Irv the Emcee

Irv Katz is the emcee of The Dial-a-Dork Computer Hour and one of the partners of the KOMM Group. He is also a very important person and the highlight of any evening. He is the life of the party and an all-around good egg. He is all-state in football and a Level 37 Ninja in Wizardry I, The Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord. So, if you see Werdna, you tell him to come strapped cuz Irv’s droppin’ Tiltowait and mad Critical Hits on his AZZ!

In all seriousness, Irv’s computer chops were born in the late seventies when he would help his father load programs “written” on punch cards at the Naval Surface Weapons Center in White Oak, Maryland (side note – the Department of Defense and the U.S. Navy decided that the Naval Surface Weapons Center’s name, NavSurf for short, was perhaps in poor taste so they have since renamed it to the Naval Surface Warfare Center. I like it!). Irv also spent many hours on his Dad’s old terminal that used thermal paper and a modem that actually accepted the entire phone receiver (as seen in Wargames, IIRC).

From there, Irv received a Pong knock-off one year for Chanukah. Next Chanukah, he got an Atari 2600, which he ran into the ground. The big moment in Irv’s computer life came in 3rd grade. While accompanying his mom and sister to his sister’s gymnastics class, Irv wandered the halls of Georgian Forest Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland looking for something to occupy some time. He stumbled across an ungainly box that seemed to have a TV screen, a keyboard, and a tape player all integrated into one unit. He found the power switch in the back and brought the machine to life. On the screen there were words, written in bright green letters on a black background, and they read, “Commodore Basic 4.0, 31743 bytes free, ready.” If you don’t know by now, it was a Commodore Pet computer and a damn useful little machine for its day. Well, to the prompt of ‘ready.’, Irv did the natural thing and typed “Yes” for indeed he was ready. The Pet, however, said, “?syntax error ready.”

Well, perhaps he wasn’t ready, so he typed ‘no’ only to receive the same quizzical response. Frustrated, Irv typed the number 1 and hit the enter key. Nothing. No response. Little did he know that he had written his first program. Yes, line 1 was blank and that was it, but it counts as a program. In basic, anyway. You can run it! If you type run, it runs! See for yourself!

Anyway, the next year, Irv was admitted to a special Gifted and Talented program in Montgomery County Maryland called Thinking Opportunities for Kids (TOK) and there he spent one day a week futzing around on a Pet computer playing games like Menagerie and writing programs that occasionally employed the PEEK and POKE commands. OK, I am lying; first off, those commands didn’t even exist yet, and secondly, the most complex program he ever wrote in TOK was a number guessing game. Oh, I am shamed! (as was Irv because David Zollinger totally wrote a bowling game for the Pet with animation and sound and everything!)

But when the Commodore 64 came out, which was quite arguably the finest computer, pound-for-pound, ever built, Irv got one for Chanukah and was indeed happy. He still has it and all his games and Atari joysticks missing the rubber covers and everything. And, yes, he DID employ both PEEK and POKE!

I call that Pedigree, my friends, so listen to this man, heed his words, and follow them, for he used a Commodore Pet, and that is saying something.