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Author Topic: Book Mini-review of "The Best of 2600: A Hacker Oddyssey" (now shipping)  (Read 7606 times)


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I just got my copy of "The Best of 2600: A Hacker Odyssey" and thought I would post a little about it.


For those of you not familiar with the magazine "2600", it's a small magazine about hacking phones and computers, that was stared in the mid-80s as a few printed sheets stapled together and mailed out by a couple of college students. It's always been a kind of loosely put together collection of musings and pictures of odd phones, and the occasional cool hack.  It's always had a very distinctively underground feel, bordering on illegal, and has developed a kind of cult following.  I've always been a fan of the magazine though i don't understand most of it and only read it occasionally.

With the release of this new big anthology, the best writing of 2600 is about to become a lot more well known.

The book is edited and contains chapter introductions (sometimes substantial) by Emmanual Goldstein, one of the original founders of 2600 and still the driving force behind the magazine.

I expected the book to have the eccentric/indie feel of the magazine and be similar in organization to anthologies like "The Best of Creative Computing" -- that is, filled with pictures and organized into randomly themed areas.

Instead, the book is organized chronologically, and separated into 3 main sections for the decades of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, and subchapters in each section.

It's a big hardcover book, 871 pages.  And there are no pictures or photos(!).  This is actually a little strange given how many photos and illustrations are in the magazine normally.. I wonder in fact if this wasn't a decision made out of legal concerns.. No explanation is given.

The lack of images and the minimal discussion about the history of the magazine is going to be a little disappointing to anyone who gets the book hoping for a visceral immediate feeling of nostalgia the way one gets from reading the Creative Computing anthologies for example, nothing looks or feels like the original magazine, and the articles are all professionally laid out and typeset uniformly.

However what the book lacks in nostalgia it makes up for in content:
The 1980s:
  • 1. Stories and Adventures.
  • 2. The Last Days of Ma Bell.
  • 3. Fun Toys to Play With.
  • 4. The Early Days of the Net.
  • 5. Corporate History.
  • 6. Raids.
  • 7. The Hacker Philosophy.
The 1990s:
  • 8. Pop Culture and the Hacker World.
  • 9. The Computer Revolution.
  • 10. Learning to Hack Other Things.
  • 11. More Hacker Stories and Adventures.
  • 12. The Changing of the Telephone.
  • 13. Hackers and the Law
2000 and Beyond:
  • 14. The Lawsuits.
  • 15. Still More Hacker Stories.
  • 16. A New Era of Telephony.
  • 17. Retail Hacking.
  • 18. Toys of the Twenty-first Century.

It's a great collection of essays that reflect the hacker mindset and the amateur hobbyist perspective on hacking -- a collection that anyone interesting in the history of hacking would be thrilled to own.

If you're expecting to get a collection of the best hacker writing in the last 3 decades, suitable for a general audience, you're likely to be dissapointed.  2600 was always hackers writing for other hackers, and these are not professional writers.  And if you're expecting a visual walk down memory lane through the history of 2600 you'll also be disappointed.

But if you are looking for a collection of the best essays from three decades of the magazine and the hacker community, providing a representative and thorough look at the emerging issues in hacking over time, you've got yourself a new bible.  It's a fascinating book and a great way to jump into the raw source literature if you like that kind of thing and are curious about the hacking community.  And if you're a fan of the magazine it's impossible not to be a fan of this book.

« Last Edit: July 19, 2008, 12:04 AM by mouser »


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I got it and I think it's great. Marvelous and disappointing. And both at the same time. Just like the magazine.
I guess you either love it or you don't. I love it.

Now if somebody could just dredge up a complete collection of Jack Rickard's Boardwatch Magazine I'd be in 7th heaven. That magazine was the Bayeaux Tapestry of the start of the whole online thing - from single user BBS systems right up to the start of he Web. In some respects I really miss the days of Fidonet and RBBS. Those Days of Text where what someone had to say was more important than how it got presented on the screen. Where anybody with a modem, some software, and a voice line could host a thriving online community without getting bogged down in ISP politics. Jeeze! I'm blathering. Must be getting old...

Fortunately (for me at least) the DC Forums come pretty close to the feeling I used to get when I logged on in of those days. :-*
« Last Edit: July 20, 2008, 11:39 AM by 40hz »


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I just got my copy Friday. I was away for the weekend camping, so I've only read through the Introduction, but it certainly looks really good.

For a bit of nostalgia last night, I stuck "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" into the DVD player while reading it  :P