Learning from the Past: The Internet Guide to New Users #1

/*Sharkie*/ on July 09, 2019

In this field, we are always learning. Always. It never stops. But normally, we're moving forward. We're learning the newest technology, the newes... [Read Full]
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I'm pumped for this series! I love old tech books, and especially the very specific genre of books about the Internet from the 80s and 90s.

One of my all time favorite books is The Cuckoo's Egg by Cliff Stoll, a true first-person account from the late 80s of tracking international hackers through the UC Berkeley university network as they used it to pivot into connected military networks. (It's a ton of fun and everyone interested in this stuff should read it!)

My favorite quote from that book shows just how much our attitudes toward network security have changed (or maybe not?). When working out how a hacker was getting admin access once they got into a box, Cliff says this:

OK, how do you become privileged? The obvious way is to log onto our computer with the system manager's password. We hadn't changed out password in months, but nobody would have leaked it. And an outsider would never guess our secret password, "wyvern" -- how many people would think of a mythological winged dragon when guessing our password?

This was in the days before dictionary attacks and botnets, so he was probably right, but to a modern ear, that's such a horrifying attitude for a computer expert to have!


Ooo I'll have to see if I can get my hands on that! It looks ridiculously interesting, and equally horrifying. The internet really has changed, hasn't it?


It's honestly so good. I'm not typically into memoirs and true crime stories and such, but this was an exception. It's written like a hacker/spy thriller, in a super engaging style, rather than being an autobiography. It was actually a New York Times bestseller in its day I guess.

Side note: I happen to be a math and numbers nerd, so I love the Numberphile YouTube channel, and Cliff Stoll has done a bunch of NUmberphile videos about pretty deep topics, often using his own hand-blown glass bottles for visual demos. I knew him from those videos long before I ran across his book; he's a super zany guy, but very fun to listen to. He did a podcast episode with the creator of Numberphile about his backstory, and he talks a bit about the book and the story behind it.

Anyway... definitely read the book! It's so good!

Okay, now I have to grab it. It sounds amazing!

And you mention math and hand blown bottles - I'm running off to YouTube to check this out. I can't not!


This sounds exciting! It sure would be fun and super cool to know what it was like back then, plus I love the way you write! This sounds like some spooky, adrenaline-packed tech adventure into the past. Can't wait!


I'm a dramatic person, I like making everything sound like a massive adventure when it's really just me reading a book with a bunch of sticky notes. Makes things more interesting!


I think I still have my college RPG IV book, and maybe the COBOL book too... :)

I was somewhat surprised to be learning those even though it was the early 2000s - though in retrospect COBOL was great for learning some fundamentals, and RPG was great for learning I never wanted to work on an AS400 ever again.

I could go on about VB6, but I already feel old enough.


Hey, sometimes you've gotta learn the fundamentals to really get a grasp of new stuff!

And yep, definitely had some things I've looked at and well "hahaha NOPE". That's also valuable. 😂


I had a book about C++. It's the textbook I used when I learned it in college. I really wish I was making that up. :-) (Yep, he still has a nose). :-P



Now we've just got adorable cartoon faces. 😊


Jeez, next you're going to want me to start using memes.

Eye Roll Meme

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