Banana for scale
Over the course of the last years, I’ve received a few letters from Sandra and Woo fans. But I’ve certainly never received anything like the package from an anonymous sender from the U.S. two weeks ago. It contained a seriously old-looking magnetic tape drive. As a Steins;Gate fanatic, it immediately dawned on me that it must be one of those that are used by the famed retro PC IBM 5100!
This incident did not only inspire me to write the current story arc, I also didn’t waste any time and made a quick trip to the computer museum of the University of Stuttgart. Its head, super friendly retro PC maniac Klemens Krause, did not only give me a personal tour and introduction to retro computing, but also let me use the museum’s precious IBM 5100.
If you’re not familiar with the game, here is a short, mostly spoiler-free, summary:
Steins;Gate is a visual novel about the self-proclaimed mad scientist Rintaro Okabe who is a student in Tokyo. Together with his friends, he invents a time machine in form of a microwave which can send messages back in time. An anime series based on the game was released in 2011. It’s a faithful adaption and also highly recommended by me. The characters are extremely likable, all in their own way, and the story is innovative and thrilling.
The IBM 5100 is desperately needed by Okabe and the members of his labority for its special functionality. However, it has become extremely rare in their world. Steins;Gate builds upon the John Titor myth. That was the nickname of someone who posted in internet forums at the beginning of the 2000s and said that he is a time traveller from the future. He made wild predictions about the future and was also looking for an IBM 5100.
The objects you can see in the photographs all play important roles in the visual novel. This is probably the first time that so many of them have been photographed together with an actual IBM 5100.
As you can see above, the tape drive contained very sensitive and interesting data! After I had struggled for a while with the weird user interface of the old computer, I was finally able to read the content of the tape drive, which happened to be an excerpt of a top-secret NSA database! Unfortunately, the three most interesting text messages were all encoded. However, I’m quite sure that they’re not as hard to decode as the Book of Woo 😉 For example, the word lengths seem to be very much in-line with those of a regular English text. So maybe some of you want to give it a try to decode the secret text messages by the mysterious sender SB. I, meanwhile, am hiding from the NSA’s nefarious henchmen at an undisclosed location.
I can neither confirm nor deny that this story is at least as far removed from reality as one of the stories told by Faris NyanNyan.