Here's a bunch of short stories that sort of "fill in the blanks" of my life. I'll probably add more to future versions of this book, or just check the Web Site for more in the future.


Anecdotes for Cheshire's book

This document is © Copyright 1996 - 2016 Richard Cheshire, and includes stories for inclusion in "The Book" I intend to publish. Feel free to read them, and to set HTML pointers here, but do not reproduce it yourself without my permission. Please e-mail me at!

Sidebar Stories include:


"Has Time Run Out Yet?"

(C) Copyright 1995 by Richard Cheshire

For a number of years, a good buddy of mine used to tell people, "Sorry, I can't tell you how we met until the Statute of Limitations runs out". It was a good line. And it was true.

A small regional Science Fiction Convention (make it a Comic Book Convention, if you MUST retell it) was held in a Washington DC hotel that caters to trade shows and business exhibitions. A major conference had left the building as our convention was moving in. I had been to trade shows in the building before and knew my way around better than I was supposed to - I knew where the back doors and loading docks were.

Upon entering the conference hall from the loading dock, I spied a large mound of cardboard boxes. I went up to it, and saw that each box said it contained a Texas Instruments Silent 700 Computer Terminal. Each was certainly heavy enough (about 25 pounds each, since this happenned back in the 1970's). As I came around the side of the pile, I came across a very nervous young man, who I assumed was also with the "comic book convention" (it was a large enough pile of terminals that we hadn't seen each other before this).

He looked nervously at me as I asked him, "I suppose you're not supposed to be here either"? As the words sunk in, and he realized that I was NOT going to turn him in, or anything nasty like that, he smiled, and we both started hauling off terminals in different directions.

Later, during the convention we ran into each other, and started swapping information on computers we'd be dialing up with our new found toys. We spent the rest of the weekend in some anterooms, getting through the hotel phones to the local network tip (Terminal Information Processor - the interface to the ARPAnet, precursor to the Internet), and logged into some of the wierdest systems on the planet, while exploring the intracasies of the ARPAnet. We remained good friends for years.



"Games Are Not Allowed"

(C) Copyright 1995 by Richard Cheshire

The State University of New York at Brockport, where I had my first timesharing account, had a simple rule. No games were to be left on the system. But one day, while sitting at the terminal, I was looking down the directory listing. Due to a limitation in the HP-2000C, only 6 characters file names were allowed. So when I saw the six character file "NC1701", something registered. Then I realized that the registration number of the Federation Starship USS Enterprise (there was only the one at that time - the movies hadn't even come out by then) was NCC-1701, I decided to test a theory.

I typed "RUN NC1701", and was rewarded with "Space... the final frontier. You are the Captain of the USS Enterprise..." and happily spent the next hour or so playing the game.

(This was the computer game published in David Ahl's book, "101 Basic Computer Games")



"How Do you Grow A New Crop Of Hackers?"

(C) Copyright 1995 by Richard Cheshire

In 1984, Steven Levy wrote the book "Hackers - Heros Of The Computer Revolution". The first "Hackers Conference" was held in conjunction with the Publication Party. At the conference, one old hacker related how he "grows" new hackers.

He's a teacher at a school, and so they have alot of games on the system written in BASIC (Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code). One of the games was "Star Trek", the old teletype version. The thing was, the Phaser feature always crashed the program. You could play the game with only the photon torpedos as weapons, but once in a while, a student or two would mention the problem to him, and he'd reply, "List out the program, and fix it."

When he found a student or two willing to actually tackle the job, he knew he had some budding young Student System Managers on his hands, and encouraged them every way he could. And every September, he'd replace the fixed Star Trek, with the "damaged" copy.



"How Could You Possibly Get A Password?"

(C) Copyright 1995 by Richard Cheshire

In the "Bad Old Days", passwords were remarkably easy to get. One method abused the wonderful old Model-33 Teletype machine, and their Standard Storage Media, the paper tape.

What you would do, was to list a program while the paper tape punch was turned on. This allowed you to run the tape into the paper tape reader when you wanted to feed the program (or data) back into the machine later. In fact the control characters CTRL-S and CTRL-Q for X-OFF and X-ON really mean Paper Tape Transmitter Off, and Paper Tape Xmitter On (XMIT being an old engineering abbreviation for Transmit).

So you would casually list your program to paper tape, log off the computer, rip off the tape, and walk away from the machine. A free terminal!! There would be a brief scuffle while competing students vied for the now available resource, and they would madly and furiously log into the HP-2000C. The computer would ask for their Username, and they would type it in. The system would ask for the password, and they would type that too, but the password did not show on the printout because the password was in unprintable control characters (they weren't THAT dumb, you know).

But unbeknownst to the user, the password DID get punched into the paper tape. In ASCII code. Now that the user was logged in, he (or she) might notice the paper tape reader was still on, look down at it, and punch the OFF button, and go back to their furious work never giving it a second thought. On more than one occassion, I was able to step back, retrieve the tape, and take it off into the night to decode.



"Accessing Any Telex Machine In The World"

(C) Copyright 1995 by Richard Cheshire

Once I had access to the TWX Teletype network, you'd think I'd be happy, wouldn't you. The thing was, once I'd moved to New York City, I began to get unreasonable. New York City was one city that I'd had access to long before I moved there. In fact, there was something I gained by living there. Access to every telex machine OUTSIDE of North America.

The IRC's, the International Record Carriers as they're called, were ITT World Communications, RCA Global Communications, and Western Union International (busted up by an anti-trust suit from the Western Union Telegraph company years before). Smaller players were in the game, like French Cable Company and Tropical Radio Telegraph (which started life as a division of the United Fruit Company to keep track of bannana boats), but all the IRC's had one thing in common. They all wanted the overseas telex traffic of the TWX Teletype Network communitty.

Each IRC had TWX numbers that you could call, and they would convert the speed (from 110 baud to 75 baud) and code (ASCII to Baudot) to carry your message traffic to and from your correspondent overseas. They each had a TWX number in New York City to carry that traffic. Through this means, my computer terminal could reach any telex machine outside of North America for the cost of a local phone call - one "message unit" as the local telco called it.

But the TWX/Telex directory (they'd been combined by now, since AT&T sold the TWX Network to Western Union) said the Western Union Infomaster Computer could be used as a "message switch". That meant that it would accept your properly formatted message from one network, and it would forward it to any user on the other network.

It seemed to me that with so much traffic from New York City, they would multiplex all the traffic headed for Infomaster, and thereby reduce their own internal costs of providing the service. So I got on the phone and asked.

"Hello, Upper Saddle River?", Corporate Headquarters, "This is Chuck at the Wire Room at 40th & Broadway. Have you got the 'back-door' TWX number into the Infomaster computer?" The fellow I finally reached scratched his head and said, "I never heard of such a thing". So I called the 40th & Broadway Wire Room.

"This is Chuck at Upper Saddle River, do you happen to know the New York back-door TWX number to reach Infomaster?". The reply came back much faster this time. "I ain't nevah hoid of such a ting."

OK, so Western Union didn't believe it existed. What the heck, some night I'll get a free shot at trying a random sample of New York's TWX machines. One night I did.

Every TWX Machine, and every Telex machine for that matter, has an identification code programmed into it called an AnswerBack. If you send Figs-D on Telex, or CTRL-E (the Enquiry character) in ASCII on a TWX machine, the teletype at the other end will print it's ID code at you. This is to be certain you've reached the proper party before transmitting the paper tape with the company's sales plan for the next five years. You wouldn't want it to wind up on a competitor's machine by mistake.

Actually, the first thing a teletype machine does upon being connected is send you the answerback. Once you've sent your paper tape (at a rate faster than you could probably type, saving money) you hit Figs-D or CTRL-E and get the answerback to verify the connection, and then disconnect.

One night I got left alone with an ADM-3 video terminal, an acoustic coupler, and a telephone. I started at 212-640-5555.

CBS SPCL EVENTS NYK, The CBS Television network. Nope, that's not it. Then I tried another number. MOR MAC NYK, the Moore McCormack Shipping Lines. No, that's not it. FBI NYK, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's New York Office. Nope, that's not it.

I kept on going, getting some interesting, and some boring results.

WHAT!! Hey! Wait a minute! WU INFOMASTER!!!! I FOUND IT!! Now what number did I dial - OH NO!!! And after spending three hours to discover it really did exist, I then spent another hour finding it again.

What's the point? I now not only had access to putting a message on every Telex machine outside of North America, I now had access to every Telex machine In The World!



"Dumpster Diving Can Tell You Your Chances"

(C) Copyright 1995 by Richard Cheshire

I'm not sure why I had a car that weekend, but years before I'd moved to New York City, I'd visited the IBM System-7 that ran the FYI News Service that was operated by the Western Union Telegraph Company to allow users to run up chargable time on their Telex or TWX machine by calling up news or weather information on their telex machine. After I moved to New York, I always paid a social call on their dumpster every time I went near that area,

This particular weekend, I drove out to the Mahwah NJ site just off of State Route 17 near The Ramsey Light (anyone driving the route can tell you about this dreaded traffic signal). I swear that if I could go through this dumpster every day for a month, I could come out with a working teletype machine. Either a Model 32 (baudot) or a Model-33 (ASCII) and probebly one of each.

Besides a repair depot, it was also (it seems) a billing center. In the dumpster was a large print out. I grabbed it and a few other things, threw them in the car for later perusal, and headed home.

As I perused the big printout, a few things became clear. In the left most column was an AnswerBack. Then an Infomaster message number. Then the number of chargeable minutes, and the charges. But while some of the AnswerBacks were indecypherable, many of them had only one or two letters garbled from something intelligable. In fact, now that I was looking closer, I could recognize that some of the indecypherable ones were Telex Answerbacks in Figures mode where numbers and punctuation marks were substituted for the alphabetic characters that were the Letters counterparts of the same telex keys (the letter 'Q' is also the number '1', 'W' is '2', etc).

So this printout was the Exception Report of bad AnswerBacks that the Infomaster Computer didn't know where to send bills. Wait a minute! I sent four messages the week before - the period covered by this report. I went searching through the 300 page report for the "T"s. "T, TW, TWX R4 PHREAKS! There it is! The answerback I use whenever I connected to Infomaster.

"TWX Are For Phreaks", a goof on a silly rabbit who always wants an American breakfast cereal, but always foiled because "Trix are for kids". "TWX R4 PHREAKS" is the 14 character maximum available for an AnswerBack, and contains the "clue" that I am a Phone Phreak, the spelling used by those who play with phone networks.

Having found the four lines within the 300 page report, I determined at that time that if Western Union could find me in all this hash, they could do with me what they will. To my knowledge, they never found me.



"And All The Ships At Sea.... Hacking Marisat"

(C) Copyright 1995 by Richard Cheshire

Having found the World Telex Network, there wasn't much you could do with it. The most fun was sending MailGrams through the Western Union Telegraph Company to be printed out in a post office near the intended recipient, and have them delivered in the next mail dispatch.

But then they put up Marisat - The Maritime Communications Satellite System, allowing ships at sea to be reached by telephone and Telex (the system has since been "internationalized", as the Inmarsat system, operated by the International Maritime Organization of London England). They put the TWX network access on a New York City TWX line. I didn't even have to experiment. I was in on the first try. Reaching a ship was just like calling up any other telex machine.

"Hi This is Cheshire, a Computer hacker in New York City. Does anyone have time to sit and chat?" Of course, I'm reaching a ship's radio officer who is hundreds of miles at sea, and has absolutely NOTHING to do but sit and chat (depending on the nationality of the ship - the Italian Ship story costs you dinner, at least).

I'd chat, be friendly, and even explain something about how to use the damn machine. After all, I was sitting on shore, with all the publically available sales literature on how to use the system in front of me, and one more thing. I'm a Hacker. I can figure out what the manual means, even if it doesn't say it right.

"How can I use these 'Uni-codes' that RCA gave me to reach the head office? I tried it and it doesn't work.", came in one day. "MOM PLS", "One moment please" was my reply using the proper Telex abbreviation. I quickly openned up the RCA Globecomm brochure and looked up the information, and figured out what the ever so helpful salesman forgot to tell the guy, because the salesman assumed the ship would ALWAYS be using RCA. "Take the CARRIER ID thumbwheel, and turn it to 2 for RCA, and the Uni-Code will work.", I replied.


Now I could never find out for sure, but I've always had in my mind the scenario for when the "Garbled AnswerBack Exception Report" first hit their desk. In the early days of Marisat operations, it wouldn't be 300 pages long, like the Western Union printout I'd found in the dumpster a year or two before. The report would be so small, that the garbled answerbacks could probably be compared to the answerbacks of regular users, and a match be found, since only shipping companies and the like would use the system to talk to the ships. Then they'd find "TWX R4 PHREAKS", the answerback I used that was exactly the maximum length for the identification code used to bill messages back to their source.

"Quick, pull the mag tapes!", they'd yell, and a minion would go back to the tape library, pull the proper magnetic computer tape based on the date/time group in the exception report. In the early days, all message traffic was kept on mag tape, until the integrity of the satellite system could be assured. They kept every transmission in case of a problem, and they could go back and see what caused it.

The tape would be thrown on the drive, they'd huddle round the printer while every keystroke sent via the satellite in each direction was printed out for investigation. They'd take the printout back to their desk, sit down, and look it over in dumbfounded disbelief.

"He's cracked our network, he's blown system security to hell and gone, and he's being FRIENDLY?"

They never could figure me out.



"The Wire Room Story"

(C) Copyright 1995, 2017 by Richard Cheshire

One day I found out the Comsat General was going to be at a telecom conference in Suburban Virginia outside of Washington DC. It was a number of months after the trip to California when I visted the Santa Paula Earth Station (have I written up that story yet?).

I decided to attend. I went up to the folks hawking Marisat services at the Comsat General booth, and said "Are you guys still looking for 'Ozzie'?"

"Are you Ozzie?" they asked.

"Uh, we haven't gotten that far yet." I replied. Anyway, we decided to meet up after the exhibit hall had closed to sit down and chat. Well, I explained how AT&T had lied to them, and that I got into their Marisat system by dialing the telephone number that coresponded to their TWX teletype number, putting my telephone handset into the acoustic coupler, and typing on the Model 33 teletype I used with the Altair 8800 Microcomputer I was selling in the computer store I worked in.

As it happenned, they had a couple of technicians going into 60 Hudson St in Manhatttan, the Western Union switching building where their Telex circuits terminated, the following Monday, where the Marisat system had Utech conversion boxes that converted the 110 Baud ASCII Signal I and other TWX users typed, and converted it to 20 mA Current loop on the Telex lines, and from ASCII To the Baudot code the Telex system used. The lines then went on to the Land Eath Stations in Santa Paula CA, or Southbury CT.

They invited me to meet their guys at the Hudson St building, and watch as they installed the third Utech box to the third TWX line that was being installed to handle the rise in maritime telex trafic via their "birds".

I met their guys, and we went up to the wire room. We chatted, I explained again exactly how I got into their system, they put in the new conversion box, and we sat down on a couple of chairs and chatted some more.

Then I asked, "Hey guys, why are we sitting here shooting the shit in a crufty, dusty wire room when we could be", I ponted at the street out the window, "downstairs there at that cafe shooting the shit over coffee?".

"Oh", they replied, "We've got to wait until the Western Union technicians show up to test the lines, and make sure they work."

"WHAT!", I exclaimed. "Haven't you understood a single word I said?" I reached for a nearby telephone. "Give me that phone". I picked up tha handset, and called out the digits I was dialing as I punched them.

"Let's see, 640-592", I pointed up at the boxes, and pointed at each one, "Zero, One, Two", punching the "2" button on the phone after I ponted at the third box we'd just installed. The phone lines were oin a Rotary system, where if the first line (ending in 5920) was busy, it would forward to 5921, and then to 5922, the line we'd just installed today.

"I'm hearing a ringing signal", I told them as I listened to the phone line. "Yeah", the one fellow said looking at the lights on the front of the conversion box, "The RI light" Ring Indication, "is lit".

I heard a Click on the phone line, "It just picked up", I said. "Yup, OH just lit up", the Off Hook indication.

"Let me push the 6 and 9 buttons together to simulate a modem carrier", I told them. "Yup, I'm showing Carrier Detect", the CD light.

And I'm hearing it send an Answerback. Guys, it works - let's go to the Cafe!"

So we packed up our gear, and as we were going out the door, the Western Union techs came in. We said "Have a Nice Day", and kept on going.



"What are all these BT things in this document?"

(C) Copyright 1995 by Richard Cheshire

When I was in the army, I was trained in MOS 72B20, which is to say that my Military Occupational Specialty was "Communications Center Specialist" - a glorified Telex Operator. Among the things we did was to put the letters BT as a seperator between groups of paragraphs. It stands for the words "Break Text". When I was putting together these stories into one long HTML file, it seemed appropriate to break up the stories with the old Military expression. Since I started this project, I've learend that in Morse Code, the letters BT run together (-...-) mean "Paragrph Break", which is the Morse Code character "Equals sign", which was used by the Westeren Union Telegraph Company in Telegrams between the Message Text and the Signature. While I use the Equals Sign in letters and e-mails these days instead of the BT designation, I'm going to leave the BT's in this book. The NNNN at the bottom of some pages is the "End of Message" indicator in automatic telex transmissions.



"Consequences Of A Hack"

(C) Copyright 1995 by Richard Cheshire

I have a friend who still lives in the Boston Massachusets area to this day. He once went to MIT, the Massachusets Institute of Technology. It's known as "The 'Tute", and it's students call themselves, "Tools". They study hard at MIT. They play hard, too. And they tend to use the same major organ - their brain - to do both.

MIT Hacks are legendary. One such is the hack of the halftime of a football game between Ivy League rivals Harvard and Yale. The rivaly can be best described, I think, by a remark made on a trip to Yale, when President John Kennedy said, "I now have the best of both worlds. A Harvard education, and a Yale degree".

These two schools play football, and they play it for keeps. While neither team will make it to the College Championship in anyone's lifetime, this one game is what each school lives for each year. MIT on the other hand, looks at jocks with something close to disgust. But practical jokes are another thing, and the annual Harvard-Yale game draws a full house, and is a known target for an MIT Hack.

One year, in a pretty famous case, during the half-time, the ground at the 50 yard line (half way between the two goal posts at either end of the field) started to bulge. Then the ground broke, and a huge weather balloon was blown up in the middle of the field. I believe the letters "MIT" were emblazoned on it, but it certainly didn't have to be. Everyone knew.

Anyway, this is a pretty famous hack. Everyone laughs about it when the story is retold. Everyone except this one friend of mine who still lives in the Boston area. The balloon had been buried six months before the game. The ground had been pretty well repaired while the gas line was being buried to reach the the balloon from the sidelines.

By the time the big game came half way through the season, the grounds keepers had done all sorts of things to the playing field and had no idea that anything was amiss below their turf (and if you've ever spoken to a grounds keeper, it is "their turf"). Football kleats rip up the grass pretty well, and so replacing turf is a typical activity. You can go back through the records, and find out if the game went on after the half time. People who tell the story these days don't recall.

Anyone who was caught in the investigation would have been in alot of trouble. And I don't know that anyone was ever caught. Stories of MIT Hacks don't usually go in for that much detail. And the only fellow I know that might know EVERYTHING about what happened that day, still won't even smile when someone brings up that game. I don't think I want to be the one to ask him.



"Where'd You Get That Cap?"

(C) Copyright 1996 by Richard Cheshire

I was in Vienna Austria years ago, and was walking through a downtown pedestrian area with my collegues (we were in town for a micro computer conference at UNIDO, the United Nations Industrial Development Oganization). A fellow stopped me, and asked me where I got my baseball cap. The front of the cap said, "Hackito, Ergo Sum" (I Hack, Therefore I Am). "I picked it up at a science fiction convention in Chicago", I told him. He looked very dissapointed, but then I realized why he asked, stuck out my hand to shake his, and said, "But I'm Richard Cheshire. Glad to meet you".

He'd reccognized the cap from an article (with photo) that was in Der Speigle magazine (equivilent to a combination of Time and The National Enquirer) that had run a year before. I never worried about how much publicity I generated outside the country. HEY! I just realized as I was typing this in, that the ball cap was also in the photo in Rolling Stone magazine. John Ballushi's death was the cover article.

Anyway, we all went off to a nearby cafe where the Saccher Torte was rated better than that at the Hotel Saccher itself.



"The Acronym Story"

(C) Copyright 1996 by Richard Cheshire

Years ago (gee, too many of these stories are starting "Years ago...") I attended the Annual Meeting and Technical Display of the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronatics and pronounced A I Double A). All the major Aerospace companies and Defense Contractors are there, because it's convienient to the Congress, and that's where the funding for most of these projects comes from anyway.

I walked into one booth of an Electronic Warfare company, and started chatting with the salesman. He started throwing acronyms at me one after the other. Things like, ECM, ECCM, AWACS, EIRP, FLIR, and so forth. He threw one at me that I didn't recognize from my reading of Aviation Week magazine, and Aerospace America magazine published by the AIAA itself.

Then the fellow used that acronym again. The one I didn't recognize. I hadn't been able to pick it up out of context, which I sometimes can do, so it was time to look stupid. "Excuse me," I said, "That last one. You used it earlier, and I'm afraid I didn't recognize that one."

"Well, that's not too surprising", he replied, "because actually our boys in the labs came up with that one last week, so you couldn't possibly have - gulp"! A look of fear came over the man, as he realized that the tall long-haired bearded wierdo hippy guy in the ill fitting brown cordory suit had understood every single word he'd said (since he'd only asked about the one thing that wasn't in the literature yet), and it scared him silly. He found an excuse, and left the booth quickly. I don't think it was an excuse, really. I'm sure he really did need to use the bathroom.



"You Were In The Army?"

(C) Copyright 1997 by Richard Cheshire

There's a lot of overlap between the science fiction, and computer hacker commmunities. It meant we could use a form of "shorthand" that "mundanes" (the Science Fiction fan's term for those who were not SF fans)could only marvel at. (since then, the Harry Potter people gave us the word "Muggles")

I was at the original 1984 Hacker's Conference which was the PublicationParty for Steven Levy's book "Hackers - Heros Of The Computer Revolution". Steve was then the technology editor for Rolling Stone and Newsweek magazines. I had finished giving a panel with Donn Parker of SRI when I started telling a story to a couple of hackers. "Back when I was in the Army...", the story started. A young fellow stopped me right there, and quizzed me, "You were in the Army?". "Yes" I replied, "I was stationed in Germany for a year,and punched a telex machine. One day...".

"You were in the ARMY??", the young man interupted again - incredulous that a long-haired, hippy, computer phreak of the Viet Nam era would have been in the military. I quickly realized where I was (a conference of computer hackers in peacenik Northern California), who I was talking with (hackers with probebly much of my own background), and immediately came up with the one line answer that would (and did) settle the questions once, and for all."Sir," I said, "I'm a Robert Heinlein fan!". "OH!", the fellow gulped, "Uh,right!". He immediately realized that I had read "Starship Troopers", and"Citizen Of The Galaxy" and other of Heinlein's science fiction novels in my teens, and held many of his beliefs about defending a Republic. America's TLA's (Three Letter Agencies) have nothing to fear from me.

In fact, when Clifford Stoll's adversary in his book "The Cukoo's Egg" went to the Chaos Computer Club, it was after I'd gotten to meet them. I must have made sense to them when I explained that if the Soviets came over Lake Erie, I and other phreaks & hackers would be the first ones they'd be after, since we'd know how to get through the communications networks to set up an Underground ("Revolt in 2100" and "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" by Robert A Heinlein). The computer spy got no help from the Chaos Computer Club. As of this writing, I can't claim it was because of me, but I'm not sure it wasn't, either.

Here's a review of "The Cukoo's Egg"
(found at Amazon.Com)
The Accidental Patriot
Quite a story, especially because it is all true. If it wasn't, I would have chided Stoll for such a cartoonish portrayal of the FBI and CIA. Three-quarters of the book through, after seeing evidence of monitoring of hundreds of sessions including attacks on dozens of military computers, one of them said something like "So this is all about you losing seventy-five cents?" How Stoll avoided running screaming out of the city is beyond me. Quite a guy, and it is very noteworthy that this seemingly textbook leftist academic from what even he called the "People's Republic of Berkeley" chose to defend our country, at a cost of big chunks of his life, endangering his career, and ticking off those around him, when the FBI and CIA just plain wouldn't. Something to think about, Beltway boys. In the meantime, read the book.



"Chatting with Captain Crunch One Day."

(C) Copyright 2011 by Richard Cheshire

Everyone knows that Apple got its financial start from building Blue Boxes, a phreaking device to circumvent Bell System billing equipment on the telephone network of the day. I once visited the home of friend, and fellow phreak John Draper, the infamous "Captain Crunch".

We sat around his basement chatting, and I leaned my elbow on an old Apple ][ computer in a gray case. Apple ]['s were marketed in a beige case. While chatting, I noticed something, and pulled my arm off the Apple as if it had been burned, and said, "John, why doesn't this Apple case have the ventilation slots cut in the sides?".

John replied, "Oh, that's one of the prototypes. They burned up alot of mother boards before they cut the holes in it."



"My Favorite Basement"

(C) Copyright 1997 by Richard Cheshire

The United Nations Building in New York City is a wonderful place. It has artifacts from all over the world. I was a stamp collector in my youth, and was thrilled to find a sculpture of the emblem of the Universal Postal Union (the oldest UN Specialized Agency) there. I liked the concept of United Nations postage stamps. It meant by buying them, that I was contributing to the world organization in greater amounts than some member states!

Before I moved to The City, the UN was always a significant stop. I'd also hit the Rockefeller Center offices of ITV for publicity pictures from Secret Agent and The Prisoner, as well as the International Building offices of the BBC for a shortwave schedule.

Once I moved to New York, I was almost a regular feature at the United Nations Building. It got so bad in the bookstore in the basement of theGeneral Assembly building (and open to the public), that they would ask me to please take the book I was reading off into the corner. There was a step stool there I could sit on, and I'd be out of the way of the other customers. Of course, this was in the old days, when ITU publications and standards manuals were just out on the shelf for anyone to peruse, and even buy!

But it got worse than that. On a couple of occassions, they'd notice I was in the shop (sometimes not even at the ITU books), and they'd come over and ask me a question about something in the books. Usually, I'd go to the right book, turn to the right section and page, then show them just what the answer was. When this happenned (when a customer was right there), I sold the book for them!

One problem they had at the bookstore was that they rarely had an up-to-date catalog of publications from the ITU in Geneva. Every few years, I'd pop upon the Telex, and request two copies of the latest ITU catalog. When they came in the mail, I'd drop one off at the UN Bookstore. Now, of course, It's all online at

One of my favorite UN publications was M-24, a monograph of the UN Statistical Office, with 3 digit Country Codes for "statistical purposes". I once worked for a large bank in Manhattan, and kept a manila folder marked "CODES". It had things like the ASCII character code, ISO-3166 country codes, Telex F.69 Country Codes, international telephone country codes, and for good measure, I'd picked up a "greeting card" in Greenwich Village with the "Hankie Code" (what colored hankie tied to your belt loop means what sexual fetish you're into).

The numeric country codes got created back in "the bad of days" of computers (when they used to have two digit year fields) because numeric codes took less bit-space in a computer back in the days of"core memory". Alpha characters took more space, so numeric codes were the way to go. The M-24 book also included ISO-3166 2-letter and 3-letter alphacodes. These are the same codes used as domain names for foriegn countries(2-letter) and on TV for "country designators" during the Olympics and the World Cup (3-letter).



"Swiss Television"

(C) Copyright 1997 by Richard Cheshire

When I was Publisher of TAP, the Hobbyists Newsletterfor the Communications Revolution, I was in the news now and then.There were magazine articles in TechnologyIllustrated (which lost AT&T as an advertiser as a result, and went under a few months later),The Rolling Stone (the one with John Balushi's death on the cover), Radio interviews with National Public Radio, and their science correspondent of the day, Ira Flatow. There was alsoTelevision.

Now I've always preferred radio news to TV news, because IMHO (In MyHumble Opinion) if TV can't get a camera there it didn't happen! The BBC will still read a report from a telex, for pete's sake - but they get the news out!

I've done TV "shoots" with local stations (channel 7 in New York City), Italian TV, and a really great project with Swiss Television. My friend Dragon Lady came along for that one. Dragon Lady was an Apple software pirate. Mostly she was a collector of any Apple ][ software she could get ahold of. When Swiss TV contacted me, she came along to be interviewed as well.

For the cameras, we made a big thing of having a "secret meet" at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th St in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. The producer would wait in a phone booth for a telephone call, and be told where to go from there to meet us. Of course, I was calling from the phone booth in front of him, and Dragon Lady was in the phone booth in back of him. It made for "good video".

As we left the phone booths and rounded the corner on the second take, I suggested he send his camera man across 34th street, and a little down the block. We would then leave the phone booths, round the corner, and the camera would pan across the avenue, and then tilt up the side of The Empire State Building (hey, I told you we were at Fifth & 34th,didn't I?). The fellow wanted to keep me happy, so he did. Little did I know that when the show was edited and ready for it's television premier in Zurich, I'd be "in the neighborhood", and would be available for a live interview the day of the premier.

I was flown to Germany to make a presentation at a seminar on American Hackers, and took a train to Zurich. I met up with the producer, and we were going to watch the program that night at his home. But the 6 o'clock"Actualities" program wanted to do a live interview with me. It was 3 PM local time, and we had three hours to kill. Otto asked me if there was anything I wanted to do in the mean time. "Yes", I said. "Would it be possible to play with a tape editing machine? I saw one in use once, and I'd love to play with one".

My host had a surprised look on his face, and said "Certainly! I'm sure we can find an empty editing suite at this time of day. Of course in about an hour or so it will get quite busy". After all, they had the news programs for the 6:30 broadcast to edit up.

So we went downstairs from his office, and into an editing suite. He'd picked up a video along the way of some footage of a new Swiss car that was about to enter the market. OK, so the chasis was built in Germany. Thebody was Swiss made, so that made it a story with a local "hook".

I copied some of the tape onto a blank tape, showing the car driving through the woods for a while, and then coming out into a residential area. I stopped the tape, and went looking for some other footage to splice in. Oh, here we are in the car in front of the Swiss car, looking back at it as we drive through the woods. Now lets play it back.

So here we have a nice side shot of the car driving through the woods,into a nice residential area, and Boom!, it's back in the woods looking nose on. "Damn", I said, "I've lost my continuity, jumping back into the woods like that. Let's see what I can fix it with.".

I fast-forwarded through my raw tape looking for a shot of the car's interior I could patch my flub with, when I found a shot of the engine compartment. "This will do", I said noting where on the tape it started. I went back to my copy, and counted out how many seconds passed from the time just before I entered the residential area to the time I had cut back into the woods. It was about 13 seconds. I went back to my raw tape, cued up the engine compartment, put about 17 seconds over the flub, and punched the air like I'd scored a soccer goal. "Yes, got my continuity back!".

My host turned to me and said, "You know Mr Cheshire, you have shown more skill with this machine in the past half hour than some of our people here with three years of experience". I was quite pleased with that compliment, but Otto didn't know the half of it. I'd learned this particular trick from a pro a few years before.

The year I'd lived in Boston was the year that Jimmy Carter successfully ran for President against Jerry Ford. President Ford came to Boston one Friday morning to speak to "The Yankee Club", a prestigious group of leading industrialists and business people in New England. I was in the hotel looking for the annual meeting of the National Association of State Regulatory Commissioners (the guys who preside over Phone Bills) who (it turned out) had ended their conference the day before ("day late, dollar short", you know the drill).

As I turned to leave, I heard, "Hi Cheshire", and looked up to see the hotel's banquet director coming down the stairs with a guy that had a round lapel pin and a "thing" in his ear (trademarks of the SecretService, especially on Presidential Protection detal). "Hi Bob, how you doing?", I asked. The Secret Service guy now knows I'm cool, since Bob knows me (he didn't know it was from helping out at Science Fiction Conventions in the hotel - I worked Tech with lots of hotel liason required).

It wound up that I got to watch the guy who edited the tape of the President's speech for the 6 o'clock network news! Of course, you're playing the tape looking for sound bites, and falling asleep just like most of the businessmen did. But The President starts to speak with a little more emphesis now. He starts to make sense (In an election Year? Oh well), but he actually says something that sounds important (at least as such things go for the 6 o'clock news). In fact, the camera man also recognized that the President was saying something presidential, so in the middle of the line, the camera man checks the focus.

That's right, he blurs it out of focus, back through focus to out of focus the other way, and then finally back into sharp focus again. Well, the guy copies that to the fresh tape, fast forwards to a shot of the crowd looking at the President, takes about 5 seconds of that, and covers the video with the new shot, while leaving the voice over, so no one will ever see what went wrong. The video editors are the real magicians of news reporting.

Well, the Swiss actualities program goes on Live, and it goes well enough. I was interviewed, and sang a little song. Then I was invited to play a game. They have this little game on a computer that people from the audience are called upon to play against each other, but since I'm a visiting Computer Hacker, they'll let me play against an audience member.

There was a grid of dots with letters on top and numbers on the side. Call out an X,Y coordinate, and block your opponent from getting four dots in arow, while trying to get four dots in a row yourself. I'd never played this game before myself, and the language difference bit me. I'd called out an "E", and they put the dot in the "I" row (or was it the other way around?). I still won the game. Don't ask me how.

So the show's over, we go to Otto's house to watch the program we shot in New York, and guess what? That shot from across 34th street and up the Empire State Building made it into the final cut! Not only can I edit, butI can direct, too!



"It's August!"

(C) Copyright 1997 by Richard Cheshire

This isn't really my story. It belongs to an Ex of mine, Lily. We lived together in New York City for about 8 years. I moved in with her when she had her 3rd floor walk-up in Greenwich Village. We then moved to a larger appartment in the Inwood Hill section of Manhattan. It's above Washington Heights, but still in Manhattan.

One day early in August of one year, Lily got a phone call from her brother in Southern California. "Lily?," he asked frantically. "Are you OK? Is everything all right in New York?"

"Sure Henry," answered his puzzled sister. "It's just hot. Why? What's the matter?". Henry explained that in his job as a trouble shooter for a major main-frame computer manufacturer, he was puzzled that since the begining of the month he hadn't gotten a single trouble call from New York City. "Oh, it's August!", Lily explained.

"What's that got to do with anything?", Henry asked. "No one who can help it stays in New York in August", she said. "The guys that tinker with the machines that make them go on the fritz are on vacation and won't be back until after Labor Day. Only their minions are on duty, and they'll only do the normal day-to-day things that will keep the machines running until those guys get back." Her brother hung-up puzzled, but assured that the the lack of trouble wasn't because of anything at his end.

A few weeks later Henry called back. "Lily, you were right! New York is back!". It was the day after Labor Day.



"How Far Do You Want To Push Me?"

(C) Copyright 2003 by Robert Osband N4SCY

I moved to Florida in March of 1987. I went to work for the (then) publisher of Computer Shopper magazine. My old boss, Stan Veit was the editor of the magazine. I had started up a BBS (Bulletin Board System) in New York City, and you just didn't have a BBS until it was listed in Computer Shopper's list. Well, I didn't just send my listing in to the magazine, I sent it addressed directly to Stan.

What is a BBS?
A BBS, or Bulletin Board System, was a computer set up on a telephone line with a modem. People would call your BBS with a computer terminal, or running terminal emulation software (procomm was quite popular at the time). They would log in with a Username and Password, and could access files on the BBS, and send messages to other users. Quite popular in the 1980's and 90's, they slowly died off when the Internet became popular.
A couple of days after sending Stan my post card, I found an e-mail from him sitting on my Board. "Give me a call, Ozzie. I may have a consulting job for you"

It seems the publisher was starting an on-line BBS for airplane dealers, and he needed a Tech Support guy. Stan remembered how patient I was with the newbie customers at The Computer Mart on 30th St in Manhattan, and thought I'd be just the guy for the job. I went down for a couple of days consulting, and stayed with the Firm about 3 years.

Things were going along pretty good, but I needed to take a week off in October to attend a conference in California. Having just started the job, I didn't have vacation time until next year. The thing was, I had started the job a week before I was suppossed to, simply because they needed me. Well, now I needed my week back. They hemmed and hawed, and it looked like I wasn't going to get it.

Now I'm usually a "happy go lucky" kind of guy. A real "go along, get along" kind of person. But I needed to let these people know that this was important to me. "OK," I thought to myself, "Let's see what else around here I need to "get serious" about first. If you haven't read the Florida Reading Coffee story, this is when it happened. My solution at the time was to go out and get a one-cup Mellita cone, filters, and coffee to make my own cup of joe at a strength I like.

One promise made to me when I joined the company, was that I'd get my own computer to have at home. I didn't get it. Of course, I always spoke of putting a BBS on it once I got it. All I had was a simple Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100. It was the first "laptop" computer, and had the full memory load of 24 Kilobytes of memory. Quite laughable, even in it's day, but it ran for 20 hours on 4 AA batteries, and you couldn't kill the thing. It was great for text entry, and move the document into your PC when you got home for editing.

I sat down, and wrote a BBS for the Model 100. Old BBS listings of the day should show it. I know I got it into Computer Shopper! It was called "Tico Under". Tico for the Titusville-Cocoa area of Florida, and "Under" after "Tycho Under", a lunar communitty in Robert Heinlein's novel "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress". Then I went in an confronted the boss.

"OK, the coffee around here sucks. It's much too weak, but I dealt with it. I got my one-cup Mellita. You never gave me the computer you promised that I was going to put a BBS on. That's OK, I've got a BBS running on my Model 100 now. I dealt with it. I came down a week before you told me I had to start because you needed me desperately. I came, I worked, and now I need my week back. How am I going to deal with it?".

Would I have quit? Probably not, but they gave me my week back. Unpaid (the bastards), but I got the time I needed.



"How A Geek Sets His Watch"

(C) Copyright 2003 Monitering Times Magazine (2003 November Issue)
(C) Copyright 2003 by Robert Osband N4SCY

There is only one thing a geek wants when he sets his or her wrist watch. The knowledge that when that watch chimes the top of the hour, the network news will start on the radio, or the TV program will start on the tube. People are amazed by the simplest things, and will usually ask me my favorite question: "How did you do that?" My usual reply to that question is, "We both set our watches to the same Atomic Clock".

- Sidebar -
First, you need something to set your watch to. Something accurate. The atomic clock of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Colorado is pretty accurate. So are the two at the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC. One is named "Tick" and the other is "Tock". A quick peek at "http://www.Time.Gov" (operated jointly by both agencies) will get you the time of day within a second or so, depending on your internet connection. In fact there are programs that utilize the internet's Network Time Protocol (NTP) that can set your system clock to within tenths of a second to the nation's great atomic clocks.

My favorite source for time, though, is radio station WWV on shortwave. The atmosphere plays funny tricks with radio waves, and at different times of the day, the signal will be better on different frequencies. WWV transmits on 2.5, 5, 10, 15 and 20 MHz on Shortwave from Ft Collins CO, and WWVB is at 60 KHz in the low frequency bands. There is also a sister station WWVH in Hawaii on the same shortwave frequencies as WWV. Many of the newer "Atomic Wall Clocks" set their time to WWVB. It's usually helpful if these clocks and watches are set near a window at night when the signals come in best. You can also dial up telephone numbers that will link you to the time signal for 3 minutes or so. (see sidebar)

Next, don't worry about hitting "The Top of The Minute". You are going to set your watch a minute later. At the top of the minute, you just want to notice at which second on your watch that your time source gives the different "beep" for the "Zero Second" that starts the next minute. You can also look at your watch at the top of the hour, when radio networks send a time signal "beep" just before the news starts (the one we want to match, or be real close to). Notice which second the "beep" hits on. Now, put your watch in "Setting Mode", and when that second comes around again, hit the button to reset your watch to the top of the minute. That should put you right. Have a friend in the car when the network news comes on the rado, and wait for The Question. "How did you do that?"

Addendum, In using the Internet for program distribution, Internet Latency means that the Top of the Hour Beep may be a few seconds late. If you have a watch that sets itself via WWVB, it will be more accurate that the radio or TV. The problem is that the digital Coders add some time delay while encoding a TV signal for digital distribution, and a Codec (Coder/Decoder) in your digital receiver takes a few more milliseconds to decode the signal. As the signal goes through a number of codecs as it traverses the distance from Originator to your TV set, the time adds up to 10 seconds or more.



Can you hear that "thrumming"?

(C) Copyright 2013 by Ozzie N4SCY

One day in Manhattan, I was with my blind girl friend, when I told her, "Listen for that loud thrumming. Hear it?" She said she did, and then I told her, "that's the sound of twin Continental engines on the Goodyear Blimp that's right above us just now". We were on 9th Ave, near the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

It had to be after I'd started work in Florida with an online database for airplane salesmen (I worked there from 1987-90), beause I had looked up the N numbers of the Goodyear blimps to know that they had Continental engines.

A year or so later, I thought about that story while visiting San Francisco. Then I thought to myself, why am I thinking about that story, and what's that thrumming sound I hear? Sure enough, I looked up to see a Goodyear blimp. The next day, after all, was a World Series game at Candlestick Park. I was in Sacramento when the earthquake hit the next day.



Ozzie and "The Big Bang Theory"

(C) Copyright 2016 by Robert Osband N4SCY

I didn't watch "The Big Bang Theory" the first couple of years after it came out. Sure, they say they're in Pasadena at CalTech, but how come I can put a real name to nearly every character they're portraying from members of the NYU Science Fiction Society, or the Lunarians, New York City's major Science Fiction clubs? I didn't like that they were making fun of my friends like that.

Then, one day, I'm walking from the kitchen to my room in the apprtment I shared with a couple of other SF fans while the program was on. I heard Sheldon Cooper tell his friends, "Well then, you're up the nitrate polluted tributary without means of forward propulsion". It stopped me dead in my tracks. I pointed at the TV set, and yelled "HE STOLE MY LINE!!"

The phrase was one I'd used from the podium at a computer hackers conference in New York City a year or two before, and it was completely possible that one or two of the writers could have been in the audience, and taking notes.

But it was that incident when I realized that they weren't making fun of my friends, they were making fun of me! And that was permissible. I've enjoyed the program alot more since then.


One thing that's always bothered me, though, and I may have missed it before I started catching the program regularly, is why characters on The Big Bang Theory never had an argument between Dr Raj Koothrappali (an astrophysicyst from India who was schooled at Oxford before arriving at CalTech), and Dr S Cooper (a thoretical physicyst from Texas who was a precocious child and fixated for decades on String Theory).

I would think that growing up in the British Comonwealth as a subject of Her Majesty Elizabeth II, and attending Oxford (only 96 miles from the Greenwich Observatory) Rjesh would naturally assume that GMT would be the Zulu Time of choice, while Sheldon would argue (vehemently, as usual) that UTC based on the preciseness of Atomic Clocks instead of mere astronomical observation, is the scientific time zone of choice. (the Maritime community gave the world's Time Zones alpha designators in the 1920's and use the ITU phonetics to discuss them. Zulu designates time at the Zero Meridian, as defined by the location of the Greenwhich observatory, while my US Eastern Standard Time Zone is designated Romeo (and Quebec in Summer during Daylight Saving Time).



"CNN and the 'Breaking News' Chyron"

(C) Copyright 2014 by Robert Osband N4SCY

Remember when JFK-Jr's plane went into the Atlantic off Martha's Vinyard? Have you noticed that CNN now has news reports marked "Continuing Story"? I claim credit for my part.

The JFK-Jr story hit on a Friday as I recall. On Sunday, they were running the same old tape of the story they'd been running since Friday with the video of a very young John-John saluting the President's casket as it went by on the caisson.

Now I should explain here that a Chyron machine is what a video editor uses to put text on a video screen. They've gotten very sophisticated since the simple keyboards of the 1980's I used to play with on rare occasion. But it meant I knew what they were, and could make a comment aout them when the topic came up.

I went to the drug store and bought a Condolence card, addressed it to "The family of the Chyron Operator who died during JFK-Jr Coverage", c/o CNN in Atlanta. In the card, I said that I had noticed that their family member must have died during JFK-Jr coverage, because the Chyron messages still said "Breaking Story" when there was no new news content. A couple of weeks later I received a standard form letter thanking me for my comments on CNN coverage, with no reference to what coverage. But I've noticed the change in Chyron markings since, when there is a "Continuing Story".



How to Put "Mission Elapsed Time" On Your Watch

(C) Copyright 1990 by Ozzie N4SCY

Putting Mission Elapsed Time On Your Wrist Watch

When NASA and AMSAT release information on upcoming Space Shuttle schedules, time is usually given in UTC (Universal Coordinated Time) based on the expected opening of the launch window. Local US time zones are also given in a margin. However, mission events are also officially given in MET,or Mission Elapsed Time. Physics determines that many mission elements must happen so many minutes or hours after launch, sincethat puts them over certain parts of the world, or the Shuttle will bein range of certain ground experimenters, or other factors.

Launch delays are a way of life at NASA, and the upcoming shuttle launch may be no exception. Mission Elapsed Time is referred to constantly throughout a space mission. Whether you work in the space program, try to work the SAREX (Shuttle amateur Radio EXperiment), or just listen to the NASA feed on the local Ham Radio repeater (146.940 MHz in the Cape Canaveral area if you're there for the launch), cable TV, or RCA Satcom F-3 Transponder 13 (where the cable company gets it for free), you might want access to MET yourself.

MET is based on the time of lift-off at "zero" in the launch countdown, when the solid rocket boosters are lit, and the spacecraft leaves the pad at Launch Complex 39. Simply start the stopwatch feature of your electronic watch at zero in the count, and you will have MET on your watch! The kind of watch best suited will go until 23 hours, 59 minutes, 59 seconds, and then click back to zero and keep on going. Simply check the cheap watches in the blister packsat your local drug store for a watch with either a stopwatch, or "24 hour chronometer" feature. If they haven't got one for less than tenbucks, check a different drug store (or look on eBay).

If you should miss the launch, simply find out what time the launch happened from the newspaper, and start it 24 hours later. Set an alarm on the watch to go off a minute before the time that is 24 hours from launch. Shuttle missions are usually up a few days, and you'd be surprised how handy MET is when keeping track of the spacecraft. Of course, remember that you'll have to keep a tally of the number of elapsed days of the mission yourself.

(C) Copyright 1990 Robert Osband. Permission granted to any radio club to reprint this article if a copy of the newsletter is sent to N4SCY (callbook address). All others, contact author.



"How did you get your name?"

(C) Copyright 1997 by Richard Cheshire, The Cheshire Catalyst

I was sitting in chemistry class in High School when the name came to me. You can probebly guess what kind of chemical reactions we were discussing at the time. It was years later when I was on the 6th floor of 1201 Broadway where "Tom Edison" was pasting up an issue of TAP, when I noticed what article he was pasting up opposite mine.

I had written an article under the name "Osbert Kilgallen", a pseudonym I swiped from an obscure character in the Robert Heinlein novel "Stranger In A Strange Land". Kilgallen was Ben Caxton's assistant. Caxton was a major character, Kilgallen wasn't. If you look closely in the old TEL newsletter out of California, you'll find a letter from Kilgallen of Rochester NY.

But Kilgallen was a name I'd used when talking to ship's radio operators via the Marisat - the Maritime Communications Satellite which had recently (at the time) been put into operaton by Comsat General, an operating division of Comsat, the Communications Satellite Corporation - the American signitory to the Intelsat consortium. Tom Edison was pasting upan article on hacking the voice circuits of Marisat, while I was publishing an article on Telex, the old mechanical teletype system used for business communications world-wide. I was afraid that if Comsat General caught this, they'd think that I was the one publishing stuff about hacking Marisat.

While I had access to the Telex circuits on "The Bird", I did NOT hack the voice circuts (the hack was mostly spoofing the voice operators, and other "theft of service" type hacks). I needed another name to publish my first article in TAP with. It was then that the name from High School chemistry came back to me, and I became The Cheshire Catalyst.

A couple of years later, Harry Newton wanted me to write for Teleconnect magazine (later sold, and morphed into Internet Telephony magazine). Now I couldn't just publish in a "respectable" magazine like Teleconnect as "The Cheshire Catlayst". I needed a name that would let "my following" know it's me, and yet be "normal". My first name had been"typoed" in a science fiction fan publicaton as "Richard" the week before I submitted this article to Harry, and I thought "Richard Cheshire" was"clean enough".

The best take on this was the 1982 article in Technology Illustrated (available off my Home Page), in which the author states, "The Cheshire Catalyst isn't his real name - it isn't even his real pseudonym". The thing is, it's strictly a privacy thing. Once I'm in one-to-one communication with someone, I'm happy to tell them my real name, but when I get that 3 AM phone call asking for "Cheshire", I at least have some idea where they're coming from! The best part is explaining this to journalists, and watch them get that look in their eye telling me what they're thinking is, "Why didn't I think of that?"

The trick is, people know that Superman is Clark Kent, and that Peter Parker is Spiderman. A third level of abstraction - strictly for privacy purposes - doesn't occur to most people. This suits me just fine!



These stories are © Copyright 1995-2003 by Richard Cheshire, rights reserved. Interested publishers are invited to e-mail me.

This doc: http://CheshireCatalyst.Com/sidebar.html

last updated: 2003-04-03 05:42:23 UTC

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