The History of Hacking

In the beginning there was the phone company, the brand-new Bell Telephone. Contrary to popular belief, there were hackers at this time. Of course in 1878 they weren't called hackers yet. Just practical jokers! Some of these were teenage boys who were hired to run the switchboards who found it funny to disconnect and misdirect incoming calls. The first authentic computer hackers, can be found in the 1960s. Like the earlier generation of phone pranksters, MIT students had an insatiable curiosity about how things worked. In those days computers were mainframes, locked away in temperature-controlled, glassed-in lairs. It cost extreme amounts of money to run those slow-moving dinosaurs; programmers had limited access to the computers. The smarter ones created what they called "hacks", or programming shortcuts, to complete computing tasks more quickly.
Maybe the best hack of all time was created in 1969, when two employees at Bell Labs' think tank came up with an open set of rules to run machines on the computer frontier. Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson called their new standard operating system UNIX. In the 1970s the cyber frontier was wide open. Hacking was all about exploring and figuring out how the wired world worked. Around 1971 a Vietnam vet named John Draper discovered that the giveaway whistle in Cap'n Crunch cereal boxes perfectly reproduced a 2600 megahertz tone. Simply blow the whistle into a telephone receiver to make free calls. Counterculture guru Abbie Hoffman followed the captain's lead with The Youth International Party Line newsletter. This paper spread the word on how to get free phone service. "Phreaking" as it was called didn't hurt anyone, because phone calls emanated from an unlimited reservoir. Hoffman's publishing partner, Al Bell, changed the newsletter's name to TAP, for Technical Assistance Program.
In 1978, Randy Seuss and Ward Christiansen, created the first personal-computer bulletin-board system. It's still in operation today. In 1981 IBM announced a new model a stand-alone ma chine, fully loaded with a CPU, software, memory, utilities, storage. They called it the "personal computer." You could go anywhere and do anything with one of these. The territory was changing. More settlers were moving into the online world. ARPANET was morphing into the Internet, and the popularity of bulletin-board systems expanded. In Milwaukee, a group of hackers calling themselves the 414's (their area code) broke into systems at institutions ranging from the Los Alamos Laboratories to Manhattan's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
As the millenium approached, general cyber-hysteria over the infamous Y2K bug was further inflamed by several serious hacker attacks. Well-documented by the media, these invasions were experienced directly by the growing masses of casual web surfers. In the second week of February 2000 some of the most popular Internet sites (CNN, Yahoo, E-Bay and Datek) were subject to "denial of service" attacks. Their networks clogged with false requests sent by multiple computers under the control of a single hacker, these commercial sites crashed and lost untold millions in sales. In May, a new virus appeared that spread rapidly around the globe. The "I Love You" virus infected image and sound files and spread quickly by causing copies of itself to be sent to all individuals in an address book. Recent attacks on seemingly "secure" sites such as The White House, FBI and have proven that despite massive public and private investment in cyber defense technology and methodology, hackers continue to pose a serious threat to the "information infrastructure."

Would you like more reading on hacking? Here are some links:, The Complete History of the Internet,'s Hacking Info, Hacker History from the University of Utah, A Brief History of Hackerdom

More reading can be found on! Click here to purchase Jon Erickson's Hacking: The Art of Exploitation