6

I'm trying to find a story I read in a printed book in the UK around 1990.

It was aimed at kids, probably about computers, and had some line drawings.

The only bit I can really remember is a couple of kids going to see a bed-bound kid who is lying down wearing prism glasses so he could see his computer screen and having a discussion of the "Knapsack" encryption system. I seem to recall the line picture of this on the left hand side.

I think it was a "children's novel" rather than a short story.

Any ideas of this vague recollection?

4
  • For what it's worth, knapsack cryptosystems are not fictional. Which will make it more difficult to identify the book in question. Apr 18, 2021 at 12:00
  • The knapsack cipher was also intended as an industrial-strength cryptosystem that would run on computers to protect data, not as a pencil-and-paper cipher. Though I think some of the underlying "knapsack problem" could reasonably have been described in a children's book. This certainly did make it harder to search Google Books, though, there were a lot of serious volumes on cryptography in the search results. Apr 18, 2021 at 15:50
  • Those prism glasses - were they VR glasses that displayed the computer screen? Or was this just someone who needed glasses to help see things at a distance (i.e. someone shortsighted) Apr 19, 2021 at 12:23
  • I've posted multiple answers to this one by now. I now know that the first three were incorrect, and may delete them. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind now that the book is "Chip Mitchell: the case of the robot warriors" by Fred D'Ignazio. Apr 9, 2022 at 23:10

4 Answers 4

4

I've found a third possibility - a book in the Questers series by E.W. Hildick.

From the Goodreads page for the first book:

Peter, who is bedridden, has a telephone and a remote-control television unit on his bedside table—and if the Questers’ Master Plan works, he’ll have a walkie-talkie set that will keep him in touch with his friends’ activities. Andy and Julius are the full members of the Questers, and Peter’s sisters, Eve and Ruth, are associate and probationary members. By combining forces they hope to win the talent contest, the pet show, the ice-cream eating contest, and the all-important treasure hunt.

Book 1 front cover Book 1 front cover - other edition

So far, we have a bed-bound kid, and his friends who come to visit him. We also have a TV screen, which could be the computer screen you mentioned, and it's remote controlled.

The book I have in mind would be the third one in the series.

enter image description here

Note that electronic equipment, considered to be special in some way, is on loan to them from a dedicated company - thus increasing the chance that subjects like the knapsack cipher would come up.

Here are some pictures from the interior - does the art match the style of the line art you remember?

enter image description here

enter image description here

I can find almost no information on the second book in the series, but here's its cover:

enter image description here

4
+500

Despite having posted three incorrect answers, I am now 100% sure I have found the correct one.

This book is Chip Mitchell: the case of the robot warriors by Fred D'Ignazio, and you can borrow it from the Internet Archive here. The relevant chapter is "The Case of the Zapped Outer-Space Game", beginning on page 73.

The front cover:

enter image description here

Pages 74-75, in which two boys - Chip and Legs - go to visit their new friend, Frankie, who is indeed bed-bound:

enter image description here

Pages 76-77, including a line-drawing of Frankie wearing the prism glasses:

enter image description here

(Note that the line drawing is on the left-hand side, as stated.)

Pages 78-79, in which Frankie describes them as "prism glasses", and states that they allow him to see the screen.

enter image description here

Page 81 includes the first mention of the knapsack cipher:

enter image description here

Page 82 has more on the knapsack cipher:

enter image description here

And finally, the back cover:

enter image description here

2
  • BTW - I would like to send a HUGE thanks to @FuzzyBoots for posting that bounty! Apr 10, 2022 at 22:45
  • 1
    Not at all. I loved the Chip Mitchell books as a kid, didn't recall that story although rereading it, it's familiar.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Apr 11, 2022 at 11:09
3

I may have found another possibility: the MicroKidz series by G.P. Jordan:

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

There is very little information about these online. However, they were full-length books aimed at children, with a "children thwart computer crime" theme. Maybe not a plausible one - one of the back covers talks about a computer game stealing people's minds! The publication dates I can find include at least one in the mid-80s, which fits with your reading one in 1990. I don't know if they had any line drawings inside.

enter image description here

4
  • Incidentally, I REALLY like the cover art on the first four book covers above. I may order some copies on ebay solely for the artwork! Apr 19, 2021 at 10:39
  • 1
    After "China Code" and "Satellite Hijack", I expect "Crypto Lock" and "SQL Inject" Apr 19, 2021 at 11:52
  • 1
    @DavidTonhofer If they were written by L.B. Tables and not G.P.Jordan! Apr 19, 2021 at 12:21
  • Sadly, I couldn't find these on archive.org. Jul 24, 2021 at 21:11
3

I've got a suspicion this might be one of the "Hawkeye and Amy" (or "Hawkeye Collins and Amy Adams") stories. Though if I'm correct, it'll have been a short story in a collection of Hawkeye and Amy mysteries.

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

Hawkeye and Amy were two kid detectives (now there's a trope I like!) who were also members of the "Bytes of Data Computer Club" at their school. This meant that a lot of their mysteries revolved around computers. For example, "The Mystery of the Disk Swiper", "The Case of the Computer Camp Kidnap", "The Case of the Clever Computer Crooks" or "The Secret of the Software Spy".

Regarding the line drawings, each story included a drawing done by Hawkeye. I think the style would be what you describe as a line drawing. You can see some examples in this Google Books preview or a lot more examples at archive.org.

I haven't found an exact match for the particular story you describe. However, since there are two protagonists, "a couple of kids going to see a bed-bound kid" would match with both of them going to visit a friend/suspect/witness. "The Case of the Toilet Paper Decorator" may have such a visit, but I only have a tiny Google Books snippet to go on.

They were originally printed in the 1980s, which fits in with your reading one in 1990. They've had several new editions since then, possibly with minor updates (such as replacing floppy disks with flash drives.)

Here's the 2013 edition of "The Case of the Video Game Smugglers":

enter image description here

And here's the 1983 original:

enter image description here

5
  • There's no TVTropes page for this series, unfortunately. Apr 18, 2021 at 9:39
  • 1
    Many of them available on archive.org at archive.org/search.php?query=hawkeye%20collins
    – FuzzyBoots
    Apr 18, 2021 at 16:26
  • @FuzzyBoots I did not know that! Many thanks indeed. If you want to edit it into the answer, feel free to do so. Apr 18, 2021 at 17:38
  • 1
    Many thanks - I've just checked "Hawkeye Collins & Amy Adams in The case of the clever computer crooks & other mysteries" on Archive.org and the stories seem too short and the art style is a lot more detailed than I remember. :(
    – Richy B.
    Apr 19, 2021 at 10:24
  • @RichyB. Ah well. Thanks for letting me know. To be honest, I think I might buy copies of some of them anyway, they could be rather fun! Apr 19, 2021 at 10:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.