1980s computer mystery novel ‘The Trapdoor’ reborn

Lonnie Brown
 |  Special to The Ledger

Today’s topic is the rebirth of a nearly 35-year-old classic computer mystery novel. But for now, a bit of how it was birthed in the first place.

The year was 1980. The year Pac Man debuted. Former Beatle John Lennon was fatally shot. The MGM Grand in Las Vegas burned. Post-It notes appeared.

Electronic technology was starting to make inroads into everyday culture – Pac Man probably being the biggest indicator of that, and the camcorder and fax machines were starting to appear.

That same year, Hal Glatzer was working for a magazine that covered those new-fangled computer machines. The year before, Zenith Data Systems introduced the Z89, a desktop computer with a 12-inch monochrome monitor and attached keyboard. It consumed a large chunk of desk real estate.

Glatzer bought one for $1,600 – the equivalent of $6,200 in today’s dollars.

Six years later, Glatzer had published “The Trapdoor,” a paperback titled after a term used by computer hackers for gaining surreptitious entry into a computer. It became a classic among computer enthusiasts, and also gained traction with readers who were computer users.

Glatzer went on to write about the computer and communications industries and to pen several mystery novels (“Too Dead to Swing,” “A Fugue in Hell’s Kitchen,” and “The Last Full Measure.” He currently lives in Hawaii.

“At that time,” said Glatzer in a recent interview, “email, cellphones and the Internet were years away in the future. What was high-tech in 1980 looks primitive now, but it was the state-of-the-art. And people who mastered it could do some remarkable things with it, both legal and illegal.

“Technology has evolved since those days,” he added. “But as long as loners find their inner strength to overcome bullies, this period-piece will remain an