July 24, 2006

Man was it great being a hacker from 1994.

Modern-day hackers don’t know what they're missing. Pretty much all you have to do to be considered a legitimate hacker these days is launch a denial-of-service attack on some website. It’s enough just to get it to stop working. Man, if all I had done in 1994 was crash websites, they would’ve laughed me right out of the subterranean hacker lair!

That’s the first thing you gotta know about hackers in 1994 as opposed to today: you can pretty much be any teenager in your room or your college computer lab these days. But in ’94, we had subterranean hacker lairs. They were slathered in glo-paint and lit by black-lights. They almost always had a skateboard ramp, because in 1994, all hackers were skaters, and vice versa. The sound system was HUGE, and was either playing Cypress Hill or generic techno. How did we afford all this stuff? Hacking. Who or what did we hack? It doesn’t matter, and I’m not sure. What matters is we did it in style.

If you got hacked in 1994, it wasn’t simply a matter of calling your credit card company or restarting your server. You got HACKED. You would boot up your computer and the first thing you’d see would be a big flaming skull, totally animated, and the skull would say, “YOU’VE BEEN HACKED BY BLOOD-REVOLUTION!” or something. I used to spend whole weekends trying to decide which flaming skull I should use! I had over 5,000, each with very subtle differences in flame color and bone structure. Don’t even get me started on my collection of flaming death-fonts! It wasn’t enough for us back then to break your computer. We broke your computer and turned it into a heavy metal album cover.

That Blood-Revolution thing reminds me: even hacker names were a totally different game back then. Hackers these days have names that are either boring or juvenile, like BrettThaDude or DickStorm19978. But back in ’94, you had to pick a name that showed you were simultaneously an anarchist, bloodthirsty, and cutting edge, like GrungeKnife, or DeathStorm1994! My hacker handle, for instance, was ErnestoCheGuevarannihilator. If you see that on your screen in a flaming death-font, you say to yourself, “This is BY FAR the worst day of the year 1994!”

For those brief glory days of 1994, we could do anything. Special agents, detectives, and rogue journalists would always come to us needing impossible favors. They’d comment skeptically on our Mohawk or our piercings, or, for the couple weeks where it was the style, our pierced Mohawks, and then tell us what they needed. “No problem,” we’d say, then turn to our hacking terminals (which always had no less then seven monitors; “no less than seven is hacker heaven” was the saying we always said) and type REALLY fast. To the layman it just looked like we were just banging the keys really hard, but here’s the secret: We WERE just banging the keys really hard. In 1994, it wasn’t about what keys you hit, it was about how hard you hit them. Hit them hard enough, and you could bring down Senators, have corrupt newspaper editors pushed into a swimming pool, get a robot wearing sunglasses to shoot paintballs at a balding record executive. Anything!

In 1994, the world was our oyster, and that oyster had a Mohawk, and that Mohawk was on fire. Hackers these days just don’t understand.

Posted by DC at July 24, 2006 06:32 PM
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