Sunday, June 28, 1992

A FidoNet Oracle Question

In high school I ran a Fidonet node, 1:204/1154, "The Angevin Empire." (I was very interested in medieval history at the time.) I came up with this Usenet Oracle question in 1992. Of course, I don't know who wrote the answer.

It was not published in the Oracularities, but I liked it. Missing the point about the "secret code" was rather irksome, though.

The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> O Usenet Oracle, whose wisdom is even better than unequalled, please tell me:
> I was doing a little comparison shopping and so I asked one of your 
> competitors the following question:
> > From:    Supplicant User
> > To:      Fidonet Oracle                         Msg #15, 27-Jun-92 00:05
> > Dest:    Oracle HQ (1:125/1.0) Olympus OL
> > Subject: Tell me
> > 
> > O Fidonet Oracle, whose wisdom is unequalled, please tell me:
> > 
> > How can I get an A on my philosophy exam?
> And he responded,
> > From:    Fidonet Oracle
> > Origin:  Oracle HQ (1:125/1.0) Olympus OL       Msg #16, 27-Jun-92 00:28
> > To:      Supplicant User
> > Subject: Here is the answer you requested:
> >
> > 13, 156 388 897.  49: 20 456, 26 34 5/89 233.  14?  38 17 3.
> >
> > 543 38 87.
> Can you please elaborate for me?
> Also, since I got this answer I've been wondering if you farm questions 
> out to subcontractors, especially questions about Life, the Universe, 
> and Everything.

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

} The Usenet Oracle regrets that it cannot take offer any service for
} equipment or answers supplied by foreign contractors.
} Please note par. 1 of your contract which states:
}     'Thou shalt not have any Oracle besides me nor shalt thou grovel before
}     them!'
} This applies in particular for the so-called Fidonet Oracle.
} As everybody knows, Fidonet is nothing but a bunch of would-like-to-be
} wiz-kids wondering if Mummy will give them another new MS-DOS computer for
} next christmas. (Otherwise they're mostly harmless.)
} As a partial answer to your question, the Usenet Oracle in its infinite
} mercy however provides you with the following statement:
}     You want to get an 'A' in your philosophy exam and still believe
}     in Oracles? Ha ha ha ha!
} You owe the Oracle a pocket calculator.
} (A very angry-looking Oracle has finished typing the answer to the supp-
} licant's question. He then takes his Oracular phone, all marble with a
} platinum dial and a golden receiver, muttering "E-Mail is to good for
} them!")
} Oracle (dialing 999-FIDO-RACLE): Hello? Hello? Yes, this is the Usenet
}         Oracle. Yes, I'd like to have the Fidonet-Oracle on the phone.
}         Quick. I said Quick!
} ...
}         Yes. Hello? Well, Mr. Fidorallici! Can you guess, why I'm calling?
}         That supplicant... Yes. Have you ever read your contract? Would
}         you mind reading over pages 7237465 to 7237488? It states expli-
}         citly, that *never* and under *no* circumstances are you allowed
}         to answer questions on your own!
}         And not enough, you had to give him the true answer in our secret
}         code! You were just lucky that he didn't manage to decrypt it!
} ...
}         No, we cannot allow a 'single case', Mr. Fido! It's strict company
}         policy, and you know what happened to that poor guy called 'Bitnet-
}         Oracle'? You remember him? 'Biffy' as we called him? Well, I guess
}         that he's still where the guys put him... It's *very* difficult to
}         swim away with a block of concrete at you feet... Sicily, yes.
}         Well, you know, I'm still fond of that mediterranean region. Would
}         you prefer Venice or Athenes, Mr. Fido? Oh, yes, at the moment we
}         have got Split as a special offer!
} ...
}         Well, Mr. Fido, I'm glad that you seem to become reasonable! I
}         really wouldn't want to have to send the guys round again! They're
}         always so *rough* with people, understand what I mean?
} ...
}         Fine, Mr. Fido. Fine! All I can say! Ah, and before I forget -
}         you will have to answer twice as many questions for me from
}         now on.
} ...
}         No, it is *not* impossible, Mr. Fido! A few nightshifts will do,
}         I guess... And you see, somebody's got to take the questions poor
}         Biffy isn't any longer able to answer! And the guys are always
}         *so* nervous all the time...
} ...
}         I knew that. Good-bye, Mr. Fido!
} Lisa! Lisa! Pack a few things, we're making a trip to the mediterranean!
} Yes darling, you remember I promised you that once these dudes do all
} this answering for me, we'd go on holiday! How 'bout Delphi, for example?
} And Vice, Venice, Sicily... Meet old friends, you know? Great! See you in
} ten minutes at the car!
} On second thought, you also owe the Oracle a truckload of concrete.