How to catch a cracker in the US?

Barry Shein bzs at
Thu Mar 13 17:23:05 UTC 2014

Re: hackers vs crackers

I was at one of the early "Hackers Conferences" in the late 1980s,
organized by Stewart Brand (The Whole Earth Catalog, The Well.)

The attendees were quite impressive, not sure why I was invited :-)

Todd Rundgren, Jerry Pournelle, Ted Nelson, the founders of a number
of now big famous companies who probably would rather I didn't list
their names, etc were all just some of the attendees.

Although there were a lot of computer and network people they were
maybe a bare majority. There were also authors, social innovators,
artists, etc. Just "interesting people".

The press heard the word "HACKERS" and showed up convinced this was a
black hat conference.

Nothing would dissuade the reporters and wow people tried.

They kept churning out 6PM news reports and articles during the
conference about how this was a black hat conference where nefarious
no-goodniks had gotten together to create evil plots to (who knows
what?) Based on nothing, absolutely nothing. They were even given
access to the conference to see what was going on for themselves.

All because of the word "hackers" in the conference name.

And this was the late 1980s, few of them even knew what a hacker might

But it was good press (as in: got eyeballs)!

And then of course law enforcement saw the TV spots etc. and showed up
to ask some questions and infer some threats.

Fortunately not much bad really happened but it was more than a little
distracting from the intent of the conference which was just to bring
some really bright and creative people together with little structure
and let them interact.

Hmm, I vaguely rememember someone was in the midst of a criminal case
or on parole for something like political activism and was forced to
leave (not by the conference, by their parole officer or lawyer or
court or some such) because their status forbid "consorting with known
criminals" and they were "just asking for trouble".

A lot of us vowed to try to keep the "hackers" vs "crackers"
distinction alive in the public's mind but I can't say it worked.

Having lost that battle I guess the term "Makers" is used today.

        -Barry Shein

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