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Undergound. Go to Table of Contents.

   board, faded away. Bowen decided to create a home for it, a sort of

   dark, womb-like cafe bar amid the bustle of the BBS bazaar where

   Melbourne's hackers could gather and share information.

  

   His bedroom was a simple, boyish place. Built-in cupboards, a bed, a

   wallpaper design of vintage cars running across one side of the room.

   A window overlooking the neighbours' leafy suburban yard. A collection

   of PC magazines with titles like Nibble and Byte. A few volumes on

   computer programming. VAX/VMS manuals. Not many books, but a handful

   of science fiction works by Arthur C. Clarke. The Hitchhiker's Guide

   to the Galaxy. A Chinese-language dictionary used during his high

   school Mandarin classes, and after, as he continued to study the

   language on his own while he held down his first job.

  

   The Apple IIe, modem and telephone line rested on the drop-down

   drawing table and fold-up card table at the foot of his bed. Bowen put

   his TV next to the computer so he could sit in bed, watch TV and use

   Pacific Island all at the same time. Later, when he started Zen, it

   sat next to Pacific Island. It was the perfect set-up.

  

   Pacific Island was hardly fancy by today's standards of Unix Internet

   machines, but in 1987 it was an impressive computer. PI, pronounced

   `pie' by the local users, had a 20 megabyte hard drive--gargantuan for

   a personal computer at the time. Bowen spent about $5000 setting up PI

   alone. He loved both systems and spent many hours each week nurturing

   them.

  

   There was no charge for computer accounts on PI or ZEN, like most

   BBSes. This gentle-faced youth, a half-boy, half-man who would

   eventually play host on his humble BBS to many of Australia's

   cleverest computer and telephone hackers, could afford to pay for his

   computers for two reasons: he lived at home with his mum and dad, and

   he had a full-time job at Telecom--then the only domestic telephone

   carrier in Australia.

  

   PI had about 800 computer users, up to 200 of whom were `core' users

   accessing the system regularly. PI had its own dedicated phone line,

   separate from the house phone so Bowen's parents wouldn't get upset the

   line was always tied up. Later, he put in four additional phone lines

   for Zen, which had about 2000 users. Using his Telecom training, he

   installed a number of non-standard, but legal, features to his

   house. Junction boxes, master switches. Bowen's house was a

   telecommunications hot-rod.

  

   Bowen had decided early on that if he wanted to keep his job, he had

   better not do anything illegal when it came to Telecom. However, the

   Australian national telecommunications carrier was a handy source of

   technical information. For example, he had an account on a Telecom

   computer system--for work--from which he could learn about Telecom's

   exchanges. But he never used that account for hacking. Most

   respectable hackers followed a similar philosophy. Some had legitimate

   university computer accounts for their courses, but they kept those

   accounts clean. A basic rule of the underground, in the words of one

   hacker, was `Don't foul your own nest'.

  

   PI contained a public section and a private one. The public area was

   like an old-time pub. Anyone could wander in, plop down at the bar and

   start up a conversation with a group of locals. Just ring up the

   system with your modem and type in your details--real name, your

   chosen handle, phone number and other basic information.