The steady click clack of the keyboard was intoxicating to Mack. His fingers walked virtual distances his legs would never take him. He was in his element in front of a cathode ray tube monitor. It was the old kind. Noting like the sleek flat panels of today. His monitor was big and it hummed.
Mack was a hacker. Not the kind you hear about on the news. He was not one of those vrius writting script kiddies. They gave people like Mack a bad name. Not that being a hacker was the life of a saint. But still, in the ranks of the digerati, true hackers were the elite. They wiggled, wormed and trojaned their way into ‘secured’ computer systems the world over. Some did it for money, others for fame and some for politics. Mack had been done all three throughout his life.
His first experience at hacking was quite by accident. He was fourteen and his father, who worked a subcontractor on a large defense project, had brought home a modem to test out a compression communication algorithm designed for recording and transmitting temperture fluctuations on air craft carrier decks. To Mack the project was quite boring but the modem was as sweet as a first kiss. It was a nectar that raised the goose bumps.
His father let Mack use the modem on his own computer. From that first night on Mack was in love. The modem hooked up to his computer expanded his field of vision from the dim lit monitor to the universe of cmputer networks in the digital ether.
Mack powered the modem on. He set his program to dial a number he found in the local community computer hobbiest paper. The modem lights blinked on and off. Each light danced an escalating stacotto in succession. The small speaker in the modem was tinny as the flat dial tone sounded. The modem chirped each tone of the number. Mack sat tensed as the sound of the numbers drummed into his heart. The beets of the modem and his heart found a jerky rhythm and played together. A stolid dance of light, sound and life thumping a heady sypmpony. Each flash, each ping tangled Mack and drew him in.
The other line answered. Instead of the familiar, “Hello” a new sound came forth. It was the sound of machine. The noise was of bits and bytes being stretched and twisted from digital existence to the waves of analog noise. It was like nothing Mack had heard before. For him this was transcendence. Finally with a ending crescendo of static, ping and pop the lines connected and the speaker went silent.
Mack let out a long breath. He had been caught up in listening to the modem that he had held his breath. Now with the speaker no longer signaling and only the lights dancing back and forth Mack turned his attention to his computer screen.
There in bight green letters with a darkened background were two characters. >_ The underline was blinking. Mack did not know what to expect. Those two simple characters in his vision represented to him the entire ecosystem of the known computer world. All before him flashing first on the off. Flash on, flash off.
Mack did not know what to do next. The advertisement in the paper had simply stated, “Dial 555.2342 for System/81 and open the door.” Mack had randomly chosen the number out of twelve listed.
Now System/81 was calling to Mack. He hit his enter key.
A new line appeared below the first >_
Stil the same characters. The thrill of discovery burned on the edge of his fingers. His mind seared into his memory Each flash of the >_ . It was etched into his soul. He was captured and enslaved willingly into the world of the hacker.
>_ echo’ d back to him.
Mack entered the first word that would send him spiraling into the digital expanse and propel him towards a life of intrigue, politics and war. On his screen he typed the command:
and his screen exploded with text.