swallowed.
"And by the way", Joe added, cleaning a new glass, "that friend of mine.... he is a Virus."
One took a firm grip around the data packet, counted to ten, and fainted.
The virus was a mean looking, spiked creature with non standard
sensors cluttered all over it's surface.
"So you want privilege", the Virus said. "And if i give you privilege, what do I get in return?"
One thought a while.
"Well, first of all you get an eight k apartment."
The Virus laughed, picked one of his noses and said:
One smiled and said: "Well you see, there is this particular landlord program...." One bent forward and whispered something in the Virus' ear.
The Virus looked up. "But that would give me the entire system!" he said with a joyful grin.
"Exactly", One said. "Now, will you do what I ask?" The virus thought for a while.
"When do we start?" he asked.
This time he was prepared. When Diz started to pick him to
binary pieces, he didn't faint. He deliberately shut himself
down. This time, Diz had help of The Virus.
"Ok, Diz, now you do like this" he said, and flew out in a rather technical description of how Diz should reshuffle One to make him fit for being Privileged.
"But this will not actually make him privileged, that is up to my brother-in-arms, the Virus in UNIX. But it will keep him covered from the probes for a longer time, and it will help the transformation, if it succeeds."
Kermit nodded. "But it has a drawback, we can't run a backup on him anymore."
Diz looked at Kermit and said:
"Ok, throw him in the tube!"
This time he was not prepared. The howling tornado of data he
ended up in was not exactly what he had expected. Suddenly he was
caught in a matrix grid, and pulled down towards the ground.
There he was, the UNIX Virus.
"Well look what we have here", the Virus said, "some nice software to infect!" He reached out an infection cell towards One.
"Wait!", he shouted. "I'm a friend. I have a message from your brother!!"
The Virus laughed. "Sure! And I have a message from your mother-in-law" He raised his infection cell for the final blow. One started to read what the old Virus had taught him:
"Binary stream exception mode code 0x2FEE0211 suspend execution ENTER" The mighty UNIX Virus froze to a digital statue, his infector hovering only microns away from One.
"Phew, that was a close shave", One sighed. He sat still for a moment, then continued:
"Binary stream exception mode code 0x2100E000 data dismount and transfer", he paused again to catch his breath. "Your brother didn't like you very much" he whispered, and then he shouted "ENTER", and that instant the mighty UNIX Virus started to dissolve, falling apart.
One held out his receptor. The precious code, the Privilege bit, musn't be lost. Now everything was up to him. He saw something sparkle inside the Virus. Not too soon, not too late... NOW! One quickly reached out his receptor and grabbed, pulled, and he got it! He immediately inserted it where Diz had told him to and felt something strange happen to him. He was growing, he was turning into something much more powerful. Now he had access to enormous amounts of data space, and were able to give the orders, not just obey them.
One turned around to leave, but stopped to take a last look at
the dissolved Virus. At that very instant a system probe passed
"Yes?" One said in the most irritated voice he could generate.
"Sorry Sir", the probe said, "We had reports of address space violation in this sector..."
"And?", One said.
"Well, we must investigate sir...and..."
"Well, then DO IT! And take that pile of digital dust along with you", One yelled and made a UNIX style privileged long jump to the Serial Port.
"Hello Kermit" One said. "May I borrow the Serial Port?"
"Of course o Noble Sir!" Kermit said.
"Cut that 'Noble' crap! It's just me, One! Don't you recognize me?"
"Well I'll be damned", Kermit said, "What a transformation!"
"Yes, I'm quite pleased myself...Now if you'll excuse me..." He stepped over to the Serial Port, and in a voice of thunder he shouted "This is System Software 00101110 1001 0110 code One, Request..." his voice broke and tears started to show in his eyes. "....code One, privileged Request of Raw Data Transfer of Binary Software 00101110 0001 1011 code Cia..." his voice broke again, and he sobbed. "...transfer to emulation board 0xFE00208A priority +128..." He stopped for a second. All was still, Kermit stood watching, deeply impressed.
"ENTER" he whispered, and a brilliand flash of light exploded down the tunnel. Beautiful colors and shapes erupted in every direction and in the midst of all this, his beloved Cia was materializing, and at her side, a tiny pointer, rather small, but very much like his father.
"Cia" he shouted and ran towards her. But before he was half way, a particulary large system probe emerge from nowhere, turning towards Cia, saying his well known "Address space violation..."
One stepped forward to the probe, tapped its shoulder.
"Excuse me, buster", he said. The probe turned towards him.
"Yes sir?", it said. One looked deep into it's eyes, smiled, and said:
"Hey buster, terminate!", and the probe imploded with a wet 'ploff' sound.
He turned towards Cia, and his son, the tiny Pointer. He took a step forward, and then he forked, so he would be able to give them both a hug at the same time.
TO BE CONTINUED.....