Alex Goldman is a producer for On the Media. One time he got run over by a car.
The Hack Week Reading LIst
Monday, September 19, 2011 - 10:00 AM
While doing research for hack week, we ended up reading a ton of books and articles about hackers. Below are just a couple of our favorites.
Where Wizards Stay Up Late by Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon
Technically not a book about hacking, but it does a lot to explain the hacker firmament. Where Wizards Stay Up Late is about the pre-history of the internet, explaining that it was funded by the Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (AKA ARPA, now known as DARPA) primarily as a massively redundant communications network in the event of cold war-era nuclear fallout.
Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy
A landmark book in the history of hacking, Hackers begins at MIT in the early 60's where a cadre of students and professors while their days away trying to get new and unexpected uses out of the hulking new "minicomputers" that have just made their way into the marketplace. The book follows hacking into the early 80's, and notes the tension between trying to preserve the ideals of free information exchange that developed in the hacker community and desire by the burgeoning computer industry to preserve its intellectual property by introducing things like copy protection to its software.
"Secrets of the Little Blue Box" by Ron Rosenbaum
This is an article published in Esquire in 1971 that discusses the world of "phone phreaking," which is to telecommunications systems what hacking is to computer systems. As computers began to connect to the internet via the telephone system, the line between hacking and phreaking became ever more blurred. There's also plenty of great phone phreaking resources at historyofphonephreaking.org
The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier by Bruce Sterling
Best known as a science fiction author, Bruce Sterling published The Hacker Crackdown in 1992, in the wake of several high profile hacker prosecutions in the early 90's. The book meanders a little in the beginning, but it covers a broad swath of the history of electronic communication, up to and included computers. He also outlines how these busts were the catalyst for the creation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In the spirit of hacking's devotion to freedom of information, Sterling has made the book free (with a long preamble about why he chose to make it free) in just about every format imaginable.
The New Hacker's Dictionary Compiled by Eric Raymond
The New Hacker's Dictionary started its life as a file of hacker slang at Stanford in 1975. Since then, it was rechristened (in its electronic form) "The Jargon File" and can still be found on the internet to this day. In 1983 it was finally published as a book called "The Hacker's Dictionary." Now in its third edition, it's still available in print from MIT press (and its free online.)
2600 has been publishing since 1984. The magazine features stories by and interviews with hackers, as well as tons of letters to the editor and a fair amount of editorials. Next time you're watching a movie with a hacker as even a minor character, look closely. They almost always have a couple of issues of 2600 laying around on their desks. The book The Best of 2600 neatly distills the spirit of the magazine into a single volume.
There's plenty more fantastic writing on the world of hacking, too much to summarize here. Gabriella Coleman, New York University Assistant Professor in the Department of Media, Culture and Communication, teaches an undergraduate course on hackers, and recently published her syllabus at The Atlantic, which includes much of the material I've recommended here and much more. Check it out!