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Where did the name “feedle” come from?

I got my first taste of the online world very early. In 1979, I was given a Texas Instruments Silent 700 portable (thermal) printing terminal, with a built-in 300 baud acoustic modem and a matching account on a timeshare computer that my paternal uncle was responsible for maintaining. I did the usual things one did on timeshare systems of the day: which is to say, not much. I did get to play around with the primitive Forth interpreter present on the machine, and learned pretty quickly how to write simple programs.

Pretty quickly, I grew bored of fiddling around with the mainframe’s limited Forth interpreter, and started looking around for other things to do. Somewhere in a public file on the machine, I discovered a telephone number for another computer system: a system belonging to the North Orange County Computer Club, which if I remember properly was running some sort of RCP/M. While I didn’t own a CP/M system, it was still fascinating to poke around.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in my life, in 1980 I was tagging along with my father to various social events hosted by SPERDVAC, a Los Angeles-based group responsible for preserving much old-time radio history. I was fascinated by old-time radio, and listened to a lot of programs on both KNX-AM (which, at the time, was broadcasting classic radio shows in the evening) and local public radio. It was also around this time I found Dr. Demento.

As a result of this fascination with classic radio programming, I became quite a little fan of the comedian “Doodles” Weaver, who contributed a number of fairly famous routines to Spike Jones’ records. The character of “Prof. Feetlebaum”, who would show up from time to time (along with that horse by the same name) I found to be serviceable funny at that age.

Getting back to the BBS word: in 1982 the BBS world started to explode, especially in Southern California. It was common in those days (especially in the kinds of BBSes that a 12-year old would be involved in) for people to use a pseudonym. I started to use the name “Prof. Feedlebom” (misspelled, for reasons that I’m not totally sure why).

The name kinda stuck with me, for whatever reason.

So, how does “feedle” come out of that? In a strange twist that wasn’t really realized by me until much later.

One BBS system I called required usernames to be 8 characters or less. “Prof. Feedlebom” just got chopped into “feedle”. I had no idea that name actually had other implications, which to this day strike me as oddly appropriate, even if I didn’t realize it.

As a lot of you know, I also collect old computers. Hey, I’m an old guy, and old computers are the friends of my childhood (not unlike how my mom collected Hummell figurines, because they remind her of her German heritage). Well, it wasn’t until well into the 90’s that I “discovered” that the classic video game “Yie Ar Kung Fu” featured a bad guy named “Feedle” (well, actually, it was a gang of bad guys).

In any case, the “feedle” moniker became more or less cemented when I became an employee of Orange County’s first major commercial ISP, Kaiwan.Com. Since “feedle” fits the 8-character UNIX username format, it wound up that significant chunks of people knew me solely as feedle@kaiwan.com (also, unfortunately, as “the English-speaking guy”).

The great thing about the name “feedle” is that it was fairly obscure for a number of years. For most of the Internet’s existence, up until recently, anytime you saw a guy named “feedle” on the Internet it was.. well, me. I now know there are a couple of other references to the name, including a techno artist in the UK (who, by the way, does not suck): http://feedle.com currently points to his (yech!) MySpace page. There is also a British TV show that has a character named “Uncle Feedle” (and I think that’s where the UK artist gets the name from).

Now you know the story. So, STOP ASKING ME ABOUT THIS!