Saturday, December 31, 2011

The first electronic hacker

I found this to be very interesting.
LATE one June afternoon in 1903 a hush fell across an expectant audience in the Royal Institution's celebrated lecture theatre in London. Before the crowd, the physicist John Ambrose Fleming was adjusting arcane apparatus as he prepared to demonstrate an emerging technological wonder: a long-range wireless communication system developed by his boss, the Italian radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi. The aim was to showcase publicly for the first time that Morse code messages could be sent wirelessly over long distances. Around 300 miles away, Marconi was preparing to send a signal to London from a clifftop station in Poldhu, Cornwall, UK.
Yet before the demonstration could begin, the apparatus in the lecture theatre began to tap out a message. At first, it spelled out just one word repeated over and over. Then it changed into a facetious poem accusing Marconi of "diddling the public". Their demonstration had been hacked - and this was more than 100 years before the mischief playing out on the internet today. Who was the Royal Institution hacker? How did the cheeky messages get there? And why?
Read the whole thing at New Scientist.

And in hindsight, it seemed a very arrogant and condescening attitude from Marconi to claim "I can tune my instruments so that no other instrument that is not similarly tuned can tap my messages."  Especially since the first spark-gap transmitters blanketed huge swaths of the electromagnetic spectrum.

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