From The Hacker Crackdown
, by Bruce Sterling
See: The Hacker Crackdown: Preface to the electronic release
for copying info
In June 1989, Apple Computer, Inc., of Cupertino, California, had a problem. Someone had illicitly copied a small piece of Apple's proprietary software, software which controlled an internal chip driving the Macintosh screen display. This Color QuickDraw source code was a closely guarded piece of Apple's intellectual property. Only trusted Apple insiders were supposed to possess it.
But the "NuPrometheus League" wanted things otherwise. This person (or persons) made several illicit copies of this source code, perhaps as many as two dozen. He (or she, or they) then put those illicit floppy disks into envelopes and mailed them to people all over America: people in the computer industry who were associated with, but not directly employed by, Apple Computer.
The NuPrometheus caper was a complex, highly ideological, and very hacker-like crime. Prometheus, it will be recalled, stole the fire of the Gods and gave this potent gift to the general ranks of downtrodden mankind. A similar god-in-the-manger attitude was implied for the corporate elite of Apple Computer, while the "Nu" Prometheus had himself cast in the role of rebel demigod. The illicitly copied data was given away for free.
The new Prometheus, whoever he was, escaped the fate of the ancient Greek Prometheus, who was chained to a rock for centuries by the vengeful gods while an eagle tore and ate his liver. On the other hand, NuPrometheus chickened out somewhat by comparison with his role model. The small chunk of Color QuickDraw code he had filched and replicated was more or less useless to Apple's industrial rivals (or, in fact, to anyone else). Instead of giving fire to mankind, it was more as if NuPrometheus had photocopied the schematics for part of a Bic lighter. The act was not a genuine work of industrial espionage. It was best interpreted as a symbolic, deliberate slap in the face for the Apple corporate heirarchy.
Apple's internal struggles were well-known in the industry. Apple's founders, Jobs and Wozniak, had both taken their leave long since. Their raucous core of senior employees had been a barnstorming crew of 1960s Californians, many of them markedly less than happy with the new button-down multimillion dollar regime at Apple. Many of the programmers and developers who had invented the Macintosh model in the early 1980s had also taken their leave of the company. It was they, not the current masters of Apple's corporate fate, who had invented the stolen Color QuickDraw code. The NuPrometheus stunt was well-calculated to wound company morale.
Apple called the FBI. The Bureau takes an interest in high-profile intellectual-property theft cases, industrial espionage and theft of trade secrets. These were likely the right people to call, and rumor has it that the entities responsible were in fact discovered by the FBI, and then quietly squelched by Apple management. NuPrometheus was never publicly charged with a crime, or prosecuted, or jailed. But there were no further illicit releases of Macintosh internal software. Eventually the painful issue of NuPrometheus was allowed to fade.
In the meantime, however, a large number of puzzled bystanders found themselves entertaining surprise guests from the FBI.
One of these people was John Perry Barlow. Barlow is a most unusual man, difficult to describe in conventional terms. He is perhaps best known as a songwriter for the Grateful Dead, for he composed lyrics for "Hell in a Bucket," "Picasso Moon," "Mexicali Blues," "I Need a Miracle," and many more; he has been writing for the band since 1970.
Before we tackle the vexing question as to why a rock lyricist should be interviewed by the FBI in a computer-crime case, it might be well to say a word or two about the Grateful Dead. The Grateful Dead are perhaps the most successful and long-lasting of the numerous cultural emanations from the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, in the glory days of Movement politics and lysergic transcendance. The Grateful Dead are a nexus, a veritable whirlwind, of applique decals, psychedelic vans, tie-dyed T-shirts, earth-color denim, frenzied dancing and open and unashamed drug use. The symbols, and the realities, of Californian freak power surround the Grateful Dead like knotted macrame.
The Grateful Dead and their thousands of Deadhead devotees are radical Bohemians. This much is widely understood. Exactly what this implies in the 1990s is rather more problematic.
The Grateful Dead are among the world's most popular and wealthy entertainers: number 20, according to *Forbes* magazine, right between M.C. Hammer and Sean Connery. In 1990, this jeans-clad group of purported raffish outcasts earned seventeen million dollars. They have been earning sums much along this line for quite some time now.
And while the Dead are not investment bankers or three-piece-suit tax specialists -- they are, in point of fact, hippie musicians -- this money has not been squandered in senseless Bohemian excess. The Dead have been quietly active for many years, funding various worthy activities in their extensive and widespread cultural community.
The Grateful Dead are not conventional players in the American power establishment. They nevertheless are something of a force to be reckoned with. They have a lot of money and a lot of friends in many places, both likely and unlikely.
The Dead may be known for back-to-the-earth environmentalist rhetoric, but this hardly makes them anti-technological Luddites. On the contrary, like most rock musicians, the Grateful Dead have spent their entire adult lives in the company of complex electronic equipment. They have funds to burn on any sophisticated tool and toy that might happen to catch their fancy. And their fancy is quite extensive.
The Deadhead community boasts any number of recording engineers, lighting experts, rock video mavens, electronic technicians of all descriptions. And the drift goes both ways. Steve Wozniak, Apple's co-founder, used to throw rock festivals. Silicon Valley rocks out.
These are the 1990s, not the 1960s. Today, for a surprising number of people all over America, the supposed dividing line between Bohemian and technician simply no longer exists. People of this sort may have a set of windchimes and a dog with a knotted kerchief 'round its neck, but they're also quite likely to own a multimegabyte Macintosh running MIDI synthesizer software and trippy fractal simulations. These days, even Timothy Leary himself, prophet of LSD, does virtual-reality computer-graphics demos in his lecture tours.
John Perry Barlow is not a member of the Grateful Dead. He is, however, a ranking Deadhead.
Barlow describes himself as a "techno-crank." A vague term like "social activist" might not be far from the mark, either. But Barlow might be better described as a "poet" -- if one keeps in mind Percy Shelley's archaic definition of poets as "unacknowledged legislators of the world."
Barlow once made a stab at acknowledged legislator status. In 1987, he narrowly missed the Republican nomination for a seat in the Wyoming State Senate. Barlow is a Wyoming native, the third-generation scion of a well-to-do cattle-ranching family. He is in his early forties, married and the father of three daughters.
Barlow is not much troubled by other people's narrow notions of consistency. In the late 1980s, this Republican rock lyricist cattle rancher sold his ranch and became a computer telecommunications devotee.
The free-spirited Barlow made this transition with ease. He genuinely enjoyed computers. With a beep of his modem, he leapt from small-town Pinedale, Wyoming, into electronic contact with a large and lively crowd of bright, inventive, technological sophisticates from all over the world. Barlow found the social milieu of computing attractive: its fast-lane pace, its blue-sky rhetoric, its open-endedness. Barlow began dabbling in computer journalism, with marked success, as he was a quick study, and both shrewd and eloquent. He frequently travelled to San Francisco to network with Deadhead friends. There Barlow made extensive contacts throughout the Californian computer community, including friendships among the wilder spirits at Apple.
In May 1990, Barlow received a visit from a local Wyoming agent of the FBI. The NuPrometheus case had reached Wyoming.
Barlow was troubled to find himself under investigation in an area of his interests once quite free of federal attention. He had to struggle to explain the very nature of computer-crime to a headscratching local FBI man who specialized in cattle-rustling. Barlow, chatting helpfully and demonstrating the wonders of his modem to the puzzled fed, was alarmed to find all "hackers" generally under FBI suspicion as an evil influence in the electronic community. The FBI, in pursuit of a hacker called "NuPrometheus," were tracing attendees of a suspect group called the Hackers Conference.
The Hackers Conference, which had been started in 1984, was a yearly Californian meeting of digital pioneers and enthusiasts. The hackers of the Hackers Conference had little if anything to do with the hackers of the digital underground. On the contrary, the hackers of this conference were mostly well-to-do Californian high-tech CEOs, consultants, journalists and entrepreneurs. (This group of hackers were the exact sort of "hackers" most likely to react with militant fury at any criminal degradation of the term "hacker.")
Barlow, though he was not arrested or accused of a crime, and though his computer had certainly not gone out the door, was very troubled by this anomaly. He carried the word to the Well.
Like the Hackers Conference, "the Well" was an emanation of the Point Foundation. Point Foundation, the inspiration of a wealthy Californian 60s radical named Stewart Brand, was to be a major launch-pad of the civil libertarian effort.
Point Foundation's cultural efforts, like those of their fellow Bay Area Californians the Grateful Dead, were multifaceted and multitudinous. Rigid ideological consistency had never been a strong suit of the *Whole Earth Catalog.* This Point publication had enjoyed a strong vogue during the late 60s and early 70s, when it offered hundreds of practical (and not so practical) tips on communitarian living, environmentalism, and getting back-to-the-land. The *Whole Earth Catalog,* and its sequels, sold two and half million copies and won a National Book Award.
With the slow collapse of American radical dissent, the *Whole Earth Catalog* had slipped to a more modest corner of the cultural radar; but in its magazine incarnation, *CoEvolution Quarterly,* the Point Foundation continued to offer a magpie potpourri of "access to tools and ideas."
*CoEvolution Quarterly,* which started in 1974, was never a widely popular magazine. Despite periodic outbreaks of millenarian fervor, *CoEvolution Quarterly* failed to revolutionize Western civilization and replace leaden centuries of history with bright new Californian paradigms. Instead, this propaganda arm of Point Foundation cakewalked a fine line between impressive brilliance and New Age flakiness. *CoEvolution Quarterly* carried no advertising, cost a lot, and came out on cheap newsprint with modest black-and-white graphics. It was poorly distributed, and spread mostly by subscription and word of mouth.
It could not seem to grow beyond 30,000 subscribers. And yet -- it never seemed to shrink much, either. Year in, year out, decade in, decade out, some strange demographic minority accreted to support the magazine. The enthusiastic readership did not seem to have much in the way of coherent politics or ideals. It was sometimes hard to understand what held them together (if the often bitter debate in the letter-columns could be described as "togetherness").
But if the magazine did not flourish, it was resilient; it got by. Then, in 1984, the birth-year of the Macintosh computer, *CoEvolution Quarterly* suddenly hit the rapids. Point Foundation had discovered the computer revolution. Out came the *Whole Earth Software Catalog* of 1984, arousing headscratching doubts among the tie-dyed faithful, and rabid enthusiasm among the nascent "cyberpunk" milieu, present company included. Point Foundation started its yearly Hackers Conference, and began to take an extensive interest in the strange new possibilities of digital counterculture. *CoEvolution Quarterly* folded its teepee, replaced by *Whole Earth Software Review* and eventually by *Whole Earth Review* (the magazine's present incarnation, currently under the editorship of virtual-reality maven Howard Rheingold).
1985 saw the birth of the "WELL" -- the "Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link." The Well was Point Foundation's bulletin board system.
As boards went, the Well was an anomaly from the beginning, and remained one. It was local to San Francisco. It was huge, with multiple phonelines and enormous files of commentary. Its complex UNIX-based software might be most charitably described as "user-opaque." It was run on a mainframe out of the rambling offices of a non-profit cultural foundation in Sausalito. And it was crammed with fans of the Grateful Dead.
Though the Well was peopled by chattering hipsters of the Bay Area counterculture, it was by no means a "digital underground" board. Teenagers were fairly scarce; most Well users (known as "Wellbeings") were thirty- and forty-something Baby Boomers. They tended to work in the information industry: hardware, software, telecommunications, media, entertainment. Librarians, academics, and journalists were especially common on the Well, attracted by Point Foundation's open-handed distribution of "tools and ideas."
There were no anarchy files on the Well, scarcely a dropped hint about access codes or credit-card theft. No one used handles. Vicious "flame-wars" were held to a comparatively civilized rumble. Debates were sometimes sharp, but no Wellbeing ever claimed that a rival had disconnected his phone, trashed his house, or posted his credit card numbers.
The Well grew slowly as the 1980s advanced. It charged a modest sum for access and storage, and lost money for years -- but not enough to hamper the Point Foundation, which was nonprofit anyway. By 1990, the Well had about five thousand users. These users wandered about a gigantic cyberspace smorgasbord of "Conferences", each conference itself consisting of a welter of "topics," each topic containing dozens, sometimes hundreds of comments, in a tumbling, multiperson debate that could last for months or years on end.
In 1991, the Well's list of conferences looked like this:
CONFERENCES ON THE WELL
WELL "Screenzine" Digest (g zine)
Best of the WELL - vintage material - (g best)
Index listing of new topics in all conferences - (g newtops)
Business - Education
Apple Library Users Group(g alug) Agriculture (g agri)
Brainstorming (g brain) Classifieds (g cla)
Computer Journalism (g cj) Consultants (g consult)
Consumers (g cons) Design (g design)
Desktop Publishing (g desk) Disability (g disability)
Education (g ed) Energy (g energy91)
Entrepreneurs (g entre) Homeowners (g home)
Indexing (g indexing) Investments (g invest)
Kids91 (g kids) Legal (g legal)
One Person Business (g one)
Telecomm Law (g tcl) The Future (g fut)
Translators (g trans) Travel (g tra)
Work (g work)
Electronic Frontier Foundation (g eff)
Computers, Freedom & Privacy (g cfp)
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (g cpsr)
Social - Political - Humanities
Aging (g gray) AIDS (g aids)
Amnesty International (g amnesty) Archives (g arc)
Berkeley (g berk) Buddhist (g wonderland)
Christian (g cross) Couples (g couples)
Current Events (g curr) Dreams (g dream)
Drugs (g dru) East Coast (g east)
Emotional Health**** (g private) Erotica (g eros)
Environment (g env) Firearms (g firearms)
First Amendment (g first) Fringes of Reason (g fringes)
Gay (g gay) Gay (Private) (g gaypriv)
Geography (g geo) German (g german)
Gulf War (g gulf) Hawaii (g aloha)
Health (g heal) History (g hist)
Holistic (g holi) Interview (g inter)
Italian (g ital) Jewish (g jew)
Liberty (g liberty) Mind (g mind)
Miscellaneous (g misc) Men on the WELL** (g mow)
Network Integration (g origin) Nonprofits (g non)
North Bay (g north) Northwest (g nw)
Pacific Rim (g pacrim) Parenting (g par)
Peace (g pea) Peninsula (g pen)
Poetry (g poetry) Philosophy (g phi)
Politics (g pol) Psychology (g psy)
Psychotherapy (g therapy) Recovery## (g recovery)
San Francisco (g sanfran) Scams (g scam)
Sexuality (g sex) Singles (g singles)
Southern (g south) Spanish (g spanish)
Spirituality (g spirit) Tibet (g tibet)
Transportation (g transport) True Confessions (g tru)
Unclear (g unclear) WELL Writer's Workshop***(g www)
Whole Earth (g we) Women on the WELL*(g wow)
Words (g words) Writers (g wri)
**** Private Conference - mail wooly for entry
***Private conference - mail sonia for entry
** Private conference - mail flash for entry
* Private conference - mail reva for entry
# Private Conference - mail hudu for entry
## Private Conference - mail dhawk for entry
Arts - Recreation - Entertainment
ArtCom Electronic Net (g acen)
Audio-Videophilia (g aud)
Bicycles (g bike) Bay Area Tonight**(g bat)
Boating (g wet) Books (g books)
CD's (g cd) Comics (g comics)
Cooking (g cook) Flying (g flying)
Fun (g fun) Games (g games)
Gardening (g gard) Kids (g kids)
Nightowls* (g owl) Jokes (g jokes)
MIDI (g midi) Movies (g movies)
Motorcycling (g ride) Motoring (g car)
Music (g mus) On Stage (g onstage)
Pets (g pets) Radio (g rad)
Restaurant (g rest) Science Fiction (g sf)
Sports (g spo) Star Trek (g trek)
Television (g tv) Theater (g theater)
Weird (g weird) Zines/Factsheet Five(g f5)
* Open from midnight to 6am
** Updated daily
Grateful Dead (g gd) Deadplan* (g dp)
Deadlit (g deadlit) Feedback (g feedback)
GD Hour (g gdh) Tapes (g tapes)
Tickets (g tix) Tours (g tours)
* Private conference - mail tnf for entry
AI/Forth/Realtime (g realtime) Amiga (g amiga)
Apple (g app) Computer Books (g cbook)
Art & Graphics (g gra) Hacking (g hack)
HyperCard (g hype) IBM PC (g ibm)
LANs (g lan) Laptop (g lap)
Macintosh (g mac) Mactech (g mactech)
Microtimes (g microx) Muchomedia (g mucho)
NeXt (g next) OS/2 (g os2)
Printers (g print) Programmer's Net (g net)
Siggraph (g siggraph) Software Design (g sdc)
Software Support (g ssc)
Unix (g unix) Windows (g windows)
Word Processing (g word)
Technical - Communications
Bioinfo (g bioinfo) Info (g boing)
Media (g media) NAPLPS (g naplps)
Netweaver (g netweaver) Networld (g networld)
Packet Radio (g packet) Photography (g pho)
Radio (g rad) Science (g science)
Technical Writers (g tec) Telecommunications(g tele)
Usenet (g usenet) Video (g vid)
Virtual Reality (g vr)
The WELL Itself
Deeper (g deeper) Entry (g ent)
General (g gentech) Help (g help)
Hosts (g hosts) Policy (g policy)
System News (g news) Test (g test)
The list itself is dazzling, bringing to the untutored eye a dizzying impression of a bizarre milieu of mountain-climbing Hawaiian holistic photographers trading true-life confessions with bisexual word-processing Tibetans.
But this confusion is more apparent than real. Each of these conferences was a little cyberspace world in itself, comprising dozens and perhaps hundreds of sub-topics. Each conference was commonly frequented by a fairly small, fairly like-minded community of perhaps a few dozen people. It was humanly impossible to encompass the entire Well (especially since access to the Well's mainframe computer was billed by the hour). Most long-time users contented themselves with a few favorite topical neighborhoods, with the occasional foray elsewhere for a taste of exotica. But especially important news items, and hot topical debates, could catch the attention of the entire Well community.
Like any community, the Well had its celebrities, and John Perry Barlow, the silver-tongued and silver-modemed lyricist of the Grateful Dead, ranked prominently among them. It was here on the Well that Barlow posted his true-life tale of computer-crime encounter with the FBI.
The story, as might be expected, created a great stir. The Well was already primed for hacker controversy. In December 1989, *Harper's* magazine had hosted a debate on the Well about the ethics of illicit computer intrusion. While over forty various computer-mavens took part, Barlow proved a star in the debate. So did "Acid Phreak" and "Phiber Optik," a pair of young New York hacker-phreaks whose skills at telco switching-station intrusion were matched only by their apparently limitless hunger for fame. The advent of these two boldly swaggering outlaws in the precincts of the Well created a sensation akin to that of Black Panthers at a cocktail party for the radically chic.
Phiber Optik in particular was to seize the day in 1990. A devotee of the *2600* circle and stalwart of the New York hackers' group "Masters of Deception," Phiber Optik was a splendid exemplar of the computer intruder as committed dissident. The eighteen-year-old Optik, a high-school dropout and part-time computer repairman, was young, smart, and ruthlessly obsessive, a sharp-dressing, sharp-talking digital dude who was utterly and airily contemptuous of anyone's rules but his own. By late 1991, Phiber Optik had appeared in *Harper's,* *Esquire,* *The New York Times,* in countless public debates and conventions, even on a television show hosted by Geraldo Rivera.
Treated with gingerly respect by Barlow and other Well mavens, Phiber Optik swiftly became a Well celebrity. Strangely, despite his thorny attitude and utter single-mindedness, Phiber Optik seemed to arouse strong protective instincts in most of the people who met him. He was great copy for journalists, always fearlessly ready to swagger, and, better yet, to actually *demonstrate* some off-the-wall digital stunt. He was a born media darling.
Even cops seemed to recognize that there was something peculiarly unworldly and uncriminal about this particular troublemaker. He was so bold, so flagrant, so young, and so obviously doomed, that even those who strongly disapproved of his actions grew anxious for his welfare, and began to flutter about him as if he were an endangered seal pup.
In January 24, 1990 (nine days after the Martin Luther King Day Crash), Phiber Optik, Acid Phreak, and a third NYC scofflaw named Scorpion were raided by the Secret Service. Their computers went out the door, along with the usual blizzard of papers, notebooks, compact disks, answering machines, Sony Walkmans, etc. Both Acid Phreak and Phiber Optik were accused of having caused the Crash.
The mills of justice ground slowly. The case eventually fell into the hands of the New York State Police. Phiber had lost his machinery in the raid, but there were no charges filed against him for over a year. His predicament was extensively publicized on the Well, where it caused much resentment for police tactics. It's one thing to merely hear about a hacker raided or busted; it's another to see the police attacking someone you've come to know personally, and who has explained his motives at length. Through the *Harper's* debate on the Well, it had become clear to the Wellbeings that Phiber Optik was not in fact going to "hurt anything." In their own salad days, many Wellbeings had tasted tear-gas in pitched street-battles with police. They were inclined to indulgence for acts of civil disobedience.
Wellbeings were also startled to learn of the draconian thoroughness of a typical hacker search-and-seizure. It took no great stretch of imagination for them to envision themselves suffering much the same treatment.
As early as January 1990, sentiment on the Well had already begun to sour, and people had begun to grumble that "hackers" were getting a raw deal from the ham-handed powers-that-be. The resultant issue of *Harper's* magazine posed the question as to whether computer-intrusion was a "crime" at all. As Barlow put it later: "I've begun to wonder if we wouldn't also regard spelunkers as desperate criminals if AT&T owned all the caves."
In February 1991, more than a year after the raid on his home, Phiber Optik was finally arrested, and was charged with first-degree Computer Tampering and Computer Trespass, New York state offenses. He was also charged with a theft-of-service misdemeanor, involving a complex free-call scam to a 900 number. Phiber Optik pled guilty to the misdemeanor charge, and was sentenced to 35 hours of community service.
This passing harassment from the unfathomable world of straight people seemed to bother Optik himself little if at all. Deprived of his computer by the January search-and-seizure, he simply bought himself a portable computer so the cops could no longer monitor the phone where he lived with his Mom, and he went right on with his depredations, sometimes on live radio or in front of television cameras.
The crackdown raid may have done little to dissuade Phiber Optik, but its galling affect on the Wellbeings was profound. As 1990 rolled on, the slings and arrows mounted: the Knight Lightning raid, the Steve Jackson raid, the nation-spanning Operation Sundevil. The rhetoric of law enforcement made it clear that there was, in fact, a concerted crackdown on hackers in progress.
The hackers of the Hackers Conference, the Wellbeings, and their ilk, did not really mind the occasional public misapprehension of "hacking"; if anything, this membrane of differentiation from straight society made the "computer community" feel different, smarter, better. They had never before been confronted, however, by a concerted vilification campaign.
Barlow's central role in the counter-struggle was one of the major anomalies of 1990. Journalists investigating the controversy often stumbled over the truth about Barlow, but they commonly dusted themselves off and hurried on as if nothing had happened. It was as if it were *too much to believe* that a 1960s freak from the Grateful Dead had taken on a federal law enforcement operation head-to-head and *actually seemed to be winning!*
Barlow had no easily detectable power-base for a political struggle of this kind. He had no formal legal or technical credentials. Barlow was, however, a computer networker of truly stellar brilliance. He had a poet's gift of concise, colorful phrasing. He also had a journalist's shrewdness, an off-the-wall, self-deprecating wit, and a phenomenal wealth of simple personal charm.
The kind of influence Barlow possessed is fairly common currency in literary, artistic, or musical circles. A gifted critic can wield great artistic influence simply through defining the temper of the times, by coining the catch-phrases and the terms of debate that become the common currency of the period. (And as it happened, Barlow *was* a part-time art critic, with a special fondness for the Western art of Frederic Remington.)
Barlow was the first commentator to adopt William Gibson's striking science-fictional term "cyberspace" as a synonym for the present-day nexus of computer and telecommunications networks. Barlow was insistent that cyberspace should be regarded as a qualitatively new world, a "frontier." According to Barlow, the world of electronic communications, now made visible through the computer screen, could no longer be usefully regarded as just a tangle of high-tech wiring. Instead, it had become a *place,* cyberspace, which demanded a new set of metaphors, a new set of rules and behaviors. The term, as Barlow employed it, struck a useful chord, and this concept of cyberspace was picked up by *Time,* *Scientific American,* computer police, hackers, and even Constitutional scholars. "Cyberspace" now seems likely to become a permanent fixture of the language.
Barlow was very striking in person: a tall, craggy-faced, bearded, deep-voiced Wyomingan in a dashing Western ensemble of jeans, jacket, cowboy boots, a knotted throat-kerchief and an ever-present Grateful Dead cloisonne lapel pin.
Armed with a modem, however, Barlow was truly in his element. Formal hierarchies were not Barlow's strong suit; he rarely missed a chance to belittle the "large organizations and their drones," with their uptight, institutional mindset. Barlow was very much of the free-spirit persuasion, deeply unimpressed by brass-hats and jacks-in-office. But when it came to the digital grapevine, Barlow was a cyberspace ad-hocrat par excellence.
There was not a mighty army of Barlows. There was only one Barlow, and he was a fairly anomolous individual. However, the situation only seemed to *require* a single Barlow. In fact, after 1990, many people must have concluded that a single Barlow was far more than they'd ever bargained for.
Barlow's querulous mini-essay about his encounter with the FBI struck a strong chord on the Well. A number of other free spirits on the fringes of Apple Computing had come under suspicion, and they liked it not one whit better than he did.
One of these was Mitchell Kapor, the co-inventor of the spreadsheet program "Lotus 1-2-3" and the founder of Lotus Development Corporation. Kapor had written-off the passing indignity of being fingerprinted down at his own local Boston FBI headquarters, but Barlow's post made the full national scope of the FBI's dragnet clear to Kapor. The issue now had Kapor's full attention. As the Secret Service swung into anti-hacker operation nationwide in 1990, Kapor watched every move with deep skepticism and growing alarm.
As it happened, Kapor had already met Barlow, who had interviewed Kapor for a California computer journal. Like most people who met Barlow, Kapor had been very taken with him. Now Kapor took it upon himself to drop in on Barlow for a heart-to-heart talk about the situation.
Kapor was a regular on the Well. Kapor had been a devotee of the *Whole Earth Catalog* since the beginning, and treasured a complete run of the magazine. And Kapor not only had a modem, but a private jet. In pursuit of the scattered high-tech investments of Kapor Enterprises Inc., his personal, multi-million dollar holding company, Kapor commonly crossed state lines with about as much thought as one might give to faxing a letter.
The Kapor-Barlow council of June 1990, in Pinedale, Wyoming, was the start of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Barlow swiftly wrote a manifesto, "Crime and Puzzlement," which announced his, and Kapor's, intention to form a political organization to "raise and disburse funds for education, lobbying, and litigation in the areas relating to digital speech and the extension of the Constitution into Cyberspace."
Furthermore, proclaimed the manifesto, the foundation would "fund, conduct, and support legal efforts to demonstrate that the Secret Service has exercised prior restraint on publications, limited free speech, conducted improper seizure of equipment and data, used undue force, and generally conducted itself in a fashion which is arbitrary, oppressive, and unconstitutional."
"Crime and Puzzlement" was distributed far and wide through computer networking channels, and also printed in the *Whole Earth Review.* The sudden declaration of a coherent, politicized counter-strike from the ranks of hackerdom electrified the community. Steve Wozniak (perhaps a bit stung by the NuPrometheus scandal) swiftly offered to match any funds Kapor offered the Foundation.
John Gilmore, one of the pioneers of Sun Microsystems, immediately offered his own extensive financial and personal support. Gilmore, an ardent libertarian, was to prove an eloquent advocate of electronic privacy issues, especially freedom from governmental and corporate computer-assisted surveillance of private citizens.
A second meeting in San Francisco rounded up further allies: Stewart Brand of the Point Foundation, virtual-reality pioneers Jaron Lanier and Chuck Blanchard, network entrepreneur and venture capitalist Nat Goldhaber. At this dinner meeting, the activists settled on a formal title: the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Incorporated. Kapor became its president. A new EFF Conference was opened on the Point Foundation's Well, and the Well was declared "the home of the Electronic Frontier Foundation."
Press coverage was immediate and intense. Like their nineteenth-century spiritual ancestors, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson, the high-tech computer entrepreneurs of the 1970s and 1980s -- people such as Wozniak, Jobs, Kapor, Gates, and H. Ross Perot, who had raised themselves by their bootstraps to dominate a glittering new industry -- had always made very good copy.
But while the Wellbeings rejoiced, the press in general seemed nonplussed by the self-declared "civilizers of cyberspace." EFF's insistence that the war against "hackers" involved grave Constitutional civil liberties issues seemed somewhat farfetched, especially since none of EFF's organizers were lawyers or established politicians. The business press in particular found it easier to seize on the apparent core of the story -- that high-tech entrepreneur Mitchell Kapor had established a "defense fund for hackers." Was EFF a genuinely important political development -- or merely a clique of wealthy eccentrics, dabbling in matters better left to the proper authorities? The jury was still out.
But the stage was now set for open confrontation. And the first and the most critical battle was the hacker show-trial of "Knight Lightning."