Reached home @ 6:45pm, only to find Santosh snoring. Met Manilal in the adjacent room and downloaded Google Earth on his computer. I was stunned to learn that the bugger had never had a hands-on experience of the phenomenon that had taken the world by storm. Downloading done, we swooped in on Bangalore, London and some other places. If only we could travel that easily. Unfortunately, there are biological limitations. The body can withstand only a maximum of 11g. Lingered in Manilal's room for some more hours before retreating to my room. Sleeping beauty was still snoring with gay abandon! Just how peacefully he lay while the storm of change was ravaging the world. Anyway, his slumber soon ended and I motioned him to reach out to Manilal and his computer for something wonderful, a suggestion he instantly heeded.
Night time was right time for Anand to continue with where he left off the previous night. We discussed how weird the professors in BIT were and buttressed our allegations with apt anecdotes. Our discussions soon veered to the virtues of Java vis-a-vis .NET. We agreed on Visual Basic's IDE being an industry benchmark for simplicity and ingenuity. Santosh managed to slip some of his own nascent views on just how 'simple' .NET was.
Anand left and Santosh finally began his dinner @ 12 '0 clock midnight! Job done, he finally began romancing his academic books...a flirtation that continued till 2:15am. The lights kept me from sleeping and I finally managed to drift asleep after some time, only to be woken once again by our sugar boy at 3:30am who finally decided it was time to hit the bed after loitering in the corridor for over an hour. My nocturnal partner must mend his ways...starting tonight.
Talking to Anand had set my mind wandering about simpler times gone by. I fondly recalled how we used to dissect DOS during our school days. Debug.exe was my favorite program and I loved issuing commands at its prompt that often wrecked havoc on my desktop. Learning the rudiments of Assembly Language had its own share of fun. My partner in crime was Abbot (name changed to protect privacy). We would thoroughly scrutinize all the DOS & BIOS interrupts and then try to apply our destructive minds to the desktops. We learnt the hard way (trial & error) that coding in Assembly involves a lot of manually reaching out for the restart button! Among useless things to test my grasp of the language, I had written a code of just 2 bytes. It's machine language equivalent for the 16-bit Intel 8086 microprocessor was CD 20.
Itching for something really naughty, we hit upon the brilliant idea of playing a prank on Suresh's computer, our machines being too precious for such treatment! I was aware of the structure of the Boot Sector inside out. Other than the bootstrap loader, it contained the PSP (I guess I remember the name right) which contained vital information about the disk like sectors per cluster, bytes per sector, size of the FAT, disk capacity, etc. Abbot and I thought of simply copying some of these facts on a piece of paper, and modifying them so as to confuse the OS! How wonderful it would be to look at the bewildered countenance of the user! Suresh would be dumbstruck! But ours was only to be a harmless prank, not supposed to inflict serious injury to the computer or any user. After some fun, we would use our trusted Debug.exe to reset the PSP to its original values, thus restoring full functionality to the confused PC.
The plan worked like a dream! The machine indeed got confused and no amount of head scratching by the school authorities helped. Abbot and I were summoned (since we were the wannabe techies and out reputation followed us wherever we went) to investigate into the matter! We put up a look of utter astonishment on our faces. I could hardly hide my giggles. Ok, but before Abbot and I could restore the PC, a sardarji from Jupiter (a computer maintenance firm) was summoned to look into the matter...and that's how our innocuous part of the plan went astray. Sardarji used his rich assortment of floppies and tried to used programs (including the revered NDD) to find a solution to the problem. No such luck. The system refused to even recognize the presence of the Hard Disk. Sardarji went bonkers!
In utter desperation and as a last resort, he formatted the entire hard disk! Gosh! We had started feeling guilty for our harmless prank. Suresh spent the rest of the academic year porting programs from mine and Sebastian's machine to his. Poor soul. We never had the heart to admit our guilt!
It's not that we used our knowledge only to screw up computers. On our teacher's instruction, we had built a rudimentary system that forced our immediate junior batch to remain stuck in a prespecified subdirectory. No amount of head banging helped them outwit us! But that's another story.
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