Category Archives: Misc

GEnie Nondisclosure Agreement from 1991

GEnie was an text-based online server owned by General Electric. I recently found the nondisclosure agreement I signed to become an assistant at the Tandy RoundTable. I was COCO-SYSOP there until the service shut down in 1999. Apparently GEnie (which became Genie by then) was not Y2K compliant… Enjoy!


                           Non-Disclosure Agreement


Between:

Allen C. Huffman           Effective Date: March 15th, 1991
xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Lufkin, Texas 75901

(hereinafter referred to as "Assistant SysOp" or "Assistant"),

And: General Electric Company, a New York corporation, acting through its GE
Information Services Division, (hereinafter referred to as "GE"), 401 N.
Washington Street, Rockville, Maryland 20850.

WHEREAS, GE operates remote access computer systems through which it offers
various network-based information services, both directly and through
distributors;

WHEREAS, one of the services which GE offers by such means is a consumer
information service known as GEnie Service (hereinafter referred to as "the
Service");

NOW, THEREFORE, GE and Assistant SysOp hereby agree as follows:

A:  Either GE or Assistant SysOp may disclose to the other certain
information which the disclosing party deems to be confidential and
proprietary ("Information").  Such Information shall be clearly and
conspicuously marked as confidential and proprietary at the time of first
disclosure to the receiving party.  Such Information would include, but is
not limited to, documentation related to the  Product and the Service and
business information of GE or Assistant SysOp which is not generally
available to the public.

B:  The receiving party shall exercise reasonable care to prevent
disclosure of or use for any purpose unrelated  to use on the Service or to
the  evaluation of the Product for suitability on the Service, at any time
prior to the expiration of three (3) years following the termination of this
Non-Disclosure Agreement, of any Information which it receives from the
other party pursuant to and in accordance with the terms of this
Non-Disclosure Agreement.  The receiving party shall also require its
employees and agents to similarly restrict use and disclosure of such
Information.  The receiving party, however, shall not be required to keep
confidential any Information which is or may become publicly available
without fault on its part; is already in the receiving party's possession
prior to receipt from the disclosing party; is independently developed by
the receiving party; is disclosed by the disclosing party to third parties
without similar restrictions; or is rightfully obtained by the receiving
party from third parties without restriction.

GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY

   By: __________________________     By: __________________________
       Robert Chiappone                   Allen C. Huffman

Title: Manager, Product Marketing  Title: Tandy RT SysOp
       GEnie
 Date: __________________________   Date: __________________________

                                        GEnie User Number: _____________

                                        RT, Game or Product: ___________

BEAMSCAPE – A game of flashlight tag

NOTE: This document is from 1985. It was the “official” instructions for a nighttime game of tag we played when I lived in Broaddus, Texas. I recently found it on some old Deskmate disks and thought it was fun enough to share… If you decide to play, let me know how you like it! We had a blast.


BEAMSCAPE – Official Rules

You quickly dash around a corner in an effort to evade your pursuer. You press yourself against the wall, hoping you won’t be sighted. Your heart pounds as you hear the sound of running feet. Suddenly, you are engulfed in a bright light. You have been spotted. You start to run, but there is nowhere to hide. A loud voice yells out:

“One one-thousand! Two one-thousand! Three…”

Welcome to BeamScape! BeamScape is the classic game of hide-and-seek with a new twist. First, it is played at night with the aid of flashlights. Secondly, the light used by the Beamer (the person who is “it”) can be used to tag out other players.

BeamScape is more like a cross between tag and military wargames. The many strategies used in playing make it a fun and exciting “sport.”

GENERAL INFORMATION

In order to play BeamScape, you will need a high-powered flashlight such as the Mag-Light, which uses a Krypton bulb and can be adjusted to a small beam. The official number of players is five, although any number of three or more can play. The more, the better!

GAME RULES

Most of the rules of BeamScape are similar to those of hide-and-seek. The person who is it, called the “Beamer,” starts counting while the players, known as “Runners,” go hide. After counting to a preselected number, which will vary depending upon the playing area, the Beamer then begins his persuit.

In order to get someone, the Beamer must either touch them, or catch them in the light. If the Beamer gets the light on a Runner, he must keep it on them for five seconds while couting “One one-thousand, two one-thousand,” and so forth up to five. If the runner gets out of the light in that time, counting must begin again at one. Once a Runner has been “tagged,” he becomes a Helper and is alowed to aid others in getting to the base. A helper cannot, however, purposely get in the way of the Beamer’s light to help a Runner get away.

Any runner who safely reaches base must remain there until the next round. A round begins after everyone has either reached base, or gotten caught. If all the Runners safely reach base, the game starts again with the same Beamer. If one or more Runners get caught, the last one tagged becomes the new Beamer for the next round.

Because this game is played at night without light, optional rules may allow every Runner to carry a small penlight to help them see. A regular sized flashlight should not be used since it’s light could confuse other Runners.

PLAYING AREA

The game field for BeamScape may be anywhere. Good locations are places where there are lots of obstacles, such as storage buildings and trees. Before playing, though, be sure that the area is clear of any dangerous locations, and that it is not in an area that might cause trouble with non-players. (It is quite suspicious to see many people running around an area at night with flashligts, so if you are playing on someones private property, be sure to let the owner know what is going on!)

Also, be sure to have all the boundries decided upon before playing and make sure the rules are clear to all players to help prevent any arguments caused by misunderstanding.

FINAL NOTES

The version of BeamScape which is presented here is a simple form designed to be played by many. A higher and more high-tech game may have options like two-way communicators with all the Runners, but not the Beamer. In fact, the rules of BeamScape were meant to set the basis for many different variations depending on the abilities of the players, so feel free to incorporate “home rules” to enhance the fun on BeamScape.

End of File – Allen C. Huffman

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is 42 years old?

I just heard that the late Douglas AdamsHitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio play is turning 42 years old this year! According to the always-accurate Wikipedia, it was first broadcast on March 8, 1978.

I did not learn about Hitchhiker’s Guide until a few years later.

I was reading the TV Guide and saw a listing for something called “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” on PBS channel 8 in Houston, Texas. I watched it, and learned it was a British sci-fi comedy series with production quality (ahem) similar to Doctor Who. PBS had introduced me to Tom Baker‘s Doctor years earlier.

The next day, in (I think) my 7th grade English class, I quoted one of the lines from the TV series. A boy sitting in front of me turned around and said something like “you saw that too?” That boy was Jimmy, and at that point the direction of my life changed forever.

If memory is correct, Jimmy loaned me his Hitchhikers’ book. Little did I know the impact that being introduced to the humor of Douglas Adams would have on me. I was an instant fan.

Jimmy and I became friends, and he introduced me to computers and BASIC programming. (Though the first time I ever “saw” a computer in someone’s home was in 1979 or 80, when I lived in Dallas, Texas, and my next door neighbor had a TI-99 because him mom worked for Texas Instruments. But I digress.)

We’d go down to the local Radio Shack and type in programs on their TRS-80 Model 3. I’d been inside Radio Shacks many times with my dad during the 1970s, but this is what got me going there on my own.

Being exposed to computers is what led me to getting my first home computer, a Commodore VIC-20.

Being exposed to Radio Shack (I would hang out there any time my grandmother took me shopping near one) is what led me to get rid of my VIC-20 and get my first TRS-80 Color Computer.

Getting my first “CoCo” led me to getting a second one, and a third, and then starting my first software company, Sub-Etha Software.

Starting that company got me to go to my first CoCoFest in Atlanta in 1990.

Going to that CoCoFest where so many people asked “does it run under OS-9” got me to learn the OS-9 operating system.

Learning the OS-9 operating system is what led me to getting my first “real” job at Microware in Des Moines, Iowa.

And so on…

If it had not been for seeing that listing in TV Guide, and then quoting a line from it that was head by Jimmy, I think I would have had a far different life.

Thank you, TV Guide, for introducing me to the Hitchhiker’s TV show. And thank you, Jimmy, for introducing me to Douglas Adams, computers, and phone phreaking.

And happy birthday, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy! I’ve listened to your radio shows, read your books, played your computer game, watched your movie, and look forward to seeing what HULU does with you in their new 2021 TV series.

Don’t panic!

Star Laser Force laser tag in Houston

Anyone remember it?

https://arcadepreservation.fandom.com/wiki/Star_Laser_Force

Originally thought to have been the first laser tag arena, these days I believe we consider it the third.

Here are some memories from one of the players:

I post this now because I’d like to reach more folks who remember it. Maybe we can draw out details of the arena and fill in some missing memories.

Until then…

Life without the Cloud

Since this past summer, I have been without home internet. I previously went without phone and home internet for quite some time before, so it’s not nearly as shocking this time around.

It does make me realize how cloud dependent computing has become. Computers, in general, are far less useful without an internet connection. Today, so much syncing takes place automatically — online backups, Dropbox file sharing, photos in the Cloud, etc. It’s weird using a computer that doesn’t “magically’ have everything available that is available to my other devices.

Still, even when I had home internet, I still spent about 95% of time time on my iPad rather than the computers I have. I seem to only use them for heavy lifting these days, such as video or audio editing, website maintenance, and photo galleries.

How productive do you think you could be without internet access on your computer?

In other news, I have 28 draft articles going back to 2017 waiting for me to have time to complete them and post them here. Without internet, at least I have an excuse for not getting them done currently ;-)

Yo ho, yo ho, a (video) pirate’s life for me…

The following is a reprint of an article I originally wrote around November 11, 2002 at 4:17:20 a.m. CST. Apparently.

From: Allen Huffman

Date: November 11, 2002 4:17:20 AM CST

Subject: Yo ho, yo ho, a (video) pirate’s life for me…

The 1990s.  You remember them, don’t you?  It was a time of amazing things such as the mainstream birth of “alternative” music. Records were being phased out with CDs in long boxes taking over. You remember long boxes, don’t you?  Blockbuster Video was gearing up to be the first movie rental store that would never be missing a title you wanted thanks to VideoCDs.  You remember VideoCDs, don’t you?

Ah yes, VideoCDs. If you are in Asia, you probably know exactly what a VideoCD is.  You may even have a collection of all the latest blockbuster movies in this format. But if you live in America, you may have only heard of VCDs from spam junk mail offering software to let you copy any DVD down to a CD.  A movie on a CD?  It’s true, honest, even if the spam offer isn’t.  Thanks to video piracy, a whole new generation is discovering the video format that could have (and probably should have) changed the way we watch movies.

Imagine this.  It’s the 1990s, and LPs have given way to a new digital format for audio: the CD.  A tiny disc is capable of storing an hour or more of excellent quality audio without any scratches, pops, wow or flutter. Die hard audio enthusiasts are about the only people not embracing this new format. Soon the expression “you sound like a broken record” is meaningless to an entire generation raised on digital audio.  Soon this technology was being applied to computers, allowing you to store entire encyclopedias on one disc!  Amazing. And, of course, we understood this was a read only format.  Writing your own CD was total fantasy. And besides, who in the world had 600 megabytes of stuff to store on one? Hard drives weren’t even that big yet!

Speaking of… Early multimedia computers were hardly impressive. One early attempt to bring multimedia to the masses was a machine made by Phillips called CD-i which stood for Compact Disc Interactive. Just as the audio CD had a standard (“red book”), so did CD-i.  The goal was to create a line of players that allowed you to insert a disc that contained multimedia — without needing a computer. The CD-i player shipped with an encyclopedia, and many games were available.  A player was about $1000 at first, and that still made it far cheaper than a home computer with CD multimedia support.  Sadly, CD-i never took off.  No one wanted a stand alone box to play games on CDs with. Imagine that.

Anyway, one of the CD-i standards is still found today — the Kodak Picture CD (back then under a slightly different name).  You could take a roll of film in for developing and get back a CD containing high resolution scans of your pictures. Over a decade later, this idea is actually starting to take off even though low cost digital cameras and scanners have greatly reduced market potential. But Picture CD not the important format — the important one was VideoCD: the VHS killer.

VideoCD would require a special hardware cartridge to be plugged in to the CD-i player.  This hardware allowed you to play up to 70 minutes of VHS-quality video from a standard CD.  (The cartridge handled something known as MPEG-1 video. Today almost everyone has heard of MPEG formats such as MP3s as well as DVD which uses MPEG-2.)  In a way, VideoCD is the father of DVD.  The DVD disc you see today has over 4 gigabytes of MPEG-2 video, while a VideoCD movie usually shipped on two discs with each holding up to 70 minutes of MPEG-1. But I digress.

A small selection of movies was available in VideoCD format in America.  Even as recently as 1996 you could still buy movies on VideoCD at Best Buy (as well as CD-i titles) but today the format is almost completely forgotten in America.  Why?  Because the thought of playing a movie on a CD was just silly.  Who wants that?  Ironically, a decade later a much more expensive technology (with “much better” rather than just “same or better” quality as VHS) did win the hearts of millions as DVDs became the fastest growing standard ever.  (Happy 5th birthday, DVD format!)

So was VideoCD just too early?  I think so.  Why did you mention Blockbuster at the start of this musing?  I was just about to get to that. Here is the part that makes me sad, folks. We lost out, big time, by VCD not taking off in America.  If consumers had embraced the format, we could have seen dedicated VCD players in the sub-$100 format long before low grade VCRs (with many more moving parts) ever made it there. Movies would have had instant access like an audio CD, and would never degrade.  And, here’s the fun part, companies like Blockbuster were talking about adding a satellite receiver to let them download and write (today we call it “burning”) your favorite movie to a VideoCD so you could rent any title you want. (Note: Later Blockbuster did experiment with making rental video games on programmable cartridges available this way.)

Long before the thought of high speed broadband internet access (and downloading illegal copies of the latest theatrical release) was even imagined, the rental industry had already found a way to embrace a new technology and make money off of it.  It was perfect.  Better than VHS quality, never needed cleaning, cheaper players (eventually) and movies that would cost less to produce than VHS (just look at the price of a blank CD today versus even the cheapest blank video tapes).  A missed opportunity.

So here I sit, wading through tons of junk mail and always finding an offer to “copy any DVD to CD” somewhere in the stack. The pirates have discovered a way to use something everyone else has forgotten. It seems it always works this way. After all, it was the pornography industry that had the most to do with the success of VHS in the first place, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

The next time you sit down to enjoy the latest blockbuster movie on DVD, pause for a moment as you realize you could have been doing this a decade ago. The next time you go to rent your favorite title and it’s out of stock, think about the video store that could have been if only CD writers had existed and pirates were making use of the them to make the format popular…

Speaking of popular, you realize that CDs are now older than most cars, right? Twenty years is a very long time for any technology, so soon, when talking about how you used to rip tunes from CD, you may find yourself asking:

“You remember CDs, don’t you?”

RadioShack is back!

Have you checked the RadioShack store locator page lately? I did, last week, and instead of just finding three dealer stores in my state (none within an hour), I was surprised to see on in nearby Ankeny, Iowa. It was in some place called HobbyTown.

Somehow I missed the announcement that the Shack posted to their Facebook page back in July. Indeed, they now have a store-within-a-store at some HobbyTown locations.

I went to visit this location, and thought I’d share a trip report.

HobbyTown… Remote controlled cars, model rockets, and … RadoShack Express!
Yes, Virginia. There IS a RadioShack inside.
They only have the electronics parts, all displayed on the wall. No answering machines, video cables, or cell phones.
Even perfboards! This IS your father’s RadioShack! Except it’s still missing the space between the words :(

There was also another small glass cabinet nearby with a few other parts, and at the front checkout counter they had RadioShack brand batteries and such.

I have been working on some projects for Halloween, and found several items that I could put to use. I picked up a 12V buzzer, some 12V lights, some button switches, and some wire nuts. (Yeah, I know I could buy a whole bag of industrial wire nuts at the hardware store for just a bit more, but I only needed a few and “it was just a few bucks.”)

My bounty from my first trip to a RadioShack Express. They even use the old RS catalog numbers (after the RSH).

Leave a comment if you have a RadioShack near you.

Mandela Effect and Wayne’s World

I’m placing this here for searching engine visibility…

Mandela Effect amuses me because there was one that impacted me, involving a painting I remember seeing in the past twenty years, which does not exist. I have a plausible theory to explain that one, though.

Tonight, I saw Wayne’s World at a local theater. Two things stood out at me:

  1. During the first Wayne’s World segment, they bring on a guy who invented a Flowbee parody called the Suck Cut. I had remembered it being called the Suck ‘n Cut, but since I haven’t seen the movie since it first came out, I guess I just made the actual name more complicated and less like what it was a parody off. Flowbee, Suckcut. Not sure why I remembered it with extra stuff added.
  2. During the guitar store scene, Wayne picks up a guitar and starts to play the intro to Stairway to Heaven. I was very familiar with this song because I worked in a music store that sold guitars at the time of the movie’s release. But what he plays was not at all Stairway. But the joke was still there.

Well, number two is a licensing thing. I found an article explaining that only the original theatrical print had him playing a few notes from Stairway, and all subsequent releases from VHS on had those notes changed.

I am wondering if number one was something similar. I do find references on the internet to folks calling it “Suck ‘n Cut” as well, but the clips are Suck Cut. Mandela Effecters call this residual effect.

I think I just misremembered. It’s just rough to suddenly realize you have been wrong for a quarter of a century and no one corrected you :)

Jolt Cola is back!

The legendary soda with “all the sugar, and twice the caffeine” is back! The soda, which first became available in 1985, went off the market around 2009. By that time, it had evolved away from the original cola, and was being sold as an energy drink in large cans that resembled AA batteries.

You can currently only find Jolt Cola at Dollar General Stores, or on Amazon. At Dollar General, it will be in the “valley of values” aisle, rather than with the other sodas or energy drinks. The best part is, the price for the larger 16 ounce cans is just $1. You can find out if your local Dollar General has them by visiting the map at:

Http://www.joltcola.com

On Amazon, you will be paying around $3 a can, shipped right to your doorstep.

Exciting news for 2018! More details later…