this one goes out to the newbies

WTF is /finger cocacola@columbia.edu you asked.

So I will tell you.

In 1992 I was given my first email account. (Obviously, they didn't know what that would lead me, or they wouldn't have EVER allowed that.)

In 1992 we didn't have web pages. Sure, according to the internet history there was stuff out there, but I don't remember seeing web pages in action until late 1994. And they really sucked until Netscape 1.0 came out. (According to the geeks that write Wikipedia Mosaic came out in 1992, Netscape in 1994).

However, people were using email and chat. The desire to tell the world WTF you are up to predates web pages. In 1992 I found email, and shortly thereafter I found finger. Finger was a command (now shut down on most systems) for looking up email accounts.

For someone at Yale I could type:
finger bulldogfan
And it would give me back something like this:
bulldogfan last logged on to minerva.cis.yale.edu from 24nix.labs.computerscibuilding
bulldogfan has new messages.
phone: 7323 office: not here
project: beat harvard!

Feel the rhythm with your hands
Steal the rhythm while you can, Spoonman
Speak the rhythm on your own
Speak the rhythm all alone, Spoonman

Spoonman, come together with your hands
Save me, I'm together with your plan
Save me

All my friends are Indians
All my friends are brown and red, Spoonman
All my friends are skeletons
They beat the rhythm with their bones,

Feel the rhythm with your hands
Steal the rhythm while you can, Spoonman

The .plan and .project (as well as office) field were supposed to be things Serious People would use to inform others of in and out of office status, etc. In the hands of college students, that was changed.

Editing your .plan or .project was as easy as typing (once logged on) pico .plan. Since most of us at Yale used Pine for email, using pico was easy since as Outlook is to Word, Pine is to Pico.

So, once you figured out how to do things like tell where the cute girl was (Ok, I had someone stalk me via finger), you could move on. When did they last read thier email? Can tell that too. Ok, so what about that email you sent to someone from irc? Well, you could finger accross many systems.

So, instead of fingering bulldogfan, you could finger fgr5454@tamsun.tamu.edu. And then you could see if they were online, or if they had email. And you could read thier plan. And you could read everyone else's plan.

I have to say, for my .plan, what people do now w/ those "what carebear are you" quizzes, I did that with my .plan. But it was all other people's poetry (I think I did Ariel for a while) and song lyrics.

Someone actually sent me an email once b/c he randomly found my profile and saw Garth Brooks lyrics, but that's another blog entry.

So, there have always been geeks who wanted to be the very cleverest geeks of all. Some of them went to Columbia. They made a device that could tell what the temperature of the coke machine's guts were. And how many of each soda was left. Then they made this device update the .plan of the coke machine.

So if you fingered cocacola@columbia.edu it would say something like
cocacola never logged on
cocacola has new messages
project: to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony
36 coke
23 sprite
17 dr pepper
0 mountain dew
38 degrees

That was the first time I saw someone do something cool on that level online.

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