Forum Overview :: Tansin A. Darcos's Alter Ego
Computer Crimes I have Committed: Fortran Star Trek by Commander Tansin A. Darcos 05/17/2018, 6:16pm PDT
In the late 1970s and middle 1980s there were no computer crime laws on the books anywhere. I look back fondly on some of the stunts I pulled, that were not nasty, destructive, or malicious, but if they happened today would be serious felonies punishable by years in jail.

Remember, a "computer crime" is unauthorized use of a computer, usage beyond the privileges you are granted, or accessing things you are not authorized.

"In the distant land of unregulated computer use, there are three separate yet equal groups who worked with computers. The users who wanted things done, the programmers and operators who got things done, and the hackers who looked at what was being done and either tried to do things itwas thought impossible, or to learn new things. These are their stories."
Dun Dun.

Long Beach City College in California was one of a small number of places that ran Univac 90/60 mainframes. These, in effect, were the original IBM clones. They ran a different operating system but the instruction set for them was the same as IBM's flagship mainframe, the 360.

The operating system on Univac's 90/60 was VS/9, which was designed for interactive terminal use as well as supporting card readers. VS/9 could support dumb terminals sold by other companies but they had their own Uniscope terminal, which provided special display and editing features.

One of the programs available on the 90/60 was a game called "Star Trek." These type of games were very common at the time. You were captain of the Enterprise, you had to move the ship around a grid and fire torpedoes at the Klingons within a specified time. Many people wrote Star Trek games, usually in the Basic Programming language. The one on the Univac was written using Fortran, which is a compiled language and much faster. It also kept score in a data file, so you could tell how good or bad you were.

Well, anyway, almost everyone who used a terminal played this game, including the system administrator. Someone must have complained terminal userrs playing StarTrek were hoigging the terminals preventing students from doing homework, so the game was restricted. The data file was locked so only the administrator could reach it. This meant he could still play but nobody else could.

So I go in and take a look. I figure out the on-line debugger IDA, a tool designed for programmers but if you knew the commands anyone could use it. So what I do is issue the command, "LOAD STARTREK" The load command starts a program on your terminal but does not run it. Next, I would issue a command to patch the LOADed program in memory to change the file name string the program would try to open for the scores file to something else. Then run the now patched program. The patch over the scores file name meant the program would simply give an error that the scores data file was missing, but you could still play, instead of the game crashing because it attempted to open what is now a protected file.

The System Administrator also did a couple other things to additionally lock down Star Trek but I figured out how to get around those too.

The System Administrator apparently bragged to his boss one day - or so I was told - that he had completely locked everyone else out of Star Trek. One day the System Administrator walked into the terminal room where he saw one of the students playing Star Trek, and next to him was the cheat sheet explaining how to load and patch the game in memory to be able to play it.

Since the IDA debugging tool wasn't taught to students,there were probably only two people at the school who would know how to use it. The System Administrator, and me, And the Administrator probably knew it too. After he pulled his jaw up from the floor, he threw in the towel and restored access to Star Trek to everybody.
Computer Crimes I have Committed: Fortran Star Trek by Commander Tansin A. Darcos 05/17/2018, 6:16pm PDT
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