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[07/28/2020 @11:50]: Internetting like it's 1998 again

A long time ago I hooked up a small plastic box with three LEDs on it up to the parallel port of my desktop computer. I wrote a small CGI program in Turbo Pascal (of all things) that let a visitor to my web site turn on or off any of the LEDs. This little box sat on my desk under my monitor so it was an early and rudimentary way for people to say hello to me while I was working away on the computer. I also had a small C program that lit up a separate LED connected to the same parallel port that showed the status of my dial-up Internet connection, if that helps date the period.

The LED box!

To me Gemini feels a lot like those days. A more innocent era of computing teetering between the age of the BBS and the dawn of the 'world wide web'. In that way it just feels natural to return to some of the tropes of that era, so what you are looking at is a fusion of the modern and the past. On the other side of the link below this paragraph you will find a CGI script written in Python, executed inside a Docker container by Molly Brown, which is written in Go. That Python script will make a HTTP connection over an IPSec VPN to a machine which has a serial connection over USB to an Atmel ATmega32U4 and ultimately will send your bytes to a Noritake itron VFD. Whatever you type into the prompt will be displayed until someone else comes along and changes it.

Say Something

There is no log, no webcam, no video stream. No way for me to know who sent something and no other way to know what was sent to this little VFD than to be sitting at the desk when it happens. For you dear reader, you have no way of knowing that any of this does anything other than take your input and drop it on the floor. I am essentially asking you to trust in me.

Responding to the CGI prompt

It works!

Harkening back to a much more innocent era of computing, I am giving you, a completely anonymous person on the other end of an un-knowable chain of Other People's devices write access to a physical piece of glass sitting in my home.

What could possibly go wrong? 😂

ATmega32U4 code

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