Our Hacker Odyssey

Although I've never been more than a bush league hacker (at best), I was always fascinated with the tales from the infamous hacker zine 2600. I'd occasionally discover scanned issues in BBS ASCII archives, like this one, and spend hours puzzling over the techniques and information it contained.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2008/12/our-hacker-odyssey.html

I have more than just a bit of experience with various aspects of the hacking community, and I have to say, it is certainly the rush and adventure that drives most people - despite the monetization of modern day hacking.

I just wish I was old enough to truly appreciate some of these types of guys. The hackers of old as I know them often seem to be caught in the 80’s, going on and on about how it was back in the day. Old technology still fascinates me in the same way I’m sure it does for anyone that feels nostalgia, but it makes it a bit hard for me to fully relate to stories such as these.

Cool stuff though. I’ll definitely consider picking it up.

I tried to read 2600 several times and was always put off by the general attitude of It is our god-given right to screw with whoever’s computer we want to, and anyone who suggests otherwise is a jackbooted NAZI thug. Didn’t anybody else find this irritating?

I picked this book up at HOPE earlier this year, and have read a little bit of it. It’s quite the compilation of interesting reading, and find it enjoyable. Not having been an active computer user for the eras of progress prior to the 386 allow the book to provide an interesting historical perspective. Something that I find quite interesting!

This is one of those books I’ve been picking up and reading every time I stop by the local BN, but haven’t really been able to justify actually buying, yet. Still, I have enjoyed what I’ve read so far, and I’m sure when money isn’t stretched quite so thin I’ll be picking it up.

Full time subscriber, and I love the book!

Thanks for doing a blog on 2600, you really made my day! :slight_smile:


This book spans a timeline longer than my life.

It’s a great starting point, and a book I continue to take with me
on trips for background reading.

Dude, isn’t it like 1000 pages? Do you tear the pages out or make your wife carry it?

Dude, isn’t it like 1000 pages? Do you tear the pages out or make your wife carry it?

It is at times like these that I start to appreciate the wisdom of Amazon’s Kindle…

Just finished it the other day and noticed that a few articles really shouldn’t have made it in. One that really stood out was the 6 page Confessions of a Beige boxer where the author leads the reader on an unbelievable fantasy before admitting the whole story was fake.

Sure, sifting through their huge backlog of interesting submissions was most likely a very tedious task. But that’s really no excuse for including filler content.

I bought the book at the last HOPE conference but I’ve only managed to read the first story thus far. Even though the first story had not one mention of a computer or modem, it was something that I felt truly touched upon the subtle things we hackers, programmers, and technology enthusiasts appreciate about this fairly new world we’re living in.

Charles E. Grant,

Nope you are the only one that thinks that.
Screwing around with other computers has risks, which they warn others about and accept as a part of their avocation.

Jack booted thugs LOL!

Many many years ago, I bought a similar book with the contents of the early years of Dr. Dobbs Journal (running light without overbyte).

I wish I hadn’t thrown it away. :frowning:

With myself, I feel that my ‘journey’ into the world of computer-aided self discovery has just begun. Of course, I don’t really consider myself much of a hacker, but at the same time I think the essence of the whole hacker movement - at one point - rubs off on everyone.

I think this is a pretty poor attempt at a blog post this time, certainly a very stale look at the Hacker Odyssey. The best of 2600: A Hacker Odyssey is a great book worth looking at, but it is also worth looking at Steven Levy’s Hackers to see the passion and heart behind hacking. Of course most reading will already know this.

I also find the idea adventures of young adults experimenting with computers. slightly patronising. Yes, young adults are certainly a huge part of hacking, but the original hackers took the mentality and continued far into adulthood. The mentality of hacking isn’t just for young adults, it’s a mentality that crosses many age and culture boundaries.

Sorry to hate, but the book and hacking deserve more impassioned comment, not a throw away blog post.

I usually pick up every issue of 2600 just to see the odd telephones they find. That’s mostly what interests me about the magazine. Glamorizing illegal and dishonest behavior, and attempting to turn convicted fraudsters and cyber vandals into pop icons tended to turn me off.

I wish I had come across this post earlier. I would have spent $26 less at Amazon as I’d have budgeted accordingly. Saw this 2600 book and HAD to order it.

Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

And for the record I used to carry the entire works of Shakespeare to work every day. (Seriously. Used to get all sorts of snide remarks for not reading newspapers and other crap. What do you want to read that for? Philistines.)

Im sure I’ll get flamed … but I dont get why people drop their drawers for 2600. My experience with groups (3 different cities), and the magazine, is that they are largely immature and not serious about real hacking… they are into juvenile crap like stealing from big box stores by messing with bar codes.

Besides that Eric Corley is a major sell out. I mean, all he does is publish books, magazines, and videos about back in the day with phiber, mitnick, and barry s.

Im not discounting whatever they did in the past, but I think that their publication propagates a juvenile, and semi-malicious attitude about hacking. It’s sorta for all the wanna be’s out there who feel like buying a hacker magazine at your local BN will make you a hacker.

So … for any one who wants to get serious … i suggest you check out http://www.overthewire.org/ aka pull the plug and talk to some guys there… feline menace, nemo etc.

Just FYI, I am in no way associated with overthewire or ptp. I just think they embody what real hacking is.

Ahh, back in the day. Cruising Tymnet on my acoustic-coupled 300-baud modem, trying out different system identifiers to see where I ended up. And then trying different credentials to see if I could get in.

For me, it was just the exploration the lure of having secret knowledge. No ill intentions.

(note: Tymnet didn’t like this, but it wasn’t illegal at the time. Nowadays the Homeland Security types show up at your door.)

A couple of comments.

There are several posts along this line:

…and the magazine, is that they are largely immature and not
serious about real hacking… they are into juvenile crap
like stealing from big box stores by messing with bar codes.

I’d agree the magazine contains a fair amount of this, but I believe Emmanuel Goldstein (the clear driving force behind 2600) transcends this. His political analysis is well thought out, quite reasonable, and is an important voice that should be heard. It’s not a safe voice, but a worth listening too.

Much of the rules of this brave new electronic reality are still being worked out. Only listening to safe voices guarantees a narrow, regimented result.

He also attempts to shelter the immature script kiddies giving them something to think about, and hopefully mature.

Another aspect to all this, the emphasis on kiddies. There has always been, and always will be, people from all ages skirting technical boundaries. Most articles in 2600 can safely be catagorized as old and trivial on a technical level, but there are always a few articles or insights born of real skill and experience.