November 28, 2005

Back in the Day: ICQ, Winamp and WinNuke

Filed under: Friends,General,Technology — Cory @ 3:00 am

Last night my buddy Johnny Strunk and I were reminiscing about the old crazy days of instant messaging, and I started thinking about my early experiences with computers and the Internet.

Growing up in Blackstone, VA, I spent most of my teenage years focused on go-carts, guitars, basketball and squirrel hunting (yes, its true). My dad had computers around the house for years and our home was one of the first in the county to be on CompuServe. However, it was all text based and I had never really taken much of an interest.

Strunk was just the opposite. He was all into computers and was the man around our high school1 for fixing anything that used electricity. At that time, most of the computers at Kenston were still old Apple IIe’s, with a few Macintosh’s mixed in whenever the school could scrape together some extra cash. Strunk hated messing with those old Apple’s, and by the time we graduated he was happy that the school had been given an old Dell running Windows 3.1.

Around this time “AOL” was becoming a household name (at least in our neck of the woods) and Strunk had a subscription. It was at his house in the spring of 1997 that I first saw a website, and it was a memorable one: Those crazy black-nike-wearing, spaceship-riding aliens had just committed suicide and their website was all over the news. Of all the websites on the Internet, this is what my friend chose to introduce me to the World Wide Web.

When I arrived on the Hampden-Sydney campus as a freshman in the fall of 1997 I was far from computer saavy. It was the first year that HSC had recommended that students bring their own computers, so when it came time for me to head off to school my dad hooked me up with a sweet Pentium 166MHz with 16MB of RAM and a 3GB hard drive running Windows 95, of course. I had no idea what to do with the machine, so at first it was mainly used as a glorified CD player. Asking Strunk for help was not an option, as he was two hours away working on his computer science degree at his new home, The College of William and Mary.

 [ ICQ ] After a couple weeks of school I got an email from Strunk, telling me to go to and download something called ICQ. I did this and installed the software, and after a few emails from Strunk, I had my UIN2 and was online. Of course, initially I had no idea what this meant or how it was significant. I hated typing emails, and this seemed to be a way to get in touch with people without composing an email, so I was all for it. Soon he showed me how to send files through ICQ, and he sent something to me that he said was music. I clicked on it, and nothing happened, so he told me to go to and download something called Winamp. After I downloaded and installed the software, Strunk told me to drag the music file on top of the Winamp window. I can remember the excitement as I listened to that first mp3 (“Far Behind” by Candlebox) and realized that my friends and I could send music to each other, for free!

 [ Winamp ] So this whole trip down memory lane started last night when Strunk reminded me about one really annoying (and fun) feature of the early ICQ clients, some of you may also remember this. I can’t recall exactly what it was named, but there was a feature that allowed you to playback a foghorn sound on a recipients machine. Anyone who had this happen to them can probably still remember the sound. The first few times this happened to me I was completely confused and thought my computer had contracted some sort of extremely obnoxious virus. I soon discovered that I also had this ability, and neither friends nor family were spared, but I thought it was hilarious.

 [ WinNuke 95 ] This reminded me of another annoying little Windows app that we had a lot of fun with: WinNuke. WinNuke was a small app that could be given an IP address, and it would DOS it. It took advantage of the WinNuke OOB vulnerability and would completely crash the victim’s computer. Combined with ICQ (which would reveal a person’s IP address), we used WinNuke to “bluescreen” all of our friends on campus. I can remember “nuking” one friend’s computer when he was apparently nearly finished with a paper. I guess this was before word processors had auto-save because he claimed to have lost all his work, but I always doubted he had actually written anything. For some reason, these things never stopped being funny.

It wasn’t long after this that Strunk set up my first Linux desktop for me and I started down a more serious path with computers. But, that’s a story for another day.

1. For those that do not know, I attended grades 4-12 at Kenston Forest School, a small, rural private school in my home town of Blackstone, VA. This was not an elite “rich kids” boarding school. Think “Happy Days” meets “Green Acres“. The school was poor and always needed money. Fundraisers included selling Coach’s Brunswick Stew, selling fruit, selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and selling tickets to the “Texas Festival,” an all-you-can-eat BBQ/ribs/stew event. Notice a trend?

2. Although I have not regularly logged on to ICQ in almost 4 years, I still remember my UIN as if it were my social security number.

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