Can you help me find tales of l33tness?
December 5, 2007 4:01 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me find more Hacker Folklore?

There's The Story of Mel (and most of the rest of the Jargon File). There's The Story of the 500 Mile E-Mail. To a lesser degree of what I am looking for is The Origin of Quake3's Fast InvSqrt.

Do you know of anywhere that I can find more short stories in the same spirit of these? I'm talking about (probably) true stories of Techie Awesome and/or the history of Hacking. Stories about things that shouldn't work, but do.

If the story goes deep into the technical details, thats fine with me. In fact, the more details about the equipment and/or circumstances, the better.

I know that there are more out there than the three above, but I'm not sure I've been putting the right words into the search box.

Thanks in advance.
posted by ArgentCorvid to Computers & Internet (25 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
The Cuckoo's Egg
posted by phrontist at 4:08 PM on December 5, 2007

Steven Levy's Hackers.
posted by toxic at 4:15 PM on December 5, 2007

There's Andy Hertzfeld's, about anectodes surrounding the original Apple Macintosh.
posted by jaimev at 4:18 PM on December 5, 2007

Best answer: VAXen, my children, just don't belong some places.
posted by theoddball at 4:25 PM on December 5, 2007

Best answer: there's a tone of UK computer folklore in Resurrection, if you dig about. Some of it goes back to 1940s codebreaking efforts in Bletchley Park.
posted by scruss at 4:30 PM on December 5, 2007

Out of the Inner Circle was an early book by a hacker. But from your post it's unclear whether your looking for stuff on computer crime, or code wrangling.
posted by waraw at 4:36 PM on December 5, 2007

More software engineering than Techie, but Joel Spolsky on his first BillG review.
posted by djb at 4:43 PM on December 5, 2007

The MIT Gallery of Hacks.

(For instance, when MIT got a new president, some students made his office vanish.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:59 PM on December 5, 2007

This History of Hacking is pretty good too. Interviews with Woz and Cap'n Crunch.
posted by phrontist at 5:02 PM on December 5, 2007

Response by poster: @waraw: I'm looking for "Hacking" as in code/hardware wrangling. Not necessarily computer crime, but also not necessarily exclusive of it either.

I haven't got a chance to dig in it very much, but stuff like scruss's post is what i'm looking for.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 5:02 PM on December 5, 2007

I'm particularly fond of this story out of the jargon file (which you may have already read).
posted by heresiarch at 5:33 PM on December 5, 2007

The Eudaemonic Pie
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:40 PM on December 5, 2007

Seconding Levy's Hackers.
posted by cocoagirl at 5:54 PM on December 5, 2007

Best answer: Also, if you're looking for more of a long n leisurely history tour, back issues of 2600 magazine would probably be of interest.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:58 PM on December 5, 2007

And of course LOD.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:01 PM on December 5, 2007

Seconding Out of the Inner Circle... I loved that book when I was a lad.
posted by mumkin at 6:03 PM on December 5, 2007

Best answer: Masters of Deception is the story of the split between the LoD and the MoD in the early 90s. The Hacker Crackdown focuses on the Secret Service's anti-hacker efforts, including the raid on Steve Jackson Games. Fire in the Valley is the story of the early days of Microsoft and Apple Computers, which also inspired a film. In a similar vein, Masters of Doom is the story of the early days of Id Software, including a fair bit of hackish ingenuity and technical experimentation.

In the same vein of 2600 magazine (as per LobsterMitten's suggestion) is Phrack magazine. All back issues are available online. is an excellent resource, collecting lots of the old files that have been floating around BBSes and the Internet since the eighties. The Apple II, Hack, and Phreak sections might be of particular interest. There is also a well-maintained index of BBSes past and present, organized by area code, which may or may not bring back memories.
posted by Cassilda at 7:26 PM on December 5, 2007

Best answer: If you're looking for technology rather than personalities, here's some links for you:

Security Digest Archives captures the birth pangs & infancy of Internet security from the Morris worm to the creation of BugTraq.
The unix core security mailing list is by invitation only and contains sensitive material which SHOULD NOT BE REVEALED to non-members. DO NOT PUT ANY LIST CONTENTS IN LOCATIONS ACCESSABLE TO NON-MEMBERS. If you must keep copies on-line, please encrypt them at the very least.
Picking up where that leaves off: BugTraq, the first fully open source discussion of security, vulnerabilities & fixes. This archive seems to be missing the first couple weeks but there should be more than enough to hold your interest.

For good stories of technology gone bad you can't beat RISKS Digest, quite possibly the longest running mailing list under a single administrator.

No compendium of hacking history would be complete without the oldest mailing list on the Internet, Telecom Digest. And don't forget to make a stop at its spinoff, the Computer underground Digest, the most complete record of the "golden age" of computer hacking around.
posted by scalefree at 10:46 PM on December 5, 2007

posted by nonane at 5:01 AM on December 6, 2007

Bruce Sterling's non-fiction book The Hacker Crackdown is full of this stuff. It seems there's a free e-text of it at MIT's site, here.
posted by Drexen at 5:19 AM on December 6, 2007

Response by poster: Jeez, I can't believe I forgot about 2600, Phrack, and They had completely slipped my mind.

I've marked some 'bests', I will mark others as I get to look at them.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:00 AM on December 6, 2007

The Devouring Fungus is a good compendium of a lot of early-ish computer tales and legends.
posted by kindall at 11:41 AM on December 6, 2007

Best answer: Always mount a scratch monkey.
posted by plinth at 2:01 PM on December 6, 2007

Judging by the examples you provided, and the answers you've marked, I'm going to second Levy's Hackers. At Project Gutenberg you'll find the first two chapters, so you can see how you like it (though my favorite chapters are the ones about the Model Railroad Club, and the Sierra Online company -- probably because I loved their games as a wee one).
posted by papafrita at 1:27 AM on December 7, 2007

heh, don't know how i missed cocoagirl's comment... thirding Hackers it is, then.
posted by papafrita at 1:39 AM on December 7, 2007

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