For those who haven’t yet read, Bruce Sterling’s The Hacker Crackdown is an account of the FBI raids on phreakers and crackers during the early 90s, as well as the subsequent formation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. More importantly, though, the book is a snapshot of internet culture, influencers and influences as the network was beginning to explode into a mainstream platform for communication.
I spent a weekend printing out and reading The Hacker Crackdown on my dot matrix printer when it was released in free, downloadable form in 1994. This sat in a binder on my bookshelf next to a dot-matrix copy of the Linux Network Administrator’s Guide. Popular culture was freaked out about “hackers”. Digital rights and the protection of intellectual property in the online domain were suddenly hot topics. Meanwhile, real hackers were sitting in front of their computers trying to wrap their heads around free books, open source operating systems, a new platform for global communication, and the text editor and phone jack that could make it all happen for anyone, everywhere.
13 years after it’s release as a freely downloadable book, Cory Doctorow is distributing The Hacker Crackdown in podcast format, with Sterling’s blessing. So, grab your iPod, download volume 1, and enjoy a seminal piece of internet history.