GUIDE TO (mostly) HARMLESS HACKING
Beginners' Series Number 5
Where did it begin and how did it grow?
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
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
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-->>