One thing that I was surprised to learn was Goldstein, besides it not being his real name (I fact I might have suspected, but just didn't remember enough Orwell) was that Eric Corley had no formal computer education, which seems to be a testament to the idea that hacking is more about a desire to figure things out than than computers per say. Instead it could be said that hackers just people looking for things to figure out and computer networks happen to be currently the biggest challenge around today, just as the phone systems where back in the 1980s. And the stories are not limited to computers either, mixed in with the tales (occasionally tall) are stories about all kinds of things from wiretapping to combination locks that just aren't half as secure as marketed to pay-phone oddities.
The book covers then the period of the 1980s to the mid-2000s. The 1980s section sees the break-up of the Bell phone system in the U.S. and the arrival of the personal computer, the 1990s sees hackers capture the imagination of Hollywood and the 2000s sees the personal computer become another part of modern society.
The hacking ethos goes back many years, back to the 1960s if one really looks for the first uses of the term. So the material in the chapter "The Hacker Philosophy" still resonates, even if most of the technical information is dated. The first section has a fair number of stories on the phone system and early personal computers. Some people have called this period the golden age of hacking; it's the period covering the break-up of the U.S. phone monopoly, the birth of the personal computer and the first hacker raids. So it makes sense that this is when the hacker ethos was formed.
The second section covers the 1990s which is characterized as when the media and Hollywood discovered the computers, viruses and hackers. The decade saw films like 1995's Hackers (on which Goldstein acted as a technical consultant) and Sneakers (1992). It also continues to follow the changes in phone systems that made many of the discoveries in the 1980s obsolete. In "More Hacker Stories and Adventures" there is coverage of Kevin Mitnick and early computer viruses. The second section then can be thought of as the mainstreaming of computers when they emerged into popular culture.
The last section then looks at the 2000s when computers had become part of the fabric of society. The final section "2000 and Beyond" there is coverage of cracking DVDs, the "deCSS" program and cellular communications. This chapter seems a fitting conclusion; computers have become part of the fabric of society and digital is just another kind of property. So in a way its a natural progression as the exotic and new become part of the society.
Reading this book reminded me what made computer fun originally. Each section covers at a decade as seen by the writers of 2600. The 1980s as the birth of the modern hacker, the 1990s as the middle decade when the media discovered hackers, and the 2000s when many of the topics covered in earlier chapters matured. Much of the technical material in the fist two sections might seem dated, but the spirit is still there. One conclusion readers might get reading this book is the rather dismal, if predictable, conclusion that those who don't understand technology fear those who do; but this is countered by the examples of how regular people in a democratic society can overcome these problems if they are willing to put effort into questioning why something is the way it is. It's this lesson that readers should take from this book.
Toronto 2600 meetings
2600 meetings around the world
Wikipedia page on 2600