"Hacker Culture" centers mainly around being really good at something for its own sake, especially in programming. I've read a lot about it, but what I read suggests that Hacker Culture no longer really exists. Primary sources, for example, are all dated.
It's obvious that my (younger) generation kindof stomped on it a bit, but it really feels almost as if it never existed in the first place. The older coders I've interacted with are just as oblivious to Hacker Culture as new college grads--and yet this wasn't more than a generation or two ago!
This is particularly strange since some of this culture is (or could be) perfectly relevant today--e.g. jargon like "octal forty" (I'm drawing a blank), "cruft" (nastiness), "buzzword-compliant", "disemvowel", and so on. Words like "copywrong", "linearithmic", and "user-obsequious" actually apply to today's centerstage issues! This doesn't even mention the hacker's love of all things challenging and interesting and aversion to bureaucracy. With such applicability, I would expect Hacker Culture to be alive and well.
In its time, although it wasn't mainstream, it was certainly not underground. I wouldn't expect it to remain unchanged, but I wouldn't expect it to disappear. My question is: what happened to Hacker Culture after about 1970? Did it evaporate? Become transformed in way X? Merge with culture Y? Did it drastically shrink in popularity, but still exists?
N.B. I originally asked this question on programmers.stackexchange. They took exception to this, because apparently it was too opinion-based. I thought about arguing the point, since partly subjective questions are allowed, but some of the comments I received told me it was a lost cause (such as the patently ridiculous assertion that there are no concrete answers in sociology). While Hacker Culture is often in reference to programming, since I'm interested in understanding the history, I figure this community is a better fit. I have rewritten, summarized, streamlined, and clarified the post for presentation here.
Putting aside the danger for this to turn into "it was better in my day" rants, Hacker Culture is alive and well and thriving. It just doesn't look like it did in the 70s.
First, I'm going to make a modification to your definition. You define Hacker Culture as "being really good at something for its own sake" which was never really true. You could be good at it for practical reasons, for bragging rights, for personal satisfaction… a hacker could be defined as a person who is good at something because they want to be good at it not because they need to or are told to be. It's not their job or their training. They didn't learn it in school. It's not their parent's job. Hackers are almost compelled to hack. Hackers are self-motivated to learn about their field.
Furthermore, Hackers are not just good at something, they tend to dive deep into their craft to pull it apart and reassemble it in interesting ways. Hackers won't accept conventional wisdom about how it's supposed to be done, they will explore the space themselves. Musicians who play their instrument in a novel way I would consider Hackers.
What has Hacker culture become? The DIY movement and the DIY Ethic. Maker spaces, Open Source programming, craft brewing, urban farming, home cooking, bike repair, self-publishing, blogging, knitting… these are all movements which rely on individual's compulsion to take a personal interest of the objects (physical or virtual) which make up their daily lives. To learn how to make, use, repair and improve on all the stuff which would normally be purchased.
The big shift in Hacker Culture has been an increased freedom of information brought on by ubiquitous Internet access. Until the late 90s, you either had to figure it out on your own, know someone who knew how to Hack, or be lucky enough to stumble on a zine or small press book. Hacking worked much like a medieval guild. Hacking knowledge was handed down and passed around. It was arcane, jargon laden, and often wrong. The notion of Hackers as "Wizards" conveys the value and power of knowledge in pre-Internet Hacker culture, but it also conveys the secrecy.
Ubiquitous and easy Internet access means now anyone can have access to the same information if they want it. It can be discussed, trialed, debunked, confirmed… all in publicly available archives. The rise of video blogging means information and tutorials are even more accessible. In the last ten years there has been a concerted effort to de-jargonize hacking, to remove the barriers to entry by making it easier to learn without dumbing down the actual information. Sites such as Instructables exemplify this exchange of information.
Hacker culture didn't exist in the 1970s: a variety of hacker cultures existed: see the Jargon file's regional specific entries. Since the 1970s hacker culture unified, generated its imaginary other (suits), and produced a number of definitive central texts: jargon, bofh, etc.
As a workplace culture it tends to exist closer to the tools. The size of the labour force, and the changed methods of labour extraction, have fragmented the culture since USENET mattered and unix was expensive. This is more than a "never ending September" effect: it involves new subcultures based on the ubiquity of backyard coding and the reduced emphasis on core infrastructure hacks (ie backbone networks, kernels & drivers).
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Open source, social movement, begun by computer programmers, that rejects secrecy and centralized control of creative work in favour of decentralization, transparency, and unrestricted (“open”) sharing of information. Source refers to the human-readable source code of computer programs, as opposed to the compiled computer programming language instructions, or object code, that run on computers but cannot be easily understood or modified by people.
In closed-source, or proprietary, software development, only the object code is published the source code is held secret in order to control customers and markets. Open-source projects reject this practice and publish all their source code on the Internet under licenses that allow free redistribution. An important feature of open-source development is that the resulting extensive peer review seems to do a better job of minimizing computer bugs and computer security risks than the typical in-house process of quality assurance at closed-source vendors.
Beyond computer software, the concept of open source has been used to create free online databases and by commercial Internet vendors to populate reviews of items for sale, such as books, music, and movies.
NATO Review: where the experts come to talk
NATO Review online magazine looks at key security issues through the eyes of the experts
How important does Madeleine Albright believe energy security is? Where does Paddy Ashdown believe the Balkans is heading? And how do award-winning journalists, economists and researchers see the future in diverse issues from organised crime to climate change?
Cyber attacks - when the most serious ones happened, to whom - and the consequences.
‘A cyber attack perpetrated by nation states or violent extremists groups could be as destructive as the terrorist attack on 9/11.’
Leon E. Panetta
(Former US Secretary of Defense)
And NATO is not immune. In 2012 alone, NATO's systems suffered over 2,500 significant cyber attacks. None broke through its defences. But it is just one part of the backdrop to NATO having its first ministerial level discussion of how to provide cybersecurity.
At that meeting, it was agreed that a NATO cyberdefence capability should be fully operational by autumn 2013.
'We are all closely connected. So an attack on one Ally, if not dealt with quickly and effectively, can affect us all. Cyber-defence is only as effective as the weakest link in the chain. By working together, we strengthen the chain,' said NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
The strange afterlife of the Hayes smartmodem
About those modems: the word is a portmanteau for "modulator/demodulator". Modems allowed digital signals to pass over copper phone wires - ridiculously slowly by today’s standards, but that’s how we did our primitive wide-area networking in pre-Internet times. It was not generally known back then that modems had first been invented in the late 1950s for use in military communications, notably the SAGE air-defense network we just took them for granted.
Today modems that speak over copper or optical fiber are embedded invisibly in the Internet access point in your basement other varieties perform over-the-air signal handling for smartphones and tablets. A variety every hacker used to know about (and most of us owned) was the "outboard" modem, a separate box wired to your computer and your telephone line.
Inboard modems (expansion cards for your computer) were also known (and became widespread on consumer-grade computers towards the end of the modem era), but hackers avoided them because being located inside the case made them vulnerable to RF noise, and the blinkenlights on an outboard were useful for diagnosing problems. Also, most hackers learned to interpret (at least to some extent) modem song - the outboards made while attempting to establish a connection. The happy song of a successful connect was identifiably different from various sad songs of synchronization failure.
One relic of modem days is the name of the Unix SIGHUP signal, indicating that the controlling terminal of the user’s process has disconnected. HUP stands for "HangUP" and this originally indicated a serial line drop (specifically, loss of Data Carrier Detect) as produced by a modem hangup.
These old-fashioned modems were, by today’s standards, unbelievably slow. Modem speeds increased from 110 bits per second back at the beginning of interactive computing to 56 kilobits per second just before the technology was effectively wiped out by wide-area Internet around the end of the 1990s, which brought in speeds of a megabit per second and more (20 times faster). For the longest stable period of modem technology after 1970, about 1984 to 1991, typical speed was 9600bps. This has left some traces it’s why surviving serial-protocol equipment tends to default to a speed of 9600bps.
There was a line of modems called "Hayes Smartmodems" that could be told to dial a number, or set parameters such as line speed, with command codes sent to the modem over its serial link from the machine. Every hacker used to know the "AT" prefix used for commands and that, for example, ATDT followed by a phone number would dial the number. Other modem manufacturers copied the Hayes command set and variants of it became near universal after 1981.
What was not commonly known then is that the "AT" prefix had a helpful special property. That bit sequence (1+0 1000 0010 1+0 0010 1010 1+, where the plus suffix indicates one or more repetitions of the preceding bit) has a shape that makes it as easy as possible for a receiver to recognize it even if the receiver doesn’t know the transmit-line speed this, in turn, makes it possible to automatically synchronize to that speed
[A full explanation of the magic of the AT prefix can be found at http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=7333&cpage=1#comment-1802568]
That property is still useful, and thus in 2017 the AT convention has survived in some interesting places. AT commands have been found to perform control functions on 3G and 4G cellular modems used in smartphones. On one widely deployed variety, "AT+QLINUXCMD sect1">
From 'WarGames' to Aaron Swartz: How U.S. anti-hacking law went astray
The 1983 movie "WarGames" led to an anti-hacking law with felony penalties aimed at deterring intrusions into NORAD. Over time, it became broad and vague enough to ensnare the late Aaron Swartz./>WarGames' fictional depiction of a teenage hacker who nearly started a global thermonuclear war electrified Washington, D.C., leading to an anti-hacking law that ensnared the late Aaron Swartz. MGM/United Artists
Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist who committed suicide while facing the possibility of a felony criminal conviction, was prosecuted under a law that was never intended to cover what he was accused of doing.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984 dealt only with bank and defense-related intrusions. But over the years, thanks to constant pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice, the scope of the law slowly crept outward.
In the hands of aggressive federal prosecutors, that wide-ranging law has become the proverbial hammer where a scalpel will do. It has been used against a New Jersey man who will be sentenced Monday for accesssing a portion of AT&T's Web site that was not password protected, and against a Missouri woman accused of lying on her MySpace profile .
"In 20 years, we've seen the law become broader and the penalties become more Draconian," says Hanni Fakhoury, a former federal public defender who's now an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. "And as a result, we have this situation."
It was the mighty CFAA that brought down Swartz. The district attorney for Massachusetts' Middlesex County, which includes MIT's Cambridge campus, reportedly had no plans to throw the book at him. The curators of the academic database he accessed, JSTOR, have said for years that they had "no interest in this becoming an ongoing legal matter."
But once his case was in federal hands, Swartz became, in the words of prosecutor Carmen Ortiz, no different than a violent criminal. "Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar," Ortiz said at the time.
What Ortiz didn't say is that the CFAA's punishments, drafted during a post-WarGames computer hacking scare and designed to deter intrusions into NORAD, threatened Swartz with stiffer penalties than if he had been convicted of assault with an actual crowbar. An additional indictment Ortiz's office filed last year sought up to 50 years of prison, which, realistically, meant something like 7 years because Swartz had no criminal record. Justice Department statistics (PDF) show that the median length of incarceration for sexual assault and aggravated assault is 5 years.
/>A House of Representatives report called WarGames, starring Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy, a "realistic representation of the automatic dialing and access capabilities of the personal computer." MGM/United Artists
That disparity stems from the original purpose of the CFAA: to lock up, for a very long time, extremely destructive hackers who might try to disrupt the banking system or tunnel into the U.S. military's classified mainframes.
"WarGames" inspired these extra-long prison terms. As soon as it was released in June 1983, the movie, starring Matthew Broderick as a teenage hacker who broke into NORAD's mainframe and nearly ignited World War III, electrified Capitol Hill and kicked off an anti-hacker panic.
No fewer than six different anti-hacking bills were introduced that year, and Congress convened its first hearings as soon as politicians returned from their summer recess. Rep. Dan Glickman, a Kansas Democrat, opened the proceedings by saying: "We're gonna show about four minutes from the movie 'WarGames,' which I think outlines the problem fairly clearly." A House committee report solemnly intoned: "'WarGames' showed a realistic representation of the automatic dialing and access capabilities of the personal computer."
"WarGames," the first movie to profile hacking so prominently, spilled over into unrelated discussions about national security: a biography of Ronald Reagan recounts how the president asked a group of Democratic congressmen meeting at the White House to discuss arms reduction if they had watched the movie. Rep. Vic Fazio, a California Democrat, recalled Reagan saying: "I don't understand these computers very well, but this young man obviously did. He had tied into NORAD!"
The criminal penalties in those 1983-era bills were primarily aimed at shielding key federal mainframes like NORAD's: one pair of House and Senate measures was titled the "Federal Computer Systems Protection Act of 1983." The witnesses, including representatives of the Defense Department's Computer Security Center, Los Alamos National Lab, and the Treasury Department, were chosen to highlight the threat posted to government computers. A forthcoming book called Cached: Decoding the Internet in Global Popular Culture, by communications professor Stephanie Schulte, says "the release of the film 'WarGames' helped merge Cold War anxieties with those involving teenaged rebellion."
/>President Reagan, who signed the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act into law in 1984, brought up WarGames during a discussion with members of Congress about arms control. Getty Images
Adding to the concerns of Washington officialdom was that actual hackers called The 414s had recently penetrated the security of banks, manufacturers, and Los Alamos, home to classified nuclear weapon research. Neal Patrick, a 17-year-old student who had been using his family's TRS-80 Model 2 to tunnel into those computer systems, was flown to D.C. to testify that fall. (Patrick had received immunity in exchange for telling the government how the intrusions took place.)
Prosecutors and politicians quickly became convinced that "WarGames" could become reality. "That movie had a significant effect on my treatment by the federal government," hacker-turned-author Kevin Mitnick told Wired magazine a few years ago. "I was held in solitary confinement for nearly a year because a prosecutor told a judge that if I got near a phone, I could dial up NORAD and launch a nuclear missile."
President Reagan signed the anti-hacking measure, known as the Counterfeit Access Device and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, into law the following year as part of a broader appropriations bill.
Then, in small but important increments, Congress expanded the CFAA at least nine times over the next few decades at the urging of the Justice Department -- without contemplating how the amendments might eventually sweep in normal activities on the 21st century Internet. A 1986 addition punished schemes to defraud through computers. In 1994, Congress made CFAA violations a civil offense, opening the door to private litigation. Another change, in 1996, replaced the language "federal interest computer" with revised wording that applied to every computer in the United States.
In 2001, the USA Patriot Act rewrote the CFAA to make it easier for prosecutors to allege felonies. It also doubled the maximum punishment for first-time offenders such as Swartz. In 2002, a little-known section of the bipartisan law creating the Department of Homeland Security led the U.S. Sentencing Commission, defaced earlier this year by pro-Swartz hackers, to stiffen penalties (PDF) for violations still more.
"The Department of Justice is kind of phobic in this area," says Harvey Silverglate, author of Three Felonies a Day and a criminal defense attorney in Cambridge who first met Swartz in 2001. "Phobia and panic has really led to, I think, a lot of the overuse and the abusive use of the CFAA. There's enough vagueness in the CFAA that it really can be stretched -- and of course that's what happened in Aaron's case."
/>Hacker-turned-author Kevin Mitnick after being released from the Federal Correctional Institution in Lompoc, Calif., in 2000. Getty Images
Over time, Congress' tinkering with the CFAA produced a potent weapon that allowed prosecutors to threaten defendants with extremely long prison sentences. Mitnick, perhaps the world's most famous computer hacker, spent five years in prison in the 1990s despite a previous criminal conviction and years as a fugitive. Nearly two decades later, Swartz faced a likely seven-year sentence from a more muscular CFAA and a trial set to begin in April before Judge Nathaniel Gorton, a George H.W. Bush appointee with a reputation as a tough judge and a tough sentencer, who could easily levy a stiffer penalty than even prosecutors were seeking.
"The extraordinary potential sentences are a result of political pressure by the Department of Justice, characteristic of their pressing for higher penalties in all sorts of areas of criminal regulation," says Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, who has represented hackers facing criminal charges.
The Justice Department has not been shy in wielding the CFAA aggressively. Lori Drew, a Missouri woman who the department charged with not complying with MySpace's terms of service, was convicted by a federal jury of misdemeanor violations of the CFAA. A federal judge eventually overturned the guilty verdict , but only on a technicality because it was a misdemeanor conviction. Ironically, if the jury had decided more serious felony charges were appropriate, U.S. District Judge George Wu said at the time, the conviction would have remained intact.
Instead of trying to fix the CFAA by excluding terms of service violations, the Obama administration has veered in the opposite direction. In 2011, the White House proposed additions it described as (PDF) enhancing "the criminal penalties," inserting additional types of violations, and punishing some CFAA-related offenses as criminal racketeering under a 1970 law intended to target organized crime. The Center for Democracy and Technology warned at the time that, under President Obama's plan (PDF), someone who jailbreaks his iPad and "shares with others the code that he used to gain access" would become "subject to criminal penalty."
That nearly became law. Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy incorporated the administration's request into a bill backed by the Justice Department and other Democrats including Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal and New York's Chuck Schumer. Like the earlier expansions, it was endorsed by the Justice Department: James Baker, deputy attorney general, predicted it will ensure that "cybercrime is deterred effectively and punished appropriately." Treating certain CFAA violations as racketeering "strikes me as appropriate here," Baker said.
Leahy's proposal, called the Personal Data Privacy and Security Act, was approved by the Senate Judiciary committee in November 2011 with some amendments, but then stalled. Undaunted, Leahy tried again last summer by proposing similar CFAA-strengthening language as an amendment to then-senator Joe Lieberman's broader cybersecurity bill .
Leahy's amendment alarmed the ACLU, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, and other groups, which had hoped to narrow the CFAA, not expand it. In a letter to Leahy (PDF), they warned that "the CFAA should focus on malicious hacking and identity theft and not on criminalizing any behavior that happens to take place online in violation of terms of service." Lieberman's bill failed on a largely party-line vote in the Senate.
/>Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat who represents the heart of Silicon Valley, is trying to fix the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Her proposal faces serious hurdles. Getty Images
This year, Swartz's suicide months before his criminal trial would have begun has led to unprecedented public interest in details of the CFAA and a flurry of calls for reform. Orin Kerr, a former Justice Department prosecutor and law professor at George Washington University who's expected to testify at today's hearing, has proposed deleting the nebulous language that criminalizes "exceeding unauthorized access." Kerr's written testimony (PDF) says the CFAA is "remarkably vague" and should be amended to "ensure that innocent conduct is not criminalized."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has offered its own proposal, as has Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from Silicon Valley who has drafted "Aaron's Law." Engine Advocacy and startups including OpenDNS, PadMapper, and Stack Exchange wrote a letter (PDF) yesterday to the House Judiciary committee in support of Lofgren, warning that the CFAA threatens "developers and entrepreneurs who create groundbreaking technology."
But the Justice Department, which declined to comment yesterday, will certainly oppose any such measure. The department has a good track record of enacting legislation it likes, and especially in a political climate influenced by heightened fears of "cyber-attacks," a near-perfect history of derailing legislation it doesn't. Baker, the deputy attorney general, previously warned the Senate Judiciary committee that "proposals to modify the terms of the existing act. would have the unintentional effect of undermining the CFAA."
"I can't recall a time when Congress has ever voted to decrease penalties," says Fakhoury, the EFF attorney. "The law's been expanded, and expanded, and expanded. And now we're in the mess we're in today."
/>The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act's explosive growth over the last decade: this chart shows the number of times it was cited by federal judges each year in criminal and civil cases. CNET research
If you think hackers get a bad rap, think about this……
The word “hacking” has become synonymous with ill doings and the amount of affected people might be the reason for that. The meanings of hacking are many and most are intended to describe the act of engaging in activities (such as programming or other media) in a spirit of playfulness and exploration. But, the destructive intentions of some hackers have turned this word into something bad. For a better understanding, let’s have a look at the hacking history timeline.
It interesting to see that the hacking history timeline really began back in the 1960s as shortcuts developed to bypass or improve the operation of systems. In our concerned eyes today even this sounds malicious to a lot of people, but back then it was merely intended to quicker evaluate and improve faulty systems that had to be optimized. As we know, that’s not exactly what the word “hacker” stands for today. The word is, however, misused in the broad perspective and should really be replaced by the word “cracking,” which is the correct word used in the hacker subcultures around the world. It basically means to force or bypass security systems that are in place to protect the integrity and information stored within the systems attacked.
This hacking history timeline is a great overview of the world’s most notorious breaches and could serve as a reminder how important it is for all of us to stay up to date with our security updates and passwords in order for our personal information to stay safe.
With mobile devices soon to be the most used and accessible “computer” it’s somewhat worrying to see that we currently care more about the security of our PCs than we care about the security of our mobile devices. After having a look at this hacking history timeline, we are sure you’re going to change your mind about that. 90% of people delete suspicious emails from their PCs but only 56% do the same on their mobile devices. Why is that? It could be contributed to the fact that we trust developers and manufacturers too much these days when it comes to our mobile devices. Even though initially we didn’t see many maliciously intended break-ins into our mobile devices but that has dramatically changed in the past few years of the hacking history timeline.
Mystics, Murder and Missing Heads: The 1970 WVU Co-ed Murders.
Mared Malarik and Karen Ferrell, both freshmen at West Virginia University, left the Metropolitan Theater in downtown Morgantown after seeing Oliver. The University did not extend transportation service to its residence halls, so most students at that time would usually hitchhike to and from the dorms. The girls were last reported having been seen getting into a cream-colored Chevy with a man who looked to be in his forties.
A combined $3,500 reward was posted for any leads on their disappearance. It would be three months before the police would receive information on the case, and from a very mysterious, cryptic source.
State Police received a letter postmarked from Cumberland, Maryland signed only with a "∆". On the 10 th, it was published in the papers:
I have some information on the whereabouts of the bodies of the two missing West Virginia University coeds, Mared Malarik and Karen Ferrell.
Follow directions very carefully -- to the nth degree and you cannot fail to find them.
Proceed 25 miles directly South, from the Southern line of Morgantown. This will bring you to a wooded forest land. Enter into the forest exactly one mile. There are the bodies.
Will reveal myself when the bodies are located.
Governor Arch Moore ordered a search based on the instructions in the letter. By this time, a second letter had been sent and it basically repeated the same instructions with more urgency. State police and the National Guard were sent out. Two days later, the girls' bodies were found.
The headless bodies of the two missing West Virginia University coeds were uncovered in a crudely constructed tomb of stones and limbs six miles South of Morgantown yesterday, marking a tragic end to the 88-day disappearance case. Both bodies had been decapitated, and no heads. Prosecuting Attorney Joe Laurita said last night, "I have authorized an autopsy on the two bodies that were discovered. The autopsy will be conducted by the staff at the West Virginia University Hospital to determine, if possible, the cause of death." [Monongalia County Coroner William] Bowers said that because the bodies were so badly decomposed he was not able to determine whether the girls had been shot or stabbed. When asked whether the cuts at the neck were clean, Bowers said he was not able to tell.
Authorities worked four hours in removing the remains. Police said they wanted step-by-step pictures of the operation. Bowers said that the bodies had been badly decomposed. The bodies had been placed "side by side, overlapping each other." They were placed under branches which served as a framework for limbs and stone slabs which covered the bodies, Bowers said. Bowers said the bodies were "well hidden" in the tomb. "If I had been walking past, I probably wouldn't have even noticed," he said. State Police Capt. W. F. Bowley said the searchers were able to locate the bodies because one foot was partially exposed to view. Bowers said that the decapitation "couldn't have been done by animals" because the tomb served as a sort of protection for most of the body. "The heads were off before the grave was built," Bower said. The coroner said the head was completely off the girl who was clad in blue bell-bottom slacks, apparently Miss Malarik, but there was more neck showing on the other body. Bowers said the other body apparently Miss Ferrell was unclothed from the waist down and that the pelvic area was badly decomposed "The pelvic bone was almost bare, no flesh," he said. Capt. Bowley, however, claimed that both bodies were fully clothed. When asked about Bowers' statement, Bowley replied, "I saw clothes." Bowers said both girls still were wearing gloves. The coroner said the process of positive identification would not be an easy one. He said an autopsy on the bodies could not be expected before today.
Beheaded bodies of 'U' coeds found in makeshift tomb
April 17th, 1970
The county coroner reported that the bodies were found within a tomb made of slabs of stone pulled from the nearby creek (about 30'). The tomb was built with rocks and limbs, much like a funeral pyre. The speculation was that such an elaborate burial was suggestive of a ritual killing and rumors swirled of Satanic influence.
When the girls' heads could not be found, a third anonymous letter was sent to the police on the 21st:
I have delayed writing another letter in hope you would conclude more information by this time, concerning the finding of the bodies. Since this has not substantially happened, I will send along another clue while your men are still in the area.
The heads can be found from the position of the bodies by striking out 10 degrees S.W. for the first head and approximately 10 degrees S.E. for the second head roughly one mile. You are already 7/10 of that mile. They are within the mine entrance--if you can call it an entrance considering its condition. They are buried not over 1 ft. in depth.
The ones responsible for the murders scattered some of the girls' personal effects over the general area creating a pattern of confusion making it difficult for you to pinpoint any exact location.
My first two letters triggered your intensive search. Don't give up now!
Subsequent searches would turn up nothing to this day, the heads remain missing.
The person responsible for writing the letters was identified by the West Virginia and Maryland State Police with handwriting analysis of a list of names submitted by the Associated Press. The identity was kept from the public until about September, when it came out that the author was not one person, but three members of a religious cult.
Supposedly, there were up to 30 members (mostly elderly) belonging to the "Psychic Science Church" in Cumberland, Maryland, led by Reverend Richard Warren Hoover. Retiree, Fred W. Schanning consulted Reverend Hoover on the case of the missing girls. They allegedly divined the whereabouts of the girls by tape-recording seances where Reverend Hoover claimed he would place himself into a trance and channel a 19th century physician from London, "Dr. Spencer". This physician-turned-spirit would describe the perpetrators as a black male, 5ɷ, from WV, and a white male with blue eyes and blond hair. He said that the two belonged to a cult that sacrificed the girls in a Satanic ritual.
The messages gleaned from the seances were dictated to Schanning's niece, a woman never identified in the papers, who would write the letters and mail them to the police. It was also reported that she, Hoover and Schanning all shared the same cottage.
Each of the letter-writing cult members were cleared of any involvement in the girls' deaths. The case would grow stagnant for almost six years until a Camden County jail inmate would take credit for the deaths of the two freshmen.
Cumberland Mystics Sources:
West Virginia police were contacted by law enforcement officials in Camden, New Jersey after inmate Eugene Paul Clawson expressed that he was prepared to confess to a crime. Clawson had been in Camden County jail since 1974, charged with the rape of a 13-year-old girl and forcing a 15-year-old boy into sex acts at gunpoint. Clawson was questioned by a WV State Police representative and a Morgantown City police detective while his account was recorded by a court reporter into a 73 page confession.
In his confession, Clawson stated that heɽ kidnapped the girls by gunpoint, took them to a secluded spot where he handcuffed one and raped the other in the back seat, switched them, raped again, then forced them to perform sex acts on each other before having them redress and then shooting them in the head. He said he cut their heads off with his brother's machete before burying them in the woods. He claimed that he had taken their heads to show his brother, but when he wasn't home, he threw them into a ravine, along with the gun, near Pt. Marion, PA, where he grew up.
Three days after his confession, Eugene Paul Clawson was brought to Morgantown, WV (and subsequently Pt. Marion, PA) to search for the victims' heads. Miners were asked to join in the search and cameras were employed to scan the trenches, but no skulls turned up. Hair from an animal's nest and a pair of handcuffs were collected and sent into evidence.
As we have earlier noted the hair analysis expert had conceded that because of the lack of sufficient known samples of the victims' hair he was unable to determine whether the hair found in the nests matched the victims' hair. His testimony essentially was that the hair from the nests was human hair and that it came from two separate sources. He was also able to state from microscopic examination that as to two groups of nest hair there were certain similarities with the hair found in one of the victim's pocketbook and on the clothing belonging to both victims by way of natural color and dye characteristics.
State v. Clawson, 270 S.E.2d 659 (W. Va. 1980)
Clawson recanted in May, saying he made up the stories after reading about the girls in detective magazines. He said Felton Harpe, his cellmate in Camden County jail, helped him fabricate the confession because he thought if he were arrested and acquitted, he could also get out of serving time in New Jersey. Felton supposedly told Clawson to add the sexual component into the confession to make it sound more believable.
Despite recanting and a severe lack of evidence otherwise, Clawson was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1976. He later appealed and the state Supreme Court overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial in 1981. The new trial took place in Randolph County, WV instead of Morgantown, WV to avoid prejudice from the publicity of the first trial.
Anonymous Letters - Sources offer conflicting opinions on whether the letters helped or hindered the progress of finding the bodies.
The directions are about 8-10 miles too far South and were closer to the area where the girls' personal effects were found (closer to Grafton, WV)
The letters were the only lead that got the search started again
The cult was only identified after trying to claim the reward (which they did not receive and, in turn, refused to cooperate any further)
A fourth and final letter was written to the Malarik family.
This cult had sent tips to the MD State Police on a previous kidnapping case.
Claims of sexual assault
Clawson's confession included sexual assault pre- and postmortem of the victims, however, the autopsy was inconclusive of any sexual activity on the first body due to decomposition and the second body showed no evidence of sexual abuse.
The strands were cut, not pulled out.
It was later found that a local beautician would use a garbage dump near the site to dispose of her hair cuttings.
The hair evidence was deemed incredible for the retrial.
Clawson was diagnosed as having XXY, or Klinefelter syndrome. He wouldn't have been physically able to have executed the excessive sexual methods heɽ claimed in his initial statement unless heɽ been taking hormone supplements, which he started after the murders.
Testified that he was a drag queen in the early 70s in Philly, a prostitute, and had contemplated a sex change but decided it would offend his mother.
Testified in ❶ that he wanted to ingest sodium pentothal (truth serum) to clear his name, but his lawyer advised against it.
Governor Arch Moore Jr. Administration
Governor Moore was no stranger to scandal. He served three terms as governor of West Virginia before being convicted in 1990 on widespread corruption charges and having his law license revoked. His administrator, Norman Yost, was the subject of accusations of deceit by suggesting to Police Sgt. Larry L. Herald (on April 10 th/11th) that he hide reports from the Malarik family after telling them an investigation had been started days after they had failed to return home from the movie (January 18 th). The actual investigation didn't start until students threatened protest the lack of progress.
Edward Lee Fielder - Confessed to the crime but retracted his confession and refused to further cooperate. Fielder was an inmate serving a life term in WV. Police believed his confession to be fake.
Ezra - A rock band from New Jersey (where Malarik originated) that had played a show in Absecon, NJ previously where two other coeds were slain. Their deaths remain unsolved, but many believe them to be early victims of Ted Bundy.
William Hacker - Arrested for the decapitation of Herbert Corbin December 25 th, 1970. Interesting to note that the newspapers say William C. Hacker, and Herbert Coburn, but the court documents list William Bernard Hacker and Herbert Corbin, for anyone searching for articles.
The Mad Butcher - This case deserves a post of its own.
The case is referred to as "The Mad Butcher." In 1962, a young man looking for bottles and hubcaps to sell came across a human hand and arm on the hillside of Gauley Mountain. As the investigation unfolded, State Police collected 13 body parts flung over the hillside. A young man missing from Oak Hill, Mike Rogers, had been found.
Investigators believe the butcher notched off at least seven victims in his spree of terror, a case that was a first for its time in many ways. The killer had a distinct style. Rogers' body was cut in ways that a surgeon or an animal butcher would sever body parts.
Gerard John Schaefer - Former Martin County, FL. deputy. Schaefer was already serving time when two more dismembered bodies of teens turned up (❳). He was immediately suspected and was also questioned in the Coed Murders case.
Mared Malarik's Dentist - Lt. Col. Richard M. Hall said this lead was not investigated and looked into himself in his retirement: A former patient of the dentist alleged that she was molested in his care. Malarik had a dental appointment scheduled for the day after she went missing. He called the police to tell them she may be seeking dental care. The sedatives heɽ prescribed her were found with her other personal effects close to Grafton on rt. 119.
William Wickline, AKA, The Butcher:
William Dean Wickline. will go down in West Virginia and Ohio’s history as one of the most sadistic killers ever known in society. Nicknamed “The Butcher,” Wickline used his prison honed skill as a meat cutter to strategically disembowel and dismember his victims, bag the body parts and dispose of them in areas he felt no one would look. His methods were, to some prosecutors and homicide investigators, the mark of a professional killer. "He was the most dangerous criminal I've ever run across in this state" said a West Virginia police detective.
Unidentified Stranger - A resident on Weirton Mine Rd reported that a stranger borrowed a pickaxe and a shovel two days after the girls went missing and did not return the tools.
Richard Hall - Was at the time the third-highest ranking policeman in the state. He was the officer Clawson confessed to and in the retrial, he testified that he didn't believe Clawson's account of the murders. Hall continued investigating the case even after retirement:
He’s convinced that he knows who actually killed the women — a conclusion he said he came to in 2009. “I’m satisfied that I know who the killer is,” he said. “I’m sure.” Hall wouldn’t say who the man is or how he came to his conclusion. The man was a WVU student when Malarik and Ferrell were, he said.
Prosecutor Declines to Revisit 1970s Case Dominion Post
Hall placed an advertisement in The Dominion Post late last month that read "WVU Coeds allegedly molested in a Morgantown dentist office. You are not alone. Investigator needs your assistance. Info will be kept confidential." Hall said the ad pertains to a woman who reported being molested by a dentist in the 1970s, but that the report was never investigated by police.
Ex-cop hunts coeds' killer: Believes wrong man convicted in 1970 murders Dominion Post, October 7 th, 2006 (See Unidentified dentist mention link above.)
Robert L. Mozingo (deceased) - Sgt. Mozingo was in charge of the case until March of ❱ and testified in the retrial (➁) that he did not believe Clawson's confession to be truth.
Preston B. Gooden (deceased) - Gooden was fired (April ❱) for alleging that the Governor's office was interfering with the investigation.
Gooden said the coed investigation ceased in 1971, so he decided to reveal his knowledge of the case before the Morgantown Civic Club.
Former Trooper Accuses Moore Aide of Deception The Raleigh Register, November 14, 1973 Source is behind a paywall
charged that Norman Yost , Moore's administrative assistant, and the Department of Public Safety "lied about department activity" in the investigation. said he would supply "documented proof" to back up his charges that some officials in the department lied about the investigation of the murders of coeds. Gooden explained that one method of "political interference" used by ranking officials in Charleston was the transfer of state policemen from one office to another. He said recent transfers from the Morgantown barracks, including Sgt. R. L. Mozingo, involved officers who had personal knowledge of the investigations into the coed murders and the January, 1970, bombing of the automobile belonging to Monongalia County Prosecutor Joseph Laurita Jr. "These transfers crippled the investigation," Gooden said.
State Trooper Lashes Out at 'Political Interference' Beckley Post-Herald The Raleigh Register, April 24, 1971 Sources is behind a paywall
Gooden sued and won, but Superintendent R.L. Bonar fought his reinstatement and sought to overturn the verdict.
Gooden told the court that Clawson's original testimony conflicted with the facts, more specifically that the girls had not been molested and that a machete didn't match the neck wounds. He added that he instead suspected the killer was an acquaintance of the girls.
It's been almost 50 years since Karen Ferrell and Mared Malarik first went missing. Clawson died in 2009 while incarcerated, still proclaiming his innocence.
If he didn't kill the girls, who did? And for what reason? Why take their heads? Why the tomb, and what does it signify? These are the questions I keep asking as I dip deeper into the rabbit hole. Iɽ love to hear your thoughts on this case.
What Happened to Hacker Culture After 1970? - History
As for reporting bad driving, you really need proof of a person's bad driving if you're going to penalize them for it. Having more traffic cameras helps a bit, but people just learn where the cameras are and drive carefully when they know they are being filmed.
You can't prevent all distraction or all bad choices, but you can reduce collision rates by at least a factor of 20 or so with the right policy choices - we know because these other countries have done it. So I think it's fair to say that the majority of collisions are caused by not making those policy choices.
You say this like youɽ expect manual transmissions to increase the accident rates? If anything Iɽ suspect the opposite - much harder to be distracted on your phone, eating food, etc when you need both hands to be able to drive. It also keeps your mind more engaged if you're shifting gears all the time (obviously doesn't apply to highway driving where you can sit in the same gear for miles on end but at least my intuition tells me the highway isn't where most accidents occur).
I agree with you! But manual transmissions don't necessarily work as youɽ assume - my brother at 18 could text or have a soda and shift at the same time. Similarly, we can end up at our destinations without remembering exactly all the steps - it's become automatic.
That said, most people feel there's less need for following distance when it's an automatic - that's what I consider a bad and dangerous habit.
That's an interesting way to phrase it so I'm curious what you mean. I have long thought that it would be nice if more people drove manual because then they would try and regulate their speed a bit more to minimize shifts, eg in stop and go traffic Iɽ prefer going 3 miles/hour for 20 seconds than 10 miles/hour but fully stopping every 2 car lengths, or when you see a red light ahead, most people stay their current speed and then stop quickly rather than slowing in order for it to change to green before they have to fully stop.
Is that the concept you're getting at with the following distance thing (since longer following distance gives more room to keep a consistent speed) or are you getting at something else?
My example (major gripe) is city driving. Coasting instead of actually stopping (as you come up on a line of cars at a light that just turned green) means you minimize shifting, but it requires a buffer of a couple dozen meters. It just isn't possible when you're too close.
America has extremely low requirements to get licensed as a driver this is intentional. We wanted everyone out of public transit and into cars. In other countries it's far more difficult to get licensed to drive, you're expected to have more skills. Hell, most drivers in Europe drive stick because you're required to test on a manual transmission.
Separate bike lanes, more like the sidewalks, not just painted lines on the car roads.
Roundabouts instead of crossings and traffic lights. (Roundabouts force the drivers to slow down. And on average, saves time I think)
More trains, buses, subways.
That actually leads to more collisions at intersections.
The reason that sidewalks work for pedestrians is because they move at walking speed. That means its easy for drivers to see them approaching an intersection (since they're a short distance away).
Cyclists, on the other hand, move far faster than a walking pedestrian and can be much further away from the intersection where a motorist isn't looking and still can end up in a collision.
The best policy is to have cyclists integrate with vehicular traffic, because cyclists are vehicles, just like motorcyclists.
Part of good separate path design is planning the intersections to prevent the sort of crashes you're describing. I've seen some designs that make sense - it's rather interesting actually what nuances go into safe intersection design. I don't have any links available offhand though.
Roads can accommodate traffic moving at different speeds. For example, buses and trucks consistently move slower than passenger vehicles, especially up grades, but drivers of faster vehicles simply change lanes to pass them. This works on interstates where drivers of passenger vehicles are going 70 to 90 mph and commercial vehicles are going 40 to 60 mph.
Similarly, on a surface street with traffic moving anywhere from 0 to 40 mph, cyclists moving 0 to 20 mph can similarly integrate with traffic with faster drivers changing lanes to pass them.
> Part of good separate path design is planning the intersections to prevent the sort of crashes you're describing.
I've read about the designs, but the assumptions that they make do not really hold. For example, the typical "protected" intersection with curb extensions and an offset assumes that a motorist will look down the bike path to check for cyclists before exiting an intersection while moving at 10 mph. In reality, drivers aren't going to do that.
As I noted earlier, this principle works with pedestrians, because, while walking, they're moving around 5 feet per second, so seeing a pedestrian 10 feet away from the intersection is pretty easy for a driver making a turn since they really don't have to look down the sidewalk.
In contrast, a cyclist is moving anywhere from 15 to 30 feet per second. A cyclist that's two seconds away from entering an intersection can be anywhere from 30 to 60 feet away. This requires a drivers to actually look down the bike path, which isn't always going to occur. The cyclist may assume that the turning driver has seen them, but that assumption is in correct, and the cyclist will have to slow rapidly to avoid a collision.
Also, a lot of cyclists, when making use of such infrastructure, believe that they have pedestrian style right of way, meaning that they will do things like ride around the front of a turning vehicle believing that they'll stop to avoid a collision instead of just yielding.
A typical person takes about a second or so to react to something unexpected. At 10 mph, the motorist has already covered 16 feet, meaning that they would collide with a cyclist before they have a chance to even press the brake pedal.
As I have aged, I do think their are accidents, and life is a gamble. It has always bothered me the rich can afford to take chances, but that's another story.
I still think it's best to think you can control your fate with most acccidents though.
In high school, and college, I drove without insurance. (California used to require auto insurance, but didn't mandate it at DMV. I honestly couldn't afford it.)
I used to think of driving as walking on a cliff's edge. You just don't make a mistake. It did work, but I probally got very lucky too.
With car design, function and ownership as they are, we (the people) accept that there is an uncommonly high risk of a crash and serious injury to ourselves and to the general public.
We only call it an "accident" to abrogate that responsibility.
On the point about scale: some wikipedia browsing suggests road traffic deaths currently kill about 10 times as many people as wars, globally.
True, but that part of the reality of war is hardly relevant. I don’t need to emphasize with the bored soldiers. That’s part of life for me too.
I emphathize with the bored soldiers that suddenly had a massive bomb land in their midst.
People engaging in the army to get some hot action sure would have liked to know more about that aspect, and for better or worse the general public’s perception would also be different when accurately imagining x thousands of trained people stuck in the desert doing nothing 99% of the time.
The bigger deal is that in its inherent brutality, there should be a high bar for war, and that is something that people need constant reminding of.
The other is mostly a matter of public expenditure and the fact that military service is basically a form of welfare that's more palatable to many people, even if it boils down to paying people to work out and carry boxes around in a far away desert.
What it did is give people a glimpse at the horrible results of war - a glimpse that (before sites like liveleak) most people in the USA had not been allowed to see on the "news" since the Vietnam war. Its one thing to hear a throwaway line on the evening news about more air strikes in a far off country and quite another thing to see the results of an air strike. To see the bodies ripped and torn and the lives that are destroyed. Binging on these sort of horrible images is not useful or healthy but everyone should be exposed to them at least once to understand what the consequences of war look like.
I served in the British Army and before I went out to Afghanistan Iɽ watch all of the gory Middle East stuff because I wanted to know what I was getting myself in for. Also to see the kind of situations that had killed my friend.
I'm glad I did, because although most of it was extremely boring stuff like you describe I probably would have brushed off the capabilities of the Taliban
Consider all the fighting over words in what the right likes to call the woke. Symbolism, not the real, is bigger than ever and getting more important every day.
Words increasingly constitute reality, rather than being referents to some external reality.
Brexit is the new heresy apparently. What if I told you the EU was the "false words"? The representation of Brexit as racist was certainly an emotive argument.
While incredibly violent things do happen in the world regularly— and we should not be ignoring them— the world is safer than it has ever been, and that should also be front-and-center in people's minds when considering this. People predominantly concerned with the scariness and violence in the world will be more likely to promote overly violent responses to relatively innocuous situations through war, policy, policing, etc.
I wish there was a publicly accessible, nonprofit archive a la Wikileaks that focused on similar content including oversight for things like privacy issues. It would be nice to see citizen pundits paying attention to it for issues that matter to them and putting things in context as they're shared instead just blasting streams of violence at people.
But wish in one hand and successfully monetize in the other and see which one fills up first.
But I agree fullheartedly. Seeing such things really made me 𧿮l' how precious life is and how terrible the world can be. It helped me navigate moving to Europe a few times, even.
Or shutting down subs that might make the site advertiser unfriendly.
My work is entirely grant funded and to my knowledge, none of it comes from the government— at least not directly. I'm positive that some of those private non-profits receive government assistance to some extent for operating expenses and whatnot, but the funds themselves are not tax-sourced.
Beyond that, governments fund libraries and archives at every level and they deliberately have all sorts of collections, from completely benign to completely odious. Funding a deliberately sensationalist aggregator and monger of violence would be plainly obnoxious, but appropriately managed archives are in the public's best interest. Probably even more so for controversial content. I'm not sure how this would be any different.
The latter made me really wonder if those commenters had ever experienced loss or hardship in their lives.
As terrible as folks are who would laugh at someone getting sucked into an industrial grinder, they’d be untroubled by anxiety or worry and associated mental issues in a Mad Max type post apocalyptic wasteland and hence more able to survive.
At least that’s what I tell myself to help sleep at night.
Nowadays I always pay particular attention when I see a video with someone wearing flipflops if it's real life camera footage. I'm always "waiting for the other shoe to drop," so-to-speak.
Counter-point the world is mostly a neutral, even OK, place, with also violence in it. Our cognition is heavily biased towards saliencing and preserving the scary bits, and being exposed to a planet scale showcase of those bits does not necessarily make us wiser (e.g. better decision makers). At least for me personally it took a decade before I regretted having watered those flowers of morbid curiosity.
The redeeming quality of LiveLeak might be, however shocking the content was, it also had an inherent grounding in bare reality, compared to the narratively embellished one of mainstream media. The former is ultimately bound by rules of reality but the latter is only bound by what people are willing to believe in.
It isn't, you are lucky to be in a privileged environment.
And I don't even mean warzones. People who live paycheck-to-paycheck with family or medical issues wouldn't agree with you.
You wouldn't know if you were talking to such a person right now without making a circular argument such that "a person without privilege cannot think the world is an OK place and since they think that they must be a person of privilege". Existence of depression and anxiety across all socioeconomic strata proves that logic wrong.
Further supporting the argument that the world is not "mostly an OK place".
There is decently solid evidence too that where someone lands on the distribution for a given environment is mostly set at an early age, often with a strong genetic component.
"Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this: the peak of your civilization." - Agent Smith
I am not bothered that this is a false dichotomy as much as the fact that, intentional or not, it forbids taking a positive view of the world to anyone who also happens to be materially underprivileged.
> Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them. -Epictetus, Greek-born slave
> He spent his youth as a slave in Rome to Epaphroditos, a wealthy freedman and secretary to Nero.
> Epictetus obtained his freedom sometime after the death of Nero in AD 68
He was a slave to people of wealth and power, that permitted him to study philosophy, and was freed around 18 years of age. So it would be disingenuous to imply Epictetus had the perspective of an impoverished slave when he founded his own school of philosophy.
Good thing is that I made no such implication. It would be equally disingenuous however to imply that his school of philosophy would be completely isolated from the experience of his formative years as a slave.
Most people simply attribute the author of the quote without qualifying or emphasizing some aspect of their life. So it seems arbitrary to mention this without any rhetorical motivation. Could have well said Greek Stoic Philosopher, which is mostly what he's known for and what the hive-mind of Wikipedia settled on
In my experience (as someone who grew up with extensive food insecurity, parents who barely kept the family afloat, etc.), it’s hard NOT to have the bar shift too if you end up in a cushier place later. The promo can feel as bad as it used to feel not knowing where food was coming from, even if objectively that is ridiculous.
We’re very adaptable even if sometimes weirdly so.
This seems like incredibly useful behavior. When things improve it allows us to tackle new problems with similar conviction as before. It also helps us not get completely overwhelmed when we end up in worse and worse situations.
Man does it suck sometimes though if you’re on the ‘push even if it hurts’ part of the spectrum!
Something that has helped me over time is the awareness that the stories we tell (both ourselves and others) are almost always post-facto attempts to rationalize what we fundamentally do not understand or control (our own thoughts and reactions, and those of others).
This is often for safety - both the illusion of control for ourselves, and to spin a safe and beneficial story for others to magnify the good or hide the bad of what happened. It gets even more interesting when the possibility of influencing others (or yourself!) to your benefit comes into play. Also a necessary and useful survival trait! There are a great many things it is helpful to believe that may be plainly contradicted by evidence.
If you cut away the noise produced by this process, ignore what people say, and look at action/reaction and reverse engineer it a bit - it almost always produces a far more reliable and predictable model for understanding people and the world overall.
Either way it takes a lot of experience and data points to have any accuracy, so it’s going to be confusing as hell for a long time. Especially if you haven’t figured out that almost everything anyone says (especially yourself!) is fundamentally self serving and post-facto - not due to malice even (though that happens), but because that’s the way it has to work!
Through a lot of reading and therapy I got better, but I agree that there is a tendency to move the goalposts and not be grateful for what one has. Even though it is more materially distressing to not know if/where/how one will eat, the problems usually have tangible solutions (e.g. go to grandma's house to eat. again, or know a sympathetic employee at some chain restaurant who will give you a bunch of unsold food that would otherwise be tossed). The problems to "how do I make the leap to become a senior dev?" are much more nebulous and uncertain, and indeed that is more psychologically distressing.
Like it or not, the reality is that for some people, the anxiety of the latter is much greater than the anxiety some other people experience for the former.
Your experience may be the norm, but it is not all-encompassing, and your life experience doesn't give you the authority to speak on their behalf. While your experience and perspective may be the more common one, you are also dismissing a fair amount of suffering that many have.
There are people not far from me who handled poverty and war fairly well, became doctors, and eventually attempted˼ommitted suicide because of the pressures on the job. One of the survivors even said that poverty and war were much simpler to comprehend than the hostility of his fellow doctors and the environment he worked in.
And no, it wasn't because of his background. Several of his coworkers attempted˼ommitted suicide while coming from privileged backgrounds.
You may find this interesting:
By your logic, if a slave who is tortured every day thinks the world is generally an OK place but his situation specifically sucks, they're speaking from a position of privilege.
The world is a hard unforgiving place for millions, we should never forget that.
Agreed. But I'll go even further and say: we should keep the cruelty of the world in mind in order to a) fix it, or support those who try to fix it, and b) treasure the practices, institutions and technologies that shield us from suffering that fate.
If people in the Western world were more acutely aware of how life without clean water looks like, then maybe maintaining infrastructure wouldn't be that big of a problem it now is.
I don’t know what should be the solution, perhaps it would be the task of elected politicians to try to fix the problems in place of the population, even in other countries? Which do happen, but it should be much more prevalent.
Relative to the whole of human history, the time we're living in right now is by far the most neutral, even OK, (in some cases, even good) things have ever been.
You are correct that the divide between privileged/lucky and not is still wide. But arguably this is more about the uneven distribution of progress, and ignores the fact that poverty has significantly gone down, deaths from disease are significantly lower now than even 10-20 years ago, and so on.
This does not minimize or invalidate the fact that many do live in dangerous or "not OK" environments, but it's worth looking at the broader historical context to help contextualize that.
Yes, more change must happen. There is much progress to be made. But much progress has been made, and that should be acknowledged.
OP said 'scary and violent', and on that scale things really aren't that bad.
Considering they all go on living anyway, you’d say the good parts must outweigh the bad parts though.
People aren’t killing themselves, so even if their life sucks in many ways they must have found enough good things in the world to balance them out.
The original premise somewhere further up was that poor people are never happy.
I guess I should have used a less extreme point.
For example, most religions have a taboo on suicide. "Your life sucks? Well tough shit bucko, you choose the easy way out and you end up in hell where it's infinitely worse forever." Absurd as it may sound, people can live against their will, too.
That's a weird lens to see the world through
I disagree. It will only show one side of the bare reality, as the actions taken by more organized militaries will prevent their footage from ending up there. An Al Qaeda execution could end up on there, but the video of the execution of someone like Bin Laden rarely would.
Radical evangelicals like radical Islam think they are the "pure form" of their religion.
Then a war with pretense based on fake evidence. Then Libya, Iraq destroyed, another one in Syria raging until today. Muslims marginalized and placed on no-fly lists. Prisoners in Abu Ghraib tortured for the lulz. Drones operated from the comfort of a container in Utah by fat sweaty men eating donuts and killing civilians in Pakistan. A sign on the door of the container that reads "You are now leaving the United States of America" for improved cognitive dissonance. When they killed Bin Laden without a trial they gave a glimpse of their ugly soul to the world. The uniformed murderer who killed the "terrorist" (that the CIA had created decades earlier) still brags on twitter for having shot Osama in the face and it's not even hate speech according to the platform. It's OK to call for the killing of a "bad person" as long as we all agree they belong to the outgroup. The various administrations that until today operate black sites around the world (including Europe) proof the West is no better then Al Qaeda, or Russia or China. We just have better propaganda. The difference between a Russian, a Chinese and an American? The Russian and the Chinese have no illusion that their government is up to horrible shit and can't be trusted.
The foreign policy of US and EU is one disaster after another. Today they could all cash in at the "good-vibe bank" by NOT opposing waiving of patent protections for Covid19 vaccine. Instead of a war on <imaginary_enemy>, a war on Covid? What they do instead: https://twitter.com˺stroehlein/status
and credits for this statement are real life experience or academic? Those who have actually seen the world would not make such an utterly ignorant statement. I much recommend volunteer work with refugees, a soup kitchen, working with disabled, etc to help alter this perspective. much recommend!
Sites like Liveleak may remind you that war isn't the choreography that your governments want you to think it is.
I remember pre-internet it was Faces of Death  (lots faked but still intense), then Ogrish then the makers of Ogrish going to LiveLeak. There is some value in seeing the worst humans have to offer as it gives you a wider picture, but also too much of that is depressing. People should seek out the full spectrum to be based in reality, but also push better quality of life.
As a kid, horror movies were our superhero movies really with late 80s⾐s slasher flicks. Fangoria was a big magazine. Then you see things like what actually goes on, seeing the true horrors of the world. Sometimes seeing those things can make you appreciate calm, quality of life focused ways, be nicer to people and try to make the world a better place as it can be raw.
LiveLeak was one of those places you could go to see the video that everyone else was blocking or censoring. ItemFix looks similar just not as intense, more on the WhatCouldGoWrong or IdiotsInCars type level. Always good to have another video site for seeing the broad spectrum of the human condition. Just balance time more towards quality of life, but always know how bad it could be, makes you respect today and appreciate things. Everything in moderation.
30 years ago, the Rodney King beating and the movie Natural Born Killers were shocking.
Today, it's just another day.
I wouldn't conflate movies and real life. A snuff film is not the truth. Woody Harrelson is not a murderer, Derek Chauvin is.
There's a visceral reaction when you see something so brutal and horrific, and an empathy as well with the victim, that I think is extremely hard to obtain via text, especially short text.
I'm not saying LiveLeak was perfect or good, I think that it likely also fetishized tragedy - but I will say that there is absolutely something missing in existing news organizations with regards to showing the brutal, hard to watch truth.
It's different if you seen a war(even if it's a liveleak video), it keeps your feet on the ground when you have to decide to cast a pro˺nti war vote or argue about it's merits.
That's what worries me about our sterilised internet: Things happen, but we are not allowed to peak under the cover to see what actually happen. Unless it’s something nice, it must be limited to the commentary of people who themselves may never seen how it is made or even worse, having their own agenda.
Sure, gore can brutalise people but if it's happening everyone deserves to see it.
Much more people used to claim that the Covid-19 is just the flu, until the footage of hospital corridors emerged.
That doesn't happen anymore cause we've killed off most of the bugs.
But that would never happen. A whole lot of people will go to very desperate measures to avoid hard truth, to avoid even thinking about this kind of situation.
I had seen some things in the past, on similar channels (4chan). The result was that when someone else had to drive me somewhere on a freeway I became so hopelessly anxious that I was constantly reminding them to drive slower, or just not drive me at all, because in my book a weekend trip to the supermarket wasn't worth dying over. I was incredibly immature. My belief is still that cars are the most dangerous things the average human will operate, even though they are necessary in some cases. But the auxillary thoughts surrounding that belief are clearly not healthy for me. I truly felt as if I had been changed for the worse.
A few months after that I was nearly involved in a horrific accident with a group of people I didn't know very well because they drove carelessly on a road that was iced over. That only served to solidify my feelings and anguish at the time over the fact that death could come at any time. But it wasn't only that. Whenever I got into a car with somebody, I started to seriously question whether or not I would be alive in half an hour. I seriously began to consider that our vehicle would be struck from the side by an SUV or tanker truck, killing us instantly, without the slightest shred of meaning or insight about life, from every possible angle, over and over again.
I do not enjoy feeling like this.
Since then I've given up any notion I've had of driving again. I stay away from sidewalks next to the road whenever possible. I allowed my knowledge about "the hard truth" and "reality" of dying at any moment to spread to my closest friends and my family, and that has permanently changed how some of those people perceive me for the worse. I understand that this is not a rational way to approach life. But I still don't trust myself to drive, given how I better understand how I might act in stressful situations, and given that in many diverse aspects of life I'm not much better mentality-wise than "those idiots in cars." Yes, I can make the excuse that it's better for the environment. But in reality I understand that I can only choose this way of life because I'm lucky enough to not have to drive, and I also understand that it is a product of my weakness in accepting that millions of people are capable driving safely for decades and never dying anyways.
I feel like the images have only caused me to catastrophize everything I touch.
In my opinion, watching these kinds of videos can bring us closer to the truth. People should have the freedom to choose to see them. But they are absolutely not for everyone. I have seen things which have refused to exit my memory ever since, and the exhaustion of having to put so much energy and trust into therapists that ultimately never work out means that they will probably stay there for a long time. For too many of the images, I cannot understand what purpose they have served in my life except to solidify my already preexisting notions that I could die at any moment (in the sense of thinking I could die exactly 47 minutes from writing this comment), and that the world can be a cruel, horrific place. Watching such videos in itself doesn't change that. It does not make the terrible people less terrible. It will never change the fact that people will be mutilated and die in horrendous accidents because of personal or systematic incompetence. It will probably not cause enough wide-scale change to prevent the next authoritarian regime from brutalizing the citizens of another country. Maybe the footage will spur on a new generation of activists, but personally, I was already afraid of too many things for them to make a positive impact in my life.
Given that I understand the state of my mind, I should never have let my willingness to see "the unfiltered truth" get the better of me.
It’s not normal to witness or experience such events, especially when they are concentrated and amplified on a site like LiveLeaks. We simply haven’t evolved to predictably handle such an intense cross section through human suffering. Everyone will handle the emotions differently.
>the exhaustion of having to put so much energy and trust into therapists that ultimately never work out
Are you speaking hypothetically or have you attempted to talk about these feelings before with a mental health professional?
I absolutely could be doing this wrong, but every time it doesn't work out I tend to lose faith. I wanted therapy to work out for myself, and the people around me are still telling me that I should keep trying to get into therapy, as if it's the last and only option left for me to improve my life, as if there is no other practical way of treating my issues. Given that nobody around me has professional knowledge of the techniques, and that my friends and family are generally not going to want to listen to everything that's on my mind, I'm inclined to believe them. I probably just haven't found the right person for me yet.
About all the people close to me say is "finding a good therapist is hard" and leave it at that. They're not wrong, but I'm trying to figure out how to work around this problem, and it's frustrating. I'm currently on a wait-list for several, and I will only potentially be able to see them for the first time after several months at minimum, perhaps because the pandemic has caused an overwhelming demand for mental health services.
But like you say, COVID is also making the situation worse. For example, all psychotherapists affiliated with my PCP’s hospital are booked out 6+ months.
Therapy isn’t your only option, but it’s a great option if you find someone you enjoy working with. Like life changing great. You should also be upfront with them about what you’re looking for (sounds like you are). If they ignore you that’s a red flag. Your PCP might have a locator service as well, which can save you some hassle. If you know you want CBT, that should be a primary filter.
You can try to solve your issues on your own but it can take a lot more work. Eg you have to start by understanding what anxiety is, where it’s coming from (not the literal thoughts, but on a subconscious level), and work to confront your deeper underlying emotions. Meditation. Understanding yourself. Not impossible, but up hill, and not appropriate for all issues. You could be blind to a lot of issues that a third party can help you identify. Check out the book Self Analysis by Karen Horney (have not read, just seen as a recommendation).
While you continue your search, I can make a recommendation to you, it’s a YT channel: https://youtube.com˼/HealthyGamerGG
Ignore the “gamer” label. There’s a ton of good general advice on there. It’s an MD psychotherapist talking to primarily gamers and internet people about a wide selection of mental health topics. And then some more lecture style content. Ex search for anxiety. There’s a lot of advice on relieving symptoms, and understanding the mechanisms involved. He mixes standard western style approaches like psychotherapy with eastern style understanding of mind˻ody, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
And here’s a guide to therapy, I found it super helpful: https://youtu.be/YuLfFqPFrkc
Yes. Do notice I removed the "just" from the quote.
Look into treating yourself with mdma or psilocybin.
I’ve avoided all of the not safe for life type stuff since, but agree that these are important things to see. With all the wars since and the easy images found on western news at least I know what is happening outside of what they are willing to show.
I think it was during the gulf war in 1991, when I a TV news piece, shot by a war journalist. He was filming from inside a helicopter, and there was a US gunner using a fixed gun (50-cal?), gunning down enemy forces, shooting them in the back as they ran away.
I was horrified - this was not what I thought war was. My silly ideals of valour and honour, were not real.
As I grew older I saw and came to learn of yet more horrors - US and British bombs dropped on schools and residential blocks. Children blown to pieces. The US and UK selling arms to anyone with the money. And going back further, the indiscriminate use of cluster bombs during the Vietnam war.
One of the worst aspects, was how the military often seemed to try to bury their mistakes. When they didn't, all we got was platitudes until they did it again. Perhaps the worst of all, was seeing how everyone else seemed to maintain the "them and us" stance - we were the good guys, and all those brown people were the bad guys. Very few cared one iota if a bomb was dropped on a school in the Middle East or Pakistan. I was disgusted by the apathy around me.
And so, my dream became a nightmare, and I, thankfully, took a different path. I largely have journalism and truth seekers to thank for that.
I remember the precursor to Liveleak, Ogrish, which was much more graphic than whatever Liveleak became in Liveleak's last final years.
It was back in 2004 or so when I had to reconstruct a somewhat censored link on their forum, which took me an FTP server directory with videos, that I waited to download, which showed me Al Queda celebratory videos of killing US soldiers.
That was a first for me, Iɽ never seen footage of US not winning, let alone a side that considered it a good thing. Really just broadened my horizon.
Was uncomfortable at first because I felt there might have been a reason with personal legal liability that the footage wasn't available in other places, but much more curious.
Anyway, such footage is much easier to come across now, with beheadings and such just occurring. Any Facebook feed assumes you want to see an extrajudicial killing involving a US police officer.
But at the time I was amazed such content exists. Not appalled. I can't really relate to people that say they can't watch that kind of stuff and will just take someone's word for it. I get appalled by things out of someone's control, such as a gas leak blowing off the side of an apartment building. But there's never anything real I have any feelings from watching.
I can understand this idea. I tend to agree that confronting the harshness of reality (death, suffering) is an important act, particularly in your formative years, so that those confrontations don't paralyze you as an adult. Traditionally this is also done, differently, but getting your kid a pet and ceremoniously allowing them to process the grief of that pet's inevitable death (however it may come).
But. I don't know. Are any of us better people for watching a US soldier get executed on our computer screens when we were 14? Does that content, in fact, give people a sense of hopelessness and dread? When a confrontation with death or violence becomes a common (everyday?) occurrence, what does THAT do to the psyche of a child? Certainly if you watch enough, the hyperreality of exuberant violence serves to disassociate the viewer from conscious engagement and does become a morbid form of entertainment and I personally believe (despite the "free speech" angle) it is dangerous to condition your mind to be entertained by suffering.
Sites like Liveleaks are very hypocritical, they pretend to show videos for "freedom of speech" while instead their main purpose is simply to satisfy their viewers' voyeurism. Cheap thrills are the main reason for viewing this kind of material - and don't pretend to be someone better, you've looked up that kind of stuff yourself for precisely that reason just like I have. People who watch this material only want to satisfy their curiosity and get the thrills from it.
That's also why Truffault once said "There’s no such thing as an anti-war film." (There are exceptions, like "Taxi Driver", and perhaps also "Deer Hunter" and "Killing Fields", but these are rare.)
Such things indeed play a vitally important role.
I stand by what I said, people almost solely look up these videos to satisfy their personal morbidity and voyeurism. It's the same reason why there are always many bystanders around accidents who stare at the victims without doing anything.
On a side note, there is also a false dichotomy in your argument. I haven't said that the press should never show such pictures or videos, just pointed out that it generally violates ethical standards of the press and it has always been hotly debated when exceptions should be allowed. Sites like Liveleaks are nothing more than trash in comparison.
I think it did, it did massively. On other hand keeping people oblivious to dire facts "because people will be outraged" is how you get Belgiums happening. "This can't be happening here" people were saying, despite a very credible threat, news of which were deliberately silenced, and played down by Belgian government of the time for the same reason. And when they woke up to the sight of German tanks on the streets, it was too late to agitate anybody. Belgian mobilisation failed because no men went to barracks because of prior normalisation of the situation.
> Showing things like "Palestinian children blown to bits" will first and foremost escalate a conflict and instigate more violence.
It's often when you do escalate conflict, and bring it to its logical end, when people can't simply stand, and do nothing, you do get things done.
Ireland could've probably been English Gaza by now if Irish simply decided to lay down, endure repressions without inflicting pain upon British, and thus normalising the situation.
When you have to scream your lungs out, you need to scream your lungs out.
If you don't, this is how it gets to outrageous situations like women being raped in broad daylight without any men around doing anything about it, and to dead silence of passer-by's.
Before, I thought something like this can only be possible in societies of China, or Russia, but to my most visceral disgust, it does now happen in the West too.
You're completely deluded if you think opinion blogs and copy&paste news aggregation sites make you better informed. On the contrary, they are just a modern form of the "Chinese whispers" game.
There is no "consent of awareness of events" and frankly that would be a nightmarishally exploitable situation. It is a rationalization of being afraid of retaliation usually from being sued.
How on earth would Liveleaks be hypocritical for saying it is for free speech even if voyeurism is the main purpose? Upsetting as it may be to you it needs actual contradiction of itself to be hypocritical. Accusing it of being a cynical facade is the the closest casting in a bad light stance.
The whole fucking point of free speech is recognizing you don't get to decide how other people think! It can be both things at once.
Better person is a matter of interpretation and context - there is never a guarantee that ˺ny/ action will make somebody "better" to any framework much less the fuzziness of defining better.
Just like other media, Liveleaks could pretty much make you think anything they want you to think. The fact that they are more radical in their editorial decision (but they did not show everything either) does not mean that they influence people less. On the contrary, the more emotionally upsetting the content, the easier is to influence other people's thinking.
But I bet you're one of those guys who think everyone else is influenced except for you.
- The horror of the Mexican Drug War. The unbelievable violence and cruelty, which is almost the exclusive responsibility of the United States' catastrophic War on Drugs.
- Car accidents. I'm always much more alert, as a driver and as a pedestrian.
Actually, add fires into that list. Terrifying stuff.
I was in Brazil for a month, luckily before I watched a lot of those types of vids. Honestly it’s a dangerous place, right beneath the veneer. If you get off the path and into a hairy situation you might be done.
It also made me realised,how we, people in the Western world,are insulated from many horrors of this world both directly and indirectly by the lack of coverage on them.
That insulation you mention is heavily intentional. How many Americans would have continued to support the military actions in the Middle East if live videos of mangled bodies were being broadcast right into people's homes on a nightly basis? We in the West live in relative safety yet we refuse to recognize as a culture how much harm is done by our societies' actions to others' safety. We subconsciously know it's happening but we say "meh." It's the ultimate privilege -- yet we wonder why so many in the Middle East hate the west. "They just hate our freedoms!!" They hate that we reserve the right to a relatively safe life for ourselves.
Oh absolutely! Rockets vs stones was a simplified example and I do agree that the world is much more complex than that.
I'm in Europe,so some of the issues are slightly different than those on the other side of the pond but there's also plenty underneath the surface.
Just yesterday was reading how many thousands of people died because a few countries decided to switch off radios that were supposed to capture distress calls from the boats with refuges in the sea. That's the ultimate stick fingers in your ears and do la la la kind of thing. And the list goes on,while we can sit in our safe homes thinking it's all out there,too far from me to care too much.
Are we having problems finding horrible things to watch other than on Liveleak. because I sure am not.
I really don't think Liveleak is some paragon of "truth" or the content you describe.
How Early Computer Games Influenced Internet Culture
Virtual playspaces of the 1980s encouraged openness and creativity, which would later become foundational values of the web.
Sometimes it seems the Internet is, at its core, a tremendous nostalgia machine. You are, at any given moment, just a few clicks and keystrokes away from local television that aired 40 years ago, from discontinued toys, and from sounds you haven’t heard in forever (or at all).
It seems fitting, if not outright magical, for example, that the immersive virtual worlds of my youth—computer games like Lemonade Stand (1979), The Oregon Trail (1979), Choplifter (1982), Carmen Sandiego (1985), and Think Quick! (1987)—are all playable online.
Screenshot from an online emulator of 1985 edition of The Oregon Trail (Internet Archive)
Back when I was playing these games on my family’s Apple IIc, they were often side-eyed by a generation that had first encountered home computers as adults—and distrusted gaming as a waste of time. If anything destroys the practice of reading once and for all, The New York Times warned in 1994, it will be computer games.
Computer games did not destroy reading.
Instead, games had a profound effect on the popular perception of computers. The ginormous machines of the 1960s and 1970s were viewed as either complex and boring or, in science fiction, threatening. “I think the fact that computers were primarily used to play games really helped to get people to accept that computers were good and helpful devices instead of the negative portrayals of them in the ‘60s and ‘70s in movies,” said John Romero, the co-founder of id Software and the designer of several hugely popular games including Wolfenstein 3D (1992), Doom (1993), and Quake (1996).
Screenshot from Choplifter (Internet Archive)
Games also shaped people’s understanding of what computers are for—and what humankind’s relationship with such machines could be like. Computers were serious tools, yes, but they could enable exploration and experimentation, too. Computers weren’t just expensive calculators or advanced typewriters they were fun.
“I strongly believe that games have been largely underrated in the spread of what we might think of as our ‘orientation’ toward computing,” said Laine Nooney, a cultural historian of video games and computing. “In the span of less that 20 years, many Americans went from having never seen a computer to interacting with these machines in many facets of their daily lives. Gaming is the first form of computational technology most of us ever handled … Games taught us principles of interaction and screen responsiveness, about coordination between hand and eye, how to type, how to sit, how to look at a screen.”
Screenshot from an online emulator of the 1985 edition of Carmen Sandiego (Internet Archive)
Early games also served a crucial function in the shaping the broader culture of computing—including promoting central ideas about openness and sharing that would eventually become foundational values of the web. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, game makers—like anyone who found themselves tinkering with computers at the time—were inclined to share what they learned, and to build on one another’s designs. This dynamic was, Nooney says, an “outgrowth of the general need for a decently sized but geographically disparate group of microcomputer users to trade knowledge.”
The thriving culture of early computing magazines was a direct byproduct of this need—people helped debug each other’s code, swapped tips about hardware, and generally supported one another. “It wasn't uncommon for for someone who had written in with a question and included their address to receive a phone call from another computer user helping them with their question—since all another reader had to do was get the operator on the phone and request a lookup by name and town,” Nooney said.
Screenshot from an online emulator of Lemonade Stand. (Internet Archive)
“The Apple II is really a product of the hacker culture which originally came from universities—they were the only organizations able to afford mainframes and later minicomputers but still allow freedom to play and experiment,” said Bill Budge, the legendary game designer who created Raster Blaster (1981) and other early games. “Certainly, the Apple II exposed more people to computers than was possible at universities. When I started at Google, I was surprised by how many engineers had played my games as kids and been inspired to pursue tech at a very early age. So the Apple II was definitely an accelerator of hacker culture.”
That same culture, and the premium it placed on openness, would eventually carry over to the early web: a platform that anyone could build on, that no one person or company could own. That idea is at the heart of what proponents for net neutrality are trying to protect—that is, the belief that openness is a central value, perhaps even the foundational value, of what is arguably the most important technology of our time.
But there isn’t a straight line from early computing culture to early web culture—even though many of the same players were involved in early game development and early online communities. In fact, in the mid-1980s, at a time when many Americans were buying personal computers for the first time, the open culture that once permeated gaming (and computing in general) changed dramatically.
“Nintendo arrives on the scene just about the time the Macintosh does, and it has a similar effect on computing by advancing the idea that closed systems—designed systems that users don’t fool around with—are the way to go,” said Henry Lowood, a historian of technology at Stanford University Libraries.
It wasn’t just Nintendo or Apple. The open culture at Atari had already begun to shift, for instance, when it was acquired by Warner Communications in the late 1970s. At the time, Warren Robinett, who designed Adventure for Atari’s 2600—the first graphical video game of its kind—was told not to work on the game by supervisors who didn’t think the concept would be possible, given the memory constraints of computing systems of the era.
“I worked on it in secret,” Robinett told me. “I produced what you could call a feasibility demonstration, and I showed it to some of the other people at Atari. If [my boss] had been a more powerful person, he would have just crushed me. Adventure could have easily not happened if things had been slightly different.”
Adventure’s enormous impact on the future of gaming—and, arguably, on the broader visual aesthetic of that would come to dominate the web—is difficult to quantify. “I realize that to somebody who grew up after adventure games became commonplace, that it seems like Adventure was probably handed down from a mountain on a stone tablet, but it wasn’t,” Robinett said. “I was lucky that I was in the right place at the right time, and got to make one of those little innovations that had an impact and changed the way we do things.”
But technological progress has a way of seeming inevitable in retrospect. From the player’s perspective, the culture that defined the early web seemed similarly preordained—like a natural extension of the dynamics that shaped virtual spaces in offline gaming.
A screenshot from the “Castle Creator” mode of Think Quick! (Internet Archive)
I grew up playing Think Quick, for example, a game released in 1987 by The Learning Company, which Robinett co-founded after his time at Atari. The game involved exploring the rooms of a castle opening trap doors, finding secret objects, evading the dreaded slime worms, and eventually ousting a dragon. It also offered a mode called Castle Creator—think of it as a kind of predecessor for creative mode in Minecraft—that let players create their own levels. You could do everything from building the layout of the rooms to designing icons for hidden objects. Years later, when Romero created Doom, he took the idea of game modification a step further. Players could build their own levels, and in some cases entirely new games, using the game files that Doom made accessible to players.
“Just the way there had been this interesting coincidence with Apple and Nintendo [introducing] these closed systems in 1984, there was another interesting coincidence that happens about 10 years later, and that coincidence is the launch of Doom and the web,” Lowood, the Stanford historian, told me. “Because Doom, the way it was architected, could be modified—that has been looked at by people in the technology community as the beginning of open source. This sort of open culture reemerged. It’s a key thing—open versus closed, sharing versus design-curated—and these tensions are really important parts of the history of computing.”
The cultural standing of video games, meanwhile, has only grown in the mobile Internet age. Even during the economic recession, the video game sector in the United States grew 9.6 percent and added $6.2 billion to the economy—outpacing the entire national economy four times over, according to CNET.
“I don’t think its too much of an exaggeration to say games are everywhere,” Lowood said. “There are game-like systems built into a lot of parts of our lives. Games have to be seen not just as the specific play-experience, but also a part of the story of the impact of technology on our lives, a part of the story of different ways of learning, different ways of doing business. All of these changes that have occurred as a result of technology, games are a big part of those stories.”
'I was a victim of the WhatsApp hack'
He answered, but the line was silent and then it went dead. He tried calling back but nobody answered.
He didn't know it but his phone had been compromised.
As a Rwandan exile living in Leeds, Mr Rukundo was already privacy conscious. He searched for the number online and found the dialling code was from Sweden.
Strange, he thought. But he soon forgot about it.
Then the number called once more. Again nobody picked up.
There were also missed calls from other numbers he did not recognise and he began to get worried about his family's safety, so he bought a new phone.
Within a day, the unknown number called again.
"I tried to answer and they hung up before I heard any voice," Mr Rukundo told the BBC.
"Whenever I called back, no-one answered. I realised something was wrong when I started seeing files missing from the phone.
"I spoke to my colleagues at the Rwanda National Congress and they too had similar experiences. They were getting missed calls from the same numbers as me."
The Rwanda National Congress is a group that opposes the Rwandan regime.
It was not until May, when Mr Rukundo read reports that WhatsApp had been hacked, that he realised what had happened.
"I first read the story about the WhatsApp hack on the BBC and thought, 'Wow, this could explain what's happened to me,'" he said.
"I changed my phone and realised my mistake. They were following my number around and putting the spy software on each new device by calling the same number."
For months, Mr Rukundo was convinced that he and his colleagues were some of the estimated 1,400 people targeted by attackers exploiting the flaw in WhatsApp.
But it was only confirmed to him this week following a call from Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto.
For six months, the organisation has been working with Facebook to investigate the hack and find out who was affected.
Researchers there say: "As part of our investigation into the incident, Citizen Lab has identified over 100 cases of abusive targeting of human rights defenders and journalists in at least 20 countries across the globe."
Mr Rukundo's profile as an outspoken critic of the Rwandan regime is consistent with the sort of people who were targets for this spyware.
It was allegedly built and sold by the Israel-based NSO Group and sold to governments around the world.
Hackers used the software to spy on journalists, human rights activists, political dissidents and diplomats.
Mr Rukundo says he has not had any calls since the original hack, but the experience has made him and his family feel paranoid and scared.
"Honestly, even before they confirmed this, we were gutted and terrified. It looks like they only bugged my phone for around two weeks but they had access to everything," he told the BBC.
"Not only my activity during that time but my whole email history and all my contacts and connections. Everything is watched, the computers, our phones, nothing is safe. Even when we talk, they could be listening. I still don't feel safe."
Mr Rukundo fled Rwanda in 2005 when critics of the government were being arrested and jailed. He says he fought to have his wife released after she was kidnapped and detained for two months on a family visit in 2007.
Facebook, the owner of WhatsApp, is attempting to sue the NSO Group.
The NSO Group denies any wrongdoing.
In court documents, Facebook accuses the company of exploiting a then-unknown vulnerability in WhatsApp.
The app is used by approximately 1.5 billion people in 180 countries.
The service is popular for its end-to-end encryption, which means messages are scrambled as they travel across the internet, making them unreadable if intercepted.
The filing at the US District Court of Northern California describes how the spyware was allegedly installed.
The powerful software known as Pegasus is an NSO Group product that can remotely and covertly extract valuable intelligence from mobile devices, by sharing all phone activity including communications and location data with the attacker.
In previous spyware attacks, victims have been tricked into downloading the software by clicking on booby-trapped web links.
But with the WhatsApp hack, Facebook alleges that it was installed on victims' phones without them taking any action at all.
The company says that between January 2018 and May 2019, NSO Group created WhatsApp accounts using telephone numbers registered in different counties, including Cyprus, Israel, Brazil, Indonesia, Sweden and the Netherlands.
Then in April and May, the victims were attacked with a phone call over WhatsApp, it is claimed.
The filing says: "To avoid the technical restrictions built into WhatsApp Signaling Servers, defendants formatted call initiation messages containing malicious code to appear like a legitimate call and concealed the code within call settings.
"Disguising the malicious code as call settings enabled defendants to deliver it to the target device and made the malicious code appear as if it originated from WhatsApp Signaling Servers."
The victims would be completely unaware that they had been bugged. In some cases the only thing they noticed were mysterious missed calls in WhatsApp logs.
The document states that Facebook:
- believes the hack was an abuse of its computer network
- wants an injunction stopping the NSO Group having any access to its platforms.
- accepts that NSO Group was allegedly carrying out the hacks on behalf of its customers, but Facebook is going after the company as the architects who created the software
NSO Group has been accused of supplying the spyware that let the killers of journalist Jamal Khashoggi track him down.
NSO Group denies involvement in that incident and says it will fight these latest allegations.
"In the strongest possible terms, we dispute today's allegations and will vigorously fight them," the company said in a statement to the BBC.
"The sole purpose of NSO Group is to provide technology to licensed government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to help them fight terrorism and serious crime."