Were your grandparents hacking in 1963?

Computer hacking isn’t that new…

More than 50 years ago, on November 20, 1963, MIT's campus newspaper The Tech published what is believed to be the first ever mention of computer hacking.

1963 news report

Many telephone services have been curtailed because of so-called hackers, according to Profess Carlton Tucker... The hackers have accomplished such things as tying up all tie-lines between Harvard and MIT, or making long-distance calls by charging them to a local radar installation. One method involved connecting the PDP-1 computer to the phone system to search the lines until a dial tone, indicating an outside line, was found.

It was a different time - Kennedy was just a couple of days away from being assassinated, and in a few months The Beatles would appear on the Ed Sullivan show.

So next time your parents or grandparents shake their heads about the malicious hacks that take place today, perhaps point them towards this and remind them "It's your generation which started all this!"

According to MIT, the word "hack" itself (in terms of meddling with technology, at least) dates back even earlier, to 1955. Learn more by reading the article on MIT's Slice.

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3 Responses

  1. Alex

    November 22, 2016 at 10:36 am #

    "So next time your parents or grandparents shake their heads about the malicious hacks that take place today, perhaps point them towards this and remind them "It's your generation which started all this!"

    BUT before you "remind" them of anything, remind yourself that you wouldn't be here without these people, and keep your mouth shut.

  2. Jonny T

    November 22, 2016 at 11:36 am #

    This may be an early use of the word "hack" but the first person to intercept and interfere with electronic communications was probably Nevil Maskelyne in 1903. The story can be found here: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228440-700-dot-dash-diss-the-gentleman-hackers-1903-lulz/

  3. Sparx

    November 22, 2016 at 12:10 pm #

    I believe with the old 'Button A/Button B' phoneboxes, which survived in the UK up to the 1970s (and a few much later than that), it was possible to fool the phone into giving you a free call by tapping the number out on the handset rest rather than dialling it!

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