My first online experience was in about 7th grade (1988?). My mom owned a medical transcription business and she had recently switched from electric typewriters to dual-floppy drive Sony computers. I don't know the exact model information but they were a few models down the line from this sort of thing:
The ones I used looked more of a ripoff of the original Macintosh. There was a floppy with the "operating system", another floppy with the word processing program, and another that turned out to be a communications program because the machine had a built-in modem.
I was at the office one day after school and my mom randomly showed me how to dial into a BBS somewhere in the bay area. I remember being instantly enthralled by the idea that we were connected to another computer hundreds of miles away, even if there wasn't anything particularly interesting happening on the other end. This simple show-and-tell changed something in me and I never looked at computers the same way again. A computer wasn't just something you sat alone in front of, but a doorway to a different place.
The BBS scene in Redding, CA was pretty sparse at the time and I wasn't allowed to call southern CA very often so my online access was limited for the next year or so. Then we got our first Macintosh with 2400bps modem. I found a few local BBSes that I started to frequent and was soon spending far too much time playing TradeWars and downloading hax0r text files. I downloaded a wardialing program and tied up our spare phone line for days canning our entire area code. I even found a few interesting places (One was a plastics company that was running some flavor of Unix, not that I had any idea what Unix was at the time). Of course I was too much of a wuss to actually do anything with all of this new knowledge. But I felt like such a badass just having these folders of information. I had, at my fingertips, more power than all of the people who were torturing me on a daily basis. Oh, how I loved that bright ANSI Art world. I still dream about it sometimes. There I am, sitting in the dark of my room, staring at a screen like this.
Despite the growing number of places I could dial into locally, I still managed to rack up a number of large phone bills calling places like the Temple of the Screaming Electron and Robert Carr's Private Idaho BBS.
Carr was the genius behind such wonderfully offensive Mac program as MacJesus - Your Personal Savior on a Floppy Disc.
While researching for this post, I discovered that my terminal program of choice (Zterm) is actually still being developed. There's even an OSX version.
It was an amazing little program that you could script to automatically dial into differents sites, download files, and logout.
I went through a number of handles in those days
A Butterfly's Dream (ABD)
Antelope Love Fan
I've been using the last one ever since.
And now I'll leave you with a piece of writing that probably had more affect on me than anything else growing up.
File: archives/7/p7_0x03_Hacker's Manifesto_by_The Mentor.txt
Volume One, Issue 7, Phile 3 of 10
The following was written shortly after my arrest...
\/\The Conscience of a Hacker/\/
Written on January 8, 1986
Another one got caught today, it's all over the papers. "Teenager
Arrested in Computer Crime Scandal", "Hacker Arrested after Bank Tampering"...
Damn kids. They're all alike.
But did you, in your three-piece psychology and 1950's technobrain,
ever take a look behind the eyes of the hacker? Did you ever wonder what
made him tick, what forces shaped him, what may have molded him?
I am a hacker, enter my world...
Mine is a world that begins with school... I'm smarter than most of
the other kids, this crap they teach us bores me...
Damn underachiever. They're all alike.
I'm in junior high or high school. I've listened to teachers explain
for the fifteenth time how to reduce a fraction. I understand it. "No, Ms.
Smith, I didn't show my work. I did it in my head..."
Damn kid. Probably copied it. They're all alike.
I made a discovery today. I found a computer. Wait a second, this is
cool. It does what I want it to. If it makes a mistake, it's because I
screwed it up. Not because it doesn't like me...
Or feels threatened by me...
Or thinks I'm a smart ass...
Or doesn't like teaching and shouldn't be here...
Damn kid. All he does is play games. They're all alike.
And then it happened... a door opened to a world... rushing through
the phone line like heroin through an addict's veins, an electronic pulse is
sent out, a refuge from the day-to-day incompetencies is sought... a board is
"This is it... this is where I belong..."
I know everyone here... even if I've never met them, never talked to
them, may never hear from them again... I know you all...
Damn kid. Tying up the phone line again. They're all alike...
You bet your ass we're all alike... we've been spoon-fed baby food at
school when we hungered for steak... the bits of meat that you did let slip
through were pre-chewed and tasteless. We've been dominated by sadists, or
ignored by the apathetic. The few that had something to teach found us will-
ing pupils, but those few are like drops of water in the desert.
This is our world now... the world of the electron and the switch, the
beauty of the baud. We make use of a service already existing without paying
for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering gluttons, and
you call us criminals. We explore... and you call us criminals. We seek
after knowledge... and you call us criminals. We exist without skin color,
without nationality, without religious bias... and you call us criminals.
You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us
and try to make us believe it's for our own good, yet we're the criminals.
Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is
that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like.
My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me
I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto. You may stop this individual,
but you can't stop us all... after all, we're all alike.