Carl Surprised by Bellevue PD
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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Keyboard  (Page 4)

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I guess we're all used to hearing "You've got mail!" .
But did you ever wonder how it all got started?

      When something new called "microcomputers" first appeared in 1977, I couldn't wait to buy one. I got the TRS-80 Model I at a local Radio Shack.

1977 - My First Computer - Radio Shack TRS80 - Model 1

      I had no idea what I would do with it - and the only programs it came with were two games - Craps and Backgammon. Beyond that one was expected to write his own programs, using a built-in computer language called BASIC. It came with no word processing software (much less a printer). It was basically a $600 toy.

      Indeed, the idea that this strange new gadget would someday handle the majority of my communications (both mail and phone) would have seemed totally outrageous - but that's exactly what eventually happened. Carl Von Papp

      My first electronic correspondence was with my old high school buddy Carl Von Papp, who had moved to Bellevue, Washington. We were both surprised to learn that we had each recently bought a TRS-80. A few months later we were thrilled to learn we could attach something new called a modem, and start exchanging electronic mail. (We're still doing it nearly 30 years later, by the way.)

      But early one rainy morning, Carl's attempt to send me an email brought the local SWAT team down on him. (OK - it wasn't actually a SWAT team - but it was a couple of units from the Bellevue Police Department.)

      It was still dark when Carl sat down in his underwear and dialed the CompuServe access number. The dial-up procedure began making funny sounds and the line suddenly went dead. Carl got a screen message asking him to dial again. He did. Same results. Carl scratched his head, and tried once more. Still no luck. Another attempt also failed. He was about to give up and go back to bed, but decided to try once more. Eureka! The dial-up went through, and Carl sat down to transmit the letter he'd written.

      It was about then when he became aware of some bright, flashing lights outside his kitchen window. This was followed by a loud banging on the door and a man's voice yelling, "Police! Open up!" By now, my friend was wondering if this was all a dream, but went to the door and did as he was told.

      An armed policeman looked cautiously through the door, and demanded, "You the guy who dialed 911?"

      "911? Huh? What are you talking about?" Carl gulped.

      The annoyed-looking policeman (who'd now been joined by three others) said, "Someone at this address dialed 911 - and did it three times! What's going on?"

      It was then Carl remembered his three failed attempts to dial CompuServe (whose dial-up sequence contained the digits 911). Somehow this was all that got through. The policemen were not amused when Carl laughingly explained this. (In any case, Carl immediately called CompuServe - and they changed their access number soon after that.)

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