[an error occurred while processing this directive] ZEPHYR Magazine
                              T H E
                           Z E P H Y R
                  __     M A G A Z I N E
                 Issue #31               11-22-86
            A weekly electronic magazine for users of 
                        THE ZEPHYR II BBS 
                    (Mesa, AZ - 602-894-6526)
                owned and operated by T. H. Smith
                    Editor - Gene B. Williams 
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                            (c) 1986

  I LOVE IT!!! We have yet another guest issue this time. That 
means I can sorta sit back and relax - and take care of my own 
  The story is by Cathy Cosgrove. She tells me that it was 
originally written for a younger audience than we have here on 
the board. Even so, I hope you enjoy it.

                            THE GEEK

                        by Cathy Cosgrove

  My sister threw herself on my bed with a theatrical sigh. "Why 
is summer like this every year?"
  "Like what?"
  "I spent the last three weeks of school looking out the windows 
and daydreaming about what I was gonna do.  Then, it seemed like 
there were a million things to do.  Now, I'm bored."
  "Yeah.  You can only ride bikes, play with the computer, and 
mow lawns for so long before it get's boring.  I wish we had a 
  "Me too....So what are we gonna do?"
  "Wanna ride up to the library?" She threw the pillow at me.   
  We couldn't think of anything else, so we rode over to the 
library.  I poked aimlessly around the book shelves, looked at a 
magazine that had an article about my favorite band, and watched 
a couple of kids playing chess.  Boring.  I flipped through a 
book about computer programming. I like computers, but had just 
about decided I knew more than the book did, when Jan came 
practically racing over.
  "Liz, I figured out what we can do.  Come on, over here."  She 
dragged me away, over to the bulletin board outside the youth 
section.  "Look, read that poster."
  "Valley of the Sun Science Project Contest," it said.
  "Jan, that's no big deal.  I kind of like doing science 
projects for school, but that's no way to spend summer 
  "Keep reading."  Boy, she was really insistent.
  "Open to Arizona students, age 12-17.  First prize:  $2500!  
Second prize:  Personal computer with disk drive and monitor.  
Third prize:  Weekend trip for four to Disneyland.  Fourth prize:  
Waterbed.  See Mary at the information desk."
  "Those are pretty good prizes," I told Jan.  "Especially first 
place.  I wonder what we could do...."
  We went to the Circle K to get a cold drink and talked about 
what kind of project we could do.
  "We could do something using a remote control device," I 
started off.
  "You're good with computer stuff," Jan said.  "What can we do 
with the computer?"
  "I could write some kind of program.  But why?  Games don't win 
science fairs.  You know a lot about Biology.  Why don't we make 
a model of something like an insect or a fish or a brain?"
  "Too boring.  Besides, I did a model of a brain in 7th grade.  
But, how about something like a computer simulation of a brain?  
You know, we could show how the impulses move and..."
  "No...if we're gonna do a brain, we might as well use the 
  "And if we can build a brain, why not put the brain to good 
use?  Let's build a robot."
  "A robot!  Jan, are you crazy?  Robots aren't easy to build.  
It takes a lot of materials like a power source, wires, metal 
arms and legs, antennas, some kind of lens or video camera for 
the eyes, a monitor, all kinds of stuff!  Besides, even the 
scientists don't have perfect models of robots or we'd all have 
one at home to clean up our rooms.  You're dreaming if you think 
we can make one of Isaac Asimov's positronic brains."
  "Really, Liz, you don't have to call names.  What can we lose 
by trying?"
  She had me there.  After all, a first prize of $2500 might be 
worth trying for.  All I got for my last science fair exhibit was 
a B+.
  "Ok.  Let's go back to the library and see what they've got."
  I was surprised there were so many books about robots and 
robotics in the library.  We looked under recycling, how-to; 
wiring, how-to; programming, computer languages; power, 
electrical sources; and cameras, video.
  After we checked out all the books, we realized we were going 
to have a hard time getting home.  We needed a couple of rest 
periods.  During one rest period, we stopped at a tv repair shop 
and decided to go in.
  The man gave us a funny look when we said we weren't there to 
pick up anything.  "We're thinking about building a robot," Jan 
said.  She doesn't care what people think about her.  "What do 
you do with all those extra tubes and junk over there?"
  "Mostly nothing, any more.  Today most people's tvs use 
microchips.  The picture tubes are still important, but I rescued 
most of those tubes from of trade ins that couldn't be fixed."
  "How come you keep burned out tubes?"
  "Oh, those aren't burned out.  I just keep 'em around in case I 
ever need 'em.  You looking for a special one?"
  "We're not sure yet.  We're just starting out on the project.  
If we need some, though, how expensive are they?"
  "Kids, if you need some, and I've got 'em from those old trade 
ins, you can have them.  Good luck on your robot."
  That's the way it worked out a lot of the time.  Grown ups 
thought we were crazy, but most of them offered to help us if 
they could.
  Dad made two or three trips to the junkyard with Jan, looking 
for scrap metal, electronic stuff, and wires.  She's the 
mechanic, so she knew what to look for.  After we got the body 
built, Mom made the robot some clothes.  Actually, I wouldn't 
have been seen dead in those clothes, but Mom got a good laugh 
out of them.
  I worked on his brain.  Then I decided it took more brains than 
I had to build one for somebody else.
  "Jan, I can't make a brain for him.  It'd take a whole 
computer, and even then, I'm not a good enough programmer to get 
it to translate a picture into data.  We've got a major problem 
  "Well, could you write a program telling it to move forward or 
backward or left or right?"
  "I think I could.  But, it would still only work if I was 
sitting at the computer telling it what direction to go.  How 
would that get to the robot?"
  "Couldn't we attach something to the robot to receive output, 
like a printer does?  Then, instead of printing out, it would 
  "Hmmm."  I had to think about that one for a while.  A remote 
control wire would have to be real long to reach from the 
computer to the robot.  It would limit how far the robot could 
move.  How could I make one computer a terminal for  another?  
And could I talk Dad into advancing me the money (from the first 
prize, or my allowance if he had no confidence) to buy another 
computer?  And even with another computer, how would I transfer 
the information?
  "I've got it! I think.  Jan, doesn't your friend down the 
street have a computer just like ours?"
  "Yeah.  But Liz, I don't think she'll give it to us."
  "No, but see if we can borrow it while she's on vacation.  The 
deadline for the contest is next week and she'll be gone longer 
than that."
  She let us use it, and Jan got the computer installed inside 
his chest panel.  I told her to leave his chest open because I 
wasn't sure what the next step would be.
  I was still stuck on transferring from one computer to the 
other.  We tried making a cable long enough and plugging it out 
of the disk drive in the den, into the computer in the robot.  It 
just wouldn't work, and the dog kept chewing on the cable.
  "Don't you think we should name our robot?" Jan asked me.
  "Got any names in mind?"
  "I was thinking about calling him Robbie, you know, for 
  "Geesh, don't pick a name that's too obvious or anything."
  "Well, do you have any better ideas?  I suppose you want to 
name him Duran Duran or something, you geek."
  "That's it!  Let's call him The Geek.  With that face and those 
clothes, what else could he be?"
  She laughed.  "You've got an idea there....It's your turn to 
answer the phone."
  I couldn't believe how seldom the phone rang these days.  Most 
of our friends were on vacation, and the ones left in town 
weren't too interested in The Geek.
  I had to say hello two or three times before I heard anything.  
"Hello," the phone finally said.  "I am a computer.  I selected 
your phone number to tell you...."
  I didn't care what the message was, I'd figured out the 
  "Jan!  Jan I've got it this time!  We've got to get a couple of 
computer telephone modems.  We'll connect one to the computer in 
the den, using our phone.  Then, you install the other modem in 
The Geek.  If we use the remote phone on Dad's private line, I 
can send the instructions through the modems."  I just knew it 
would work.
  Dad wasn't crazy about buying two modems.  I convinced him he 
was really only buying one because eventually we'd need the first 
one anyway.  I told him I was sure to need one when I got to 11th 
grade so I could use the shared-time computer services.  And, I 
promised him I'd pay for the second one with our prize money.  
I'm not sure he was convinced about the second one.
  Anyway, we installed the modems, hooked them up and were ready 
for the first real trial.  I wanted to have The Geek take his 
first steps down the driveway, but Mom wouldn't let us.
  "I don't want that geek hanging around the front yard.  What 
will the neighbors think?"  Well, at least Mom figured out how we 
feel about geeks.
  Jan set The Geek on the patio in the back yard, and yelled it 
was ok for me to start.
  I loaded my computer and called Dad's number.
  I could hear the phone ring outside.  "Hello," Jan said.
  "Hello, yourself.  Ready to try it?"
  "Yeah.  Oh, Liz, good luck."
  "Thanks.  If something crummy starts to happen, a bug in the 
program or something, yell for me."
  "Ok.  I'm plugging in now."
  I plugged my phone into the modem.  Everything was on standby 
waiting for me to push the start button.  I pushed the button.
  I took a deep breath.
  And let it out.
  I listened carefully trying to hear The Geek moving.
  "What's happening?" I yelled.
  "Nothing," she yelled back.
  I re-ran the program.
  "Anything now?" I yelled again.
  "No," she yelled back.
  I made some adj.shtmlents to the program.  "Ok, here goes 
  "He's moving!  Liz, he's moving!  Oh, he stopped."
  I ran outside.  "What happened?"
  "He took one step with his left foot. Then he started to take 
one with his right, but then he stopped."
  I went back to my terminal and made some more adj.shtmlents.  
This time he took two complete steps.  I fixed the program so I 
could vary the number of steps he took, and we were ready for our 
$2500 prize.
  The projects were set up in Fiesta Mall on Saturday.  Most of 
them weren't anything too special--a working volcano that was 
supposed to be Mt St Helen, an ant colony, a few scientifically 
designed and operated gizmos, but nothing as special as The 
  "Look at that pile of junk," some kid snickered as he went 
past. "Wonder what it's supposed to do?  Be a fashion model?"  
That made his stupid friends fall all over each other, 
  I was a little ticked off, but I knew at least the judges would 
have an understanding of how complicated our project was.
  "Young lady," a woman about my Grandma's age stopped to ask a 
question.  "Does Robbie the Robot there do housework?"  Her 
husband chuckled.
  "No, not yet M'am.  I'm working on the program for my mom, but 
right now he just walks.  I can get him to mow the lawn though."  
It wasn't quite true, he didn't turn corners very well, but that 
made her husband stop laughing.
  Finally, the judges came.  They acted interested, and asked a 
lot of intelligent questions.  The Geek really performed well.
  Everyone got free passes to the movies just for participating, 
but we were waiting for our money.  The head judge announced the 
prizes in reverse order.  Fourth place went to the kid with the 
ant colony.  Third place went to a boy who had repeated Louis 
Pasteur's experiment with fresh milk.  Second place went to 
another boy who had redesigned the computer report card system 
for Rhodes Junior High.  We just knew first place was ours.
  I was already moving forward to get the prize when I realized 
Jan and I hadn't entered a working replica of Mt St. Helen.  The 
stupid volcano had won!
  Needless to say, we spent the rest of the summer turning 
corners for The Geek as he cut grass in the neighborhood.  We had 
to pay dad back for the extra modem.
  When our neighbors came back from vacation, Jan's girlfriend 
wanted to see The Geek.  She thought he was pretty neat and told 
her dad.  Her dad works for the phone company, and he thinks The 
Geek would be good for publicity.
  Right now, Dad's lawyer is working out the details, but he 
thinks the phone company will pay lots of money for The Geek.  
Not only will we get $2500 for us girls, the money will pay for 
four years of college for both of us.  Even better, there should 
still be enough money left over to pay for a swimming pool for 
the back yard.
  Gee, I wonder what we'll do next year?


  Anyone else wanna give it a try? 
  If you're interested in contributing to the magazine, download 
ISH.27 on "Writing for Zephyr." That will give you all the details 
on how it is to be done. (You may also want to download ISH.10.)
  Basically, your contribution can be whatever you want. Fiction, 
nonfiction, editorial, whatever. (I *do* have to maintain the 
right of final choice, however. And keep in mind that this is 
basically a "family" board. I would suggest that you contact me 
first via E-mail to discuss the idea and any possible problems.) It 
should be roughly 300 lines in length.
  Submission is handled by you uploading (in ASCII) the piece to the 
Text area on the board. (DO NOT upload directly to the magazine.) 
Then leave me a note with the name of the file.

  The last issue dealt with buying a car. If I don't get any guest 
submissions, maybe next time I'll do up a piece on buying a home, 
or finding a place to live. How about "Designing a Home"? (My wife 
and I did that.)

Zephyr Magazine is © Gene Williams. All rights reserved.