"Are These Guys Just Having Fun?" Watch This 1990s Video About Hacking

Hackers, the phantoms of the opera of the Internet, have had an enormous impact on the rich narrative of our online reality. The video below, the first episode of "Net Cafe" from 1996, begins by describing "the first time the CIA website got hacked...

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Sep 29 2012, 2:05am

The hacker is the phantom of the opera of the Internet. Well before Anonymous started pulling their shenanigans, the person who broke things to make them work better has had an enormous impact on the rich narrative of our online reality. The video below, the first episode of “Net Cafe” from 1996, begins by describing the first time the CIA website got hacked, which is like the quintessential hacker move that still gets played from time to time, a little calling card that confirms our understanding of what a hacker actually is, even if it turns hackers into a parody of themselves.

Stay tuned for minute 16: we get some software downloads and a hacker trivia game, via TV modem so we can become hackers too.

It’s not all about see-thru laptops, black light sensitive clothes, 2600, and having a chuckle at other peoples’ expense. The real drive, says former hacker Reid Fleming, is the rush of discovery. But “today there isn’t much to discover anymore,” he adds, eulogizing the serendipity of the Internet at least a decade before I think it actually died. "There’s not much to find on your own.”

Watching videos like this can make you feel like an archeologist dusting off a wall of hieroglyphics from a lost civilization. But regardless of how dated “Net Cafe” may seem now, the fact of the matter remains the same: we need to see hackers for the quick-typing, multitasking, voyeuristic speed phreaks that they are, who customize the most recently upgraded technology to protect our security and our rights and flaunt their savviness. This sounds kind of like how we’d all like to be: thinking different, breaking the mold, inventing the future, and occasionally getting away with a ponytail.

See other retro documentaries about hackers here and here, and watch Free the Network.