hacker humor = H = hacking run

Hackers (the movie) n.

A notable bomb from 1995. Should have been titled "Crackers", because cracking is what the movie was about. It's understandable that they didn't however; titles redolent of snack food are probably a tough sell in Hollywood.

--Jargon File, autonoded by rescdsk.

Hackers is actually one of my favorite movies. Ever since the first time I saw it, I have viewed the entire thing as a parody and a body slam to the government. (If you haven't seen this movie, stop now. The rest of this is spoilers.)

The first scene in the movie shows us the U.S. Secret Service using a gross excess of force to raid the home of an eleven year old. The virus which the lead character (Zero Cool) unleashed to crash 1507 systems in one day sounds suspiciously like a reference to the Great Worm of 1988 written by Robert Morris Jr..

One of the next scenes goes something like this:

Mother: "Dade? What are you doing?"

Dade: "I'm...uh...taking over a TV network."

Mother: "Well finish up honey and go to bed. Oh, and happy birthday."

In that same scene is a bunch of incoherent drivel written in gratuitously and purposefully bad English grammar, which reminded me of almost every lamer and script kiddie I've run into. (e.g. "u have tread on my domain and must now suffer who are u?" and "leave B 4 U R expunged") I don't know whether to find that insulting, stupid, or funny.

Then he hacks the sprinkler system in the school and sets it to test during morning classes to get back at the people who embarassed him the day before. This is obviously intended as a relation to the fiasco regarding the grading system in the New York Public School System in the late 1980s.

Meanwhile, the head Secret Service guy, Richard Gill (he's a dick, get it?), is busy trying to get every bit of media attention he can. He doesn't know anything about computers, but tries to act like he's very clueful when confronted by a reporter. He rattles off the same speech again and again, every time the media interviews him. The media, of course, swallows it up without question. Sounds like the real U.S. Government and media.

The writer also made it a point to note that when the U.S. Government suspects someone, even if they don't charge them, they take their equipment and basically destroy it. You may or may not get it back later, but when you do, it's been gutted, wrecked, and probably has D.A.R.E. stickers all over it.

Of course, the movie was undoubtably cheezy. I'd like to see a movie which slams the government, slams the average clueless idiot, and so on. Unfortunately, that wouldn't sell, so it will never be done.

Nevertheless, Hackers is a blatently hilarious movie that I highly recommend for those of us who have a clue. The clueless might watch it and be entertained, but the majority of the jokes and metaphors require a clue to recognize. That assumes that I'm not watching some blatently horrible film where the writer just happened to get lucky. I think it's more likely that either the writer was trying to make a point, or they had a technical consultant who took them for a ride.

The music isn't that bad either. I just wish I could find the song they were using in the movie trailers/promotions. I can think of a few fun things to do with it, a few other parts, and a video editor. And the soundtrack unfortunately didn't include all the songs in the movie, such as Grand Central Station which is the theme during the last part of the credits and during the hack of the Gibson.

When Hackers came out, MGM had a site up promoting the movie on their website. Some disgruntled hackers decided to gain access to the machine and add their own opinions to the website, along with some graffiti on their images. MGM used this as an advertising ploy. The people who did this were never apprehended. Some think the hack might have been a hoax. Theey theorize that MGM defaced their own site for a publicity stunt.

I believe that Hackers was a term used to describe a group of high profile pranksters from M.I.T. They have been performing their pranks and calling themselves hackers for a very long time, certainly longer than teenagers have been able to gain access to computers.

Hackers the movie will always have some measure of infamy to it with the computing/hacking community, because to them it looks fairly silly and unreal. From using Mac computers, to using graphic art in the place of code and file structures, this movie is almost guaranteed to offend the sensibilities of much of the computing community which takes itself far too seriously.

Much of this film is actually pure genius in terms of how it was presented to the non-hacking community, which somehow never comes up in discussions of its merits.

In a day when the majority of non-computer aware individuals think of hackers (or crackers) as evil script kiddies bent on ruining their lives for pure fun), this movie takes that sort of person and makes them a hero, for once, as well as doing so in a way that actually lends some measure of understanding to the uneducated viewer.

You could, of course, use a cream colored box with enormous amounts of lines of code and MS-DOS file structures to do all of your hacking with, but you'd bore the viewer to hell and gone, for the most part. Nobody but the coder wants to watch that. However, sharp looking computers and great graphics...yeah, we can do that.

Getting deeper into this idea... in the portion of the film in which they're trying to crack the worm/virus element, the virus is represented on-screen by a double helix spiral element with a lot of floating debris, which eventually all comes together when the virus is solved. This may look incredibly silly to your average programmer, but to the uninitiated, this is a great graphical representation that they can easily connect to in their minds to tell them what is going on.

As for the cookie monster, the rabbits, etc., at the end, it's still yet more graphical representation of what the viruses are doing... filling up space in an attempt to lock up the mainframe. If you're complaining about how unrealistic these images are, this effort was not aimed at you.

The film also offers up Joey, the youngest member of the group, as an obvious script kiddie... Somebody whose only point is to show off and try to belong, or try to mess things up. The others are much more together, and have definite points and logic to what they do. Joey is shown as being quite the loser, which most of your audience is going to see, and acknowledge. It's not a fair way of doing it, but it works.

While it's likely that this film is an offense to defenders of Geek Pride everywhere, it definitely clues the rest of the world into, perhaps, what could be really going on, and how there is, in fact, a difference between hackers and crackers.

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