Page 183


Undergound. Go to Table of Contents.

   Their attitude was: Hacking Big Brother? Good on you.

  

   His parents were torn, wanting to encourage Pad's interest in

   computers but also worrying their son spent an inordinate amount of

   time glued to the screen. Their mixed feelings mirrored Pad's own

   occasional concern.

  

   While deep in the throes of endless hacking nights, he would suddenly

   sit upright and ask himself, What am I doing here, fucking around on a

   computer all day and night? Where is this heading? What about the rest

   of life? Then he would disentangle himself from hacking for a few days

   or weeks. He would go down to the university pub to drink with his

   mostly male group of friends from his course.

  

   Tall, with short brown hair, a slender physique and a handsomely

   boyish face, the soft-spoken Pad would have been considered attractive

   by many intelligent girls. The problem was finding those sort of

   girls. He hadn't met many when he was studying at university--there

   were few women in his maths and computer classes. So he and his

   friends used to head down to the Manchester nightclubs for the social

   scene and the good music.

  

   Pad went downstairs with one of the officers and watched as the police

   unplugged his 1200 baud modem, then tucked it into a plastic bag. He

   had bought that modem when he was eighteen. The police unplugged

   cables, bundled them up and slipped them into labelled plastic bags.

   They gathered up his 20 megabyte hard drive and monitor. More plastic

   bags and labels.

  

   One of the officers called Pad over to the front door. The jack was

   still wedged across the mutilated door frame. The police had broken

   down the door instead of knocking because they wanted to catch the

   hacker in the act--on-line. The officer motioned for Pad to follow

   him.

  

   `Come on,' he said, leading the hacker into the night. `We're taking

   you to the station.'

  

   Pad spent the night in a cell at the Salford Crescent police

   station, alone. No rough crims, and no other hackers either.

  

   He settled into one of the metal cots lined against the perimeter of

   the cell, but sleep evaded him. Pad wondered if Gandalf had been

   raided as well. There was no sign of him, but then again, the police

   would hardly be stupid enough to lock up the two hackers together. He

   tossed and turned, trying to push thoughts from his head.

  

   Pad had fallen into hacking almost by accident. Compared to others in

   the underground, he had taken it up at a late age--around nineteen.

   Altos had been the catalyst. Visiting BBSes, he read a file describing

   not only what Altos was, but how to get there--complete with NUI.

   Unlike the Australian underground, the embryonic British underground

   had no shortage of NUIs. Someone had discovered a stack of BT NUIs and

   posted them on BBSes across England.

  

   Pad followed the directions in the BBS file and soon found himself in

   the German chat channel. Like Theorem, he marvelled at the brave new

   live world of Altos. It was wonderful, a big international party.

   After all, it wasn't every day he got to talk with Australians, Swiss,

   Germans, Italians and Americans. Before long, he had taken up hacking