I've read it since I was in high school. I guess there was a time when I might've used whatever knowledge I gained from 2600 for not entirely wholesome purposes (oh, like you didn't install a password logger on your middle school computer network), but now that I'm not 13 years old, there's plenty of information there that's still useful to those of us not interested in breaking into "secure" networks or learning how the Barnes and Noble computer system works.
Last night, though, was a weird experience.
Last night I went to the East Side Borders on my way home from work to pick up the newest issue.
I was looking for 2600 on the magazine rack. It's a smaller publication than most magazines, and other customers tend to accidentally shove the entire stack behind something else (I've seen it happen -- it's the other customers). Borders also shelves the new copies anywhere between the day they're supposed to hit the store and two weeks later. Sometimes they fly off the shelves really quickly. These factors make finding a copy of 2600 a little more difficult than finding a copy of oh, say, Naked Broads With Guns (which is also more prominently displayed).
So I was scanning the shelves as one of their sales associates was taking inventory or something. I was standing behind her, and she noticed me.
"Oh! You must be looking for the new two-sixty oh."
I said "Yeah, I am, how did you know?"
"My boss recognized you when you came in. He said you always come for the new two-sixty oh."
I don't know what I said next -- probably something along the lines of "yeah, that's me." I took my magazine, looked at the current issue of Heavy Metal (known in some circles as Naked Broads with Aliens), and wandered over to one of their PC terminals to look for something. Another sales associate practically ran to get there before I did.
"Can I help you?" she asked, obviously craning her neck to see the magazine in my hand, as if she was checking to make sure that I'd grabbed 2600 and not Reader's Digest or something of a similar size and shape.
"I was going to see if you have a book in stock."
"What book? I'll look it up for you."
"The List of 7 by Mark Frost."
"Oh, the guy that made The X-Files, right?"
"No, he's the Hill Street Blues guy."
Fun Fact™ #761: Mark Snow composed music for The X-Files. Mark Frost wrote and directed episodes of Hill Street Blues (which I've never seen), co-created Twin Peaks with David Lynch, and is a writer on the upcoming Fantastic Four movie. I think the woman at Borders thought I was confused, though.
She looked it up, said she could order it, I decided not to, etc., etc., etc.... Anyway, I got to the checkout, and the woman there had to look at both me and the magazine for a long time before she decided I could buy it. Actually, from the look on her face, I'd guess she was more surprised that such a magazine existed than suspicious that I was buying it.
I'd like to tell myself that this was an atypical experience. In fact, I'd chalk it all up to the kind of paranoia we all sometimes experience during a particularly stressful day, except for the fact that the "my boss recognized you" comment really freaked me out. 2600 occasionally publishes letters about people losing their jobs for reading it at work, or from network administrators who have been told not to have the magazine on the premises. More frequent are letters from readers whose local bookstore carries 2600 behind the counter, covers up the word "hacker" on the cover, or asks for ID whenever the magazine is purchased. Borders and Barnes and Noble are frequent offenders, probably for no reason other than fact that they have so many branches. Still, I'm unsettled by the fact that although I'm at Borders at least twice a month, they know me as "the guy who buys 2600" -- a quarterly publication which sells well at that particular store.
So um, the next question is: Is there anywhere else in Madison I can pick up 2600? Mikey? I'm looking at you, if you're actually reading this, 'cuz I know you sometimes buy it. Nelson's Pick-A-Book used to carry it... when they still existed. Barnes and Noble doesn't seem to, and I haven't checked the University Bookstore recently.