Really Bad Login Names

On a discussion list I'm on, the topic turned to "my first modem". Mine was 300 baud (about 30 characters per second -- you can probably read faster than that), but the first modem I used was an acoustic coupler (you put the telephone handset into a pair of "cups" so that the modem could "listen" and "talk" through the handset) that ran at 110 baud. It was connected to a Model 33 Teletype that we used as a terminal for an H-P 2000C timeshare machine. But, of course, that's not the funny part....

The topic strayed to other "early computing" topics, such as user names. One of the other people in the thread posted this reply:

I was also the only law student in the history of Stanford (at the time, at least) to be a volunteer consultant on the Unix system, handholding undergrads who were being migrated to the Unix system because they were finally retiring the old TOPS-20 systems, on which I played.

Funny story: the TOPS-20 system (which is where all the students had their accounts before the big move) had a 10-char limit to usernames. Oh, it would let you select a longer name, but then it would cut off any characters after the 10th, and you were stuck, for your whole Stanford career, with that truncated 10-character user name.

That poor girl who picked Peanutbutter as her user name.

I still laugh thinking about it.

--From Anne Mitchell, reposted with permission. (If you don't know Anne, read her fascinating bio at another of her sites. She's been a friend of mine "in real life" for some years now. Hover over the login name if you "don't get it".)

Of course, her post reminded me of another even-more-infamous user name, from the early days of the 'net, and the victim just had to be female! (Warning: don't continue reading if you're easily offended!)

NO! It was a shen from the login paradigm of my year (all Class of '95 at Wake Forest Undergrad have as login first six letters of last name then first two initials... my name is Mary Emily Cummins... I know; it's horrible. I appreciate your sympathy. At least my infamy will die when I graduate!!!

--From Emily Cummins, dated 13 Feb 1995. Her resulting login and thus e-mail address were cumminme [at]

Posted November 21, 2008

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