Listen. If your podcast app or podcatcher or whatever doesn’t support images and links you’re missing out. This is going to be a multi-media smorgasbord. Let’s get live in ’95 If you can see pictures you already know where this is going or you’re on scummbags.com where this post lives. A lot of podcatchers have the ability to visit the post page and, in this case, I recommend it.
Multimedia had a lot of meaning to me. The first computer that I could call mine was a Packard Bell and it came with Packard Bell Navigator. The computer had a 2x CD-ROM, Cirrus-Logic video, a Turtle Beach sound card, and, maybe most importantly, a 28.8kbps modem. Navigator was a game-changer for me, though. It took the desktop metaphor and went hard in the paint. It was a house metaphor. There was a media area where you could legitimately use a CD player to control your CD player. The kid’s room, though was amazing. You could interact with the stuff in the room and you could turn off the lights. The bookshelf in the house had all of the apps, like Microsoft Works and CD encyclopedias and the like. The computer came with a remote. A literal remote control. You can probably buy them on eBay now. The IR receiver that, if memory serves connected to the joystick port (I’ve always called it the joystick port I’m not sure if that’s the real name for it but I’m not looking anything up right now–this is off the dome) was a bit of an item for the LIRC linux crowd.
The remote had a kinda 8-way d-pad Steam-controller-ass thing with the two mouse buttons on opposite sides. This allowed you to navigate through Packard Bell Navigator without needing to get up and use a mouse or a keyboard. The thought process is that deadass in your living room you’d have a full on midtower PC setup with a banging 15″ CRT and the speakers that were like the ears on it. I miss that shit. But the modem. That modem unlocked so much for me. I was young, so naturally I ended up on AOL. Naturally, I was curious.
We’re closing the door on Hackers (1995). It’s sad to see it go but it was great to have it here. When they talk about their crime being curiosity… it’s legally not true. In 1989 Robert Tappan Morris was the first person to be convicted under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act which is a bit of a horseshit law since it purports to cover selected “protected” systems but due to the latitude with which it can be interpreted can cover anything with a network connection and, probably, many things without one. So, no, their crime was not curiosity. Even security researchers, the good guys, can be targeted by law enforcement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which is another law that has a whole host of horseshit interpretations that seems to be aimed at protecting media companies but can be used in misguided attempts to prevent security research from being released. This is a bit of a problem, as you, in 2020, can obviously see.
Robert Tappan Morris was a bit of the template for Dade Murphy. The internet was a different, and more innocent, place in 1988. The worm seemed innocuous–there was no “payload” per se that would damage a computer or compromise information on it–instead a mistake was made and the worm would, 1 in 7 times, make a second copy of itself and it replicated at a rate that quickly overwhelmed the capacity of many systems. The estimate that it crashed 6,000 systems was “cooked up” according to Paul Graham but many major networks were basically out of commission for several days and the number actually could have easily been much higher. It was targeted towards Berkley Unix systems. That clever devil. Robert Morris, rtm‘s father, had previously worked in Bell Labs. By all accounts the Morris family was one of the smartest around. But Robert Morris, the elder, had a different job at the point that the worm hit. He worked for the NSA. Robert Tappan Morris’ worm was meant, as I read in Cyberpunk, to measure the size of the Internet. It’s possible that the “crime of curiosity” could have come from the Morris proceedings. But with what we now know of the NSA it does seem like a compelling start of a conspiracy theory. November 2nd, 1988, a day which will live in infamy.
What would the sequel to Hackers look like now? To be honest, I don’t know. Maybe we already have it. Maybe it’s Death Stranding. Maybe it’s a game about the disconnectedness of our society and how we can physically build bridges and help one another out. Hideo Kojima would definitely need to be in it. I’d get Tim Rogers to work on this. He may not be on the up-and up with all things Hackers but the guy “gets” things. Iain Softley and Rafael Moreu were, to my knowledge, not hackers but they “got” being a hacker and they made something… more. What would Hackers 2020 be like? Didn’t we miss the optimistic future of the movie’s world completely and end up in it’s darkest timeline? I wonder what, given the opportunity Dennis Villeneuve would do. He and Roger Deakins paint a war zone in a desert in Sicario. Are Dade and Kate divorced? Did they have a kid young? Did Phreak get locked up while protesting in Venezuela? Are Nikon and Cereal going to mount a rescue mission like in Tony Scott’s Spygame? At all points we have institution and individual in conflict. Is Joey a Goldman-Sachs guy, now? Did he turn into The Plague? Was the Ellingson Mineral worm just the illegal beta of the crash of ’08? Did Dade go to Afghanistan? Is he in the NSA now? It’s hard to put into perspective what events have affected me and how I could even begin to process them in the framework of a sequel plot to a beloved film property that itself seemed so fresh and vibrant in realization. What was the concept that started it? Did it look and feel the same? It feels like a lifetime ago and, seeing as how the movie could rent a car this year, it is a lifetime ago. Booting up my computer and getting Packard Bell Navigator would give me such a sense of… comfort? Control? Everything is perfect here in your little digital house. Maybe that’s part of it. Maybe they’ve shed their innocence and left New York only to be brought back. Like the plot of Stephen King’s IT they’re forced to face who they become but, in doing so, the examination reveals the issues and problems which we thought were isolated were really systemic. What if the vorpal sword has been in the simulation all along? The nerds inherited the Earth but it turns out they are bad guys, too.
There is a lot of housekeeping to do here and, as I’m watching Lego Masters with my family I’m trying to sort it all out. But it’s a mess. Work has been immensely stressful. Calling someone and saying “hey I’m sorry all your stuff is broken I’d like to help you fix it” is not fun for me. It’s not my normal job but it’s everyone’s job right now and everyone is feeling it. There’s more than a little bad news being delivered. I lost track of everything that I said I would have links on so, if you were looking for something and made it all the way here and didn’t find it, please let me know. @coolmarkd on Twitter. I won’t take it personally. I’ll thank you. Promise. It’s hard to get a win these days.
I realize I never really talked about the Hacker Manifesto. It’s by The Mentor. I actually don’t feel terribly qualified to talk about it. I guess that is avoidant behavior from feeling anxiety about it.
Austin Grossman’s book You. Despite what the Boston Globe may say, at no point would I call it a comedy. Not saying I never laughed. But I don’t consider it a comedy. Soon I Will Be Invincible.. and Crooked are also very fun but You is… personal.
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/101 The Hacker Crackdown by Bruce Sterling. Free as in beer–not as in speech.
A dude made a replica of the Wipeout setup the play in Cyberdelia. It’s cool as all hell
Never Surrender https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39cVvN28UXE the Galaxy Quest documentary trailer. It’s on Amazon Prime in the US. Very good.
Again, https://hackerscurator.com/ is one of the most serious places for information on this movie. It’s super good. There’s a ton of stuff in there I didn’t talk about.
Plunket + Kuhr Wired Magazine Covers. Good times.
David Carson Design which is very cool.
Project Blinkenlights was maybe one of the first things that I can remember where I was really amazed at hardware folks. I’d genuinely say that IT is fine or whatever but hardware and embedded systems is what I would actually super turbo Want To Do When I Grow Up but it’s not a thing that ever came up in my life and I’m straight garbage with an iron. This is one of those times where maybe I need to give myself a pep-talk where I say “No one is going to do it for you.”
A cool essay? on Nowpunk
Check out the 1994 HOPE Author’s Panel with Rafael Moreu and Ian Softley. Moderated by Emmanuel Goldstein. Hackers On Planet Earth (1994): The Author Panel. I’m so curious about him and how this story came about. This is as close as I’ve come to it.
markd20 on Letterboxd. On the icon I have there and on Twitter you can see the Sunflower iMac I got as a hand-me-down from a friend. It was nice. It was on like 10.5.9 if memory serves. I also got a Firewire subwoofer, one of the transparent ones, and the speakers that went with it. Interestingly enough Apple made the Firewire sub stop working by 10.5.9 or so and I had to find a kext and install it to get it working again. I got rid of it, unfortunately. I also had a couple of G3 PowerMacs and a Performa that I got rid of. I guess that’s being an adult. Kill your darlings. I still have the keyboard from the Performa, though.
This is half a cry for help and half me seeing how far I can push the envelope of podcast show notes. I’m not ok at the moment. But I guess I’m managing. It’s almost a sine wave of mood. It’s validating that I’ve seen others talk about this. I haven’t seen IT: Chapter 2 yet but I don’t have very high hopes. Not because people laughed too much. I don’t have an issue with that at all. But because of how different, linear, and direct IT: Chapter 1 was. When you read the book you will find these sad parallels and detours that really flesh out the themes of the book. The movie felt more “lamp monster” to me. Additionally, and apropos of nothing (as if I’m fucking keeping track), you should very much read Hearts in Atlantis and, probably very much, not watch the movie Hearts in Atlantis because I believe it will suffer the same way but, likely, even more so. The novella, also titled Hearts in Atlantis in the book of the same name, is one my most favorite things in this world. It’s not terribly long and it is shorter than the opening one. You probably don’t strictly need to read the first novella, which I believe to be called Low Men In Yellow Coats or something like that which I guess is a whole Ambrose Bierce/Robert Chambers/Hit Points Lovecraft mood, but it could be, and probably would be, good if you did.
I recorded this episode while standing. I have a mic stand and I moved my office chair out of the way and stood roughly in the middle of the room. I know that at some points I was too up on the mic but, maybe other than that, let me know if it’s any different. Better or worse. Smash that like and subscribe. Leave a review.