Hacking History: The Mentor and The Hacker Manifesto
Loyd “The Mentor” Blankenship was a second-generation Legion of Doom hacker, riding the BBS wave and hacking the telephone networks along with every other 1980’s hacker. Much like other Generation X hackers, Blankenship was very young (in high school) and didn’t respond to the traditional schooling and socializing he was expected to. Finding solace in a modem, he felt criminalized for his curiosities and as though the world was trying to stop him from exploring and learning about cyber-space.
Being among the now glorified hackers who “created a large-scale interactive system, self-regulating and self-organizing, flexible, adaptive and unpredictable, the very essence of a cybernetic system”, Loyd Blankenship, like many others, felt like one of the many forgotten children of America. His abilities were not only unappreciated, but condemned. Post WarGames era had lead the older generations to have a very narrow view of what a hacker was. This sharp dichotomy between media representation and reality created hostility between the cyberpunk generation and all that came before.
Furthering the freedom of open source information has always been confronted with condemnation. “Phreaks, in ‘hacking’ the phone system, are simply acting in the centuries-old tradition of American radicals who have always challenged the ways in which corporate and governmental structures prevent people from free association with their peers.” Loyd Blankenship, aka The Mentor, felt outcast in his struggle to connect with others, from all over the nation, by authorities and the powers-that-be.
The Hacker Manifesto
In 1986, The Mentor got busted for “being in a computer [he] shouldn’t have been”. Fueled by anger he wrote “The Conscience of a Hacker”, later to be known as “The Hacker Manifesto”. This was one of the first attempts at describing the hacker culture from the perspective of a hacker himself. In a speech in 2002 about his work, he said of his legal backlash:
“I didn’t hurt anything, I was just in a computer I shouldn’t have been. And [had] a great deal of empathy for my friends around the nation that were also in the same situation. This was post-WarGames, the movie, so pretty much the only public perception of hackers at that time was ‘hey, we’re going to start a nuclear war, or play tic-tac-toe, one of the two,’ and so I decided I would try to write what I really felt was the essence of what we were doing and why we were doing it.”
But this anger, and betrayal, that Loyd felt inspired him to write the manifesto that would be discussed for decades, and likely decades to come. Painting a picture which defined an era and a new philosophy to be carried on into the 21st century. Below is his manifesto, so you can dissect its validity and purpose for yourself:
The Conscience of a Hacker by The Mentor
(courtesy of Phrack Magazine)
Another one got caught today, it’s all over the papers. “Teenager
Arrested in Computer Crime Scandal”, “Hacker Arrested after Bank Tampering”…
Damn kids. They’re all alike.
But did you, in your three-piece psychology and 1950’s technobrain,
ever take a look behind the eyes of the hacker? Did you ever wonder what
made him tick, what forces shaped him, what may have molded him?
I am a hacker, enter my world…
Mine is a world that begins with school… I’m smarter than most of
the other kids, this crap they teach us bores me…
Damn underachiever. They’re all alike.
I’m in junior high or high school. I’ve listened to teachers explain
for the fifteenth time how to reduce a fraction. I understand it. “No, Ms.
Smith, I didn’t show my work. I did it in my head…”
Damn kid. Probably copied it. They’re all alike.
I made a discovery today. I found a computer. Wait a second, this is
cool. It does what I want it to. If it makes a mistake, it’s because I
screwed it up. Not because it doesn’t like me…
Or feels threatened by me…
Or thinks I’m a smart ass…
Or doesn’t like teaching and shouldn’t be here…
Damn kid. All he does is play games. They’re all alike.
And then it happened… a door opened to a world… rushing through
the phone line like heroin through an addict’s veins, an electronic pulse is
sent out, a refuge from the day-to-day incompetencies is sought… a board is
“This is it… this is where I belong…”
I know everyone here… even if I’ve never met them, never talked to
them, may never hear from them again… I know you all…
Damn kid. Tying up the phone line again. They’re all alike…
You bet your ass we’re all alike… we’ve been spoon-fed baby food at
school when we hungered for steak… the bits of meat that you did let slip
through were pre-chewed and tasteless. We’ve been dominated by sadists, or
ignored by the apathetic. The few that had something to teach found us will-
ing pupils, but those few are like drops of water in the desert.
This is our world now… the world of the electron and the switch, the
beauty of the baud. We make use of a service already existing without paying
for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn’t run by profiteering gluttons, and
you call us criminals. We explore… and you call us criminals. We seek
after knowledge… and you call us criminals. We exist without skin color,
without nationality, without religious bias… and you call us criminals.
You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us
and try to make us believe it’s for our own good, yet we’re the criminals.
Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is
that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like.
My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me
I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto. You may stop this individual,
but you can’t stop us all… after all, we’re all alike.
Defining an era, a generation and a whole new way of life, The Mentor holds a special place in Hacking History of both pioneering expert, philosopher and biographer of a generation.
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