Hackers: Yesterday and Today

// Posted by on 01/24/2012 (2:02 PM)

While reading the chapter “Taking the Whole Earth Digital” in Fred Turner’s From Counter Culture to Cyberculture I was intrigued to discover conflicting attitudes towards hackers of the 1960’s and today. Referencing Steven Levy’s book Hackers: Heros of the Computer Revolution, Turner takes the reader through the history of hacking which first originated at MIT in 1959 with undergraduates working on computer donated by the Digital Equipment Corporation. Turner describes two era’s of hackers—the “hardware hackers of the 1970’s” and the “young game hackers” of the 1980’s. The hackers of the 1970’s were interested in making computer more usable and less guarded. The hackers of the 1980’s grew up with the sprouting of computer accessibility. They were interested in hacking games and making them more user friendly. Games such as, Spacewars, was routinely passed on among people in the hopes that someone would be able to make a change for the betterment of the product .

The interesting dichotomy is that today, hacking is often used for malice, not for the betterment of science and exploration. Just yesterday the Wall Street Journal published the story about a Kuwaiti billionaire’s e-mail being hacked into and published publically online. Turns out that this man, Bassam Algahanim, was hacked by his brother whom he is fighting with over how to divide of billions of dollars in joint assets. While hacking is often used with immoral intentions, this article does describe that hiring a hacker is relatively inexpensive therefore, hiring a hacker is not just for the wealthy and powerful.

Yesterday Reuter’s also published an article about Senator Chuck Grassley’s Twitter account being hacked in disgust of Grassley’s support of the PIPA/SOPA acts. The hacker didn’t tweet in disguise of Grassley, but wanted to reach his supporters in the hopes of encouraging them to speak out against PIPA and SOPA.

In addition to being surprised by how beneficial hackers were, I was also interested in how carefree people were about sharing their information. The freedom with which information was passed along did pose a dilemma. Stuart Brand describes that “on the one hand, information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is lower and lower all the time” (Turner 136).

We still have this struggle today as we have seen with PIPA and SOPA. It has become incredibly easy to access resources, despite copyright laws. The debate continues—should we charge fees for this information because of its value or should we let the people have access to it in order to gain a better knowledge at no cost?

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Ali S said...

I think the internet was based on the principle that the information in it should be free. I don’t think information can have a price. If you started to price it how would people look to it? Its one thing to turn something that has always had a price tag to something that is free, but to turn something that has always been free into something with a price tag is bound to cause problems. If the information contained on the internet had a price would you use it?

// 01/24/2012 at 7:57 pm

Bridget said...

I think the prospect of putting a price on information found on the internet is complicated. Although I believe information should be freely available for users to view, listen, and use, some information (such as copyrighted songs and films) was not originally created for the cyberspace platform. In other words, when music and television/cinema began, a consumer had to purchase the CD or cassette tape, or go to a movie theater or purchase a video tape or DVD. The idea that work such as these began without the Internet or personal computer phenomenon makes the issue of its consumption hazy when discussed today. However, information that was not intended for purchase or profit has no reason not to be made public and used freely. The copyright issues concerning published and sold (outside of the cyber world) make turning that realm of information up to free use more complicated. The questions one should really ask when publishing information to the Web are these: Do I want this information to help users’ development, progression, and creativity? or Do I expect monetary compensation for these actions via the user? Yes to the first question means this information should be made freely available. Yes to the second question, however, limits its availability to users (via exclusion to users who cannot afford it), and thus possible beneficial development and progression.

// 01/24/2012 at 8:22 pm

Abbey said...

I think charging fees for this information would be challenging one of the premises which the internet has come to rely on today: that it is a resource for anyone and everyone, making information accessible to all. Charging a fee for this information would change the nature of the greatness that the internet has provided to all those who use it today; it is an “equal opportunity” resource. If nothing else, despite copyright laws, the internet has imparted invaluable knowledge upon millions of people, let alone students, which may not have been accessed if there were fees involved. It has changed the nature of education to become more dynamic and accessible. Would many argue that having more information, learning more things, is a negative in today’s culture? Would education be as “popular” or as common? Would the United States be a different place if certain information weren’t free?

// 01/24/2012 at 9:28 pm

Adelle said...

Excellent information, I will be browsing back again regularly to watch out for fresh news.

// 01/29/2012 at 3:51 am