Tag Archives: 12/31/69

Operation Copycon (A New Year’s Eve tale)

Late in the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, 1969, a few dozen young men gathered at a nondescript brick building in the swamps of northern New Jersey. They all wore crew cuts, short-sleeve white shirts, and skinny ties.

screenshotThey’d come to the U.S. Government’s secret supercomputer lab to collaborate on a project that would change computing history. For it was here that they created those mysterious files — the ones time-stamped 12/31/69, the ones that have annoyed and frustrated computer users ever since.

Arnie Ferret, now retired from government work and living in a small walk-up in Hoboken, tells the story.

“The big brass were coming to visit right after New Year’s. Our bosses were afraid they’d ask to see what we’d stored on our computers.

“You see, the NASA guys down at Cape Canaveral, they had all the files and data that had gotten Apollo 11 to the moon and back. Damned impressive. Compared to them, well….”


Yes, kids. That’s an IBM keypunch machine. Image credit: Creative Commons (waelder)

His voice tailed off. In fact, according to recently declassified records, the New Jersey computer contained exactly 13 mix-tape song lists, a “Hello World” routine, and an early version of Pong.

So the word came down: create a bunch of files. Fast. Continue reading