Reminiscing on Hackers

I've always a compter nerd. My father worked at IBM, and brought home our first computer when I was only 3. I'm one of the oldest people you'll find who can't remember not having a computer in the house. I used to type up my little one page book reports on the computer, when I was in the third grade. I wrote my first programs in REXX the command line scripting language built into IBMs OS/2. We didn't use anything Microsoft until Windows 95 came out.

Coincidentally that year the movie Hackers came out. I was 15 and wished I had friends like Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller. They were the coolest people on the planet. Invincible cyber warriors and my heroes. I adopted the "handle" haijak. For some reason I thought of the car location technology, LoJack. What would be the opposite of finding something or someone with technology? Obviously that would be HighJack. Then I tried every spelling I could think of in AOL Instant Messenger, since that was the largest collection of usernames I could imagine. The last thing I want was to have to use some number after it like everyone else did.

Then I started using BBS's, and Usenet. I found a program called AOHell. That was a lot of fun. I could make myself a fully functional AOL account for free, I could go Phishing for others passwords. I never did anything malicious. I wasn't a mean spirited kid. Like the tagline of the movie my crime was curiosity. But unlike real hackers my curiosity was easily sated. I quickly got bored. I realised that hacking into other computers wasn't worth much to me unless I could actually do something with them.

Later on I actually "hacked" into my high school's Novel based computer network. They never changed the password or deleted the default administrator account. Username: admin, Password: password. I had access to everyone's accounts. I could lookup/change passwords for all the teachers and administrators. after a couple of days though, I just told the Computer Administrator/teacher about the easy access. He was surprised, and thanked me for telling him. He never rated me out to the principal or anyone. I wish I could remember his name. He was one of my favorite teachers in school.

Lets get back to the movie.

Hackers is about a group of highschool kids who are framed by a corporate security tech for a virus that could cause a global ecological disaster in order to find out what they know about his plan to steal $25 Million from the company he works for. So they're evading the cops trying to find out why this corporate gus is coming after them.

That could be the plot to any modern teen targeted television series or movie. But in 1995 that kind of thing didn't exist yet. This was the first. Boy did I eat it up. Crash Override/Zero Cool and the gang were super heroes. Not with comic book powers, but with brains. That was something I could look up to, because it was possible for me. Still a fantastical dream, but at least conceivable. It made me feel like I was cool, when nobody else did. And slowly as it garnered a cult following and more people saw it on DVD, Computer nerds slowly became cool. Less of weirdos anyway.

20 Years Later

The movie surprisingly works better today than it did when it came out in '95. Things like hacking the traffic lights weren't technically possible back then. But they are now. The techno babble used, talking about 256Kbps modems and active matrix screens, almost don't even mean anything anymore. We've moved far enough past that stuff, your brain can treat this as an alternate reality or fantasy movie.

In that light, everything is awesome. From the rollerblades and costumes, to the hacker terms and the plexiglass towers of the Gibson computer system. It's all so over the top that thinking of it as fantasy actually makes it all work. Not just work, but it's actually pretty awesome!

So go ahead, watch it again. It's been 20 years. You won't regret it.

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