Spontaneous gadget generation amid mushroom rings in woods near Worthing, England.


When I was a kid, I found a TRS-80 Model 100, a motorcycle and a giant pig in a forest clearing.

My father and I used to roam the south downs, hills that sloped down to a chain of senescent resort towns on the English Channel. We'd head out at the weekend for a hike around a bronze age hill-fort here or a berried copse there. These were brief idylls of childhood: birdsong and breezy trees, a maze of ancient flint walls and bridle-paths.

Over the years we visited many places, but none so odd as a patch of woodland northwest of Worthing, the town where I grew up.

Details of the trip now escape me. The forest was denser and quieter than most of Sussex's well-groomed wildernesses. Its old trees seemed to absorb sound, heightening the senses, making you pay attention. Perhaps that false sense of stillness is an echo of instict, a deep memory that wakes up in any primal environment.

Heading from one end to the other, we traipse into a clearing. Right there in the middle stood a huge pig. It minded its own business, neither fearing us or angry at our presence.

My dad laughed and, as was his wont, crafted a corny story about how it came to be there. A few yards away, however, we also found a motorcycle, laid down in the bushes.

Bear in mind that we were at least a hundred feet from a path of tree roots and muddy holes, and a good half- mile from anything one could travel on motorcycle.

And then, a few feet from that, an odd reflection. I approached. It was a TRS-80 Model 100 portable computer, half-hidden by ground ivy and the shifting patterns of shadow and sunlight cast by the alders.

Turned on.

Perhaps memory plays tricks. The display glowed green in the dark, but I'm pretty sure those things didn't glow the way that calculators and alarm clocks do. It could have been any of dozens of clones, or some kind of fancy electronic typewriter. But it was something that looked much like this:


Nothing ran on it. Just some menu options on screen, as if it had just been powered up.

There was no shiver up the spine, or creeping of the flesh, just a quiet murmur of something nasty, as if the sky dimmed imperceptibly at the precise moment we saw it, and it knew we had found it. This was long before the age of disposable technology; in the 1980s, one did not simply run into portable computers in the middle of the woods.

In the fraction of a second it took for my father to declare, "it must be battery-powered!", a soundless crackle danced around the space, a feeling I know my he and I shared.

Being a grown-up and all, my dad's more sensible instincts kicked in, and the next thing I remember is us at the side of the nearest road, with him calling the police at a payphone to inform them of the odd find. Of course, many other items were discovered thereafter. The bike, the computer, a bagful of more mundane loot: all stolen from a nearby farm and abandoned by over-encumbered thieves.

Maybe realizing something is mundane is what makes it so, and maybe things would have been different if I had been by myself. Alone with me in that silent place, free to conjure a human mode of communication in fungus and shadow, a vague and imperiled presence induces current just so to deliver its summons.

I certainly wouldn't have been the first kid to simply vanish in the woods near Worthing.

As for the pig, how it got there is anyone's guess.

Photo: Sorbus Sapiens

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Try your luck at besc...@gmail.com  
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19 Responses to Spontaneous gadget generation amid mushroom rings in woods near Worthing, England.

  1. mrsomuch says:

    what he said ^^^ mad skillz

  2. Tommy says:

    The Tandy WP-2 looked much the same, only black, with an 80 column screen and dedicated to word processing. It’s screen wasn’t back-lit, but was highly reflective with a greenish hue.

  3. Rob Beschizza says:

    Clapham wood. Just off the road to Arundel, as I recall. I think it might have been stripped pretty bad in the 87 storm.

  4. hohum says:

    Ooo I still have one of those TRS-80 100s! The left shift key is missing and one line on the display is dead but other than that it still runs golden!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Why the pig was in the park:

    Pannage is an English legal term for the practice of turning out domestic pigs in a wood or forest, in order that they may feed on fallen acorns or beechmast…”

  6. homodachi says:

    Lovely. Thanks Rob.

  7. holtt says:

    I’d say when you came across the berried copse (or buried corpse as we say in the US) that should have been a big clue…

  8. stabthecatt says:

    I spent a good proportion of my childhood in those woods. Near patching, not too far from Warning Camp?

    I’ll have to ask a friend who still lives in that area about this.

  9. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    I know that strange moment, because I periodically get it in NYC. It’s when you find yourself in the middle of a short story whose beginning and end are unknowable, and whose implications are potentially disturbing.

    One of my favorites was a moment seen in passing as I drove by. It was morning rush hour, on what was then a quietly seedy semi-industrial side-street in the Flatiron District.

    A serious-looking little cluster of people in business attire — both genders, all ages — were standing out on the sidewalk curb in front of a office building. They were silently staring up the one-way street in the direction I’d come from, obviously waiting for something to arrive; and every one of them was holding a big can of spraypaint, lids off, with their fingers already on the buttons.

    I will never know what was going on there.

    By the way: what became of the pig?

  10. technogeek says:

    Reminds me of the recent discovery of a piano in the woods here in Massachusetts.

    In perfectly reasonable condition.

    With bench.

    I’m attributing it to quantum teleportation.

  11. Jack says:

    I think it says: “Pray … for … Mojo”

  12. Scuba SM says:

    See, all this can be easily attributable to the fact that the thieves weren’t carrying enough Feather potions. When they became overencumbered and could no longer move, they went through their inventory, and dropped the thing with the lowest price to weight ratio.

    Mystery solved.

  13. HeatherB says:

    Wonderful story. Hearing about your childhood is always great.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I think that this story is possibly one of the less odd things that happen in Worthing.

  15. Rob Beschizza says:

    I have no idea what became of the pig, but it’s the most distinctive memory I have of the scene — perhaps, like you suggest, because it was the most inexplicable!

  16. DeWynken says:

    Clearly apparent that the pig rode the motorcycle into the woods for a quiet place to code on his computer. Obviously he crashed (for pigs carrying 80s era laptops are prone to crashing whilst riding motorcycles in the woods) and lost his way. He realized he had to play dumb when he encountered you two, for pigs are smarter than we give them credit for.

  17. dculberson says:

    I picture the thieves saying “I am overburdened.”

    (Diablo II if you don’t get it.)

    Great story, though. What’s with BBG being even more awesome than usual today?!

  18. stabthecatt says:

    I grew up in Worthing, where about did this occur?

  19. Christopher Lotito says:

    “As for the pig, how it got there is anyone’s guess.”

    It walked.

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