Chapter 1-3
Hacker Crackdown

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Technologies have life cycles, like cities do,
like institutions do, like laws and governments do.

The first stage of any technology is the Question
Mark, often known as the "Golden Vaporware" stage.
At this early point, the technology is only a phantom,
a mere gleam in the inventor's eye.  One such inventor
was a speech teacher and electrical tinkerer named
Alexander Graham Bell.

Bell's early inventions, while ingenious, failed to move the world.
In 1863, the teenage Bell and his brother Melville made an artificial
talking mechanism out of wood, rubber, gutta-percha, and tin.
This weird device had a rubber-covered "tongue" made of movable
wooden segments, with vibrating rubber "vocal cords," and
rubber "lips" and "cheeks."  While Melville puffed a bellows
into a tin tube, imitating the lungs, young Alec  Bell would
manipulate the "lips," "teeth," and "tongue," causing the thing
to emit high-pitched falsetto gibberish.

Another would-be technical breakthrough was the Bell "phonautograph"
of 1874, actually made out of a human cadaver's ear.  Clamped into place
on a tripod, this grisly gadget drew sound-wave images on smoked glass
through a thin straw glued to its vibrating earbones.

By 1875, Bell had learned to produce audible sounds--ugly shrieks
and squawks--by using magnets, diaphragms, and electrical current.

Most "Golden Vaporware" technologies go nowhere.

But the second stage of technology is the Rising Star,
or, the "Goofy Prototype," stage.  The telephone, Bell's
most ambitious gadget yet, reached this stage on March
10, 1876.  On that great day, Alexander Graham Bell
became the first person to transmit intelligible human
speech electrically.  As it happened, young Professor Bell,
industriously tinkering in his Boston lab, had spattered
his trousers with acid.  His assistant, Mr. Watson,
heard his cry for help--over Bell's experimental
audio-telegraph.  This was an event without precedent.

Technologies in their "Goofy Prototype" stage rarely
work very well.  They're experimental, and therefore
half- baked and rather frazzled.  The prototype may
be attractive and novel, and it does look as if it ought
to be good for something-or-other.  But nobody, including
the inventor, is quite sure what.  Inventors, and speculators,
and pundits may have very firm ideas about its potential
use, but those ideas are often very wrong.

The natural habitat of the Goofy Prototype is in trade shows
and in the popular press.  Infant technologies need publicity
and investment money like a tottering calf need milk.
This was very true of Bell's machine.  To raise research and
development money, Bell toured with his device as a stage attraction.

Contemporary press reports of the stage debut of the telephone
showed pleased astonishment mixed with considerable dread.
Bell's stage telephone was a large wooden box with a crude
speaker-nozzle, the whole contraption about the size and shape
of an overgrown Brownie camera.  Its buzzing steel soundplate,
pumped up by powerful electromagnets, was loud enough to fill
an auditorium.  Bell's assistant Mr. Watson, who could manage
on the keyboards fairly well, kicked in by playing the organ
from distant rooms, and, later, distant cities.  This feat was
considered marvellous, but very eerie indeed.

Bell's original notion for the telephone, an idea promoted
for a couple of  years, was that it would become a mass medium.
We might recognize Bell's idea today as something close to modern
"cable radio."  Telephones at a central source would transmit music,
Sunday sermons, and important public speeches to a paying network
of wired-up subscribers.

At the time, most people thought this notion made good sense.
In fact, Bell's idea  was workable.  In Hungary, this philosophy
of the telephone was successfully put into everyday practice.
In Budapest, for decades, from 1893 until after World War I,
there was a government-run information  service called
"Telefon Hirmondo-."  Hirmondo- was a centralized source
of news and entertainment and culture, including stock reports,
plays, concerts, and novels read aloud.  At certain hours
of the day, the phone would ring, you would plug in
a loudspeaker for the use of the family, and Telefon
Hirmondo- would be on the air--or rather, on the phone.

Hirmondo- is dead tech today, but Hirmondo- might be considered
a spiritual ancestor of the modern telephone-accessed computer
data services, such as CompuServe, GEnie or Prodigy.
The principle behind Hirmondo- is also not too far from computer
"bulletin- board systems" or BBS's, which arrived in the late 1970s,
spread rapidly across America, and will figure largely in this book.

We are used to using telephones for individual person-to-person speech,
because we are used to the Bell system.  But this was just one possibility
among many.  Communication networks are very flexible and protean,
especially when their hardware becomes sufficiently advanced.
They can be put to all kinds of uses.  And they have been--
and they will be.

Bell's telephone was bound for glory, but this was a combination
of political decisions, canny infighting in court, inspired industrial
leadership, receptive local conditions and outright good luck.
Much the same is true of communications systems today.

As Bell and his backers struggled to install their newfangled system
in the real world of nineteenth-century New England, they had to fight
against skepticism and industrial rivalry.  There was already a strong
electrical communications network present in America: the telegraph.
The head of the Western Union telegraph system dismissed Bell's prototype
as "an electrical toy" and refused to buy the rights to Bell's patent.
The telephone, it seemed, might be all right as a parlor entertainment--
but not for serious business.

Telegrams, unlike mere telephones, left a permanent physical record
of their messages.  Telegrams, unlike telephones, could be answered
whenever the recipient had time and convenience.  And the telegram
had a much longer distance-range than Bell's early telephone.
These factors made telegraphy seem a much more sound and businesslike
technology--at least to some.

The telegraph system was huge, and well-entrenched.
In 1876, the United States had 214,000 miles of telegraph wire,
and 8500 telegraph offices.  There were specialized telegraphs
for businesses and stock traders, government, police and fire departments.
And Bell's "toy" was best known as a stage-magic musical device.

The third stage of technology is known as the "Cash Cow" stage.
In the "cash cow" stage, a technology finds its place in the world,
and matures, and becomes settled and productive.  After a year or so,
Alexander Graham Bell and his capitalist backers concluded that
eerie music piped from nineteenth-century cyberspace was not the real
selling-point of his invention.  Instead, the telephone was about speech--
individual, personal speech, the human voice, human conversation and
human interaction.  The telephone was not to be managed from any centralized
broadcast center.  It was to be a personal, intimate technology.

When you picked up a telephone, you were not absorbing
the cold output of a machine--you were speaking to another human being.
Once people realized this, their instinctive dread of the telephone
as an eerie, unnatural device, swiftly vanished.  A "telephone call"
was not a "call" from a "telephone" itself, but a call from another
human being, someone you would generally know and recognize.
The real point was not what the machine could do for you (or to you),
but what you yourself, a person and citizen, could do THROUGH the machine.
This decision on the part of the young Bell Company was absolutely vital.

The first telephone networks went up around Boston--mostly among
the technically curious and the well-to-do (much the same segment
of the American populace that, a hundred years later, would be
buying personal computers).  Entrenched backers of the telegraph
continued to scoff.

But in January 1878, a disaster made the telephone famous.
A train crashed in Tarriffville, Connecticut.  Forward-looking
doctors in the nearby city of Hartford had had Bell's
"speaking telephone" installed.  An alert local druggist
was able to telephone an entire community of local doctors,
who rushed to the site to give aid.  The disaster, as disasters do,
aroused intense press coverage.  The phone had proven its usefulness
in the real world.

After Tarriffville, the telephone network spread like crabgrass.
By 1890 it was all over New England.  By '93, out to Chicago.
By '97, into Minnesota, Nebraska and Texas.  By 1904 it was
all over the continent.

The telephone had become a mature technology.  Professor Bell
(now generally known as "Dr. Bell" despite his lack of a formal degree)
became quite wealthy.  He lost interest in the tedious day-to-day business
muddle of the booming telephone network, and gratefully returned
his attention to creatively hacking-around in his various laboratories,
which were now much larger, better-ventilated, and gratifyingly
better-equipped.  Bell was never to have another great inventive success,
though his speculations and prototypes anticipated fiber-optic transmission,
manned flight, sonar, hydrofoil ships, tetrahedral construction, and
Montessori education.  The "decibel," the standard scientific measure
of sound intensity, was named after Bell.

Not all Bell's vaporware notions were inspired.  He was fascinated
by human eugenics.  He also spent many years developing a weird personal
system of astrophysics in which gravity did not exist.

Bell was a definite eccentric.  He was something of a hypochondriac,
and throughout his life he habitually stayed up until four A.M.,
refusing to rise before noon.  But Bell had accomplished a great feat;
he was an idol of millions and his influence, wealth, and great
personal charm, combined with his eccentricity, made him something
of a loose cannon on deck.  Bell maintained a thriving scientific
salon in his winter mansion in Washington, D.C., which gave him
considerable backstage influence in governmental and scientific circles.
He was a major financial backer of the the magazines Science and
National Geographic, both still flourishing today as important organs
of the American scientific establishment.

Bell's companion Thomas Watson, similarly wealthy and similarly odd,
became the ardent political disciple of a 19th-century science-fiction writer
and would-be social reformer, Edward Bellamy.  Watson also trod the boards
briefly as a Shakespearian actor.

There would never be another Alexander Graham Bell,
but in years to come there would be surprising numbers
of people like him.  Bell was a prototype of the
high-tech entrepreneur.  High-tech entrepreneurs will
play a very prominent role in this book: not merely as
technicians and businessmen, but as pioneers of the
technical frontier, who can carry the power and prestige
they derive from high-technology into the political and
social arena.

Like later entrepreneurs, Bell was fierce in defense of
his own technological territory.  As the telephone began to
flourish, Bell was soon involved in violent lawsuits in the
defense of his patents.  Bell's Boston lawyers were
excellent, however, and Bell himself, as an elocution
teacher and gifted public speaker, was a devastatingly
effective legal witness.  In the eighteen years of Bell's patents,
the Bell company was involved in six hundred separate lawsuits.
The legal records printed filled 149 volumes.  The Bell Company
won every single suit.

After Bell's exclusive patents expired, rival telephone
companies sprang up all over America.  Bell's company,
American Bell Telephone, was soon in deep trouble.
In 1907, American Bell Telephone fell into the hands of the
rather sinister J.P. Morgan financial cartel, robber-baron
speculators who dominated Wall Street.

At this point, history might have taken a different turn.
American might well have been served forever by a patchwork
of locally owned telephone companies.  Many state politicians
and local businessmen considered this an excellent solution.

But the new Bell holding company, American Telephone and Telegraph
or AT&T, put in a new man at the helm, a visionary industrialist
named Theodore Vail.  Vail, a former Post Office manager,
understood large organizations and had an innate feeling
for the nature of large-scale communications.  Vail quickly
saw to it that AT&T seized the technological edge once again.
The Pupin and Campbell "loading coil," and the deForest
"audion," are both extinct technology today, but in 1913
they gave Vail's company the best LONG-DISTANCE lines
ever built.  By controlling long-distance--the links
between, and over, and above the smaller local phone
companies--AT&T swiftly gained the whip-hand over them,
and was soon devouring them right and left.

Vail plowed the profits back into research and development,
starting the Bell tradition of huge-scale and brilliant
industrial research.

Technically and financially, AT&T gradually steamrollered
the opposition.  Independent telephone companies never
became entirely extinct, and hundreds of them flourish today.
But Vail's  AT&T became the supreme communications company.
At one point, Vail's AT&T bought Western Union itself,
the very company that had derided Bell's telephone as a "toy."
Vail thoroughly reformed Western Union's hidebound business
along his modern principles;  but when the federal government
grew anxious at this centralization of power, Vail politely
gave Western Union back.

This centralizing process was not unique.  Very similar
events had happened in American steel, oil, and railroads.
But AT&T, unlike the other companies, was to remain supreme.
The monopoly robber-barons of those other industries
were humbled and shattered by government trust-busting.

Vail, the former Post Office official, was quite willing
to accommodate the US government; in fact he would
forge an active alliance with it.  AT&T would become
almost a wing of the American government, almost
another Post Office--though not quite.  AT&T would
willingly submit to federal regulation, but in return,
it would use the government's regulators as its own police,
who would keep out competitors and assure the Bell
system's profits and preeminence.

This was the second birth--the political birth--of the
American telephone system.  Vail's arrangement was to
persist, with vast success, for many decades, until 1982.
His system was an odd kind of American industrial socialism.
It was born at about the same time as Leninist Communism,
and it lasted almost as long--and, it must be admitted,
to considerably better effect.

Vail's system worked.  Except perhaps for aerospace,
there has been no technology more thoroughly dominated
by Americans than the telephone.  The telephone was
seen from the beginning as a quintessentially American
technology.  Bell's policy, and the policy of Theodore Vail,
was a profoundly democratic policy of UNIVERSAL ACCESS.
Vail's famous corporate slogan, "One Policy, One System,
Universal Service," was a political slogan, with a very
American ring to it.

The American telephone was not to become the specialized tool
of government or business, but a general public utility.
At first, it was true, only the wealthy  could afford
private telephones, and Bell's company pursued the
business markets primarily.  The American phone system
was a capitalist effort, meant to make money; it was not a charity.
But from the first, almost all communities with telephone service
had public telephones.  And many stores--especially drugstores--
offered public use of their phones.  You might not own a telephone--
but you could always get into the system, if you really needed to.

There was nothing inevitable about this decision to make telephones
"public" and "universal."  Vail's system involved a profound act
of trust in the public.  This decision was a political one,
informed by the basic values of the American republic.
The situation might have been very different;
and in other countries, under other systems,
it certainly was.

Joseph Stalin, for instance, vetoed plans for a Soviet
phone system soon after the Bolshevik revolution.
Stalin was certain that publicly accessible telephones
would become instruments of anti-Soviet counterrevolution
and conspiracy.  (He was probably right.)  When telephones
did arrive in the Soviet Union, they would be instruments
of Party authority, and always heavily tapped.  (Alexander
Solzhenitsyn's prison-camp novel The First Circle
describes efforts to develop a phone system more suited
to Stalinist purposes.)

France, with its tradition of rational centralized government,
had fought bitterly even against the electric telegraph,
which seemed to the French entirely too anarchical and frivolous.
For decades, nineteenth-century France communicated via the
"visual telegraph," a nation-spanning, government-owned semaphore
system of huge stone towers that signalled from hilltops,
across vast distances, with big windmill-like arms.
In 1846, one Dr. Barbay, a semaphore enthusiast,
memorably uttered an early version of what might be called
"the security expert's argument" against the open media.

"No, the electric telegraph is not a sound invention.
It will always be at the mercy of the slightest disruption,
wild youths, drunkards, bums, etc. . . .  The electric telegraph
meets those destructive elements with only a few meters of wire
over which supervision is impossible.  A single man could,
without being seen, cut the telegraph wires leading to Paris,
and in twenty-four hours cut in ten different places the wires
of the same line, without being arrested.  The visual telegraph,
on the contrary, has its towers, its high walls, its gates
well-guarded from inside by strong armed men.  Yes, I declare,
substitution of the electric telegraph for the visual one
is a dreadful measure, a truly idiotic act."

Dr. Barbay and his high-security stone machines
were eventually unsuccessful, but his argument--
that communication  exists for the safety and convenience
of the state, and must be carefully protected from the wild
boys and the gutter rabble who might want to crash the
system--would be heard again and again.

When the French telephone system finally did arrive,
its snarled inadequacy was to be notorious.  Devotees
of the American Bell System often recommended a trip
to France, for skeptics.

In Edwardian Britain, issues of class and privacy
were a ball-and-chain for telephonic progress.  It was
considered outrageous that anyone--any wild fool off
the street--could simply barge bellowing into one's office
or home, preceded only by the ringing of a telephone bell.
In Britain, phones were tolerated for the use of business,
but private phones tended be stuffed away into closets,
smoking rooms, or servants' quarters.  Telephone operators
were resented in Britain because they did not seem to
"know their place."  And no one of breeding would print
a telephone number on a business card; this seemed a crass
attempt to make the acquaintance of strangers.

But phone access in America was to become a popular right;
something like universal suffrage, only more so.
American women could not yet vote when the phone system
came through; yet from the beginning American women
doted on the telephone.  This "feminization" of the
American telephone was often commented on by foreigners.
Phones in America were not censored or stiff or formalized;
they were social, private, intimate, and domestic.
In America, Mother's Day is by far the busiest day
of the year for the phone network.

The early telephone companies, and especially AT&T,
were among the foremost employers of American women.
They employed the daughters of the American middle-class
in great armies: in 1891, eight thousand women; by 1946,
almost a quarter of a million.  Women seemed to enjoy
telephone work; it was respectable, it was steady,
it paid fairly well as women's work went, and--not least--
it seemed a genuine contribution to the social good
of the community.  Women found Vail's ideal of public
service attractive.  This was especially true in rural areas,
where women operators, running extensive rural party-lines,
enjoyed considerable social power.  The operator knew everyone
on the party-line, and everyone knew her.

Although Bell himself was an ardent suffragist, the
telephone company did not employ women for the sake of
advancing female liberation.  AT&T did this for sound
commercial reasons.  The first telephone operators of
the Bell system were not women, but teenage American boys.
They were telegraphic messenger boys (a group about to
be rendered technically obsolescent), who swept up
around the phone office, dunned customers for bills,
and made phone connections on the switchboard,
all on the cheap.

Within the very first  year of operation, 1878,
Bell's company learned a sharp lesson about combining
teenage boys and telephone switchboards.  Putting
teenage boys in charge of the phone system brought swift
and consistent disaster.  Bell's chief engineer described them
as "Wild Indians."  The boys were openly rude to customers.
They talked back to subscribers, saucing off,
uttering facetious remarks, and generally giving lip.
The rascals took Saint Patrick's Day off without permission.
And worst of all they played clever tricks with
the switchboard plugs:  disconnecting calls, crossing lines
so that customers found themselves talking to strangers,
and so forth.

This combination of power, technical mastery, and effective
anonymity seemed to act like catnip on teenage boys.

This wild-kid-on-the-wires phenomenon was not confined to
the USA; from the beginning, the same was true of the British
phone system.  An early British commentator kindly remarked:
"No doubt boys in their teens found the work not a little irksome,
and it is also highly probable that under the early conditions
of employment the adventurous and inquisitive spirits of which
the average healthy boy of that age is possessed, were not always
conducive to the best attention being given to the wants
of the telephone subscribers."

So the boys were flung off the system--or at least,
deprived of control of the switchboard.  But the
"adventurous and inquisitive spirits" of the teenage boys
would be heard from in the world of telephony, again and again.

The fourth stage in the technological life-cycle is death:
"the Dog," dead tech.  The telephone has so far avoided this fate.
On the contrary, it is thriving, still spreading, still evolving,
and at increasing speed.

The telephone has achieved a rare and exalted state for a
technological artifact:  it has become a HOUSEHOLD OBJECT.
The telephone, like the clock, like pen and paper,
like kitchen utensils and running water, has become
a technology that is visible only by its absence.
The telephone is technologically transparent.
The global telephone system is the largest and most
complex machine in the world, yet it is easy to use.
More remarkable yet, the telephone is almost entirely
physically safe for the user.

For the average citizen in the 1870s, the telephone
was weirder, more shocking, more "high-tech" and
harder to comprehend, than the most outrageous stunts
of advanced computing for us Americans in the 1990s.
In trying to understand what is happening to us today,
with our bulletin-board systems, direct overseas dialling,
fiber-optic transmissions, computer viruses, hacking stunts,
and a vivid tangle of new laws and new crimes, it is important
to realize that our society has been through a similar challenge before--
and that, all in all, we did rather well by it.

Bell's stage telephone seemed bizarre at first.  But the
sensations of weirdness vanished quickly, once people began
to hear the familiar voices of relatives and friends,
in their own homes on their own telephones.  The telephone
changed from a fearsome high-tech totem to an everyday pillar
of human community.

This has also happened, and is still happening,
to computer networks.  Computer networks such as
NSFnet, BITnet, USENET, JANET, are technically
advanced, intimidating, and much harder to use than
telephones.  Even the popular, commercial computer
networks, such as GEnie, Prodigy, and CompuServe,
cause much head-scratching and have been described
as "user-hateful."  Nevertheless they too are changing
from fancy high-tech items into everyday sources
of human community.

The words "community" and "communication" have
the same root.  Wherever you put a communications
network, you put a community as well.  And whenever
you TAKE AWAY that network--confiscate it, outlaw it,
crash it, raise its price beyond affordability--
then you hurt that community.

Communities  will fight to defend themselves.  People will fight harder
and more bitterly to defend their communities, than they will fight
to defend their own individual selves.  And this is very true
of the "electronic community" that arose around computer networks
in the 1980s--or rather, the VARIOUS electronic communities,
in telephony, law enforcement, computing, and the digital
underground that, by the year 1990, were raiding, rallying,
arresting, suing, jailing, fining and issuing angry manifestos.

None of the events of 1990 were entirely new.
Nothing happened in 1990 that did not have some kind
of earlier and more understandable precedent.  What gave
the Hacker Crackdown its new sense of gravity and
importance was the feeling--the COMMUNITY feeling--
that the political stakes had been raised; that trouble
in cyberspace was no longer mere mischief or inconclusive
skirmishing, but a genuine fight over genuine issues,
a fight for community survival and the shape of the future.

These electronic communities, having flourished throughout
the 1980s, were becoming aware of themselves, and increasingly,
becoming aware of other, rival communities.  Worries were
sprouting up right and left, with complaints, rumors,
uneasy speculations. But it would take a catalyst, a shock,
to make the new world evident.  Like Bell's great publicity break,
the Tarriffville Rail Disaster of January 1878,
it would take a cause celebre.

That cause was the AT&T Crash of January 15, 1990.
After the Crash, the wounded and anxious telephone
community would come out fighting hard.