Tech Life It will permanently alter your world

The Dark Underbelly of Holy Shit

The discussion generated by the original HOLY SHIT LIST has been far more interesting than the first post. Of particular obvious note, people’s lists varied based on their relative age. GO FIGURE. Whereas one person found Doom to be of particular significance, another would point at Ultima Online as being the seminal gaming event in their life. What is interesting to me isn’t that the lists are different based on a person’s age, it’s how a HOLY SHIT such as Doom becomes assumed or maybe perceived as irrelevant because it occurred outside the scope of a person’s life. Your HOLY SHIT list is a lot like your Amazon wish list. It is an indirect way of explaining who you are relative to what you care or cared about WITH LESS 1-CLICK OFFERINGS.

o o o

The second pass on my list:

Macintosh: One rule about anything on this list is that you must distinctly remember the moment when you first saw the thing in question. The Mac is easy, I was a punk kid who liked to get my jollies walking to computer stores and writing dumb programs in Basic on Apple ][s.


20 GOTO 10

One day I went into the shop and there was a Mac sitting there in the middle of the store. No one was using it. I walked up and stared at the mouse… WHAT THE HELL. A quick nudge of the mouse and there was the HOLY SHIT. Two dimensional control over the desktop. MacPaint was open. I clicked on a circle, selected one of the horrible fills on the original Mac, and clicked’n’dragged my first circle. HOLY SHIT.

I don’t remember the tiny little screen, I don’t remember the lack of applications, and I certainly don’t remember the price tag. What I remember was that my IBM PC felt like a clumsy piece of junk and I didn’t come close to forgetting that feeling until Windows 95.

Windows 95: The years between the arrival of the Mac and Windows 95 were painful ones. As my community of friends were PC users (including the Dad), we were constantly engaged in a useless conversation about when the PC was going to catch-up with the Mac user interface. We deluded ourselves into thinking that Windows/386 was actually useful, but we mostly used it because Ami Pro was the only decent graphical word processor out there. We praised the day that Windows 3.0 showed up, but were mostly just happy that we no longer had to stare at Windows/386.

I was working at Borland the day I first installed a beta of Windows 95. I’d read rumors they’d made progress on the user interface, but when I finished the EIGHT DISK INSTALL I arrived at the HOLY SHIT. No longer was I trapped in the program manager, no longer was I forced to stare at a horribly conceived user interface… Finally, Windows was an operating system that outwardly appeared to slightly care about the user experience.

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve been wrangling with whether or not to leave Windows 95 on the list. As I compare its impact relative to the other items on the list, it feels like a second class citizen because, face it, it was an operating system simply trying to keep up with the Macintosh experience. “Me too” products probably don’t belong in my HOLY SHIT experience.

Telnet: This should really read “Unix”, but as I’m a Windows dork, I’m going to leave it as telnet. In college, we needed to submit our programs via shell accounts on University servers where they’d be compiled and graded. During this process, I quickly learned there was a bevy of programs on these servers. It was here I was introduced to various multi-player games as well as the wonders of VI. A friend mentioned I should telnet to another server to check out a MUD and he might as well have been speaking Swahili. Obediently, I typed telnet, logged in, leaned over to my friend and said, “What’s the big deal?”

“You’re on that server.”


“And it’s in the U.K.”

I stared at the screen, typed return a few times, and then the HOLY SHIT that would become the Internet dawned on me.

Mosaic / Netscape Navigator 3.0: Many years after my telnet epiphany, a co-worker at Borland dropped my desk. He said, “Hey, you want to get on the web?” Again, sensing that I was missing something crucial, I nodded my head and he went to work on my network preferences. A few minutes later, Mosaic was on my desktop. He pointed me at his personal site, smiled, and said “Oh, and you can order pizza, too.”

I don’t remember what sites I traveled to in that first day, but I’m guessing it was the primal Netscape site along with SGI’s which was viewed as cutting edge at the time. The HOLY SHIT was of a similar nature to the TELNET HOLY SHIT in that the technology suddenly, violently made the world feel overwhelmingly accessible.

Netscape 2.0 gets honorable mention here because of the sheer amount of paradigm shift it packed into a single release. Frames, Java, and Javascript. Now, I’ve learned to hate frames in my later years… but at the time the combination of the three was a clear signal that it wasn’t a browser… it was an application framework.

Napster: Atandt gets props for pointing me at Napster many years back. I was searching for an MP3 on the Net and was growing increasingly frustrated with the distinct lack of an organizational system to easily find what I needed.

“Try Napster”


A quick search pointed me at an innocuous little site. I downloaded and installed the program, typed in my query, and sixty copies of the song I was looking for showed up in the list. HOW IN THE? Knowing nothing about peer-to-peer file sharing, I spent the morning figuring out the technical details of P2P while downloading my first gigabyte of music.

I called everyone in my family that night. I stumbled over my words as I tried to explain that YOU COULD GET ANY MUSIC YOU WANTED INSIDE OF FIVE MINUTES. YES, ANY MUSIC. DON’T BELIEVE ME? TRY ME.

EBay: I was way late on EBay. Sure, I got the basic idea, but the only way to truly experience a HOLY SHIT is from personal experience and I waited a good many months before I dove into EBay to find it was the Napster of Random Crap You Could Buy.

My HOLY SHIT was at Thanksgiving several years back. I knew EBay was stocked with stuff, but I hadn’t tested it. I asked everyone at the dinner table to think of an antique or hard-to-find item and write it down. I took the list of ten items to EBAY and searched for antique Jane Austin books, random electrical engineering gadgets, some type of strange microscope I’d never heard of, and the rest which I’ve since forgotten. EBay had multiple listings for every item. I printed them out, brought them to the table, and HOLY SHITTED my way through turkey and mashed potatoes.

EBay is a HOLY SHIT which keeps on giving because I later discovered that it not only represents a great place to buy, but it’s also a place to sell. Being gadget oriented, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on Palms, routers, and other useless crap that I use for three months before I throw it in a box to rot in favor of next version. While it’s not painfully convenient, EBay allows me to recoup at least some of the countless discretionary dollars I’ve thrown out the window.

Doom: Probably my favorite HOLY SHIT because I like to think I saw it coming. Set the way back machine for the early 80s. A friend and I had just spent hours playing some low resolution dungeon game. By low resolution, I mean that the dragon was a single green square. A troll was a single purple square. Yes, this was the peak of entertainment in the early 80s. That and the Dukes of Hazzard.

In our post-game-haze, we dreamt of new version of the game. You were literally walking down a hallway with a first person perspective, picking up gold, battling creatures building from more than a single pixel. It was this moment that I remember when I friend showed me Doom. He moved the mouse left and the character looked left, right… right… and up… well, he looked up, too. (Incidentally, UP is the reason I’m not listing Castle Wolfenstein… I don’t remember being able to look up and, for some strange personal reason, up made all the difference in Doom).

o o o

The beauty of the HOLY SHIT list is that it represents truth. An honest HOLY SHIT is one which completely penetrates the PR, the BUZZ, the marketing. It’s the moment when you clearly see the value of a technology and how it will permanently alter your world.

46 Responses

  1. Big Throbber 22 years ago

    Actually, the addition of looking up and down (the Z axis?) wasn’t added in Doom, but in the first Quake. Quake also added the ability to actually have rooms stacked on top of each other which I thought was pretty nifty.

    I was surprised no one mentioned it in your first holy shit message board, but I was pretty Holy Shittified about the Amiga when it first came out. That seemed leaps and bounds more advanced, graphically, then my IIc. Even if the games were garbage.

  2. Big Throbber 22 years ago

    Well, I know once id released the source for Doom there were a few mods that had added the ability (like that orphaned GLDoom), but I don’t think that was until much later. Like within the last couple of years.

    In the original, if something was on a higher platform than you your rockets would magically go at the right angle towards them, but your view was always locked, so even though your rockets were all squirting up towards the thing, you sometimes had no idea what you were shooting at.

    So in that sense, the engine was a lot like Wolfenstein. I never played that Ultima Underworld game, but wasn’t it pretty similar as well? And did it come out before or after doom? Should I stop typing? Is my dignity long gone?

  3. Doom was definitely a HOLY SHIT moment for me. I was a big fan of Wolfenstein and was consistently amazed at its “3D”-ness. Over the next couple years a bunch of clones came to the surface (think Ken’s Labrynth – yuck.) Then one night I got a call at about 12:00 midnight. It was my friend who spent all afternoon downloading it from a BBS (more on that later) thinking it was just going to be a poor Wolfenstein clone. Once the download was finished it was late. What a perfect time to play Doom for the first time. Wow. I didn’t get to play it until the next day, but I had a sort of HOLY SHIT moment through my friend. About the 3D – the game definitely had up and down in that you could go up and down stairs, fall off ledges, use elevators, etc, but you couldn’t really look.

    BBSes were definitely another one, though I got in the game relatively late in 1991. I still remember the time when I struggled to get Windows 3.0’s ‘Terminal’ app to dial up to our local library which had just put its catalog online. HOLY SHIT. I could see what books the library had with the exact same interface I used at the library 10 miles away. Eventually I found a number to a BBS that was long-distance in a textfile that came with one of those crummy shareware-on-a-disk sets. After about $300 in long-distance charges I actually found a list of BBSes that were in my city. Hah.

    I have almost exactly the same telnet experience as Rands. I remember connecting to a mud in Sweden. I’d type gibberish just to see it come back at me from thousands of miles away.


  4. brandon 22 years ago

    The only HOLY SHITs that I could add to this:

    The ink-jet printer. “Where’d you get that photo blown up?” I asked reasonably. “At home” took a while to sink in.

    Then, there is of course artificial inteligence. Quake2: “But I shot him, why didnt he die?” I demanded, “He ducked”.

    Thief: “Are you sure he’s not going to miss that key?” [sirens wail].

    And who could forget USB? When I watched my mouse install without restarting, I almost HOLY SHITTED my pants!


  5. Oh, yeah.


    I remember being absolutely amazed at the sounds coming out of WinPlay3. And I downloaded them on my modem! My very first MP3 was “The Distance” by Cake. I was so used to the quality of RealAudio and its ilk I was unprepared for the “CD” quality. (RealAudio was pretty holy-shitty as well. I remember going over to my friend’s house (same one as before) and demanding that he install it. On a 14.4 it was pretty low-quality but YOU COULD HEAR PEOPLE TALKING ON THE OTHER END!! (And I guess this segues into internet telephony, CuSeeMe, etc…))

    I forget how I actually got that first MP3. I don’t think the MP3 FTP site search engines were up at that point. I probably got it from a site I found on #mp3 on efnet. (“I got into MP3s way before you did, nyah nyah…”) ๐Ÿ™

  6. rands 22 years ago

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I could “look up” in Doom. It was just a hack right? I distinctly remember one of the those strawberry headed demons trucking “down” a ramp to munch me.

  7. I’m repeating myself but MOO is certainly my holy shit moment. What made me think how cool MOO was is the fact for the first year I never thought about trolling or getting sex online and just wrote code all day LIKE THE BIG FAGGOT I AM

  8. Regarding Doom: it is partially three-dimensional. There are ledges and stairs and buildings and so on, but there is an amusing little problem which results from the way map data is stored that prevents a true 3D environment from existing.

    I will start with a word on how Doom maps work. (Although I haven’t worked directly with Doom itself, I’ve fucked around with Quake and Half-Life editors enough to know the difference.)

    Doom maps in their purest form are 2D vector composites, not unlike the graphics of those old pre-Atari consoles. (No, seriously, they are. Just lines on a totally flat plane. That’s it. WHERE ARE YOU GOING? PLEASE COME BACK! so lonely) Each of those little lines on the automap carries values and attributes: what this place looks like from the top, what it looks like from the sides, whether the floor and/or ceiling at this location can change altitude (i.e. elevators and trap ceilings), etc.

    Here is the 3D part: among these coordinates, there are also values stating relative altitude. So we can state that the ground on THIS SIDE of LINE A is HOWEVER MANY units of measure higher than THE OTHER SIDE. (If there’s a ceiling at this location, it gets altitude values too.) From these values, the game determines whether you can step up onto the ledge (i.e. a stair), if you’ll break your stupid fucking legs when you try to cross from the high side to the low side (i.e. a high ledge), and so on.

    Here’s the punchline: at any given location, absolutely everything is below the only ceiling (if applicable) and above the only floor. These concepts are not interchangable — you can’t have a platform which you can stand on, and then walk under. It’s always either one or the other.

    Big Throbber correctly pointed out that many of Quake’s MAD PROPS were earned by fixing this. Quake dismissed the concepts of “here is the floor” and “here is the ceiling” and replaced them with one concept: “here is a coordinate range that you cannot pass through”. This has proven to be much more versatile than the old way of doing things.

  9. Descent came out two years before Quake and did the same thing except using spaceships rather than demons and steroided up marines.

  10. It has been pointed out to me by my terrible souless roommate who still plays Doom on a nearly daily basis, that the z-axis viewability (real word?…is now) was implemented with Doom Legacy ( in 1997 after the release of the source, but that there may have been a software hack that allowed something like 20 degrees of vertical motion before that, but he doesn’t think so.

    Secondly, he nit-picks that with the first Quake, you actually had to turn on the ability to look up and down in the options. It wasn’t a default.

    Anyways, that’s all from me. I’m Brian, by the way. Nice site.

  11. I think anyone that is into jerkcity must play Ken’s Labrynth WITH THE SOUND ON

    Those who already have know what I’m talking about.

    My HOLY SHIT moment: first time jerking it.

    “Wow, you can… have sex with yourself? Why bother talking to girls?”

  12. The Beast 22 years ago

    I’ve got pretty similar holy shit moments – The first mp3 I heard, the first time using Gopher on the local library, the first time calling a BBS. The one thing I will add, though, is going to my first West Coast Computer Faire in 1989. For an impressionable young kid, that was a big event. Realizing that there were this many computer geeks around really made me feel like I wasn’t quite as weird as I had supposed.

    Of course, in 1989, we didn’t have Electronics Boutiques everywhere – if I wanted to try to buy a ‘new’ computer game, it involved getting my father to drive 40 miles to a shop. Sheesh.

  13. Some “holy shit” list items, some definitely borrowed from Rands:

    1. The Atari 2600: Pretty sure I played it before I’d played (and comprehended) any arcade games. I have vague memories of sitting in Atari’s sit-down “Fire Truck” game, and a Coleco Telstar Pong system, but Atari’s really what brought the scourge of video gaming into my life.

    2. That basic program Rands talked about. I can’t begin to tell me how many computer displays in NJ scrolled the words “FUCK YOU” at my hands.

    3. Dragon’s Lair: “It’s a cartoon, but I can control it? Jesus.” Ahhh, for the days when I didn’t understand gameplay.

    4. Playing with MacPaint early on was pretty cool, wasn’t it?

    5. Skinny Puppy: What a fucking head trip.

    6. LSD: Uh, yeah.

    7. Synthesizers. Specifically, a Yamaha SY-22, a hit of acid, and about 16 hours straight of working on ONE PIANO SOUND.

    8. I’ll go along with Doom, too. I was like “Whoa, Dungeons Of Daggorath with better graphics and more violence!”

    9. Wipeout for the original Playstation. The overall experience of this game (visuals, music, gameplay) kicked my ass.

    10. Seeing the web for the first time was cool, but spending my first weekend of net access dosed out of my skull, looking at web sites sorta beat it. (No, I don’t still do this much acid. Been a while.)

    11. IRC: The other scourge. Completely life-changing.

    12. Getting my ass kicked at NetQuake for the first time. I’m STILL getting my ass kicked at NetQuake. =)

    13. Hotline: Yeah, dead company, run by morons, blah blah blah, buggy as fuck on Windows, whatever. The “HOLY FUCK I CAN DOWNLOAD ANYTHING AND I DON’T HAVE TO BEG FOR FTP PASSWORDS”-ness of Hotline pre-dated Napster by a few years, and people still use Hotline, though KDX will gradually replace it.

    14. MP3s: If it weren’t for these, I’d be living in a cardboard box with the BEST MIX TAPES EVER. As is, I’m close. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    15. BROADBAND: “OK, it’s hooked up. I’m going to try downloading this Neubauten so-SWEET JESUS GOD A’MIGHTY IT’S DONE ALREADY!!!!!!”

  14. Dead Robot 22 years ago

    I had a roommate in Animation College who got me to help him with wireframing an egg shaped car jumping over two ramps in a circus tent using his Amiga. He showed me how to model things and spent some time setting the whole thing up. Hit Render. Wait. Wait some more. Go get dinner. Wait. 25% done. Wait. etc… File complete.

    Hit play. Holy Shit!

  15. rands 22 years ago

    Re: Broadband. I had a minor holy shit just recently regarding, of all companies, SBC. Having been a victim of the Northpoint bankruptcy who was handed off to Covad and CHARGED MORE FOR WORSE SERVICE, I was just shocked when I got a call from SBC asking if I wanted to switch over?

    “Uh, why?”

    Turns out that SBC would charge be 1/3 the cost, move me from 384k to 1.2M, and not charge me for three months.

    No catch.

    And they delivered as promised over existing phone lines with no installation headaches. Been using fat bandwidth for four months without incident.

    Incidentally, this was why little guy broadband shops are dead — they big guys have caught up and they’ve got it down. Bummer.

    (Based in Silicon Valley, FYI)

  16. pandaForHire 22 years ago

    Oddly enough, no one has done porn. Does no one remember when they discovered that the internet had porn? Well, I remember. I’d been peripherally aware of it, ever since I went over to a friend’s house who had the internet, and my mother said “Stay away from the bad websites.” But it really didn’t hit me until I was in my school computer room, on an old PowerPC, and I was looking for cool pictures, and I typed “cool pictures” and BOOM! HOLY SHIT! “HOT BABES FUCKED! COOL OFF IN HERE! OVER 10,000 PICTURES! FREE XXX!”

  17. Settle 22 years ago

    My holy shit list of things not already mentioned:

    Marathon 1, the superior mac FPS, in which one could look both up and down. It also had glance keys for looking perpendicular to one’s motion. The game was really well made.

    The idea of printers in general still brings up feelings of holy shit, from an artistic standpoint. It really is amazing what kind of crap you can feed through a good inkjet and not break it.

    Photshop 3, the first version that I can recall having layers, which turned out to be really useful.

    A little known CD-ROM called GADGET introduced me to the possibilities of 3d modelling and rendering. To this day it makes me go holy shit, because it is holy shit.

    Bolo, the tank game. Internet play. First game I played with more than one other person across more than 10 feet or so.

  18. DarkSideofOz 22 years ago

    ehehe i remember the first time i did acid and looked at my screen saver i was like HOLY SHIT!! aheheeh

  19. Floid 22 years ago

    Let it be known that I am ashamed at the lack of editing on the above post.

  20. Floid 22 years ago

    Amiga was definitely ‘the’ holy shit, for better or worse. I find myself still in that scene, picking over the dregs, getting an absurd amount of cred for knowing the state of modern systems and having some reasonable thoughts on UI. (Mac was important, time to move on.)

    Firing up the “DE,” the current Amiga’s once-chosen Way Forward, and currently little more than a packaging of Tao (’s “Elate,” was another pleasant Holy Shit, if one tempered by the knowledge that it’d probably go nowhere for years, as has happened. It’s hard to explain this one, but it stems from the fact that it’s a crossplatform system, implemented on a little ‘translator’ runtime; think something at least resembling an OS implemented in something like a JVM that happens to be Really Pretty Fuckin’ Fast. Holy Shit, computers are fast enough to afford this level of abstraction. Holy Shit, if it weren’t screwed by being multiple tiers of closed-source software, you could actually buy commercial software and not be tied to one sucky OS and architecture. I, like most Amiga freaks, twitch like a crackhead knowing it may come to nothing, but as CPUs ramp ever faster and cheaper, I’m convinced this level of abstraction will hit the mainstream someday, even if it amounts to Transmetaing x86 into the grand crappy runtime of the future. Someday, it’ll be possible to buy a boxed game and play it on your Playstation X or desktop machine, and not because one company cornered the market for all hardware.

    Back to the real world. Online trading, holy shit. More specifically, I’m a college dropout screwup right now, as you’d expect from someone who can type the above rant, and in the past three years, I’ve moved from (which died an unceremonious death) to BrokerageAmerica post-that-holy-shit-day-last-year. There was something seriously ‘holy shit’ about being a peon with $100 to his name shoving it in’s S&P fund and making a fast $40 in the dotcom boom, even if they got it back in overdraft fees later. There was something even more ‘holy shit’ about BrokerageAmerica giving free trades until they decided to become profitable. The stock market is an excellent scam, naturally, but there’s something impressive about how long it took to become a scam accessible to the average jerk-off. Could Enron have happened when the market was limited to big players who might’ve at least tallied the numbers in their annual reports? I can lose thousands (or even lose thousands I don’t have on margin fees), all with the touch of a button, as can your kindly old grandmother or any other schmuck out there.

    Discovering hardware has become about as cheap as air. This has been a prolonged Holy Shit for me. I was never the sort of kid who had the latest games, or the latest anything- I started in early with a Tandy 1000SX, but lived with it for about 7 years before a strange progression of events took me from a slower XT (albeit with a VGA card and faster modem… I’d made it to 1200 baud in the era of 9600), to a progression of 386en, followed by a ‘cheap’ Nx586 that tallied something like $3k by the time I’d run through $800 of VL cards trying to find a combination that didn’t conflict and had OS/2 support. The K6-2 that supplanted that broke the bank as well, with UWSCSI disks (a whole 4gb, but they were 7200RPM!) and a G200, purchased about a month before the bottom dropped out of the HD market. I am profoundly amazed that I can now find a fully competent system (yeah, I still don’t game much) for $300. “Holy Shit,” I said in 1999 or so, “I can actually afford *Ethernet.*” Maybe those working corporate or with better surplus connections never really noticed, but the day that a LAN dropped from $100 a card to $100 a network (and it was a pretty sudden shift between ’97-’99 or so) made things a hell of a lot different. There was a time, not long ago at all, when sneakernetting files on Zip or MO was actually cheaper than just plugging two wires together. Think how absurd a “broadband-ready game console” felt in the era of WebTV.

    I seem to get that price shock a lot; I watched the Amiga, SCSI, and even the Mac ‘alternative’ wither (though, yes, thank god for eBay when it comes to SCSI crap), and then these “That’ll never take off, it’s too damn complex and expensive!” technologies- USB, Firewire, 3D cards, processors that need heatsinks the size of your head, 10baseT/100baseT ethernet (“Okay, makes sense for offices, but who can afford even one a hub for their house?”) just totally flew beyond mass-production and into complete commoditization. I’m still holy-shitting my pants at that (though I’m more than happy to embrace it, now)… I’m equally amazed when little holy-shits like the Newton totally failed to hit that level at all. (And, of course, a big ‘What the fuck?’ goes out to Palm, for launching at a near-Newton price-point way back when, and somehow finding success through shittiness.)

    UNIX/Internet- Getting my ass on the Internet wasn’t really a holy-shit moment at all, but in lieu of that, actually wrangling UNIX is a prolonged ‘holy shit.’ It’s not so much that it’s better, but that it’s “different,” and has so much more openly-published history around it than anything else out there. If you start out on OpenBSD, you get comfortable- things are actually arranged with some vague sense by default- and then you start reading about all the things largely ignored today… rlogin, for instance- “Dear God, who would dare use that?”- but then you poke at it, and you realize, at some dim moment in the ’70s, this *was* ‘distributed computing.’ Similarly, I saw “Holy shit, BIND/DNS!,” on someone’s list… and then you dig into djb’s criticisms, and you actually wrangle the protocol, and you realize “Dear god, the Internet is held together by the deranged and broken imaginings of Paul Vixie.” It’s rare to find an OS that has that going, a system where you can actually find out who’s to credit or blame. All the desktop OSes of the ’80s and on through the MS’n’Apple tradition just “were”- you didn’t get to watch that whole process of architechting and engineering occurring, you lived with whatever shipped as the latest point release.

    Finally, not strictly technical, but…when you’re 13 and discover that that weird developing fetish of yours is one of the Internet’s oldest and most populous subcultures: Holy fuckin’ shit.



  21. Some of the few that come to mind:

    Hearing GWAR for the first time and suddenly giving a HOLY SHIT about music. Kind of went from Bon Jovi and radio slop to a band that advertised “Cannibalistic Blood Orgies” on the back of their tapes..

    DOOM for me as well. I spent 8 months playing the demo daily for 4-8 hours before managing to scrounge up the $$ for the full version. Then my jaw dropped when I found out I could get new levels and mods from that ‘internet thing’ – HOLY fucking SHIT

    Finding newsgroups and their vast overflowing unregulated sea of smut was one too

    That’s all I’ve got for the moment..

  22. – MP3’s, holy shit.

    – Quake, via modem, holy shit

    – GL Quakeworld, holy muhfuckin’ shit

    – ICQ, holy shit

    – Broadband, holy shit

    Nice list Mr. Rands.

  23. Most of the other people here seem to be of an older generation (by a huge, incomprehensible span of 5 years or so) as far as computers are concerned, being amazed by amiga, unix features, etc.

    Me? Being a young, stupid asshole, one of my HOLY SHITs was AOL. Hey! A chat room? What’s this? Sweet! I’m 12 and I can shoot the shit about nintendo games for eternity!

    I can’t really recall my first HOLY SHIT experience, but it’s either the old ‘introduction to clicking and dragging’ demo disk that came with the Macintosh SE (the old black and white all-in-one future fishtank) or the racing game ‘The Duel’ for same. In retrospect, I’m amazed they could get that kind of framerate with that hardware… 20 megabyte hard drives, anyone?

    And along the same lines as my old, horribly lame AOL experience: Multiplayer duke nukem 3d. HOLY SHIT! I can blow up my friends. It was even more impressive that I was playing it on a powermac 7200/120Mhz with a PC emulation card. Those cards were so ass-backwards.. they could do all this neat stuff, but modem hardware handshaking didn’t work (thus crippling your ability to use the internet in any way), and you couldn’t run applications off of CDs in Windows. (?!)

    I actually had an interesting HOLY SHIT experience… I think I was in turks and caicos (of all places) at the time, and I’d been having some fun with an old pay-to-play MUD that had moved to AOL from GEnie. At this point GEnie (now just Genie) had almost completely died. For all I know, I could’ve been the only person on the whole system. I logged on to GEnie, found the MUD.. and it was empty. And I knew it’d been years since anyone had been there.

    It’s a truly spooky feeling, being alone in a system that was designed for hundreds of users. Here it is, what was once the cutting edge of a system of ideas that would go on to make millions (billions?) of dollars (see: everquest and AOL), and it’s completely abandoned.

    For further readinds on that feeling, which I still get when I dig out the Ti/99-4a (which is a HOLY SHIT of its own– the first video game system I ever played, Parsec, Hunt the Wumpus, down at the Albany Public Library), check out the link I put up as my URL. Technology has its own antiques, in the ‘valuable and fascinating shit’ sense of the word.

  24. poke53280 22 years ago

    VIC and SID. The video and sound chips on the C64. The 64 was just another BASIC box until I got the Programmer’s Reference Guide and discovered sprite graphics and weird almost-music noises.

    Stereo headphones. The heavy padded kind that block out all sound and make big music inside your head.

    The Connection. A local BBS that’s still the best online conference/community system ever.

    (I had first experiences with MS-DOS and MacOS, but my socks remained on my feet. It’s a computer. You put disks in it. It runs programs. Yes, there are more pixels on the screen than the C64, and yes the disks work better than the gross Commodore 1541, but…yawn.)

    Scheme. Holy shit, I can just pass parts of my program to other parts as arguments! Since I had only used BASIC and assembler, this was my first real programming language. Recursion. Wow.

    SimCity. (the original) (Yes, I have a game on here.) All the little simulated people want certain things, and complex behavior emerges from a simple system that you can influence as you go along.

    (First experiences with Unix and the Web didn’t really make me go “Holy Shit” because I’d already had The Connection in the early 1980s.)

    Linux. (although it could have been any “Free Unix”.) There are how many programs running on my cheap computer at the same time? And I can write any program I want without crashing the machine?

    Common Gateway Interface (CGI). All of a sudden anyone on the net can run anything I write, including looking at gnuplot graphics drawn on the fly. I don’t have to give someone software to let him or her run the software? I don’t have to care what kind of computer he or she has? Holy shit.

    (I suppose there aren’t many graphics-intensive ones on my list because for a long time I’ve had the idea in my head that graphics just keep getting better and better, from Atari 2600 to Vic-20 to C64, and so on, until it’s better than TV. I just ran out of amazement after the first couple steps.)

  25. Klaatu 22 years ago

    Dear Rands;

    I would like to add AutoCAD to the holy shit list. I remember when version 7.0 was released in the 80’s and Mike D. and I were learning how to use it. The ability to visualize 3D forms by an architect is amazing. Frank Gehry, the famous architect, once remarked that he couldn’t build some of his designs until he could draw them with AutoCAD.

  26. Philip Chalmers 21 years ago


    * Civilization defined turn-based strategy.

    * Dune defined real-time strategy.

    * Simon the Sorcerer has crappy mid-90s DOS graphics but a degree of wit & imagination absent from most of to-day’s graphics-driven games.

    * Age of Empires – game play is open to crticism but aesthetically it’s beautiful.

    Windows 3 – not as elegant as the Mac but put GUIs on a whole lot more desktops.

    Relational databases (oops, gave my age away!) made pre-relational DBs look gothic.

    E-mail (I first used it in 1988) – no more telephone tag.

    Search engines – no explanation needed.

    Moore’s Law (price-performance ratio improves by 2 every 18 months) – the foundation for all the above and much, much more.

    Structured programming (my age again!) – made it easy to design & develop complex software (well, a lot easier).

    The 2000 Olympics – the Aussies put the fun back into it.

    Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

  27. I have two HOLY SHITS.

    The first was when I was setting up my first P2P network in my home office. I had acquired an old NE1000 NIC in a PC I got from my brother. If had jumpers that needed to be set for the interrupts. I had no documentation. I had visions of hours on hold waiting to talk to some dweeb in Novell’s tech support who probably wouldn’t know what I was talking about. Actually, this was a Sunday evening and I figured there was probably no one there. I took a flyer and did a search on the Novell website for “NE1000”. HOLY SHIT!!! A page appeared in my browser with the complete documentation for the NE1000 including the jumper settings. I was installed and running within 30 minutes.

    My second HOLY SHIT was the time my 4th grade duaghter (she’s now a sophomore in HS) came home with the extra credit assignment of “What is Piggly-Wiggly and why is it important?” It was very important to my little darling to get this credit so we went into my home office and got onto one of the search engines, AltaVista I think. I typed in “Piggly-Wiggly” and got a list of pages back. The fourth entry was the corporate website for Piggly-Wiggly Corporation in Memphis, TN. One of the pages off of the home page was the corporate history. We printed out the page (it took four pieces of paper) on our color inkjet printer. She turned those pages in as her report and was the only student to complete the assignment. The teacher was awe-struck that my daughter had a 4 page, full color report on the subject. It took us ten minutes. BTW, Piggly-Wiggly was the first self service supermarket in the US. Today, my daughter does her own internet searches and creates some of the most amazing school projects on her own. HOLY SHIT!!!

  28. My HOLY SHIT list;

    Porn. Must agree. There’s nothing like going from genital-twaddling theatrically moaning American pornlets to hard-core butt-banging Rocco “the cabanossi” Siffredi shagging chicks in the most outrageous way imaginable, chanting his mantra “Oh yes baby. Nasty, nasty.” The man is a legend.

    Scanners and digital cameras. “You mean, I can scan by nuts/resume, email the bitch to a company on ANOTH?ER CONTINENT and save postage and 2 weeks? You mean I can take a photo, and not have to SPEND $10 DEVELOPING the cunt?”

    CD-ROM Burners. Sure, MP3’s are good, but burners allow you to enjoy your illicit anti RIAA music in full hi-fidelity. Also, games. Porn, never traded easier than on CD-ROM.

    GPS. “You mean, I can track my fat ass in real-time to 5 cm? HOLY SHIT.” (note: I’m privileged enough to play with D-GPS.)

    Alcohol. I remember being 15, grabbing my mum’s bottle of cointreau, and slaughtering myself. It was way cool, and then I realised ITS SOLD EVERYWHERE – HOLY SHIT.

    Pussies. When I uncovered my first, I was like, “Holy shit. What do I do with this.” Now I’m like HOLY SHIT I can make someone unable to walk for 30 minutes? Bring it on! Same for anuses, really, I’m well down with that.

    Seatbelts. You don’t notice how HOLY SHIT life is until you’ve been saved from an ignominous death by your seatbelt.

  29. You cant look up in doom.

  30. Two HOLY SHIT’s worth mentioning:

    The Newton software architecture.

    The Mighty Fuck’n BeOS.

  31. whois 21 years ago

    Interesting. My previous post is missing.

  32. Twyppen 21 years ago

    I was too young to quite think Holy Shit at the Apple ][, but here’s a couple less obvious ones, that really made be jump:

    The original Borland Pascal compiler – 1.0. You hit compile, and the program just started running. Beat the hell out of anything else.

    At an RS/6000 rollout, IBM showed a 1GB memory card – banks of chips down both sides of a half length ISA card. Not bad at a time when a 40MB (yes MB, not GB) was a pretty kick-ass hard disk!

  33. Don’t forget Ramen Noodles and colorguard laundry detergent. I bet you anything they were both invented by a lazy ass college kid. then the whole world was like ” HOLY SHIT ”

  34. TheNintenGenius 21 years ago

    While I’m somewhere along the lines of “REALLY FUCKING LATE PEOPLE” as far as writing up my holy shit list, I figured that it’d be better late than never as far as things went. Granted, my list is probably going to suck balls due to 1) not getting into computers until late in the game, and 2) having been born in 1985 in the first place, but I’ll give it the old (pre-)college try, and writing about things that changed my life in ways both large and small.

    1) The N64 – Now I know that the Playstation and Saturn predated Nintendo on the whole “3D home consoles” schtick, and that the arcades and such predated the home consoles on the whole 3D thing, but realize that when the N64 came out, I was a 5th grade Nintendo fanboy who still thought that “SEGA SUX LOLOLOL” and didn’t even know what a Playstation was.

    At any rate, I was already excited about the system. I’d seen the screenshots of the games in Nintendo Power (TEH BEST MAGARZEEN EVAR) and was already very hyped. Mario in 3D? Would it work? Was it feasable? My god, how would this be? The system was brought home, Super Mario 64 was inserted, and it was turned on.

    That entire day was one huge “holy shit” moment for me, people. I had experienced 3D gaming, and 2D gaming now seemed so tame in comparison. It helped, though, that for all intents and purposes, there was a lot you could do in the game. “WOW, I CAN MAKE MARIO BACKFLIP AND CLIMB TREES AND WHOA DID YOU SEE THAT THAT’S TOTALLY COOL AND WOW MAN IT’S 3AM ALREADY?”

    2) TEH INTARWEB – I was also a relative latecomer to this, but when my parents got that dialup line (unfortunately still a dialup line due to the shitty location in which I live), it was a huge holy shit thing. You could do ANYTHING on the web, see ANYTHING, it was A TRULY GROUNDBREAKING EXPERIENCE AND I MILKED IT FOR ALL IT WAS WORTH. (meaning that some nights I’ve stayed up until 4 AM or longer, chatting, just getting “one more file,” or reading “one more Jerkcity and/or Pokey the Penguin comic in the archives, I swear I’ll stop after that.”

    3) mp3s – Honestly, I didn’t quite get into mp3s at first. I’m a dialup kid. mp3s seemed too large and foreign for my small pipe. Eventually, I did bite the bullet, and my first mp3 ever, I believe, was something from Overclocked Remix (because YES I WAS A HUGE GAMER DORK PEOPLE). When I listened to it, it was immediate HOLY SHIT. This kicks the absolute hell out of my MIDIs! Get the fuck out of here, you, I’m downloading more of these mp3 things RIGHT THE HELL AWAY.

    4) Starcraft/Half-Life – These both get put on the list in the same entry because I got into them both at about the same time. Now for the longest time, I was a console gamer kid, and honestly still am. I didn’t really play many games on the computer. Hell, why did I need to? The consoles provided more than enough entertainment (LIKE THE NES MMMM CLASSIC 8-BIT), so why’d I need to play computer games?

    All this changed when a friend of mine, back in about 1998 or 1999 recommeded the games Starcraft to me. I said “sure, it looks pretty cool,” borrowed it from him, installed it on my quite-old-and-somewhat-sucky-PC, and HOLY SHIT THIS GAME IS FUN 5 AM AGAIN. Granted, I sucked balls at this whole “RTS” thing (and still do), but the sci-fi plot was intriguing the utter hell out of me, and come on, there were Zergs to shoot and bases to destroy.

    A bit later, this same friend recommended Half-Life to me, and it was HOLY SHIT PART TWO. It had another sci-fi plot, but it was more dark and strange and the aliens were creepy and the government was out to ELIMINATE ALL TRACES OF YOU and I needed to upgrade my old piece of shit computer straightaway so I could play more GAMES GAMES GAMES.

    5) TMBG – I think the point where I went from “casual music fan” to “full-blown audiophile nerd” was about the same time I was introduced to the band They Might Be Giants by an online friend. They said that the group was quite excellent and that I should try it, I’d really like it.

    I barely remembered TMBG from watching Tiny Toons as a kid. They were those guys that did “Particle Man” and “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”, songs that I could hardly remember at that point, but I still remembered liking them quite a bit. So, I decided to pick up a TMBG CD (Apollo 18) and see what they were like.

    To be honest, my reaction to TMBG was much less holy shit than the ones before it on the list, but they were definitely different and struck a chord with me. They were creative, quirky, and made me want to buy more of their albums post-haste. Long story short, TMBG opened up my appreciation for music a hell of a lot and now have a music collection of well over 100 CDs at this point from bands as diverse as the Pixies, The Ramones, Mouse on Mars, Moxy Fruvous, Soul Coughing, Talking Heads, Radiohead, Tom Waits, The Flaming Lips, etc, etc.

    6) Masturbation, which ties in with porn – I honestly discovered masturbation entirely on accident, I have to admit. I was young, my dad left a copy of Playboy in the bathroom (which, for a kid just developing hormones, was HIGH QUALITY SHIT), and I decided to look at it and WOW TITS. Hardly realizing what I was doing at the time, my hand went down, started doing its work and OH YEAH HURF GURF SPLURT.

    It was at this point that I stopped, awestruck. Did I just do that? Holy motherfucking shit, this opened up a whole new world of pleasure and possibilities. And I thought I’d have to wait until WOMEN to have fun. Hot diggity damn, this was a hell of a discovery, and it wasn’t until the advent of the internet and FREE XXX SITES did I realize that there was a hell of a lot more to porn than just naked women. (This tied into my discovery that the only thing remotely interesting about Playboy IS the articles.)


    8) DVD – This was a huge milestone for me, really. When my parents bought that DVD player, and played that first DVD, I was amazed. You could watch any part of the movie you wanted, when you wanted! You could fast-forward, reverse, and slow down the action at will and not have that stupid fuzzy shit on the screen like when you tried to do that stuff with VHS. The picture quality was astoundingly clear. It was WIDESCREEN. FUCKING WIDESCREEN. FUCK YOU, PAN AND SCAN, I’M ALL FOR THIS.

    9) Heavy Metal (the movie, you dorks) – This is the film that made me realize that cartoons were more than just Chuck Jones. HOLY SHIT, THERE’S NUDITY AND ULTRAVIOLENCE AND JOHN CANDY. This was sure as hell the way to go! (though I wouldn’t find another animated film that’d elicit a “holy shit” from me until Akira)

    10) Cowboy Bebop – While Akira changed my idea of what anime was (this sure as hell isn’t Speed Racer OR anything else like that!), Cowboy Bebop truly defined what the hell REALLY FUCKING GOOD anime was. Holy crap, the action’s the most well-choreographed I’ve seen in any MOVIE much less series! The characters are great! There’s a great jazz soundtrack! Screw the Sailor Moon and DBZ crap, this is all I’ll never need as far as anime goes, ever. (and if anything, I’ve yet to find anything that matches Cowboy Bebop. Go figure)

    11) Blade Runner – Having grown up on such fare as Star Wars, Blade Runner really changed my mind as to what sci-fi was. It was dark and gritty and that one blonde replicant dude was creepy and Harrison Ford always kicks ass and whoa man this one of the best movies I’ve ever watched.

    12) Toy Story – Really obvious here, people. First full-length CGI feature, first film in which we discovered how much ass Pixar kicks. This isn’t hazy childhood nostalgia people, I still watch this movie. It’s THAT good.

    There’s a lot of other things that I could probably put on my list, but I’d probably better shut up now. Maybe I’ll do more later if I feel like it.

  35. Nice timeline of nearly all the same epiphanies I’ve made regarding computers and the Internet. Thank you for the retrospect.

    There was one left out though, before the whole internet thing became as mainstream as it is today. When I got my first crappy 2400 baud modem and made a connection. My computer talking to another computer? Over the phone line? Holy Shit! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  36. I had a similar round of HOLY SHIT when I got to school and discovered this ugly little text monster called Unix (HP-UX). Tapping a few keys and being able to chat live with another human in Finland was mind-blowing. Later, I moved on to a live chat based off ICB and wasted many a night chatting up folks from around the globe, as many as 30 at a time! (Long before I delved into IRC)

    Having played Wolfenstein and Doom, I was salivating for Quake. Dropped some bucks on the disc, popped it in and was creeped right the hell out of my skin by the eerie music, gigantic feel to the levels and HOLY SHIT THAT BLADE FUCKER JUST KILLED ME! (end of level 1). I still hate that blade demon thing.

    Recently, had a HOLY SHIT I’m Connected moment. I was talking to the local college radio station over the phone, which digitizes their signal and puts it out as a live MP3 stream. That stream was being listened to by folks across the US and in Australia, with whom I was chatting via IRC. HOLY SHIT! I can blather stupid jokes to them via a convoluted web of communication mediums and see their responses in realtime.

    My first GUI. Pointing and clicking with Borland C-Builder and WTF??? I just made a Windows program. Later, I got the same sort of lump in my pants from using Visual Basic to dummy up some programs for a computer class I was taking. This was such a luscious change from C and Turbo Pascal and other such things, I still get misty-eyed thinking about it.

    Love reading the other reminisces. I’ve had many similar moments with BBS’s and such things. Gotta love 8-bits, 1 stop bit, No parity.

  37. Rob The Bastard 20 years ago

    I am little more than a chronic net junkie (7 years running). Not a big gamer, not a big ANYTHING. The holy shits that led to this lifestyle happened in very quick succession:


    Redialing, redialing, redialing, [SWEET MANGLED SOUNDS OF CONNECTION] PHREAKING HACKING ANARCHY TXT’S THAT I’LL READ 5 TIMES AND NEVER USE! After checking out the more nefarious-sounding boards on the freshly downloaded bbs-list.txt, I begin in alphabetical order. As luck would have it, the very first entry is a rare…


    30 people online at once? I can sit on my arse all day and night chatting to these saps? Oh man. Hang on, what’s this shit…


    IRC through my MS-DOS terminal prog. #13-17teenz 40 users. Chicks. I get several email addys each day. Develop incredible crush on girl I’ve never seen.

    Eventually there was www, icq, etc. I recall trying to explain to someone in school how completely fucking rad mp3s are (and WHAT they are), failing to communicate this and feeling like a moron.

    But nothing besides those first few months has really blown my ass off. Becoming connected (and staying connected) was the big thing. Except for CTRL FUCKING ENTER, WHY HAS NOONE FUCKING TOLD ME AGHHHHH

  38. I’m new to this site, just browsing around

  39. OK, this one just hit me. My roomate asked me, “This is where I sign the check right?” I go *scratch head* yea man, you haven’t written checks before? “No, this is my second one”.

    I said…. “Wait a minute, how have you payed off your bills and credit cards?” He said “I’ve always done them online”.

    Holy Shit…. there will be a generation of people who’ve never signed a check…

  40. Tom O'Neil 19 years ago

    My first HOLY SHIT moment…

    I arrived at my first BBS gathering and discovered how much of a loser I really was.

  41. stephane 19 years ago

    I can remember 3 HOLY SHIT moment

    1- First was when I first saw Illustrator (version 1.0 !!) and realize I could enlarge a type with no loss of quality, I think I decide that day that I would learn as much about design application that I could.

    2- Netscape 1.0 was more of an WOW COOL, but to me the real HOLY SHIT moment was when after bragging that I could find almost anything on the internet, my brother ask me to find out about an old WWII airplane. I didn’t find anything right away but sent an email to a museum in germany and received an answer two days later, it totally blew my mind that somebody actually answer. I realize that day how much of an democratic thing the internet and email were, no racism, no bullshit, just two people having a POLITE conversation.

    3- The iPod, even if half my friends had iPods for a couple of years, it took me to have one with all my songs on it (7000 and counting) to finally realize a dream of having MY music whenever I wanted it. The HOLY SHIT moment was when I had my iPod for a couple of weeks and I was waiting for the bus, I just heard a word that made me want to listen to a particular song and… I had it on me ! Coooolll ๐Ÿ™‚

    I could possibly find more stuff but these three are major for me.

  42. Holy shit worth stuff:

    Doom, (and Legacy)



    my first “holy shit” moment, on the web, was getting back an email from a programmer in India, (me being in Colombia, thats quite far away), we never talked back, but, to me, it was a mind opening moment, also the USENET, same feeling, lots of more flames.

    Turbo C’s BGI

    FL Studio 4 (google for it, youll be amazed)


    well, by now, maybe you know what i do for a living…..

  43. Lemme give you the only HOLY SHIT that still does it years later: Instant messaging. Not the instant part, but the distances involved. I have literally had windows open with correspondents in Pakistan, Japan, and Italy simultaneously. I’ve been online since 1991 and this shit is not supposed to be anything, let alone HOLY, but that always kills me.

  44. zorkerman 19 years ago

    How about the first time you installed a modem without touching a dip switch?


  45. OK, so yeah, I’m late to the HOLY SHIT party, too, but here goes. In addition to everything mentioned above (‘cuz the new stuff it what is going to interest you guys, not me being a yes man to previous posts):

    * Dial-up local multi-line BBSes. You can call in with your computer, establish an online identiy, then go into chat rooms and MEET PEOPLE NEAR YOU, that don’t go to your school, live next to you or work with you. You can talk to them. You can arrange to meet them, and they will show up! And then smoke you out and drink beer with you. Cool! And forums… online political discussions and heated debates about religion and the meaning of life!! Way better than high school, for the most part.

    * Geography (the science). The most all-inclusive discipline. Take any other science. Relate it to a location. Boom — a geographer out there, somewhere, has specialized in this field, and can now relate that science to any other science and say what their locational relationship is. WAY COOL.

    * Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Take any piece of data about pretty much anything. Attached a location to it. Overlay it with any other peice of information about anything else that lies anywhere near the first location. Do an analysis. Draw your own conclusions. HOW THE FUCK COOL IS THAT? I live here. The closest bus stop is there. There are 12 porn stores, 15 strip clubs, a supermarket, 10 pubs and 13 endangered species within a mile of my house, according to this map, which also says that my house is allowed to be up to 30 feet tall with a second unit above the garage, also allowed up to that height!! Wow!! What are the possibilities here?!?!

    * Google (I could stop with that — it was a Holy Shit unto itself, but I will go on to:) Earth and Google Local. GIS for the masses. Free. Online and/or a downloadable application for your desktop. Cool. But then… there’s a community? People ALL OVER THE FREAKIN’ WORLD are posting shite here? Like where their favorite fishing holes are, their favorite pubs, where every last location in every Shakespeare play actually was, and also you can check out Chernobyl from space? And watch the glaciers melt in Greenland? WTF? Holy Shit!!!!

    Related to this last post: I declare 2005 the Year of the Geographical Revolution.. read this post for more.