In the Before Times, the Ancients would gather in well-sheltered caverns, gather to themselves foods blessed by the gods, drink strange, unnaturally colored concoctions, and perform the Rite of the LAN Party.
In the era when the Internet was accessed by modem, to have any hope of playing a game with usable latency, you had to get all the players in the same place. This meant packing up your desktop in a car, driving to your friend’s house, and setting up your computer on whatever horizontal surface hadn’t already been claimed by another guest.
In the late 90s, Shawn W was the lead support tech for a small-town ISP. He had little supervision, and lots of networking equipment at his disposal. The owners were laid back, so Shawn got to throw a LAN party every Saturday. There was a solid core group that turned out pretty much every week, but there was also a rotating cast of newbies which made great fodder for practicing your railgun snipes on “Lost Hallways”.
One weekend, one of those newbies was Derek. Derek’s main multiplayer experience was getting stoned and playing split-screen Goldeneye, in Big-Head mode. Seeing multiple computers all networked together was pretty mind-blowing for him. He ended up not gaming very much, but instead wandered around, asking questions about the setup and tripping over network cables.
“Man,” he complained, after he unplugged Shawn for the fifth time, “those shouldn’t be so easy to pull out. Like, you need a lock on it. I could make you one, I’ve got some of those industrial strength zip-ties in the car, like they could lock that cable in real tight, like they hold luggage on your car and stuff. Industrial grade, man.”
No one wanted Derek to modify their computers, and given how he had made a hobby of tripping over any cable, even ones taped to the floor, having them get yanked out was better than having their computers yanked off the folding tables. Derek was a mild nuisance, but he knew how to make up for it: he was a good sport about getting fragged, he was happy to share his stash with anybody who wanted to step behind the building, and he paid for all the pizza.
Shawn had gotten stiffed a few times, so having someone else foot the bill for all the pizza meant he was willing to forgive a lot. When Derek called him at work on Monday, Shawn was pretty well disposed to him.
“Hey, I was talking to Murphy about the party this weekend- wait, you don’t know Murph. He’s cool, man, he’s my neighbor, and we like, game a bunch? We were wondering, we’d like to set up our own network.”
Shawn was happy to help- Derek was even a customer of the ISP, so it was even technically work.
“We were thinking, like, where do you get a really long network cable?” Derek asked.
“Like, how long? Is Murphy going to be setting up in a different room of your house?”
“Nah, man, he’s gonna stay in his house. He’s my neighbor, right? We could just string a cable between our windows. Murph’s got X-Wing vs. Tie-Fighter, and it’s just like the movies. I’ve even got a cool joystick for it.”
Shawn said, “Come on by the office, and I can just give you one.” They had a few thousand foot spools of cable. Shawn made him a 100-ish foot long crossover cable, since Derek didn’t have a hub, but there were only two computers in the network.
Derek picked it up, and called back a while later, looking for some help on configuring the network. “Hey, man, I got the cable run, and like, super tied down, but um… how do we make it work? I see the green lights on the network cards.”
Shawn walked him through configuring the network, and proving it worked via a ping test. Derek was ecstatic, and started to launch into the virtues of the TIE Interceptor in death-match, when there was a sudden crash and the sound of shattering glass. Derek screamed a curse.
“Um… are you okay?” Shawn asked.
“MY COMPUTER JUST FLEW OUT THE WINDOW!” Derek cried.
“Wait… what?” Shawn tried to imagine what that might entail- he remembered Derek mentioning that it was on a folding table, maybe it had collapsed and somehow the computer had fallen out the window?
“Oh, man, look at it out there, it’s totally trashed.”
“How did your computer fly out the window?” Shawn asked.
“A car drove by and caught the network cable.”
“Wait… does Murphy live across the street?”
Derek’s “logic” had been that their street wasn’t very busy. He had run the cable across the street, and weighed it down with rocks, thinking that would be safe. Since that put some tension on the cable, he didn’t want it to pop out of the network card, so he had broken out those “industrial grade” zip ties, and secured the cable to his computer’s case.
“I figured it’d be fine,” Derek said glumly. “I guess I was wrong. Hey, do you know anything about building computers?”