I am not an individual that steals passwords in order to gain access to other people’s computer systems; that is a criminal. I am not an individual who writes malicious computer code to destroy networks, delete important files, or commit espionage for the sake of fun or contempt of society; that is a criminal. The news media has always been wrong using this term; the news media has always misled society on what it truly means.
I am a hacker, and that is something quite different.
A hacker is not the scourge that has spawned wickedness of purpose, the plague of negative thought and dread that fills our world of Cyberspace to this day, the disease of our industry. Those are criminals, people whose talents are used for evil, they are not Hackers.
I am among those of society who was there when the Computer Revolution began; I was there among the huddled groups of hobbyists who scrambled for the tidbits of information available at the time; hungry for knowledge, driven by passion, to learn new ways of doing things.
We ‘hacked’ together our bits and pieces, circuit boards and software, toggle switches and relays, turned on the power, and watched our creations come to life, the personal computers of the 20th century that modern society cannot live without, now.
We are what the word truly means; we are Hackers.
I was there when Cambridge’s other pioneers of technology were stringing scrap antenna wire around the rooftops of downtown Galt, in order to bounce HAM radio signals off the Moon, radios that their home-made computers could use to communicate with other people’s home-made computers half way around the world, at a time long before the Internet was even known or available to the masses.
I was one of those guys who soldered wires and boards together, built software code to allow a couple of computers to share a printer, before the first Local Area Networks came to the market.
I was among those who kludged together the first programs available that would allow business to make their first automated accounting spreadsheets available for their manual, pencil and paper-based bookkeepers.
I was one of those who created ways to print the first automated bills of materials for machine shops that realized the huge potential computers would bring to them.
I was one of those who programmed computers before computers even had screens and keyboards, back when a mouse was something that ate cheese. I was one of those who purchased Microsoft’s first line of products; BASIC language interpreters for the primitive computer systems we were soldering, assembling, and bringing to life at the time.
I was one of those who spent every cent available buying every electronics magazine available, to learn and implement everything about the new technology, and the new inventions that were being discovered daily, which was why the magazines started getting printed weekly.
We proved that the old ways aren’t necessarily the best ways.
I was also there when the “Copier Heads” at Xerox dropped the ball; when they blew the one opportunity to shine; the company that invented the ‘Ethernet’ that everyone takes for granted now as what plugs their computers to the Internet, or other computers, the routers and switches and modems that use a technology the people running this copier company couldn’t comprehend how to exploit, and they failed to do so.
I watched Xerox introduce the first mouse, the first graphical computer, the first laser printer, products whose markets they never exploited, never entered, and therefore resigned themselves to a second-class status in the burgeoning personal computer market springing up all around them, a market they completely missed out on.
I watched as Steve Jobs, then later Bill Gates, snatch up these unpatented concepts to help them build Apple Computer and Microsoft respectively, two pretty significant companies to this day.
They all proved that the old ways aren’t necessarily the best ways.
I was there when the leaders of IBM shunned their company’s traditional business model, combined a group of free-thinkers and entrepreneurs together, and made the world’s first commercially successful Personal Computer, taking it from concept to completion in a year. They got the ball rolling and created it ‘on the fly,’ redesigning as they went, fixing as the problems arose, and finally brought their invention to the world, a product that would change all of modern industry.
They, too, proved that the old ways aren’t necessarily the best ways.
I watched Microsoft sell flight simulators and language compilers before they were handed the first $1 Billion contract from IBM. I watched Michael Dell start assembling computers in his garage down inTexas, selling them through mail order. He ran a 1/8 page ad in a weekly computer magazine. Now, he runs Dell Computer. I watched Intel Corporation go from a small company fabricating microprocessors for street light controllers and calculators, to become the dominant computer manufacturer it is today.
In my industry, the pioneers never run out of ways to discover new things, as it has been going on since the beginning. Our industry thrives because of this ability, this way of thinking ‘outside the box,’ the ability to embrace the abstract, and apply it to the problems facing us.
We proved that the old ways aren’t necessarily the best ways, and it’s time that we as a species start applying this fundamental concept to more aspects of society, like our government, for the benefit of us all.
I am a Hacker; we are builders, not menaces, of society.