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 dont 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 wasnt 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 wasnt 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 wasnt 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 Carrs 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. Theres even an OSX version.
It was an amazing little program that you could script to automatically dial into different sites, download files, and logout.
I went through a number of handles in those days
A Butterflys Dream (ABD)
Antelope Love Fan
Ive been using the last one ever since.
And now Ill leave you with a piece of writing that probably had more affect on me than anything else growing up.
File: archives/7/p7_0x03_Hackers 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, its all over the papers. Teenager
Arrested in Computer Crime Scandal, Hacker Arrested after Bank Tampering
Damn kids. Theyre 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 Im smarter than most of the other kids, this crap they teach us bores me
Damn underachiever. Theyre all alike.
Im in junior high or high school. Ive listened to teachers explain for the fifteenth time how to reduce a fraction. I understand it. No, Ms. Smith, I didnt show my work. I did it in my head
Damn kid. Probably copied it. Theyre 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, its because I screwed it up. Not because it doesnt like me
Or feels threatened by me
Or thinks Im a smart ass
Or doesnt like teaching and shouldnt be here
Damn kid. All he does is play games. Theyre all alike.
And then it happened a door opened to a world rushing through the phone line like heroin through an addicts veins, an electronic pulse is sent out, a refuge from the day-to-day incompetencies is sought a board is found.
This is it this is where I belong
I know everyone here even if Ive 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. Theyre all alike
You bet your ass were all alike weve 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. Weve 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 wasnt 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 its for our own good, yet were 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 for.
I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto. You may stop this individual, but you cant stop us all after all, were all alike.