Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Computers and Me

I got my first computer in 1983, – an Apple ][+ clone. It was a wonderful 64K computer with an 80-column display card and a Zilog Z80 processor card. The Z80 card was required to run CP/M and WordStar, the latter being the killer wordprocessor software in that era. That was my plunge into the world of computers.

A couple of years later, I got an IBM PC/XT clone, then a 80386 based computer, and on and on. Nowadays, there’re all sorts of gadgets around.

Apple ][+

I started my hacking days with the Apple. Initially, it was just hacking the BASIC games to cheat, but I quickly moved on to writing programs (even games) of my own. At one time, I was fascinated with copy-protection gimmicks: some methods wrote things on disk in an ingenious way, others ‘cheated’ by burning ‘holes’ with laser on the recording surface. I actually engineered my own method of copy-protection that even outwitted LockSmith at that time. Those were the times when you had to write programs that counted precisely 32 clock cycles between writing every byte to the disk, a primitive disk I/O handling that disappeared with the IBM PC.

Notice I’ve taken care to write Apple ][ and not Apple II 😉


I have been on the Bulletin Board System (BBS) scene in Singapore since 1987. I started with a 2400 bps modem, but somewhere along the way obtained a relic 1200 bps modem as a backup. 300 bps was before my time 🙂

I setup my first BBS in 1989 and joined FidoNet (an amateur store-and-forward technology network founded in 1984) in the same year. My FidoNet address was 6:600/16, then later changed to 6:600/37. My BBS became the first FidoNet mail hub in Singapore in 1992, and the address changed once again to 6:600/200.

Open Connection, as I called my BBS, gained quite a reputation for itself. At a time when other BBSes were hoarding tonnes of pirated commercial software and other illegal materials, the Open Connection prided itself on being a completely clean and legal BBS. While other BBSes were requiring “donations” (ie., charging for service), my BBS refused all forms of contributions. Even without attractions like multi-line chat facilities, the Open Connection continued to attract many callers. I remember removing some 200 users every month in order to keep the user database within a manageable size!

In the subsequent years, the Open Connection was the first to offer many unique services: FidoNet-UUCP (Internet) email and news gateway, International FidoNet Filebone gateway (mass software distribution network), and a OS/2 Filebone (OS/2 software distribution network). The Open Connection became a very important service point supporting FidoNet operations in Singapore.

All this, however, began to decline when the Internet became publicly available in Singapore. In July 1995, the Open Connection BBS ceased operation due in most part to my lack of time to manage the system. The FidoNet mail hub, however, continued to operate simply as a mail routing centre for another year before it was also shut down in mid 1996. My own interest has also moved to the Internet.


My interest in OS/2 began in 1993. Then, I found that Wing Lee, the FidoNet network coordinator in Singapore, had switched to OS/2. He was a busy man, and if he had time for OS/2, I thought I should see what it is about too. So I played with OS/2 2.0 for half a month or so, before upgrading to 2.1 when it became available.

Since then, I have been promoting and proliferating the use of OS/2 as the preferred desktop operating system. It is an excellent operating system that is robust, reliable and compatible with existing applications. I also met up with the NUS OS/2 User Group in July 1993 led by Dr Sriram (it started in March 1993). It eventually became the Singapore OS/2 User Group of which I’m a committee member.

Windows, even Windows 95 and Windows NT now, has never been my fancy. Before moving to OS/2, I was a happy user of DESQview/386, an excellent multitasking software from Quaterdeck Office Systems (the makers of QEMM). It met my needs of having to run a BBS and using the computer for myself at the same time. I usually do software development and maybe play some games occasionally.