Discovered: A late-’90s ode to the Northwestern computer lab

A find during Googling recently — Lindsay sent a photo of Evanston restaurant Hecky’s, a place we never went while we actually attended Northwestern — is Martha Larson’s “Computer Lab Swing” (lyrics and mp3), which turns out to be an amazing capture of an odd time and place: NU’s late-’90s digital world.

The servers named after neighborhood restaurants (Hecky’s is the only survivor), the Telnet text-only email client, the “Ph” service that operated like a digital phone directory but then became a semi-social network before social networks existed…. all of these things were real and our children will never believe us.

It’s a high-class joint where the big names rendezvous
You’ve got Hecky, Casbah, Merle and Sweet Lulu
The lights are white and the screens glow a funky green,
And, baby, pine is the secret word, if you know what I mean
Keep on swingin’ there’s no stoppin’, the Cyberworld is always hoppin’
Computer Lab…Computer Lab

I sing bee-billi-oten-boten-bobo-skideeten-be-bop
As I take that mouse for a spin across my desktop
The guy sittin’ next to me is a real Johnny Style,
So I’ll Ph that cat, and get his profile
All those masterminds a-thinkin’ but there ain’t no food or drinkin’
Computer Lab…Computer Lab

Our current interns will never believe us.

The rest of Larson’s songs from that time aren’t online, but I bet they’d be interesting to Northwestern people as well.  A 1999 graduate of the NU mechanical-engineering program, say her liner notes, “Martha performed the title track to her album, Lonesome Techie Woman, at the 1999 McCormick School of Engineering commencement ceremony.”

2 thoughts on “Discovered: A late-’90s ode to the Northwestern computer lab”

  1. Sadness: none of those restaurants were there in the mid 70s. Where’s my server named Jay’s? How about Three Doors Down and the Big Pickle?

  2. If there was a university server named the Big Pickle, who knows how many songs would have been sung of it!

    But this raises an interesting historical question. When did the name of servers begin? And when was the first fun name?

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