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Ask Slashdot: What Inspired You To Start Hacking? 153

An anonymous reader writes "What got you into hacking? This is a question that Jennifer Steffen, IOActive CEO, often asks hackers she meets on conferences around the world. More often than not, the answer is movies: War Games, Hackers, The Matrix, and so on. But today, it is the real life hacking that is inspiring the movies of tomorrow. 'Hackers are doing epic stuff,' she says, and they are now inspiring movies and comics. So, what got you started? And what makes a good hacker today?"
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Ask Slashdot: What Inspired You To Start Hacking?

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  • by jaeztheangel ( 2644535 ) on Friday May 30, 2014 @06:13PM (#47132497)
    When I was a kid I burned my right hand at age 5. I couldn't write, and I had recently gotten a rubiks cube. I wondered how to solve it and worked it out in my head. When my bandages came off I solved it in one day. Because I couldn't open it up or play with it I had to think about it, it made me hungry to play with and understand everything. Something I still feel to this day.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It was 1983, and we had had our first home computer, a TI-99/4A, for about a week.
    I got up early and found Dad typing in a lot of numbers and letters. "Whatcha doing, Dad?"
    "It's called 'programming'. I'm telling the computer what I want it to do."
    Then he ran his program, which changed the background color and drew a block figure of a man in the center.
    It was a magical moment. The computer did what Dad told it to do. I had to learn to do that myself.
    The rest is history.

    • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @12:04AM (#47134111) Homepage Journal

      The day I got ahold of a couple 74181s was the day I started to build my own machine. No cpus available then. Then the 6800 came home, then the (wonderful!) 6809, then the 68000... won a 68k eval board at a tech show... then the Amiga, SO far ahead of its time... 68020, 68040... then Motorola dropped the ball, Intel took the field.... Windows... sigh.

      Eventually, OSX (which I love) and Apple (whom I despise.) linux refused to build a standard UI, locked itself out of the same market Windows and OSX were aiming to own (and which they succeeded in owning), so I never used linux for much more than a (very good) server platform. Always thought that was a wrong turn for everyone. linux being so rabidly anti-commercial, that is. The GPL was the ultimate poison pill for success, "eat me" written in pretty colors all over it. And you did. Oh well.

      So I made my way in the world with Windows as much as I had to, the Amiga and later OSX as much as I could get away with, and I have to say, it was a great ride. Much of my financial success, such as it was, came from Windows, true enough, but most of my fun was had elsewhere. My fondest memories are from projects built in assembler, C, Python. Although I did a lot of hardware design career-wise, software was so much more fun. Eventually, I just quit doing hardware. Meh.

      I see everything closing down now. Malware and black hats turned a wonderful computer revolution into a PITA for everyone, and the manufacturers followed suit by locking down a great deal that used to be open to play with. We got the abortion of an operating system that is IOS, and the pay-to-develop garden that "supports" it. Kind of like how a punji stick supports a person who stepped in the wrong pit.

      Pretty much retired now, sorry to see you guys get hit with such a lousy legacy. In our defense, I think most of us didn't think it would go this way.

      But perhaps the next tech revolution will be as much fun, or more so, than the beginning of this one was. I was reading about open source robots today. Someone makes the hardware, you plug in your own apps. You people have a chance to make that your own. Don't blow it like you did linux. Open should mean open. Not just "open if you do it my way."

      In summary, get off my lawn -- and go do something wonderful.

      • Whenever I've read any of your posts, I've always been impressed and please to see the intelligence behind them. This post made me smile. For what it's worth, I'm typing this under Archlinux and Gnome 3, but I see the truth in your criticisms; I view the world in much the same way, but with different emotional loadings. Enjoy your semi-retirement.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I saw my dad use his 286 to dial into our local library's BBS and see if a book was checked out. My brain melted and I had to know more and more and more-- up until that point, I had only used the 286 to play Ninja Turtles. 21 years later, here I am. :P

  • by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Friday May 30, 2014 @06:16PM (#47132529)

    I could have been luckier by a few years, I guess, but having been born in 1969, I was the right age to have home computers mature pretty much when I did.

    The first PC we had in our house was a TRS-80; and I looked forward to receiving TRS-80 magazine, with a nice shiny new fresh cassette tape to load up :)

    The rest of the story pretty much tells itself.

    • I guess I should add that by the time 1983 rolled around, we were fortunate enough to have a second line in our house, and our new Leading Edge PC clone was connected every day after school until I went to sleep to one dial-up BBS after another with, at first, me plunking down the phone handset onto my Anderson/Jacobsen 300/450 acoustic coupler. By 1985, it was an nighttime only BBS with faster and faster 1200 and 2400 modems.

      2600 Magazine seemed so taboo then.

    • by bwhaley ( 410361 )

      Yep, pretty much this. For me it was a bit later - 1980 - but we had a C64 in the house and my Dad was in a club that talked about them. He showed me some simple BASIC and set me on the track at an early age.

    • HP2000 timesharing computer system with remote access via teletype at 110bps and an accoustic model. I can still remember the smell of teletype ribbons and paper in the high school computer room.

      Why? To be able to get the computer to compute stuff for me. Initial programs were to print trig/log tables so i wouldn't have to buy them. I was already a science geek, computing orbital parameters for fun, and adding logs was easier than multiplication.

      I was 13 years old. It was 1974.

      The next year the high school

      • Actually, to be accurate, I got the Honours degree in 82 and followed it up with a Master of Computer Science degree in 84. Had just a video monitor and 300 BPS Hayes "Smartmodem" at home to connect to the university Cyber 7600 and later 835 mainframes.

        • It's interesting the disconnect in technology. We're roughly the same age, and I never touched a punch card except as a curiosity.

          All of my curiosity years programs got loaded and saved by cassette tape, then floppies of various sizes.

          • Conversely, I didn't dabble much with cassettes. The business for which I coded, very briefly used a cassette deck to load BASIC into the Altair, but switched to 8" hard-sectored floppy drives (being a business, it had "infinite financial resources" compared to my meager means, for some value of "infinite") very quickly: fiddling with the level settings and waiting eight minutes to load BASIC (after enterring the cassette bootloader by hand from the front panel) was not practical.

            I DID once write a loader f

          • I'm younger than both of you, and I wrote 370 assembler on punched cards. It's a function of what your school had available to deal with the crush of students piling into CS.

            First computer was an HP3000 timeshare with the teletype and acoustic coupled 300 bps screamer. Followed shortly by the TRS80 Model I, then manna from heaven, the Atari 800.

            On the HP a program that could print an arbitrary NxM maze was mesmerizing. On the TRS80, Hammurabi was addictive. You had to type in the code by hand from the sp

  • Hacking = Curiosity (Score:5, Informative)

    by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Friday May 30, 2014 @06:18PM (#47132557)

    Before the media hijacked the term "hacking" as "destructive intrusion" it meant "curious intrusion. [mit.edu]" Hackers are curious people who just want to know how a system works.

    Technically the definition is

    1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary.
    2. One who programs enthusiastically (even obsessively) or who enjoys programming rather than just theorizing about programming.
    3. A person capable of appreciating {hack value}.
    4. A person who is good at programming quickly.
    5. An expert at a particular program, or one who frequently does work using it or on it; as in `a UNIX hacker'. (Definitions 1 through 5 are correlated, and people who fit them congregate.)
    6. An expert or enthusiast of any kind. One might be an astronomy hacker, for example.
    7. One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations.
    8. [deprecated] A malicious meddler who tries to discover sensitive information by poking around. Hence `password hacker', `network hacker'. The correct term is {cracker}.

    I started hacking because:

    a) I wanted to crack copy protected games, which involved learning 6502 assembly, and
    b) I wanted to figure out how the games worked -- how was the map represented, were were the sprites, how did the AI work, how did the collision detection work, where was the music stored. By learning how to cheat at them I didn't have to waste my time trying to master them; I would have more time to tear apart more games. Often times it was more fun to reverse engineer the game then play the game itself.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      "Tinkerer" is perhaps a better name for that, but maybe not as "sexy". Each generation has to jack with language to make it "in", such as the word "jack".

    • All your reasons are valid. Tinkering with something you bought and own. Moving into hardware became second nature. Unlocking printers married to their ink supplier (reset ink levels, and refilling), Re-using VOIP hardware such as Sunrocket, Clearvoice, etc as a cheap source for hardware, etc. Please don't sell stuff as criple ware.

      Bought one game the demo ran great once loaded. Found the real game would not play without the CD in the tray. If this is the case, IT SHOULD BE STATED ON THE BOX. Having

    • Hackers are curious people who just want to know how a system works.

      Bingo. I finally realized this week why I never really felt comfortable with a few of my Help Desk coworkers: they are neither curious nor creative in their jobs. "Because I can" should be a common response on our team. Oh, and I don't trust computer techs who don't game.

      • Oh, and I don't trust computer techs who don't game.

        For any tangible reason or merely to justify the many hours you wile away in front of some game when you could be hacking instead?

        I've been 'hacking' (in both senses) since 1976 but my gaming stopped when I realized it was more interesting to disassemble the games and see how they worked. (about 1980)

    • by Misagon ( 1135 )

      Actually, the etymological origin of the word "hacker" is from "hacksaw".
      To use a hacksaw is called to "hack". Sometimes the use of a hacksaw is to do a quick fix that is not necessarily particularly elegant, for instance to cut a table leg shorter to make it more level.
      Therefore to "hack" something is to tinker with something.
      A computer hacker is someone who tinkers with computer/systems, and not necessarily in the intended way.

      A student prank at MIT is also traditionally called a "hack". It could involve

  • War Games was a documentary of stuff that was already going on, not a source of inspiration
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, back then teenage hackers nearly caused thermonuclear world war on a weekly basis...

  • I find counter-hacking is much more difficult and fulfilling than hacking. I like playing a fair video game and cheaters hacked up Starcraft. So I became engaged in the fun and quite secretive realm of counter hacking. You see games like League of Legends running tribunals. If you can out the hackers and ban them or restrict them before the community hacks "because everyone else is hacking", you can keep your game fair without cheaters.

    The past few years, I've been trying to figure out how to make mul
  • I thought that with 10 seconds of hacking, you could do anything whether it be looting government files, shutting down security, or changing all the traffic lights to green. I demand that the makers of those movies refund me for all that time I spent learning!

  • I started hacking well before I had access to a computer. I took apart almost all of my toys and anything else that I was allowed to. Hacking has nothing to do with computers. It's all about the desire to understand and possibly improve on systems. Fortunately computers became accessible and affordable at the right time in history for me. Today I program and play with microcontrollers for fun and profit.
  • Read TLDP's Coffee HOWTO ( http://www.tldp.org/HOWTO/Coff... [tldp.org] ), messed around with some simple hardware. Now I use Google Voice to control my lights via SMS -- a hack in the traditional sense, I suppose.
  • DigiComp I was a plastic, hand-cranked, 3-bit state machine, with some restrictions on the allowed state transitions.
    You programmed it by pushing little plastic tubes on to little plastic tabs.
    I had one when I was 9 or 10 years old.
    I've been a hacker ever since.

  • TI Calculators (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Prien715 ( 251944 ) <agnosticpopeNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday May 30, 2014 @06:30PM (#47132663) Journal

    When I was in middle school, I got a TI81. On those things, the only way to transfer a program was to manually copy it. After copying a few, I got an idea about the language/syntax and starting coding my own. Friends wanted me to copy my programs to their calculators and by the time the "cabled" calculators came out, I was a being asked for games I had written by strangers in HS. While it's not Lisp/Java/C, TI Basic gave me a love of programming (creating things!) that got me through university with a CS degree and I'm typing this from a senior level engineering position in silicon valley a couple decades later.

    But without that calculator? Who knows. Coding while in algebra through differential equations classes in grade school/high school was also a great way to look like I was "paying attention";)

    • It wasn't the very beginning of my hacking/coding/whatever career but my TI-85 in High School certainly was a highlight. I took a simple blockout game a friend found and picked it apart to find out how it worked and morphed it into a simple top-down shooter. I also spent a fair amount of time writing simple programs that would do my Calculus work for me. (Not just graphing, but writing a program that would produce the work I needed to show on assignments.) The teacher couldn't help but chuckle when another
  • Tracy Kidder's "The soul of a new machine"

  • In the early 80s, my high got a few microcomputers (Ohio Scientific, if you're interested). They had a 6502 CPU, 48K of memory, and two 8" floppy drives, with a total of about 540K of storage. They came with the old BASIC Star Trek game - the one that used numbers for commands, rather than the one that used three-letter abbreviations. I loved the game, but when I heard we could actually make modifications, or even write our own games, I was hooked. I wasted so much time in the computer room over the next co

  • Like it or not, people born in the 80s saw those press releases on how this guy programmed his way to success, and thought, "that is the racket I should be in" but along the way, we enjoyed it and stayed in this industry.
  • I pirated copies of X-Wing and Tie Fighter back when they were on floppy disks. After finding out they had an anti-piracy feature, I had this hunch to edit the .exe and remove or change the words they wanted me to enter.
  • I grew up on video games. My first system was an Atari 2600, then a NES, then an SNES. I also had a 386 DX 16 with PC Geos on it. Wolfenstein 3d on a PC without a sound-card was the first PC game I ever played. I didn't find it very entertaining, the SNES, I thought, was superior.

    I had recently made friends with some kids down the street. There were 6 of them living in one house, most of them older than me, but the younger ones about the same age. Anyway, they were also gamers, but they were PC gamers. They

  • My first experience with computers was some data entry I did for a small company for some ice-cream money. The software was not very flexible and I ended up accidentally erasing my work.

    It left a bad taste in my mouth (as did no ice-cream).

    Later my friend talked me into taking a programming class after school in my senior high-school year, on TRS-80's. I was hesitant, but when I learned programming allowed me direct control over the computer I realized that one could make data entry far easier than that cra

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What if?

  • I was in Detention in 7th grade.

    My teacher had a book "101 Basic Computer Games" on her desk. I was bored. I opened the book. I read the BASIC source code, and I thought "I can do that."

    That was in 1975 or 1976. The rest is history.

  • My story (Score:3, Insightful)

    by choke ( 6831 ) on Friday May 30, 2014 @06:52PM (#47132831) Homepage

    What do you mean hacking?

    I was the kid who took apart telephones, figured out how to make them do strange things, "borrowed" spare parts from the alarm company dumpster and made things with them... I learned to pick locks, listen in a room with an inductive pickup on phone wires (on old POTS phones, this was possible)

    my first 'hack' was to short out connections on a video pong machine and make it do weird things.

    my second and probably best hack was to make a working apple ][ out of spare parts in the apple store I worked at on weekends. Integer basic forever!

    Ultimately I hack because of incurable curiosity and a desire to improve and eliminate inefficiencies. I am a producer, not a consumer.

  • In the lifestyle sense, my father had tools and fixed things instead of blowing his hard earned savings on paying others to do what anyone could.

    In the computer sense, magazines provided basic programs you could manually type in.

    In the practical sense, I had a need, I wanted to read late at night but mom would catch me with a flashlight. I used a 12-volt toy train transformer, a 12-volt taillight bulb from a car, wires running to two thumbtacks in the doorframe of my bedroom door to act as a switch, so whe

  • by werepants ( 1912634 ) on Friday May 30, 2014 @06:57PM (#47132863)
    Anybody here ever play that game? It was one of the first computer games I got seriously into, it was an RTS, and it had an incredible feature: all the units and buildings had their attributes stored in plaintext files. It was awesome, because I could just open up a random file, search for a unit (the sniper, for instance), and figure out where and how the damage was calculated. It actually had an impressively complex damage system, so the sniper was excellent against humanoid targets but bad against armor. It incorporated a critical hit chance as well... so I redesigned the sniper with the ability to get massive crit damage against armored targets.

    The best part was that the snipers in that game could disguise themselves as any piece of terrain, so you could build up your army of super snipers and then overrun the enemy with a horde of trees and bushes.

    Don't underestimate things like simple computer games and map editors to introduce programming concepts to young minds. That got me started, and only much later did I realize that I had been learning about variables, objects, attributes, and general programming principles without even meaning to.
    • by lkcl ( 517947 )

      Anybody here ever play that game?

      yeah, me! were you around in 1995-1996 by any chance? in CB1 Cafe in cambridge UK i was the person who discovered that you could put zombies into the underground phase-tunnel vehicles, then sneak behind enemy lines (the underground vehicle could see "up" into one square at a time). i would go looking for artillery because artillery by default had a reaaally nasty habit of auto-firing at close-range enemies on a huuge delay. so, what would happen was: first zombie went up, artillery would turn and begin l

      • I was probably playing a few years after that, I think the game had been out for a little while once I picked it up. It had a bunch of really innovative concepts though, which really set it apart from your standard RTS like C&C or AoE. The camouflage was awesome, the spies, the "phasing" (I think there were a number of infantry units that could phase to hide their locations) and even artillery was implemented pretty uniquely.

        I had a less nuanced strategy with the phase vehicle and the artillery - I l
  • by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Friday May 30, 2014 @07:13PM (#47132947) Journal

    I'm not much of a hacker--if I could ever be called one--but I do have the one story...

    We had Zork on a Prime [wikipedia.org] minicomputer. Well, I wanted to play it but my "boss" at the time wouldn't give me an account on the box. He jokingly told his fellow managers that he had "assigned" me to hack it.

    So I grabbed some of the documentation and discovered two accounts--SPOOLQ and BATCHQ--which had no passwords. As you can guess, SPOOLQ ran the printing system and BATCHQ the batch processing system. So I tried to login as those accounts and was immediately logged out. However, if I logged in and immediate hit the "Break" key, it wouldn't log me out and I could do what I wanted--play Zork.

    Of course, I log in as SPOOLQ and nobody's print jobs run...

  • by the_rajah ( 749499 ) * on Friday May 30, 2014 @07:27PM (#47133033) Homepage
    I was born in 1946. My father had been an Air Corps radio operator during WWII. He died when I was very young, but left behind a Hallicrafters receiver and a few boxes of electronic "stuff" that my mom did not throw away. My grandfather was not in the military, but was interested in radio during the 20's, 30's and 40's. He repaired radios and built some of his own from parts. He died, also when I was very young and, like my dad, left behind boxes of intriguing "stuff". When I was 9 or 10, I commandeered the Hallicrafters S-38 and started listening to Shortwave.

    In our little town, the library had very few books about electronics and what they had were very old. I read them all. I wanted to check out the 1944 ARRL handbook, but it wasn't there. Somebody else had it. The librarian said she knew who had it and that it was over-due so she called the person that had it and they bicycled down to the library to return it. It was one of the high school kids a few years older than me, but the son of one of my mom's best friends. We struck up a friendship that endures to this day. He became a ham, too.

    The librarian said that her brother, in the next town, was a ham radio operator and would I like to talk to him. I got my mom to take me over to meet him and decided that I was going to be a ham, too. My mom helped me study for the FCC test and learned the code along with me so I could pass the code test. At age 11, I passed the test and was a ham radio operator. I built my own Heathkit DX-40 transmitter, strung up an antenna and was on my way. My mom got her license, too, but didn't upgrade it when it expired. The entry level novice license was not renewable.

    I discovered that I liked to build my own equipment. I salvaged parts from TV repair shops and surplus stores. In high school, I built a 1,000 Watt amplifier and had my own surplus model 15 Teletype machine, operating digital modes in the early 1960s, way ahead of the Internet. All my gear then used tubes, of course.

    When I was in college, I studied Electrical Engineering. I wrote my first computer program in Fortran IV in the Fall of 1964. I had my first computer at home around 1976 which was a Mostek F8 development board interfaced to a surplus TI Silent 700 printing terminal.

    Throughout my Engineering career, I was mostly a hardware designer, but software eventually played an important part, too, as a designer of elevator control systems, Elevator in the vertical transportation sense, not grain elevators, although I also designed grain temperature monitoring systems for the grain type.

    I'm in my late 60's now, still working part-time in engineering and teaching electronics at the college level. I still enjoy being a ham radio operator, too. It's been a good ride and it's not over yet.

  • by birukun ( 145245 ) on Friday May 30, 2014 @07:28PM (#47133037)

    How did I start?

    Age 6 - taking apart any old electronics. old radios, walkie talkies, whatever
    Age 11 - Commodore 64 and IBM PC XT comes to the house
    Age 12 - learn how to solder, mostly unsoldering components from old electronics
    Age 14 - Introduced to Borland C
    Age 16 - CB and dabbled in HAM
    Age 18 - College for Comp Engineering, only to fail out after spending every hour in computer lab instead of class (uudecode anyone?)
    Age 20 - US Navy working on 60s era computers
    Age 24 - First Net admin job migrating from Novell to WinNT + First home PC of my own! .....computers ever since along with car repairs, etc
    Today - job in cybersecurity doing all kinds of different stuff, with side projects in the Internet of Things related to security

    What makes a good hacker today?
    Same thing as always, the desire to not just have technology, but the desire to know how it works!

  • If my story is interesting, what do I get?

  • I have been fiddling with computers since I was a kid. Always pushing the envelope one step further. My first 'hack' was networking DOS over a serial cable in '93. I was so excited to pipe files through and not to have to use them floppies anymore. Years down the road, I was probing ports on 'major servers'. Lead a hacking group and I can say we had a good run before we moved on from the "sport". Some returned, and some are wanting to drag me back into it. Well no need to talk of methods, these days all yo
  • Music. I love to play music, and I wanted to explore writing it on computer where I could listen to how multiple instruments sounded. This was in Apple II days (I found the Commodore PET a little too boring an the Vic-20 was handy but not as interesting as it could have been had I been able to afford storage)

    Playing multi-voice music on an Apple II required learning hex-code "assembler" (much later on I wrote an assembler to make my life easier). Going to IBM PC resulted in better CPU and performanc
    • > Playing multi-voice music on an Apple II required learning hex-code "assembler" /Oblg. "Nibble Duet" on the Apple "squeeker" :-)

      Here is the end music of Karateka [peopleofhonoronly.com] in MIDI that one of the AppleWin dev's ripped and converted.

  • "Inspiration" that leads to hacking seems to be what leads you to make LEDs blink with Arduinos, and put on art shows... (Did you know Arduinos use the Harvard architecture?)

    For me it is necessity that still leads me to hack. I hack to survive, not from day to day but from decade to decade. Early on I couldn't figure out why society acted in such an alarmingly insane manner when I first became aware of such a thing as 'society', back in 1989. In the country next door there was a guy with an early laser sig

  • ... apart to see how they worked then try to put them back together.

    They question should be: Why doesn't every curious kid grow up to be a hacker (in the good sense of the word)?

  • I took apart the mechanism one of my Dad's antique mantel clocks. My Mom saw me at the dining room table with brass gears and plates and screws scattered in front of me. "Your Dad is going to kill you when he gets home from work!" I put that sucker back together and it worked as well as before (not well).

  • I'm a little later than some of the other posters. We've had a computer at home for most of my life, starting with an IBM PCJr. I grew up playing games on that or Apple II's at school. When I was about 8 or 9, we had a 486-based machine that dad put together. My interest started with wanting to learn the command line to launch my games. It continued when I started to wonder how programs got onto the floppy disks we bought, in the first place. I asked around, and someone had an old book of BASIC programs. It
  • Can't sleep nights.

  • This article asks for a rant, so here you go:

    I got into this by luck. Otherwise I might have been just the run of the mill awkward person :) My mom found an ad in the paper. A school was looking for students to start 5th year on a computer programming curriculum, and entry was test-based. You had to pass a maths and a literature test on subjects that a 4th grader should be knowing.

    I hadn't seen a computer until I started school in September, but there was a book that was recommended, and I got that during t

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...with an Apple Lisa my Dad bought from a Heathkit dealer in Kansas. That was my first computer in the late 80's. Can remember upgrading that thing through several generations of Macs as it morphed into the Mac XL and you could put in new hard drives, upgrade RAM. (Crazy that my iPhone has more CPU, storage, and display resolution than that first battle tank of a "personal" computer.)

    Reading Stephen Levy's Hackers book when I was 14 sucked me in to the hacking mentality:

  • i called what i did "customizing" and never considered it hacking back when win98 was supported i would do registry modifications and do things to strip IE & OE and windows media player out and install my own software, same for Win2k & XP, and i like to keep a custom Linux install because i dont really like what comes out of the box on Linux distros,
  • 1978, aged 8, our school had a commodore pet 3032. i typed in a simple program in BASIC, 10 for i = 1 to 40, 20 print tab(i), i 30 next i, 40 goto 10 and watched the numbers 1 to 40 scroll across the screen. i figured "huh that was obvious, i can do that" and 25 years later i was reverse-engineering NT 4.0 Domains network traffic (often literally one bit at a time) by the same kind of logical inference of observing results and deducing knowledge.

    by 2006 i learned that there is something called "Advaita Ve

  • Didn't work :p
    But seriously...C64...seeing the cracked games...
    Impressed by the whole demo scene and intro messages...
    hex editors...decompilers....
  • I had a love of video games in the late '70s right around when the TRS-80 Model I Level I was released and the opportunity to sit with one for hours at the local Radio Shack once a month. To be honest, I was hoping to get into dentistry or pharmacy, but my grades weren't good enough, but they were good enough by half a percent to get me into the University of Saskatchewan's Computer Science program through the College of Arts and Science.

    And thus my career was born as much by chance as by intention.


  • Hacking's definition has become such a mess that it should be retired forever. The nerd community needs to come up with a new term and never tell anyone. And, as a sidenote, this also goes for the terms "geek" and "nerd". When I was growing up, non-techies never wanted to be called these things, they were derisive. The geeks, however, were pretty comfortable with it. Today, anyone with an Atari shirt and/or Android phone is called a geek, but let's face it they're really just modified hipsters. So, if
  • by Anonymous Coward

    my mom was one of the first programmers... when she went back to school it was to learn a new-fangled language called "Pascal", version 1, on the CDC 6600...

    she showed me her homework, 8 queens, it made perfect sense to me (10 years old), the rest is history.

    that said, computer programming these days is terrible!!!! not the same thing at all.

  • I had a green bar LPT printout of Super Star Trek in mf-ing FORTRAN that ran on a Prime minicomputer. I went to sleep studying that stack of paper.

    Later on I got a C=64.

    Modular grid based electronic sets, too. The kind where you could make your own radio by plugging in component cubes. I don't know what you'd actually call them so I made up a name.

  • I guess I am the only person lame enough to admit it. I learned ASM to crack copy protection. A side effect was I developed the knowledge to code virii. I got into phreaking to swap the zero day. I started going to 2600 meetings and Defcon after I read The Hacker Crackdown and thought it would be cool to see Gail Thackery and other assorted miscreants in the flesh. From there it was on to cell phones (Oki 900 anyone?) and all the other goodness that flowed from LA 2600 like being inspired by listening

  • When I was a very young boy, about 5, my parents had been using an old-fashioned mechanical alarm clock for years, complete with two bells on top of it. As they replaced it, I got it - and felt the irresistible urge to take it apart. Just driven by sheer hunger to see the insides, and understand. Same thing with my father's watch.

    It is still the same urge that drives me: using a machine whose workings I don't understand drives me mad.

  • by davydagger ( 2566757 ) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @07:42AM (#47135031)

    Trust me, if could have done something else with my life I would have.

    my parents bought a computer when I was 5, and made me learn it.

    They also were super paranoid about the outside world, "modern rock music", and pop culture, and because of their rants, raves, paranoia, and emotional abuse I had a hard time fitting in. I was not allowed to leave the house in my early teenage years alternating between being perpetually grounded over small slights, and my mom's irrational fear of pedophiles and predators

    my only window to the outside world not controlled by my demeaning, paranoid, controlling parents was the computer. So learned. Its all I had. I found the internet, and online culture, and it warped my fragile little mind.

    If could have done something else with my life I would have.

  • or did the hacking inspire the coughing? Either way...
  • And so i started, a bit with batch-scripts, qbasic, VBA, until a friendly neighbor gave me 11 floppies with borland pascal and 10 kg of books. Then the real fun started with sound() and unit graph :).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Started with radios , tvs, tape-recorders, ... appliances. Started real job at a defense company, assembling cables, test-equipment. Saw my 1st computer, hp 1000; Taught myself Basic, and then hired to do software support. ASMB, Fortran, then 'C'. Unix systems, then Microsoft systems, databases, shells. Latest work/project involved MVC5; will be supporting the project. Just always want to be constantly busy and learning new things.

  • This is an excellent discussion! I started out with the Commodore Vic-20 and quickly moved to the Commodore 64. I soon learned the power of networking (even over a slow modem) and bought a rather obscure co processor for it (Z80 running CP/M) I learned 6502 assembly and then Z80 assembly (similar). I was off and running. I soon developed a program that did communication between the two cpus. I made my first thousand selling said program on CompuServe. Got introduced to the PDP-11 and Unix version 7 which I
  • Had one at 15, summer time. By Xmas left BASIC and started coding in assembly. Knew it from the inside out, hardware and software. Wrote the first Windows emulator for it as my thesis.
  • Easy, my job description and orders from a superior officer!

  • What got you started?

    I guess I started at a place called No Such Agency in the early 00's and didn't realize it until the Snowden stuff came out... go figure.

    I hack for entertainment (that is the entertainment industry) nowadays...

    Funny thing is I sat in the TechLA conference and the main attitude/topic of the organizers was "hacking big data". WTF? Is the term hacking a buzzword now, i.e. the next 'social' or the new 'bubble'?

  • My dad bought a TI-99/4A when I was about 7 or 8. I did the BASIC tutorial, learned how to load the old scott adams games like 'pirate adventure' from cassette. Then I learned how to modify the source, started doing things like changing my inventory and teleporting from room to room. Then I started writing my own games. All by the time I was about 10.

  • If by hacking you mean programming, then nothing really inspired me. You had to be a programmer to get something useful out of a Commodore 64 besides playing games. So I guess you could say wanting to do something besides play games inspired me to be a programmer.

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes