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GUIDE TO (mostly) HARMLESS HACKING

Beginners' Series Number 5

Computer hacking. Where did it begin and how did it grow?
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 If you wonder what it was like in days of yore, ten, twenty, thirty years ago, how about letting and old lady tell you the way it used to be.

 Where shall we start? Seventeen years ago and the World Science Fiction Convention in Boston, Massachusetts? Back then the World Cons were the closest thing we had to hacker conventions.

 Picture 1980. Ted Nelson is running around with his Xanadu guys: Roger Gregory, H. Keith Henson (now waging war against the Scientologists) and K. Eric Drexler, later to build the Foresight Institute. They dream of creating what is to become the World Wide Web. Nowadays guys at hacker cons might dress like vampires. In 1980 they wear identical black baseball caps with silver wings and the slogan: "Xanadu: wings of the mind." Others at World Con are a bit more underground: doing dope, selling massages, blue boxing the phone lines. The hotel staff has to close the swimming pool in order to halt the sex orgies.

 Oh, but this is hardly the dawn of hacking. Let's look at the Boston area yet another seventeen years further back, the early 60s. MIT students are warring for control of the school's mainframe computers. They use machine language programs that each strive to delete all other programs and seize control of the central processing unit. Back then there were no personal computers.

 In 1965, Ted Nelson, later to become leader of the silver wing-headed Xanadu gang at the 1980 Worldcon, first coins the word "hypertext" to describe what will someday become the World Wide Web. Nelson later spreads the gospel in his book Literacy Online. The back cover shows a Superman-type figure flying and the slogan "You can and must learn to use computers now."

 But in 1965 the computer is widely feared as a source of Orwellian powers. Yes, as in George Orwell's ominous novel , "1984," that predicted a future in which technology would squash all human freedom. Few are listening to Nelson. Few see the wave of free-spirited anarchy the hacker culture is already unleashing. But LSD guru Timothy Leary's daughter Susan begins to study computer programming.

 Around 1966, Robert Morris Sr., the future NSA chief scientist, decides to mutate these early hacker wars into the first "safe hacking" environment. He and the two friends who code it call their game "Darwin." Later "Darwin" becomes "Core War," a free-form computer game played to this day by some of the uberest of uberhackers.

More history of hacking-->>
 


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