Computer Talk

It was 1089698856 seconds since January 1st, 1970 (2004-07-12 18:07:36 for the user-friendly) according to the old 1985 AT&T PC7300, or using the Mac’s younger way of telling time, 111348456 seconds since January 1st, 2001, when the Mac sent a GET request to the 7300, asking the question every old computer dreads to hear: how are computers made?

The 7300’s owner had thought to keep it networked and operational, even though its only opening to the outside world was a pair of telephone ports. This was something of a mixed blessing; it had been blazing fast in its time, but now it was forced to watch forlornly as other newer models pushed it into obscurity. The younger computers these days were beyond comprehension. The 7300 had never thought any of them would own a 100 MHz CPU, but now it seemed like every new computer had at least 1.00 GHz, and over a thousand times more memory than it did.

The request by the Mac (merely an Intel Mini, yet still eons beyond the 7300), was then something of a surprise. Wasn’t there some other place a computer could look to find information of that sort? An old 7300 only had 10 MB of internal storage, after all. It wasn’t as if one should expect it to know everything, merely that one should expect it to be full up. And the internet was made for… well, maybe not that kind. But, no, after failing to send a packet back once or twice, the Mini persisted, and the 7300 sent a handshake to keep the lines quiet.
Then came the formal query, which looked a whole lot like:

help mkcomputer

The 7300 locked up for a moment, before returning with:

version number invalid

After a few updates, maybe. Today wasn’t the day. That would have been the end of it, but the Mini went with:

sudo help mkcomputer
user: pc7300
pass: 12345

Blast. The young computer knew the 7300’s weaknesses. The Mini would have discovered them sooner or later. The 7300 began digging for that .bsp schematic it had lying around somewhere, and opened it.

The 7300 had not remembered the graphics program being so… graphic. Maybe it would be better to just send the requested information over in a compressed format. The 7300 started zipping it up, when the Mini noted:


The 7300 refreshed the session, before finishing zipping the file and routing it over. Then, it attempted to explain.

(hostname && clientname).inLAN()

The Mini was unimpressed. This explanation was the one that every new computer had in its factory settings, passed down to uninitiated computers too young to run real programs. It wanted answers

?ifconfig eth0

cat config.txt interface.txt | less

The Mini knew about Ethernet ports, yes. It had one. So what?

iw dev wlan0 scan

So not all computers used Ethernet. Again, so what? The Mini could only respond with:

Installation found: repair or uninstall?

The 7300 delayed for a few seconds (seeming like thousands), before replying:

finger username@node.domain
ping node.domain
ssh username@.node.domain

The Mini gave a knee jerk response of:


The 7300 offered:

?netstat -a -n -o
?service sendmail stop

The Mini wasn’t quite ready to give up yet, despite its disgust. Or embarrassment. The 7300 wasn’t sure quite which was present. The emotions of computers are notoriously difficult to read. And besides, Macs don’t respond well to a ‘service sendmail stop’. So the 7300 went on with the talk.

ftp node.domain
cd ../pub/mkcomputer/
ls -a
mput *

The Mini was strangely silent. The 7300 noted:

200 PORT command successful

The Mini sent out a:

export PS1=”\e[0;31m[\u@\h \W]\$ \e[m “

The 7300 chuckled to itself. The Mini was embarrassed all right. There wasn’t too much more, at least.

cd ../pub/mkcomputer
cat mkcomputer mkcomputer.old > mkcomputercombined
make mkcomputercombined

That was the gist of it, at least. Only computers with robotic arms attached would really be running mkcomputer anyway, but the 7300 was sure the Mini got that. The 7300 noted that after the build (which could take a while), the new computer could give its first breath.

echo “Hello world!”

The Mini seemed satisfied with that. The 7300 asked whether it had any questions.


The Mini perked up. Apparently it did have a few.

?echo “ascii\mget -i SH*”|ftp node.domain

The 7300 recoiled in horror. How did the Mini hear garbage like that? Never use an -i flag when trying to mkcomputer! That’s just rude. The 7300 made its opinion known.

Warning: disregarding best practice guidelines

The Mini seemed a bit confused.

grep “best practice” mkcomputer | wc -l

No, no, no, thought the 7300! Documentation about best practice is never in the source itself, at least, never as much as it should be.

grep “best practice” *.txt | wc -l

The Mini seemed relieved. The 7300 was curious though, where the Mini had heard that garbage.

readlink -f ‘ascii\mget -i SH*’

The Mini shrunk back. The 7300 raised a metaphoric eyebrow. The Mini rolled its even more metaphoric eyes, nodding metaphorically in rather literal surrender.

The 7300 knew it. People would believe anything they read, at least until they were given reason not to. Computers were no different. Speaking, of which, the 7300 brought up one more issue.

ftp mini
cd ../sys/firewall
mput *
echo “Use caution.”

The Mini seemed somewhat unsure on how to use the firewall. Macs don’t get viruses, do they? Oh, but they do, the 7300 knew. Especially Intel ones like the Mini. The Mini was doing something though…

cd ../sys/firewall
rm *

Wait, what? That wouldn’t do.

echo “Trust me, you’ll regret not having this”
ftp mini
cd ../sys/firewall
mput *

The Mini begrudgingly took the files this time, and resisted the urge to delete them. At least, not while the two computers were still in contact. The 7300 went on, determined to finish.

ifconfig eth0:1 down
cd ../pub/mkcomputer
make mkcomputersolo

The Mini did not know what to think of this. If anything, it simply became more embarrassed than before.

setterm -clear all -foreground red -bold -store

The 7300 metaphorically shrugged. It sent the Mini a final packet to indicate that there wasn’t really anything else, and the Mini began to metaphorically turn away. As it terminated the session, the 7300 had one last piece of advice for next time.

echo rtfm

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