Come with Dennis Monkeygland as he profiles Toxic Custard, where it came from, why it started, and why does it have that stupid name?
[File footage of crumbling, flooded corridor in F Block, Monash Uni, Caulfield]
DENNIS: Good evening. I'm Dennis Monkeygland. It was here, in the shallowed halls of Monash University, that Toxic Custard as we know it, was born. But where and why was it actually written? And how did it get its wacky, zany off-the-wall Pythonesque-type name? Tonight, we'll take you back to the earliest days of Toxic Custard, and reveal how TCWF was created.
DANIEL: Well, back in them days of '90, I was in the second year of my course, a Bachelor of Pretending Cobol Is Structured, failing Photocopying 215, and me and me mates had just discovered the Internet. We suddenly realised that there was more to computer networks than just using Phone and Talk to annoy people in the next room, or sending Mail to tell people to meet you for lunch and Tetris at the corner shop.
DENNIS: So how did the concept for TCWF come about?
DANIEL: I was messing around with my mate Bw..
err Brian Smith. Hi Brian, if you're reading. And another pal of
ours, Ray Chan, who was in an Electronics, Robotics And Other
High-Tech Stuff course, came up with an idea for an electronic
magazine, called "The Serial Saga". Hi Ray, if you're
reading. We thought this was great, and immediately mugged him in
the corridor and stole his idea. Ray never actually wrote
anything, but did manage to create a monster robot which went
berserk the next semester, and killed 5 lecturers due to a faulty diode in its corduroy detection circuits.
DENNIS: So TCWF was born. Or perhaps hatched.
DANIEL: Yeah, a little TCWF baby was hatched on 12/8/90, and immediately set about crapping all over the floor. Bw.. err Brian wrote a separate serial called Rocket Roger, about a guy whose name was... umm... Roger. At first both came out twice a week, TCWF on Mondays and Wednesdays, and RR on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But that didn't stop half the known galaxy confusing the two. I put that down to lack of intelligence. Now RR comes out about as often as Halley's Comet, and TCWF comes out whenever I bloody well feel like it, which is about once a week. Usually on a Monday. Around 10pm. Eastern Standard time.
DENNIS: So who thought of the name "Toxic Custard Workshop Files"?
DANIEL: A guy I knew in high school. Me and my mates Mark Bainbridge and David Holicek (Hi guys, if you're reading), were trying to think up a name for another aborted project in amateur TV. David thought of the phrase "Toxic Custard Workshop" on a number 700 bus on the way home in 1988. David went on to reach the very end, and built a Toxic Waste Dump for diseased camels, so it was quite prophetic.
[Footage of old 8-bit computers, rusting and falling to bits under the weight of their own keyboards]
DANIEL: Originally I wrote TCWF on my old BBC computer at home. I kept it for sentimental reasons, but let's face it, who the hell uses a computer with less than 32Kb of RAM these days? Anyway, in those days it was sent up to the Uni mainframe by 300 baud modem. Those were the days... Shit, I just remembered, I still do that, since my 2400 baud modem fell off the desk.
DENNIS: How did you find readers?
DANIEL: Well, originally we hadn't had the idea
of posting stuff to UseNet News. So I just sent it to people
around the campus who wanted it. As well as anyone else whose
username we happened to stumble across. We bailed people up in
the corridors and demanded "Username or your life!" Of
course, by getting mailed TCWF and Rocket Roger, they lost both.
A couple of them got angry, in fact two unhappy Rocket Roger
readers attacked Brian one day with a spare keyboard
someone left lying around. Rammed the DIN plug right up his nose. I think some of it's still up there.
DENNIS: So how many people read the first issues?
DANIEL: Seven people read the first ever issue, which was pretty pathetic. We started a little "subscription war" of sorts, though TCWF and RR plugged each other regularly. The numbers of both increased steadily every week, and today, TCWF is read by more than ten people, and an estimated 37 on News.
DENNIS: So over the years, what's changed?
DANIEL: Oh, not very much. Umm... my alias; the sideways messages came and went; linked stories of the early issues; switching to a "real" mailing list; very late News postings; mailing on Mondays instead of Sundays; updates to the ftp sites, 'cos everyone responsible seems to have changed jobs or disappeared mysteriously; the almost-demise of TCWF at issue 50; TCWF's inclusion in the Freaks Anonymous list, which has resulted in loads of Freaks Anonymous people mailing me saying "why are you sending me this shit"; excerpts in the Naked Wasp student newspaper; an unbroadcast tape made for Monash Uni radio; an excerpt in the National Telemarketer magazine at work (Hi Wes, if you're reading); editing on a PC rather than the Beeb; occasional inclusion of GIF cartoons...
DENNIS: Errr thank you.
DANIEL: Usenet-type signatures; bothering to bung a copyright on the end...
DENNIS: Shut up!
DANIEL: Well you did ask.
Copyright (c) 1997 Daniel Bowen, Melbourne, Australia