The problem with writing down history is that over time, the people
fade away and only the history remains. While that might seem like a general good,
in fact it means that if there are misstatements or errors in a
history, those mistakes follow through to the present day with no-one
left to correct them.
Ironically, many of these locations might be lost to history themselves,
either as long-forgotten articles or out-of-print books.
Hacker Culture, by Douglas Thomas
Published by University of Minnesota Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8166-3345-2.
Thomas' book is a treatise on the concept of "Hacker Culture", the social mores
and conventions within Hackers throughout the 1950's to the present day (2002).
The vast majority of the book analyzes both the term "Hacker", definitions of
"Hacker Ethic" and other social boundaries. In most cases, Thomas simply declares
the nature of hacking, either citing a source (to reference a fact or to prove a
contention), or quoting directly from a number of documents, including
Blankenship/Mentor's "The Consicence of a Hacker" (also called The Hacker Manifesto).
However, since Thomas' main interest is quantifying and classifying the social
structure and perspective of hackers, he leaves citation of events and facts to
others, notably the flawed work of Markoff and Hafner.
- Introduction, page xxii. Internet worm creator Robert Morris is called an "old-school" hacker, which Thomas has previously defined as hackers of the 1950's, 60s and 70s. In 1988, Morris was 23.
- Page 16. Implies that TAP (previously YIPL, the Youth International Party line) was started in the 1960's; the first issue of YIPL came in the summer of 1971, with the name changing to TAP in August of 1973.
- Page 18. Indicates that John Draper/Captain Crunch is "one of the first phone phreaks". There is strong evidence that non-Bell Telephone persons were exploring and experimenting with the automated switching systems of the 1950s, many years before Draper begins tinkering.
- Page 18. Prints that John Draper/Captain Crunch discovered the "Crunch Whistle", which came in packages of Cap'n Crunch Cereal and which could emit a rough approximation of the 2600 Hz tone that would signal to phone switching systems they were to recieve in-band signalling. This is not the case; while originally ambiguous about this fact, Draper has made it clear that he publicized the Crunch Whistle, but it had been discovered by other phone phreaks. Draper has said that he heard of this information from blind phone phreak (with perfect pitch) Joe Engressia (JoyBubbles).
- Page 27. Calls November 8, 1988 "the day the Internet shut down", due to the Morris Worm. The Morris Worm was released on the Internet on November 2, 1988 at about 6pm, and was noticed (due to systems overloading) within a few hours.
- Page 28. Says that the Morris Worm would mail passwords back to Morris once it entered a system. In fact, it did no such thing; it did, however, ping a berkeley.edu system (18.104.22.168, ernie.berkeley.edu, port 11357) to allow tracking of the worm's activity throughout the Internet. Error originally from Cyberpunk by Hafner and Markoff.
- Page 28. Says that Robert Morris refused to talk with the press. This is a slight mischaracterization; as he was quickly found and threatened with legal action, Morris engaged legal representation within days of the worm's release (and diagnosis) and would have been advised not to make public statements pending legal action. Morris' father, Robert Morris Sr., spoke with a number of press contacts about the event including the New York Times, saying the worm was the result of a "bored graduate student". (Morris Sr. also spoke within the bounds set by NSA lawyers and officials.)
- Page 30. Project "SETEC ASTRONOMY" is an anagram for "TOO MANY SECRETS", not "TOO MANY SECRECTS".
- Page 34. Calls Clifford Stoll an "Old-School Hacker". Again, by Thomas' standards, this is not true. From the first page of Stoll's "Cuckoo's Egg": "Me, A wizard? Until a week ago, I was an astronomer, contentedly designing telescope optics.... I found myself transferred from the Keck Observatory at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, down to the computer center in the basement of the same buidling. Well, hell, I could fake enough computing to impress astronomers, and maybe pick it up fast enough that my co-workers wouldn't catch on. Still, a computer wizard? Not me- I'm an astronomer." (Page 1)
- Page 51. Thomas summarizes the plot of the Terminator movie series by saying that SkyNet is a machine built by Cyberdyne Technologies that declares war on the human race and due to its efficiency, lack of human emotions, and titanium armored endoskeleton, nearly extinguishes the human race. The actual plot is that Cyberdyne Technologies builds a defense network called SkyNet that declares war on the human race and dispatches a flesh-covered robot back in time to kill the leader of the human resistance. This may sound minor, but it illustrates that Thomas considers accuracy of the recounting of a plot secondary to an academic point.
- Page 51. Says that in films where hackers have played central roles, hackers are, in almost every case, portrayed as outlaws or criminals, but that hackers are positioned as "minor criminals" in relation to a greater sense of criminality of injustrics that is being perpetuated by government, the military, or corporate interests. In fact, the plot of Hackers specifically has a hacker (played by Fisher Stevens) named Eugene Belford who plays the main villian, who jeopardizes lives by hacking navigation systems on cargo ships to cover up embezzling money from the corporation he works for. The film "Takedown" flat-out categorizes Kevin Mitnick as a violent, murderous thug who also jeopardizes lives, but Thomas may have not seen this film before his book was completed.
- Page 64. Calls the Altair 8800 "The very first personal computer". This is completely incorrect; the MITS Altair is among the most recognizable names in computers, but is preceded by many other brands, including the Mark-8, Scelbi-8H, HP-65 Calculator (which was called a Personal Computer in its manual), Micral, Intel SIM4, and so on. A list of potential first personal computers is located here.
- Page 72. Says that Loyd Blankenship (The Mentor) was Raided and arrested in 1990. His home was raided (in a misguided Secret Service operation) and material confiscated, but Blankenship was not arrested, indicted, or charged with a crime.
- Page 72. Says that Consicence of a Hacker (The Hacker Manifesto) is still widely quoted 10 years after its publication, but the Manifesto was published in January of 1986, meaning it had been available for 16 years at the present time of the book (2002).
- Page 83. "Developed by Linux" is more likely meant to be "Developed by Linus".
- Page 86. Mischaracterizes Linux as the first opportunity for hackers to create their own networks. In fact, hackers could create entirely legal networks for years beforehand, albeit not necessarily with an IP address on the larger Internet.
- Page 86. An "exploit" is not necessarily a program.
- Page 89. "The 1990s were a time when hacking moved away from individual practice towards notions of group identity and political action." While an attempt to specifically focus on Cult of the Dead Cow and Hacktivismo, examples of group identity and political action related to hackers and hacker well precede the 1990s. (Legion of Doom, 2600, YIPL, TAP, etc.) TAP, for example, specifically protested throughout the 1970s against the "War Tax" on telephone service that continued to be collected well after the war it was instituted for had ended.
- Page 89. "In the 1970s and 1980s, hackers had limited political agendas....More recently, in the wake of the AT&T break up...hackers have begun to engage in more concerted political action..." The AT&T breakup was announced in 1982 and was effective in January of 1984.
- Page 104. "The L0pht is a group of roughly half a dozen hackers who meet outside of their regular jobs in a Boston loft to explore issues of hardware and software hacking." The L0pht had been purchased/sold (some might characterize it as a 'merger') to the @Stake security company in 1999.
- Page 116. "In 1983, Eric Corley... started 2600". While he may have started work on it, 2600 did not publish until 1984, and 2600 lists 1984 as their official start date.
- Page 120. Says Phrack started two years after 2600, still using the errored 1983 start date. Phrack started a little more than one year after 2600, in 1985.
- Page 121. "[Phrack] has never moved from its original mode of distribution, a collection of files electronically distributed." Phrack 57 (2001) was distributed hardcover, although this may have happened after Thomas' book went to press. Phrack 62 was also distributed hardcover. It should also be noted that while these two editions were called "Hardcover", they were in fact not hardcover, just spiral-bound pages.
- Page 122. "In part, as Sterling speculates, the emergence of Phrack in the Midwest during the mid-1980s was to compensate, at least in part, for the fact that St. Louis (the location of Phrack's home BBS) was hardly the center of the hacking world." This statement, while primarily Sterling's, is narrow-focused and inaccurate. St. Louis had a large concentration of bulletin board systems, partially because it was the home of divisions of Martin Marietta and McDonnell Douglas, and contained a large number of employed, salaried engineers that brought in both old-school hacking (radio, kits, and equipment) and new-school hacking (personal computers, terminals and modems). Centralization of technology, hacking and computer activity in New York City and Los Angeles is primarily a myth, with media concentration in those two cities being a factor.
- Page 129. "The copyright never prohibited anyone from getting Phrack but only charged a fee of one hundred dollars for a subscription to government, law enforcement, and corporate organizations." Again, the copyright simply declared ownership, while the terms of of use declared what the cost and conditions of Phrack was.
- Page 140. "Hacker New Network" is likely meant to be "Hacker News Network". Additionally, Hacker News Network was decomissioned (the editor, Space Rogue, was fired) in early 2000.
- Page 145. "I have described the Altair 8800, the first PC (ca. 1974)". As mentioned above the Altair 8800 is not the first PC, and the first Altair kits were not available until 1975.
- Page 168. Describes the 6502 CPU as "the processor that allowed hackers to hack and clone cellular phones", which is an odd characterization at best, considering the 6502 CPU is the processor for Apple, Atari, Commodore, and BBC Micro computers.
- Pages 197-205. This section deals with a terse description of the story of Kevin Mitnick, which is drawn heavily from the sources of books and articles by John Markoff, while simultaneously criticizing Markoff and Hafner's work on the story. Errata within this section is addressed elsewhere on this site.
Pulls information from: Paul Mungo and Bryan Clough, Approaching Zero; Steven Levy, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution; Bruce Sterling, The Hacker Crackdown; Katie Hafner and John Markoff, Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier; Clifford Stoll, The Cuckoo's Egg; Robert Cringely, Accidental Empires; Gray Areas; Jonathan Littman, The Fugitive Game: Online with Kevin Mitnick; Tsutomu Shimomura and John Markoff, Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of Kevin Mitnick, America's Most Wanted Computer Outlaw - by the Man Who Did it; Charles Platt, Anarchy Online: Net Crime; Michelle Slatalla and Joshua Quittner, Masters of Deception: The Gang That Ruled Cyberspace
The Hacker Diaries: Confessions of Teenage Hackers, by Dan Verton
Published by Mc-Graw-Hill/Osborne, 2002. ISBN 0-07-222364-2.
Hackers, by Steven Levy
Published by Dell Publishing, 1994 Edition. ISBN 0-385-31210-5.
Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier, by Katie Hafner and John Markoff
Published by Touchstone (First Touchstone Edition), 1995. ISBN 0-684-81862-0.
A Hacker Manifesto, by McKenzie Wark
Published by Harvard University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-674-01543-6.
The Cyberthief and the Samurai: The True Story of Kevin Mitnick and the Man Who Hunted Him Down, by Jeff Goodell
Published by Dell Publishing, 1996. ISBN 0-440-22205-2.
The Fugitive Game: Online with Kevin Mitnick: The Inside Story of the Great Cyberchase, by Jonathan Littman
Published by Little, Brown, 1997. ISBN 0-316-52858-7.
The Watchman: The Twisted Life and Crimes of Kevin Poulsen, by Jonathan Littman
Published by Little, Brown, 1997. ISBN 0-316-5285-9.