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   like so many other Altos regulars.

  

   Hacking as a concept had always intrigued him. As a teenager, the film

   War Games had dazzled him. The idea that computers could communicate

   with each over telephone lines enthralled the sixteen-year-old,

   filling his mind with new ideas. Sometime after that he saw a

   television report on a group of hackers who claimed that they had used

   their skills to move satellites around in space--the same story which

   had first caught Electron's imagination.

  

   Pad had grown up in Greater Manchester. More than a century before,

   the region had been a textile boom-town. But the thriving economy did

   not translate into great wealth for the masses. In the early 1840s,

   Friedrich Engels had worked in his father's cotton-milling factory in

   the area, and the suffering

   he saw in the region influenced his most famous work, The Communist

   Manifesto, published in 1848.

  

   Manchester wore the personality of a working-class town, a place where

   people often disliked the establishment and

   distrusted authority figures. The 1970s and 1980s had not been kind to

   most of Greater Manchester, with unemployment and urban decay

   disfiguring the once-proud textile hub. But this decay only appeared

   to strengthen an underlying resolve among many from the working

   classes to challenge the symbols of power.

  

   Pad didn't live in a public housing high-rise. He lived in a suburban

   middle-class area, in an old, working-class town removed from the

   dismal inner-city. But like many people from the north, he disliked

   pretensions. Indeed, he harboured a healthy degree of good-natured

   scepticism, perhaps stemming from a culture of mates whose favourite

   pastime was pulling each other's leg down at the pub.

  

   This scepticism was in full-gear as he watched the story of how

   hackers supposedly moved satellites around in space, but somehow the

   idea slipped through the checkpoints and captured his imagination,

   just as it had done with Electron. He felt a desire to find out for

   himself if it was true and he began pursuing hacking in enthusiastic

   bursts. At first it was any moderately interesting system. Then he

   moved to the big-name systems--computers belonging to large

   institutions. Eventually, working with the Australians, he learned to

   target computer security experts. That was, after all, where the

   treasure was stored.

  

   In the morning at the police station, a guard gave Pad something to

   eat which might have passed for food. Then he was escorted into an

   interview room with two plain-clothed officers and a BT

   representative.

  

   Did he want a lawyer? No. He had nothing to hide. Besides, the police

   had already seized evidence from his house, including unencrypted data

   logs of his hacking sessions. How could he argue against that? So he

   faced his stern inquisitors and answered their questions willingly.

  

   Suddenly things began to take a different turn when they began asking

   about the `damage' he had done inside the Greater London Polytechnic's

   computers. Damage? What damage? Pad certainly hadn't damaged anything.

  

   Yes, the police told him. The damage totalling almost a quarter of a

   million pounds.