Jan 212011
 
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A friend on Facebook – or, well, someone I went to high school and some college with who friended me on Facebook which aside from farming coins and calling hits on people or some shit seems to be the sole purpose of Facebook – said something today that reminded me of the crap-ass registration system we used to have back when I first went to LSU. It was an automated phone system, because we were advanced enough no longer be using smoke signals, but only just.

I remembered the mad rush every semester to use this system. REGGIE, they called it. Short for REGISTRATION get it hahaha so cute. People would sacrifice sleep for like 48 hours to camp out at the campus phones trying to increase their chances of getting the classes they needed or wanted. Did you ever see the paintball episode of Community? It was basically that.

So you have some 50,000 students, all calling into an early 90s computerized phone system at the exact same time. I called my local cable office two days ago, was told I had an approximate one minute hold time and promptly got lost forever. I may still be trapped in a muzak hell of my own making and this is all illusion, I don’t know. But this was 11am on a random day in the year 2011 and the computer phone system failed me within seconds. You can imagine how well REGGIE worked.

It was basically tears and lamentations for an entire week. I think they maybe had to shut the campus down; the whole thing was always so stressful I don’t even remember. And I had it even better because I lived off-campus, so I had to dial even more numbers before the inevitable rejection. Each extra number shaved off precious seconds. Each minor delay could cost you that exact moment of perfect synchronicity, when someone would drop from REGGIE and if you were lucky, so very very lucky, you might take their spot.

There was no rhyme or reason to REGGIE. REGGIE had no sense of honour or fairness. Imagine being trapped with 50,000 people in a suffocating space with no windows, no air, no light. Each person is constantly moving, jostling, trying to secure the best position. There’s only one way out: a door that cracks opens in random locations at irregular intervals, just wide and long enough to allow one lucky bastard to squeeze through and escape into the promised land.

This was registration day. REGGIE, the unfeeling despot king, ruled over us all.

[Now I think about it, I seem to recall doodling a cartoon once to channel my boundless fury with REGGIE. I wonder if that was something I sent to Mike in one of our letters back in the day?(*) Must ask him.]

I’d forgotten about all of this. I’m so very glad she reminded me.

I may not sleep tonight. Must dial! Must get that 9am Biology lab or I’ll have to take it 5pm Fridays! Noooooo!

(*) Another story for another time.

  • Ross

    When I was a grad student at the University of Washington, they had a similar system. I think it was called STAR, which stood for something I can’t be bothered to remember.

    There was a twist, though: the STAR number was an external phone number, not a campus number. You couldn’t call it from a campus phone — those were restricted to other campus numbers only. You had to find a real phone somewhere to dial over and over and over again.

    But what happened if you tried to dial the STAR number from a campus phone? It would take the first five digits and assume they were a campus extension, and call it. And what unlucky sod happened to have the campus extension that matched the first five digits of the STAR number? That would be my advisor. The poor guy had to pretty much unplug his phone for a week every time registration opened up.

    • Jet Wolf

      Oh, SUCK for him. Ugh.

      After a few semesters of REGGIE, I actually found a way around a lot of the frustration. I punched REGGIE’s number into my local BBS dialing program to call into the system and turned up the volume on my external modem (9600 baud, SMOKIN’!) Just let the thing dial for me repeatedly, for hours at a time, reading a book or whatever until I finally heard the system pick up. Then just picked up the phone receiver, hurriedly disconnected the program dialing and voila!

      I think I only used that trick for one semester, maybe two, before I dropped out, but man, talk about relieving a hell of a lot of stress.

      Apparently they officially discontinued REGGIE in August of 2006 when less than 1% of all students were using it versus online registration. I wish I’d been there to give it a fine viking funeral.