One thing is very true about hackers that they are an expert in their domain and this is exactly what it meant in the 1960s, ‘expert programmer’, without associating any negative activity to it. In today’s world, the word ‘hacker’ has a connotation of someone using illegal means using computers to achieve something criminal.
In fact, it is very amusing that some of the god-fathers of computer technology started as a hacker and build an entire empire out of the lessons learned in their hacking days. The most famous of them are the founders of the giant Apple Inc.: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
In the 1970s, the two Steves designed and sold a device named ‘Blue box’ which was a phone phreaking device. In those days, the telephone exchanges had operators who used to connect manually to form a route of the call. Later, they were automated and the automatic exchanges communicated with each other using a series of audible tones as signals to route calls. The blue box was designed to emulate these audio tones.
The audio tones were played to the microphone of the phone and the exchanges deceivably conceive them as legitimate signals coming from each other enabling the hacker to decode all the signals and potentially giving him the capability to hack the calls and exchanges and even manipulating phone bills. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak realized the commercial potential of their invention and started selling them.
Later, when they were nearly caught, they ditched their illegal invention and moved on to greener pastures and greater technological adventures. One wonders, how many of the technological giants today would have indulged in some form of such activity that would be called hacking and illegal. T
he same path that makes these hackers so skillful opens new doors for innovation. Wonder how much aspiring future Steve Jobs is jailed for hacking. Wonder if Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak would have been caught and jailed would we still had the marvelous company called Apple Inc. Imagine if iPod, iPhone, and iPad would not have been invented, what would have been the current technological landscape.