I've been pretty busy writing code lately for the feature I'm working on. Besides coding up some tests to make sure the Windows Mobile security loader behaves properly with the new code, I'm also contributing a desktop tool to create SHA1 hashes of applications. I love coding; I think I've deicded that it's the most rewarding part of being a software engineer, whether it's as a developer or a tester. As I mentioned before, I've always enjoyed the intellectual and creative aspects of it, and certain elements of popular culture influenced me to get into computers at an early age.
While waiting for my enlistment to compile, I've been watching an old TV show called Whiz Kids on YouTube. I distinctly remembered this short-lived show from 1983; I had just moved with my mom from Great Falls, Montana to Jacksonville, Florida, and I think I had probably recently seen WarGames, whose success this show was clearly trying to mimic. Whiz Kids was pretty much appointment viewing (Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS) for recently displaced 7-year-old Jamie back in the day. It may have also helped influence me to enroll in that computer camp and start messing with the Apple IIe.
Amusingly, the show's main character, Richie, was played by an actor named Matthew Laborteaux, who also appeared in both Little House on the Prairie and the Wes Craven movie Deadly Friend, which I think qualifies him for some kind of Furdell-family mascot status. Furtherly amusing, CBS actually had to tone down the "hacking-into-places-you're-not-supposed-to" elements of the series, after advertisers and station managers raised concers. Even more furtherly amusing, episode 2, the brilliantly titled "Fatal Error," is my new favorite thing ever, because it features a cavalcade of C-list TV guest stars: Joanna Kerns from Growing Pains plays the girlfriend of an escaped convict, A Martinez plays a cop who's constantly angry at the Whiz Kids, and, best of all, Mabel King, a.k.a. Mama from What's Happening plays (I'm not making this up) a bookmaker-cum-crime lord. If you've ever wanted to see Mabel King threaten to break someone's legs, this is the show for you.
And, as with any show with computers, the computer, "Ralph", being the star of the show, is unbelievably advanced; facial and voice recognition, the ability to crack a password scheme in about 10 minutes, a robotic arm that feeds the goldfish, etc. (As I was telling a co-worker today, I'm really disappointed computers don't have better voice recognition in general, by now. It's 2007, for God's sake. I was promised the ability to have a lively chat with my computer. I really want to be able to pick my Windows Mobile deviceamagoo and say "Find me the nearest brewpub!", and have it give me a convenient map, complete with driving/stumbling directions, but... I guess we'll have to wait for Windows Mobile 27 or something like that.)
And Richie is, of course, like MacGyver with a keyboard. In the pilot episode, he's locked in a room by the bad guys, but, wouldn't you know it, there just happens to be a terminal and keyboard in the unlocked supply closet, along with a network cable (which causes Richie to inexplicably cheer, "Local network!"). Thus, Richie is able to, on the spot, write a program to break in with a generated password, which allows him to set off the fire alarm, stop all the elevators, explode all the coffee machines in the building, and all the other things you'd expect to be able to do once you had local network access.
So anyway, Whiz Kids... highly, errr, tepidly recommended! The star-studded second episode starts here.