My 1st Ninja Mission….

in the computer server room at LL Beans in Freeport, Maine.

LL Bean

LL Bean (Photo credit: NixBC)

Bruce Lee was my idol growing up. After my parents divorce, every Friday night my father would take me to a cinema in Portland, Maine, that was playing Kung Fu movies. I was around 13 years old. The theater was always empty and I wondered how they could stay in business. It must have been all the popcorn and soda they sold.

The movies were tons of fun and because of them, my father signed us both up for Karate classes. Karate was fun and I remember being the most flexible I’ve ever been in my life. I could do a split where my butt was just a few inches off of the floor. I could do a side kick stretch, where my legs formed a perfectly straight vertical line. One of the most memorable moments of those classes was getting to meet Stephen K. Hayes at one of his seminars. He told me that I had one of the strongest punches for a kid my age. Oh yeah, I was thrilled. I guess it might have had something to do with using the weight room at the Royal River Raquetball Club. I was informed that weightlifting would stunt my growth at such a young age, but I grew to 6 feet tall anyways. Stephen Hayes wrote a book called “Ninjutsu: The Art of the Invisible Warrior”. He signed it for me and the book is actually sitting next to me on the desk while I write this.

I trained with the adults twice a week and I think I finally earned a Yellow belt, which is only the 2nd highest level in Karate. I read the ninjitsu book over and over, and I bought ninja throwing stars, nunchucks, and I even dyed my karate uniform black, to be a ninja for Halloween one year. I learned how to be the invisible warrior, and I snuck out of my bedroom most nights, and hid on the 2nd floor balcony watching Dukes of Hazzard, or whatever programs my parents were watching. My father and grandfather loved to take me hiking and hunting in the woods of Maine. I had to learn how to tread lightly since my grandfather had 80 acres of land, and we were bound to see a deer or a beaver in the bog, if I was quiet.

My first, hands-on invisible warrior, technique was taught to me by my father outside the door of the huge computer server room at LL Beans. He was a programmer there and would make frequent trips from his desk to the server room to switch tapes, replace huge spinning memory storage platters, or to print a bunch of paper cards off of the keypunch machine, to feed into the computer. These cards, with all of their little holes, were one of the first ways to enter a program into a computer. There wasn’t any keyboard entry back then.

IBM Keypunch Machines

IBM Keypunch Machines (Photo credit: born1945)

In order to gain entry to the server room, you had to enter a 4 digit number on the security keypad outside of the door. The keypad laid flat/horizontal and consisted of 5 rocker switches with the numbers 0-9. I think the code was changed every 3-6 months. The secret to hacking the number was to look at the buttons that didn’t have any dust on them, since the company cleaners didn’t seem to ever touch this keypad. There was always 4 spots that had no dust and 9 times out of 10, the number would always be in numerical order (i.e. 1234, 3689, etc.). Once I knew the trick, I could always get into any server room when my father took me to his office on the weekends. He worked for Hannaford Brothers and even Maine National Bank, where I was able to use my magic skills.

I look forward to telling many more stories of the server rooms and all the technology I’ve seen along the way. Thanks for reading and more stories to come soon.

Cheers, Steve.

Disclaimer: All posts are based upon my perceptions. If any of the parties in the post have a different viewpoint, please contact me or comment below. These are just my memories.


About steve@genzplay

Based in Sonoma Valley, California, GenZplay was founded in August 2011 by Steve Calhoun to make video games a physically active part of his son’s outdoor life. The company is focused on integrating gaming mechanics with everyday activities, especially those that need a mixture of fun and adventure to motivate and inspire. Follow GenZPlay at or Twitter @genzplay.

Posted on October 17, 2012, in Personal and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hi Steve. Great growing up story. Keep it up! But honestly, I didn’t notice your awesome ninja skills skiing! Did you know I just returned to skiing last year after nearly 20 years ago – the last time being Sugarloaf while at UMaine…

  2. I really like the sport and can’t read enough about it! Thanks for sharing this information with us, I will return every week to read more. Thanks for this article!

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