Memories from old LAN parties

I participated in a lot of LANs in the 2000s, sometimes at private homes and sometimes at dedicated LAN venues. Many strange and wonderful things happened at these events that wouldn’t make a lick of sense today. Here is a collection of unrelated memories which may be altered to protect the guilty.

A man who runs a LAN facility will generally not give you a Windows 98 SE CD key, even if you need to reinstall Windows on your PC during an event.

A LAN isn’t legitimate unless at least one person has to reinstall Windows along the way.

Multi-round tournaments seem like a good idea but you will never get anybody into their allocated matches at the times they’re supposed to be there.

If you mod your ATX case so that the power button is gigantic and illuminated with a red LED, someone will come along while you’re gaming and wonder out loud “what does this button do?” while pressing it.

Having a PC with a window in the side of the case does in fact give you credibility.

If you take a 500 GB drive to a public LAN where the average drive size is 80 GB then it is possible that it will be stolen from your box while you’re taking a break go-karting.

If you use a crack that generates malicious traffic from your IP then you may be forced to reinstall Windows before you can reconnect to the network.

If you don’t have enough warez to reach the minimum share limit for the DC++ server you can always add the directories for your games installed under Program Files.

The desk you’re seated at may have a badge at the back telling you which static IP to use, but you can ignore that if the venue has upgraded to DHCP.

If you’re using a 10 Mbit hub and copy the same directory to two Windows SMB hosts simultaneously it is somehow smart enough to make the transfers coincide so it can transmit the same data to both at once. To this day I have no idea what heuristic it used but honest to god, it slowed down the earlier transfer and then went in lockstep file by file for the remainder.

If you throw an old motherboard onto the 11 kV power lines on a nearby pole it will toast some components but probably not cause a power outage.

Windows 98 SE requires that you reboot after changing your IP address settings.

Windows 2000 is quite good for gaming and has the added benefit that you will be prompted to press Ctrl-Alt-Del to logon, which feels corporate (or school-like) and cool.

If a pirated game comes with a crack.exe then you run the crack.exe. What could go wrong?

There were websites which aggregated downloads of keygens for various games. These worked more often than you would expect.

In an attempt to reduce piracy for multiplayer, game producers such as Blizzard let you install “spawn” copies of the software which could only participate in a multiplayer game and didn’t require the CD to be in the drive.

Alcohol 120% was the free tool of choice to emulate a CD drive for ISOs of games which required the CD to be inserted for copy protection, or rip a CD for that purpose. This only became popular once hard drives became big enough for people to spend many gigabytes imaging their CDs.

The cool kids had a Barton Athlon XP 2500+ and a Radeon 9600. The rich kids had a 9800.

Internet access wasn’t a thing until the later years. LANs which tried to provide internet had strict quotas or bandwidth limits and generally found it difficult to manage.

If you had the right ICQ number you could repeat it multiple times to generate a valid Starcraft CD key.

Sometimes LANs would get terrible sponsorship deals and nerds would fight over bounty like a CD of Visual C++ 6 Enterprise Edition.

A man who runs a LAN facility might sell you an RTL8139 PCI card for $15 if you want to upgrade to 100 Mbps. This card might work great for a decade+ after.

If you’re a poor high school student who wants to upgrade your home network from a hub to a switch, you could pay the lion’s share of the $55 for the right to keep it at your house between LANs.

WINE can basically only run Starcraft.

If someone has shared their installation of Warcraft III over SMB it will run much faster if you copy it to your local machine first rather than execute it directly from the network folder.

Motherboards had headers to connect USB ports built into the case but they were completely unstandardised so you had to slot them in pin-by-pin in the correct locations following your motherboard manual. If you got this wrong you could short out your PSU through thin wires by plugging in a USB mouse, which would create an awful whirring sound.

A commercial LAN venue would advertise itself on a local pop music radio station by having a dialogue of people arguing about which IP addresses to use.

If you had the oldest PC in your group, you might be connecting to the hub via coax and a BNC connector while everyone else is using CAT5.

What’s WiFi?