We Owe it All to the Hackers

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We Owe it All to the Hackers
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The same spirit that drives the modern hackers today was the impetus to move digital technology into the mainstream of our lives. Learning about the creativeness and chutzpah of the early hackers--and understanding their implicit advocacy of openness and freedom--puts the tech landscape of today into perspective. Steven Levy is the senior writer for Wired Magazine and the author of seven books, including Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, the classic computer history book. He was formerly the chief technology correspondent for Newsweek. Other books include Crypto, Artificial Life and Insanely Great (the history of the Macintosh computer). His most recent book, In the Plex, is the result of a three year immersion into Google. In its review of the book, the Washington Post called Levy "American's premier technology journalist."
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hello hackers hello people who chase hackers hello people who are hackers who don't want to be called hackers and hello people who aren't hackers who want to be called hackers thanks a lot for defcon for inviting me today to come here I've never been to a DEFCON before and you folks are amazing thanks for inviting me so I've spent a lot of time over the years with hackers and it really has been one of the joys of my life and as you just heard and some of you probably know I did a book about hackers it was called hackers it is not the basis of the angelina jolie movie called hackers and the movie i should add that was double-booked for this room at this time is that and i couldn't believe it and the program there it's bad enough they took my title now they wanted to knock me out of my room and get damn you Angelina but the the book is undoubtedly really why I think I was asked to speak here today and I've done a lot of journalism sins but I think probably i'm going to be remembered for hackers heroes of the computer revolution it first appeared in 1984 it's never been out of print I've yanked it from two publishers and you know it is I felt they weren't doing enough with it and currently with a Riley media and I moved to a Riley because O'Reilly like really loves hackers and that's a long time ago 1984 27 years there is people knew how many in the room weren't born in nineteen eighty-four so that's not only a long time in computer time that's a lifetime in real life there now the stuff we know today we took we take for granted was really unimaginable back then in nineteen eighty four and it is really amazing you look back and you find you couldn't be optimistic enough about what's happened in technology you look at even at science fiction writers whose job it was to go wild and doing a futuristic scenarios and dystopias and that they sort of underestimate how amazing things are now I mean who could have anticipated Def Con right so I thought what I do tonight is kind of look back a little and you know take a look at what's happened before and in the light of saying how hackers themselves have changed what we do there because I really feel that in a very important way we owe it all to hackers we owe a lot of the big changes that came because of the hackers without hackers we wouldn't be so advanced and you know we wouldn't be so productive and like would certainly be a lot less interesting but I'm getting a little ahead of myself so let me tell you especially those of you familiar with the book but may not be familiar with the story behind it how I came to write about hackers so again we're going to go back in time here like Ronald Reagan was in the White House and a lot of us are trying to figure out what happened to Luke Skywalker the end of the Empire Strikes Back and yeah that's like a long time ago and I was a freelance writer back then and English major what else do you do but I wasn't writing at all about science and technology I never even took a science course in college I was writing about like the usual stuff like murders and sports and music and if you'll allow me one digression totally away from the subject they're the coolest thing I did in that period as I said some plans about music and I was writing an article for the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday magazine about reggae music and a guy in my food co-op insisted that he could get me an interview with bob marley and miraculously it happened he got me an interview at bob marley and i asked bob marley I said Bob how can I explain to the readers the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday magazine what reggae is and you're you know I paused a little any reasons and he said you know that quiet it happens before the hurricane in the coming that's reggae no pretty cool yeah well back to the hacking all that stuff changed my whole course of my career changed in 1981 30 years ago when I got an assignment from Rolling Stone magazine to write about computer hackers and I didn't really know what a computer hacker was uh you know and as a matter of fact I never even touched the computer it was possible back then to reach adulthood without touching your computer now you can't reach age two without risking a computer but that's the way things were back then so I tried to look up what a hacker was and it was kind of difficult there wasn't much about it but I think if there were a dictionary definition back then of what a hacker was it would be this hacker antisocial nerd by and large loser who's addicted to computers most may be dangerous but mostly a booger stain curiosity ok I thought I could write that story so I did more research and one of the things i found was an article in a magazine called psychology today it
was called the hacker papers was a cover story is written by a guy named philip zimbardo we use a Stanford professor was writing about his students and he thought that hacking was an unhealthy abyss that the unsuspecting students would get sucked into and this is book literally what he said he said fascination with the computer becomes an addiction and as with most addictions the substance that gets abused as human relationships well that impression pretty negative one was seconded in a little more extensive treatment of how because I saw still not too much in a book by former MIT professor called Joseph wisin bomb now wisin bomb is best known for this program called Eliza which is a faux artificial intelligence program that sort of emulated a therapist and you would talk to it amazing number of people were fooled he also wrote a book called computer power and human reason and he had a passage actually became quite notorious at MIT about hackers and it was not very flattering let me read you this passage there bright young men of disheveled appearance often with sunken glowing eyes can be seen city city to computer consoles their arms tense than waiting to fire their fingers already poised the strike at the buttons and keys on which their attention seems to be riveted as a gambler's on the rolling dice when not so transfixed they often sit at tables strewn with computer printouts over which they pour like possessed students of a Kabbalistic texts they work until they nearly drop 2030 hours at a time their food if they arrange has brought to them coffee coke sandwiches if possible they sleep on cots near the printouts their rumpled clothes their unwashed unshaven faces and their uncombed hair all testify the fact that they are oblivious to their bodies and to the world in which they move these are computer bums compulsive programmers well the well is it straight out at duff's TF ski right you couldn't imagine more gloomy and depressing bunch of people I mean Angelina Jolie shouldn't portray when these people she should adopt one of them so i figured cool i'll go to Stanford and I'll write this story but before I when I talked to a colleague of rolling stone and he gave me a list of other people to talk to people in the burgeoning personal computer industry and up some of the Wizards I might not known about so I had this list in hand when I flew out to California and let me tell you what I saw in California when I first research this totally blew out the stereotype I had within four hours after getting off the plane I was sitting in a hot tub with his guy named Jim Warren who run these things called the the computer fair sort of like a wild celebration of PCs and in the tub with me and him were these two dead heads who lived in his property who were editing this magazine for him about data communications inside band and they were like just going on and on and on by the transformative nature of the personal computer and since I had been brought up in the 60s as revolutionary stuff really click with me and I thought wow this is pretty interesting yeah and that set the tone for the entire visit and people I met were not at all like was described by wisin bomb or Zimbardo these were people who were not depressed well maybe a couple of them were you know sort of the press but by and large they were like adventurous they would like thrilled about exploring with computer and sharing what they knew about it and they were talking about how they were empowered by programming and what's more by pushing the envelope on computers which were just then being there find their way on a desktop they were onto something it was going to change the lives of all of us and I really began to perceive this and talking to them they were way ahead of the game and I wanted to learn much more about this and in fact after my article came out that's what I did I decided to write more and more about the field I began a column for a magazine called popular computing about telecommuting and the more a general column and I would write about things for Rolling Stone other magazines like the US festival the Steve Wozniak did and the development of the Macintosh and the culture of computer bulletin boards I also got a computer for myself I got an apple to computer that I used for all my work and you know four games and for other stuff and I had my girlfriend who's now my wife also get one of those computers and a couple months after we got the computer this is really bizarre a magazine coulter they wanted to interview her and do her picture they had a full-page picture of her because she was like a woman who used the computer now also use the forwards word processing right it's like now you think like women who use pencils right but but but that's the way things were this was like really something new so around that time publisher asked me if I wanted to do a book about hackers they saw my article in rolling stone and I wanted to do a book at the time and the time actually this is actually true I was circulating proposal to do a book about cheesy nightclub singers but it wasn't finding much much much of a welcome so I said ok I'll do this this hackers thing and I signed up with a double day and it was interesting we have sort of a fight about the title of the book the sales force didn't want to call it hackers because that they said no one would know what a hacker was and certainly they never heard heard of the word but um we managed to keep that the title there and you know I was nervous about my first book I really didn't know how to write a book and you it was like a much bigger task tonight taking on before so I thought gee maybe what I'll do is I'll write a chapter out this kind of hacker and a chapter about you know this aspect of hacking and maybe when I had enough chapters like then I have a book but I have to really give credit to my editor he urged me to think big and I thought well you know
maybe on the write a book again I should really take a shot at this and you know Tim O'Reilly talks about big hairy audacious goals that you should take on and I didn't know Tim O'Reilly them but yeah that's what I started to go for so I decided I'd write like one big story I'd write it is it like a narrative and it was the way you keep the turning the pages nobody this epic tale about how this rebel force really cause the revolutions in computing and that's what I wanted to do but that was going to be a lot more work because in order to do something as a narrative you have to kind of fill in the blanks so you really have to kind of get to know your subject have to spend endless hours interviewing them and you have to really get inside their heads than the other hand was a lot more fun because these were amazing people and it was fun to do endless interviews with them and to get inside their heads so I got my book contract in mid nineteen eighty-two I started working on it and I thought the outline in my head was okay there's gonna be two parts to this story the first part I decided was going to be about this group called the homebrew Computer Club and that was really this amazing group of hobbyists and chip enthusiasts in the Silicon Valley who first got together in March 1975 they were really galvanized
by the appearance of this the first personal computer for the Altair 8800 it wasn't in one piece it was a kit you had to put together then they haven't even gotten their hands on one they were so excited it was going to happen did they have this group and from that group the personal computer industry really formed one of the original homebrew people came to the first meeting was Steve Wozniak and he built the apple one to impress the people at the homebrew Computer Club so I thought that was going to be a great first part of the book and the second part of the book was more contemporary i thought i would write about what was happening now the computers were getting more popular and there was a commercial component to it i would write about these game hackers these wizards who wrote great game programs but how they coped with the idea yeah that there was a commercial aspect to what they did so I started to hang hang out this company called sierra on-line it was based in coarsegold California near Yosemite and that we the second part but as I proceeded along those lines and bouncing back and forth between this and that I began to realize that really I wasn't starting at the beginning there was something earlier that went even before home brew and a style and a culture that existed there you know the hacker culture really began somewhere and I began to figure out like where that was where hacker culture actually began and that was it MIT so meanwhile I was interviewing all these people for the further for the books and the other things i interviewed Steve Wozniak of course he's an amazing guy he was really generous with his time he helped me out a lot and he was like a true hacker you know from the time he was a kid he did all the things you know taking things apart and you know he like all hackers he wanted to do the
impossible to do what people said he can't be done and yeah he did it time and again with apple with the computer and the disk drive I didn't talk to steve jobs for the book though though I did talk to him and meet him right before the book came out I did that I told you I did a story for Rolling Stone about the beginning of the Macintosh I convinced Rolling Stone to do a story about a computer which was like a big deal back then in late nineteen eighty-three and I remember really clearly the day I first saw the Macintosh I went in there before it came out a couple months earlier and it was an incredible day because there was these amazing people working on it they had these great hackers like Andy Hertzfeld and Steve Capps and Bill Atkinson and some of the people I met that day to this day or still my friends you know we really like connected and the end of the day I was going to meet Steve Jobs and it was about five o'clock we were what about the dinner and he was going to give me an interview over dinner and he showed up the appointed time and before he even said hello and we got to his car he started saying roll rolling stone rolling stones really going down downhill really big time and I was just in a plane I saw the latest issue of rolling stone have this cover story about MTV and was a total piece of and he kept going on and on about that and you know sometimes people talking you want to get in something weird in edgewise you have to wait they take a breath and I just really wanted to interrupt and tell him before you go too far I wrote that story Steve about MTV well finally did tell him he did something which was very Steve Jobs like his he didn't look like almost acknowledge that I said it he just changed the subject and went on to something else there uh you know so and actually yeah over the years I had you know many many many you know conversations with him and had a great relationship but we never talked about mt they and I also one person I did an interview for the book was Bill Gates I interviewed him in early nineteen eighty-three he looked like it was about 13 years old I remember he was sitting there using like a mouse which is a kind of unusual thing back then using it with das which is kind of odd and you know a bill you know some people are critical of him but he really was a real hardcore hacker and then again you look at his bass and typical hacker kinds of experiences and even after he stopped coding and Microsoft from he would examine the products and sort of evaluate them how good they would be if he did it and very few things met up to that standard there and you know he was hardcore in everything I had a lot of conversations with him subsequently and I remember one time in particular we had a disagreement about the meaning of the word antitrust and that was at a time when that was sort of an emotional issue with Bill and he threw a pencil at me and that was sort of like a legend in Microsoft PR circles so anyway once i realized that MIT was going to be important part of my book i had to go there and that really led to that first section of the book called true hackers which i feel and i think a lot of other people feel is really the most important part of the book because at MIT it was really the beginning of the computer culture that persists to this day and i guarantee you the defcon would not be what it is if we're not for the culture that those people and then at MIT so let me tell you how that started there it all began in a building called building 20 this is like a structure that came up during World War two and the architect who built it you know later wrote that this building was made you know just to last through the war and for perhaps six months afterwards and of course the building lasted until nineteen ninety-eight when it got knocked down to MIT wanted to build the lab for computer science which was this big building designed by frank gehry to look like it was sort of falling down and the building actually is sort of falling down as it turns out they have a big problem with it and the building of course is named after Bill Gates so building 20 was the home of a lot of things at MIT it was a home of their nuclear lab and other things it was also home of a lot of student clubs that were headquartered there so one of these clubs was called the tech Model Railroad Club the members called it to Merck is the way they pronounce the acronym there and if you were wandering the building building 20 look in the hallways you see the sign for the tech Model Railroad Club and he go in there and you'd be amazed because there was this amazing train layout there it was very elaborate sophisticated train layout while these mountains and you know different locomotives chugging along and you know little people and things like that at the yac as nice as you can imagine and there were a lot of people to Merck who specialized in paper mache and painting and doing and you know renovating the locomotives and doing all the things that you do if you're a trained hobbyist but then there was another contingent of the Model Railroad Club that was called SP that's good for signals and processing these people weren't much concerned with one went on at the top of the table they were concerned with one on underneath the table so if you looked under the table you would see something like amazing was this incredible tangle of like wires and cables and transformers and even stuff like telephone steps switches and you know crossbar generators and things like that they were donated by western electric's college gift plan and things other things they scrounged out from from junkyards there and it was the most elaborate system you could imagine that maybe to do amazing things on top of the the layout things like having multiple people control different trains at different parts of the track and you use a telephone dial to dictate where you wanted the train to go on the track and that the SP people call themselves hackers and they were totally technical people who call themselves hackers and I have not been able to find any earlier group of technical people who used that term to describe themselves so where did that come from I think you know there was a part of it was the MIT used the word hack as a synonym for prank so when people would painted the big dome and the main building was like a beanie or something like that they called that a hack and the other part of the term was like like your hack with an axe it was sort of a self-deprecating way to describe what they did when they work for those 12 hour sessions who work for these weird things underneath the table there so one of the guys at MIT that one of the freshman at tumor it's going to be Peter Samson and I came across some of the old newsletters of the Model Railroad Club from the late 50s and he did this crazy poem which I you find us a historic document was one of the first times people like wrote about hackers as hackers to let me read you just a little of Peter Sampson's poem after a hydrate look at the hacking hacking even as an ignorant freshman acts it was never lost occupancy and has dropped out hacking the M boards for under its locks or the switches and under its control he advanced around the layout hacking hacking the grungy herring sprawling hacks of youth on cabled frying diodes proud to be switched thrower fuse tester maker of routes player with railroads and advanced chopper to the system sort of Walt Whitman esque in this scope there so in the spring of nineteen fifty-nine mit offered the first undergraduate class about computer programming ever and the teacher was a guy named John McCarthy who later became a legend in artificial intelligence and the hackers you know the turmeric a curse of course we'll all in this class they all wanted to take it there they were kind of disappointed because the computer that was accessible to them was as big I BM 704 which was like most computers at the time accessible only by these punch cards you were out the hand to the priesthood you know watch the the computer there so they couldn't get direct access to the computer and that just wouldn't do but a few months later Lincoln labs which was a you know a part of a MIT sort of run by the defense agency agencies donated this computer to MI t?a and this was an interactive give you as a million-dollar thing called a TX 0 and they asked the hackers from tamar to write some of the system software's on the buggers compilers and of course they said yes and you know this like really uh transformed them because they can work interactively and they can do all kinds of things to it they can have extended access to the computer there so besides the debuggers compilers they did the kinds of things
that you couldn't do on the computer as i said before like Steve Wozniak and really like any hackers that people love to do the impossible so they did stuff on the computer that you couldn't do there were you other people said you shouldn't do for instance one thing they did was they decided to use the computer to process text made this program called expensive typewriter and that was like really the first word processor and another guy another hacker decided to do it his math problems on the computer you know not like you know heavy crunching programs but you know the kinds of stuff he did in his class work and it was sort of a precursor to the first spreadsheet and he handed in his homework to the teacher he printed it out and the teacher gave him a zero because he said this can't be done on a computer it must be wrong so a couple of years after that a new company called the digital equipment corporation donated a prototype of one of the first mini computers the PDP 12 MIT and they asked the the hackers to write some of the system software for that and they did that they wrote that challenge but he also did something which was different they came across the first interactive computer game it was called space war yeah it was real time and graphics and that game like all the programs that they did were done as a collaboration now with both T x0 and you know the the PDP one they would write their programs on paper tapes and the paper tapes would be stored in a drawer and anyone could go into the drawer and get the tape and run the program and look at how the code was written and then improve the program and you know then cut a new tape and that that tape will be the new program there there was no idea of intellectual property or who owned it the whole idea was to share all the information because from the moment that TX 0 really got there you know their goal was to learn as much as they could about it and share that information with each other that and that that was the highest value that they had so that really formed the idea that information really should be free and should be shared with each other they're now spending time with those hackers I came to realize the hackers MIT I came to realize they had a lot in common with the other hackers I had talked about in the other sections of the book with the pictures of the homebrew computing club and you know even the hackers who were working like for a living working for a sierra on-line a hacker is a hacker as a hacker and I really that hackers had this shared set of values that was pretty consistent no matter who they were how old they were so I came to call that the hacker ethic and I put that in in the book and you know I had a number of principles to it but it really the most important one was the 1i just referred to this information should be free and of course I'm not talking about you know the free isn't you know not costing anything because but at that point especially for the MIT people weren't charging for software anyway that was an alien concept but free in the way that you know you should share it all and also free in the way the information should move as freely as possible both in the computer and this is something the way hackers thought outside the computer as well one of the precepts of the hacker ethic was that you have to you know resist you know bureaucracy because bureaucracy keeps you at a distance at a remove from from information and you know the lack of bureaucracy makes for a free flow of information there so those feelings even extended to of physical systems now here at Def Con i'm really interested you've got like a lock hacking village and it's like a big deal now to do lock hacking here but let me tell you at MIT they were first in lock hacking there the hackers you know felt that locks whether own computers are on doors kept him away from information they needed so they started their own block hacking community there a lot of two courses in locksmithing so they could learn more and they can get licenses to get the SPECIAL blanks that only locksmiths could get hold of and you know pretty much they were able to get into pretty much anything at MIT and one of the hackers explained it to me and I actually want to give this extended quote because I think it even extends outside of lock hacking and outside of that time period and as the 50s and 60s there this is a guy named David silver as he explained it to me this was a altra highly clever warfare there were administrators who would have high security locks and have vaults where they would store the keys and have sign out cards the issue keys and they felt secure like they were locking everything up and controlling things and preventing information from flowing the wrong way and from frings beings and from things being stolen and then there was another side of the world where people felt everything should be available to everybody and these hackers had pounds and pounds and pounds of keys that would get them to every conceivable place the people who did this were very ethical and honest and they weren't using this power to steal or injure it was kind of a gang partly out of necessity a partly out of ego and fun at the absolute height of it if you were in the right inside circle you can get the combination to any safe and you get access to anything sound familiar now one point it got the administrators felt they had to ramp up the warfare so they got this class to safe that was certified to keep classified secrets from the government they felt the hackers could never get into that and of course you can't say to hackers you can't get into that they actually went to a junkyard where you know the government got rid of stuff and they found their own class to state they dragged it up to tech square were like a lot of the hackers were then the artificial intelligence lab they took it apart with the settling torches and figured out how all the tumblers works and things like that and they were able to reverse-engineer it and break into the administrators safe there and you know in in hackers i right about this poor guy who was in charge of protecting things from the hackers at MIT this is an unenviable job this guy named russell knob score did it and this guy and it was really sad because the guy was sort of a hacker himself like a lot of hackers he had a love of explosives that seems to be another thing that a lot of hackers like and actually one of his a young man he worked for a company a high tech company and he convinced them to give him part of his salary in primer cord which is like a very you know what it is right and and yeah one very snowy winter you can see that the scheme to blow up the snow on his walk with primer cord and his wife got a hold of the idea and prevented it he made him shovel the snow but this but this guy actually sort of went over to the other side when he was charged for protecting the information he took it very personally that the hackers you know gotta listen he kept you know he's like Elmer Fudd he kept constantly getting outsmarted and finally he sat down he declared a truce he said you know what I I give up I'm standing down but please let's let's do it this way so sort of don't ask don't tell you know i'll let you go where you want but you know be righteous about it yeah the don't you know cause trouble where you go and don't don't talk about it to people if you happen to go climb up on the ceiling and drop into a locked room from the ceiling you know just look around yeah don't don't cause problems and and then lock up and clean up after yourself and don't let people know that you were there it's important to create the illusion of security and that that's all we need there so I don't you think a lot of companies today so I'll use the illusion approach to security there that's another story there so of course it was a given that those hackers were honorable yeah sometimes when they've got on a computer they were on other unauthorized to do it sometimes the computer would crash if they didn't necessarily mean for the computer to crash and sometimes when they borrow tools the tools would get broken but didn't mean to have brokenness you know sometimes those things happened and uh and you know but generally you know they were they were they were righteous looked like they were ethical and I have to say that amazingly a lot of that ethical standards still persists to this day now one of the people I spoke to for hackers it was um he's in the last chapter of the book was a guy who actually was virtually living in tech square of one of the MIT buildings at the time and I was the first reporter to ever talk to this guy and he told me this amazing story about you know it is time it at the MIT AI lab and you know his goals in his visions and this guy was like Richard Stallman who you all know of course is the founder and yeah and in conscience of the open open open
source movement there and I find it amazing that you know stole men's teachings as it were have you know gone so wide and touched so many people there and to me that's a sign of really you know how lasting and resilient the
Hathor ethic really really was now I can't overestimate the importance of the hacker ethic and yeah and and the values of hackers to computers you know we owe it all to the hackers and I talked about you know in things like we're processing and other things but also the nature of the pc from home brew and from other things you know unlike those mainframes IBM 704 personal computers are built on a more open content kind of kind of system there and again homebrew club it was those hackers and when IBM decided to their pc they adopted the hacker ish method to do it there and then when the internet got developed those were people who you know did their work in hacker hotbeds those are people who totally signed on to the free flow of information and that was the design principle of the internet and that's you know what we have here and I don't think the internet would have been anywhere near as successful had it not been develop on hacker principle we owe it all to the hackers now let me talk just a bit about what's happened to the word hacker because I get comments on that a lot now when i wrote hackers uh you know the the term was sort of moving and vacillating between that you know sort of like sick addict view that it had when it started into the more classic view of the hackers i talked to the true hackers that implied you know like wizardry and you know cleverness and you know doing the impossible and you know technical wizardry things things like that but a few years after i wrote the book there were a lot of well publicized cases where people a lot of times kids would break into computer systems there was one in minnesota which you know particularly got a lot of attention and the press glommed onto the word hacker and used it so much that a lot of people who encounter the word for the first time in that thought hacking was totally synonymous with that kind of activity and the older hacker has really got bent out of shape by that you know there was this thing called the hacker conference that first started actually after my book when Stewart Brand got a lot of people together to and whole earth people to join the generations of hackers well this happens every year and they people you know they were outraged at this and you know one year the CBS news came and they did a report and they made these people look to the viewers like you know like they were the the kids who broke into the computers and they didn't do that stuff and they were very like offended there and they wanted to you know or write letters and you know somehow get the language police on there and yeah and roll back what happened there and it was it was futile and you know I guess almost silly to think that you could do that because language takes its own course and it turns out it's kind of useful to describe activities in that way there and I think really what's happened there to the word hacker as I look at it as a trade with a lot of branches and in one hand there's this branch with a classic sense of the definition you know which exists and then there's these other branches with you know like the definition that implied you know sort of like a darker side and you know darker and maybe even more dark and there's certainly one branch which it goes for you know a malicious stuff and cyber warfare and people who work for Rupert Murdoch and you know things like that and and then there's you know sort of like a Bob Dylan branch and I named that after you know the 1966 song absolutely sweet marie where Bob Dylan said to live outside the law you must be honest right and that's you know maybe that's the DEF CON branch because you know a lot of people here I don't want to speak for you but it seemed to be on on that number there like you know where you know but maybe the letter of law isn't so important as doing the right thing and being at being ethical there so the 25th anniversary of the book I did that revision for a Riley and I went back to some of the people who I interviewed originally like Bill Gates and Richard
Stallman he's no less unique than he was before he drove me were that unlike the first time you were this big gown and he had this you know kind of crazy suit you know because he's not as apostle of hacking that was interesting but I also talked to some people who I probably would have talked to if I were doing the
book now and there were people like Mark Zuckerberg who is the founder of facebook and I was really interested to find that he'd loved and embraced the word hacker and he told me he wants facebook to be a great hacker company and he was like returning to that original branch you know the branch of wizardry and being really clever and really dedicated and finding a great solutions there and it's interesting also to see that how the word hacking has now sort of come to mean even apart from technology just the idea of using cleverness and maybe a subversive way to you know hack something maybe not technical like hack Washington or hawk DNA you know another life hacking movement there so I find it you know really encouraging that you know this movement is sort of you know coming back in a circular way to that kind of optimism there and you know I have to say I never been up two more optimistic about the whole concept of hacking that I am now and I just feel really lucky that i stumbled on this topic and so privileged to have learn from hackers you know for over these years and i think i've also had like the best readers in the world and i'm really grateful for them I can't tell you how many times people have come up to me and told me that reading hackers is meant something to them and and affected their lives there's people who say that well I grew up in this isolated area in rural area and I didn't know there were people like me and you know because it was great to hear that other people said they changed their careers after they read hackers and some people say they dropped their careers after they read hackers and that was kind of cool too and a lot of people ask me well how come you don't write a sequel to hackers and I answered I think well I think I've been doing nothing but writing sequels the hackers since it happened if you look at the books I've written since you know almost all of them deal in some way with hackers and sub hackers do when i wrote about how like the bottom-up biological processes of you know applied the computers like the artificial life the people i talked to an in large part where hackers there and of course i wrote a book called crypto and you know the people behind that revolution in cryptography and public key cryptography you know we're from that same building tech square at MIT you know who developed public key and merely took on the NSA to establish that on Sunday as a matter of fact if it was one of the subjects of my book is is speaking here at Def Con and I strongly urge you go and see him he's really an amazing person there and of course I wrote a book about the Macintosh I
mentioned before about how the the Mac hackers had such an impact on computers and the way we we do computing my most recent book was about Google which of course is a hacker Haven and it has you know irreverence built into the business plan now I have to admit though back when I wrote the book when I published the book I was somewhat pessimistic about the future of hacking I was sort of worried that commercialism would have his effect on hacking and I thought that because computers becoming so popular maybe the passion of hacking might be watered down somewhat but I'm so happy to say that I'm proved wrong it was the exact opposite the idea that the principles were hacking were built into the computers and into the internet put the virus of hacking out into the public at large and hacking really changed everything I think for the better we owe it all to hackers thank you very much