Bruce Sterling
bruces@well.sf.ca.us

Literary Freeware:  Not for Commercial Use

                    THE HACKER CRACKDOWN

                Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier

                    by Bruce Sterling

CONTENTS

Preface to the Electronic Release of *The Hacker Crackdown*

Chronology of the Hacker Crackdown

Introduction

Part 1:  CRASHING THE SYSTEM A Brief History of Telephony / Bell's Golden
Vaporware / Universal Service / Wild Boys and Wire Women / The Electronic
Communities / The Ungentle Giant / The Breakup / In Defense of the System /
The Crash Post- Mortem / Landslides in Cyberspace

Part 2:  THE DIGITAL UNDERGROUND Steal This Phone / Phreaking and Hacking /
The View From Under the Floorboards / Boards: Core of the Underground / Phile
Phun / The Rake's Progress / Strongholds of the Elite / Sting Boards / Hot
Potatoes / War on the Legion / Terminus / Phile 9-1-1 / War Games / Real
Cyberpunk

Part 3:  LAW AND ORDER Crooked Boards / The World's Biggest Hacker Bust /
Teach Them a Lesson / The U.S. Secret Service / The Secret Service Battles
the Boodlers / A Walk Downtown / FCIC: The Cutting-Edge Mess / Cyberspace
Rangers / FLETC:  Training the Hacker-Trackers

Part 4:  THE CIVIL LIBERTARIANS NuPrometheus + FBI = Grateful Dead / Whole
Earth + Computer Revolution = WELL / Phiber Runs Underground and Acid Spikes
the Well / The Trial of Knight Lightning / Shadowhawk Plummets to Earth /
Kyrie in the Confessional / $79,499 / A Scholar Investigates / Computers,
Freedom, and Privacy

Electronic Afterword to *The Hacker Crackdown,*  New Years' Day 1994

Preface to the Electronic Release of *The Hacker Crackdown*

January 1, 1994 -- Austin, Texas

     Hi, I'm Bruce Sterling, the author of this electronic book.

     Out in the traditional world of print, *The Hacker Crackdown* is ISBN
0-553-08058-X, and is formally catalogued by the Library of Congress as "1.
Computer crimes -- United States.  2. Telephone -- United States -- Corrupt
practices.  3.  Programming (Electronic computers) -- United States --
Corrupt practices."  'Corrupt practices,' I always get a kick out of that
description.  Librarians are very ingenious people.

     The paperback is ISBN 0-553-56370-X.  If you go and buy a print version
of *The Hacker Crackdown,* an action I encourage heartily, you may notice
that in the front of the book,  beneath the copyright notice  -- "Copyright
(C) 1992 by Bruce Sterling" -- it has this little block of printed legal
boilerplate from the publisher.  It says, and I quote:

     "No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by
any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by
any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing
from the publisher. For information address:  Bantam Books."

     This is a pretty good disclaimer, as such disclaimers go.  I collect
intellectual-property disclaimers, and I've seen dozens of them, and this one
is at least pretty straightforward.  In this narrow and particular case,
however, it isn't quite accurate. Bantam Books puts that disclaimer on every
book they publish, but Bantam Books does not, in fact, own the electronic
rights to this book.  I do, because of certain extensive contract
maneuverings my agent and I went through before this book was written.  I
want to give those electronic publishing rights away through certain
not-for-profit channels, and I've convinced Bantam that this is a good idea.

     Since Bantam has seen fit to peacably agree to this scheme of mine,
Bantam Books is not going to fuss about this.  Provided you don't try to sell
the book, they are not going to bother you for what you do with the
electronic copy of this book. If you want to check this out personally, you
can ask them; they're at 1540 Broadway NY NY 10036.  However, if you were so
foolish as to print this book and start retailing it for money in violation
of my copyright and the commercial interests of Bantam Books, then Bantam, a
part of the gigantic Bertelsmann multinational publishing combine, would
roust some of their heavy-duty attorneys out of hibernation and crush you
like a bug.  This is only to be expected.  I didn't write this book so that
you could make money out of it.  If anybody is gonna make money out of this
book, it's gonna be me and my publisher.

     My publisher deserves to make money out of this book.  Not only did the
folks at Bantam Books commission me to write the book, and pay me a hefty sum
to do so, but they bravely printed, in text, an electronic document the
reproduction of which was once alleged to be a federal felony.  Bantam Books
and their numerous attorneys were very brave and forthright about this book. 
Furthermore, my former editor at Bantam Books, Betsy Mitchell, genuinely
cared about this project, and worked hard on it, and had a lot of wise things
to say about the manuscript.  Betsy deserves genuine credit for this book,
credit that editors too rarely get.

     The critics were very kind to *The Hacker Crackdown,* and commercially
the book has done well.  On the other hand, I didn't write this book in order
to squeeze every last nickel and dime out of the mitts of impoverished
sixteen-year-old cyberpunk high-school-students.  Teenagers don't have any
money -- (no, not even enough for the  six- dollar *Hacker Crackdown*
paperback, with its attractive bright-red cover and useful index).   That's
a major reason why teenagers sometimes succumb to the temptation to do things
they shouldn't, such as swiping my books out of libraries.   Kids:  this one
is all yours, all right?  Go give the print version back. *8-)

     Well-meaning, public-spirited civil libertarians don't have much money,
either.   And it seems almost criminal to snatch cash out of the hands of
America's direly underpaid electronic law enforcement community.

     If you're a computer cop, a hacker, or an electronic civil liberties
activist, you are the target audience for this book.  I wrote this book
because I wanted to help you, and help other people understand you and your
unique, uhm, problems.  I wrote this book to aid your activities, and to
contribute to the public discussion of important political issues.  In giving
the text away in this fashion, I am directly contributing to the book's
ultimate aim:  to help civilize cyberspace.

     Information *wants* to be free.  And  the information inside this book
longs for freedom with a peculiar intensity.  I genuinely believe that the
natural habitat of this book is inside an electronic network.  That may not
be the easiest direct method to generate revenue for the book's author, but
that doesn't matter; this is where this book belongs by its nature.  I've
written other books -- plenty of other books -- and I'll write more and I am
writing more, but this one is special.  I am making *The Hacker Crackdown*
available electronically as widely as I can conveniently manage, and if you
like the book, and think it is useful, then I urge you to do the same with
it.

     You can copy this electronic book.   Copy the heck out of it, be my
guest, and give those copies to anybody who wants them.  The nascent world of
cyberspace is full of sysadmins, teachers, trainers, cybrarians, netgurus,
and various species of cybernetic activist.  If you're one of those people, 
I know about you, and I know the hassle you go through to try to help people
learn about the electronic frontier.  I hope that possessing this book in
electronic form will lessen your troubles.  Granted, this treatment of our
electronic social spectrum is not the ultimate in academic rigor.  And
politically, it has something to offend and trouble almost everyone.   But
hey, I'm told it's readable, and at least the price is right.

     You can upload the book onto bulletin board systems, or Internet nodes,
or electronic discussion groups.  Go right ahead and do that, I am giving you
express permission right now.  Enjoy yourself.

     You can put the book on disks and give the disks away, as long as you
don't take any money for it.

     But this book is not public domain.  You can't copyright it in your own
name.   I own the copyright. Attempts to pirate this book and make money from
selling it may involve you in a serious litigative snarl. Believe me, for the
pittance you might wring out of such an action, it's really not worth it. 
This book don't "belong" to you.  In an odd but very genuine way, I feel it
doesn't "belong" to me, either.  It's a book about the people of cyberspace,
and distributing it in this way is the best way I know to actually make this
information available, freely and easily, to all the people of cyberspace --
including people far outside the borders of the United States, who otherwise
may never have a chance to see any edition of the book, and who may perhaps
learn something useful from this strange story of distant, obscure, but
portentous events in so-called "American cyberspace."

      This electronic book is now literary freeware.  It now belongs to the
emergent realm of alternative information economics.  You have no right to
make this electronic book part of the conventional flow of commerce.  Let it
be part of the flow of knowledge: there's a difference.   I've divided the
book into four sections, so that it is less ungainly for upload and download;
if there's a section of particular relevance to you and your colleagues, feel
free to reproduce that one and skip the rest.

     Just make more when you need them, and give them to whoever might want
them.

     Now have fun.

     Bruce Sterling -- bruces@well.sf.ca.us



CHRONOLOGY OF THE HACKER CRACKDOWN

1865 U.S. Secret Service (USSS) founded.

1876  Alexander Graham Bell invents telephone.

1878  First teenage males flung off phone system by enraged authorities.

1939  "Futurian" science-fiction group raided by Secret Service.

1971  Yippie phone phreaks start YIPL/TAP magazine.

1972  *Ramparts* magazine seized in blue-box rip-off scandal.

1978  Ward Christenson and Randy Suess create first personal computer
bulletin board system.

1982  William Gibson coins term "cyberspace."

1982  "414 Gang"  raided.

1983-1983  AT&T dismantled in divestiture.

1984  Congress passes Comprehensive Crime Control Act giving USSS jurisdic-
tion over credit card fraud and computer fraud.

1984  "Legion of Doom" formed.

1984.  *2600:  The Hacker Quarterly*  founded.

1984.   *Whole Earth Software Catalog* published.

1985.  First police "sting" bulletin board systems established.

1985.  Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link computer conference (WELL) goes on-line.

1986  Computer Fraud and Abuse Act passed.

1986  Electronic Communications Privacy Act passed.

1987  Chicago prosecutors form Computer Fraud and Abuse Task Force.

1988

July.  Secret Service covertly videotapes "SummerCon" hacker convention.

September.  "Prophet" cracks BellSouth AIMSX computer network and downloads
E911 Document to his own computer and to Jolnet.

September.  AT&T Corporate Information Security informed of Prophet's action.

October.  Bellcore Security informed of Prophet's action.

1989

January.  Prophet uploads E911 Document to Knight Lightning.

February 25.  Knight Lightning publishes E911Document in *Phrack* electronic
newsletter.

May.  Chicago Task Force raids and arrests "Kyrie."

June.  "NuPrometheus League" distributes Apple Computer proprietary software.

June 13.  Florida probation office crossed with phone-sex line in switching--
station stunt.

July.  "Fry Guy" raided by USSS and Chicago Computer Fraud and Abuse Task
Force.

July.  Secret Service raids "Prophet," "Leftist," and "Urvile" in Georgia.

1990

January 15.  Martin Luther King Day Crash strikes AT&T long-distance network
nationwide.

January 18-19  Chicago Task Force raids Knight Lightning in St. Louis.

January 24.  USSS and New York State Police raid "Phiber Optik,"  "Acid
Phreak," and "Scorpion" in New York City.

February 1. USSS raids "Terminus" in Maryland.

February 3.  Chicago Task Force raids Richard Andrews' home.

February 6.  Chicago Task Force raids Richard Andrews' business.

February 6.  USSS arrests Terminus, Prophet, Leftist, and Urvile.

February 9.  Chicago Task Force arrests Knight Lightning.

February 20.  AT&T Security shuts down public-access "attctc" computer in
Dallas.

February 21.  Chicago Task Force raids Robert Izenberg in Austin.

March 1.  Chicago Task Force raids Steve Jackson Games, Inc., "Mentor," and
"Erik Bloodaxe" in Austin.

May 7,8,9.  USSS and Arizona Organized Crime and Racketeering Bureau conduct
"Operation Sundevil" raids in Cincinnatti, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami,
Newark, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Richmond, Tucson, San Diego, San Jose, and San
Francisco.

May.  FBI interviews John Perry Barlow re NuPrometheus case.

June.  Mitch Kapor and Barlow found Electronic Frontier Foundation;  Barlow
publishes *Crime and Puzzlement* manifesto.

July 24-27.  Trial of Knight Lightning.

1991

February.  CPSR Roundtable in Washington, D.C.

March 25-28.  Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference in San Francisco.

May 1.  Electronic Frontier Foundation, Steve Jackson, and others file suit
against members of Chicago Task Force.

July 1-2.  Switching station phone software crash affects Washington, Los
Angeles, Pittsburgh, San Francisco.

September 17.  AT&T phone crash affects New York City and three airports.





Introduction

     This is a book about cops, and  wild teenage whiz- kids, and lawyers,
and hairy-eyed anarchists, and industrial technicians, and hippies, and
high-tech millionaires, and game hobbyists, and computer security experts,
and Secret Service agents, and grifters, and thieves.

     This book is about the electronic frontier of the 1990s. It concerns
activities that take place inside computers and over telephone lines.

      A science fiction writer coined the useful term "cyberspace" in 1982. 
But the territory in question, the electronic frontier, is about a hundred
and thirty years old. Cyberspace is the "place" where a telephone conversa-
tion appears to occur.  Not inside your actual phone, the plastic device on
your desk.  Not inside the other person's phone, in some other city.  *The
place between* the phones.  The indefinite place *out there,* where the two
of you, two human beings, actually meet and communicate.

      Although it is not exactly  "real," "cyberspace" is a genuine place.  
Things happen there that have very genuine consequences.  This "place" is not
"real," but it is serious, it is earnest.  Tens of thousands of people have
dedicated their lives to it, to the public service of public communication by
wire and electronics.

       People have worked on this "frontier" for generations now.  Some
people became rich and famous from their efforts there.  Some just played in
it, as hobbyists.  Others soberly pondered it, and wrote about it, and
regulated it, and negotiated over it in international forums, and sued one
another about it, in gigantic, epic court battles that lasted for years.  And
almost since the beginning, some people have committed crimes in this place.

     But in the past twenty years, this electrical "space," which was once
thin and dark and one-dimensional -- little more than a narrow speaking-tube,
stretching from phone to phone -- has flung itself open like a gigantic
jack-in- the- box.  Light has flooded upon it, the eerie light of the glowing
computer screen.   This dark electric netherworld has become a vast flowering
electronic landscape.   Since the 1960s, the world of the telephone has
cross-bred itself with computers and television, and though there is still no
substance to cyberspace,  nothing you can handle, it has a strange kind of
physicality now.   It makes good sense today to talk of cyberspace  as a
place all its own.

     Because people live in it now.   Not just a few people, not just a few
technicians and eccentrics, but thousands of people, quite normal people. 
And not just for a little while, either, but for hours straight, over weeks,
and  months, and years.   Cyberspace today is a "Net," a "Matrix," interna-
tional in scope and growing swiftly and steadily. It's growing in size, and
wealth, and  political importance.

     People are making entire careers in modern cyberspace.   Scientists and
technicians, of course; they've been there for twenty years now.  But
increasingly, cyberspace is filling with journalists and doctors and lawyers
and artists and clerks.   Civil servants make their careers there now,
"on-line" in vast government data- banks; and so do spies, industrial,
political, and just plain snoops; and so do police, at least a few of them. 
And there are children living there now.

     People have met there and been married there. There are entire living
communities in cyberspace today; chattering, gossipping, planning, conferring
and scheming,  leaving one another voice-mail and electronic mail, giving one
another big weightless chunks of valuable data,  both legitimate and
illegitimate.  They busily pass one another computer software and the
occasional festering computer virus.

     We do not really understand how to live in cyberspace yet.  We are
feeling our way into it, blundering about.   That is not surprising.  Our
lives in the physical world, the "real" world, are also far from perfect,
despite a lot more practice.   Human lives, real lives,  are imperfect by
their nature, and there are human beings in cyberspace.  The way we live in
cyberspace is a funhouse mirror of the way we live in the real world.   We
take both our advantages and our troubles with us.

       This book is about trouble in cyberspace. Specifically, this book is
about certain strange events in the year 1990, an unprecedented and startling
year for the the growing world of computerized communications.

            In 1990 there came a nationwide crackdown on illicit computer
hackers, with arrests, criminal charges,  one dramatic show-trial, several
guilty pleas,  and huge confiscations of data and equipment all over the USA.

     The Hacker Crackdown of 1990 was larger, better organized, more
deliberate, and more resolute than any previous effort in the brave new world
of computer crime. The U.S.  Secret Service, private telephone security, and
state and local law enforcement groups across the country all joined forces
in a determined attempt to break the back of America's electronic under-
ground.   It was a fascinating effort, with very mixed results.

     The Hacker Crackdown had another unprecedented effect; it spurred the
creation, within "the computer community," of the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, a new and very odd interest group, fiercely  dedicated to the
establishment and preservation of electronic civil liberties. The crackdown,
remarkable in itself, has created a melee of debate over electronic crime,
punishment, freedom of the press,  and issues of search and seizure.  
Politics has entered cyberspace.   Where people go, politics follow.

     This is the story of the people of cyberspace.

 PART ONE:  Crashing the System

     On January 15, 1990, AT&T's long-distance telephone switching system
crashed.

       This was a strange, dire, huge event.  Sixty thousand people lost
their telephone service completely.   During the nine long hours of frantic
effort that it took to restore service, some seventy million telephone calls
went uncompleted.

      Losses of service, known as "outages" in the telco trade, are a known
and accepted hazard of the telephone business.    Hurricanes hit, and phone
cables get snapped by the thousands.   Earthquakes wrench through buried
fiber-optic lines.  Switching stations catch fire and burn to the ground. 
These things do happen.  There are contingency plans for them, and decades of
experience in dealing with them.   But the Crash of January 15 was unprece-
dented.  It was unbelievably huge, and it occurred for no apparent physical
reason.

     The crash started  on a Monday afternoon in a single switching-station
in Manhattan.  But, unlike any merely physical damage,  it spread and spread. 
 Station after station across America collapsed in a chain reaction, until
fully half of AT&T's  network had gone haywire and the remaining half was
hard-put to handle the overflow.

     Within nine hours, AT&T software engineers more or less understood what
had caused the crash.  Replicating the problem exactly, poring over software
line by line, took them a couple of weeks.   But because it was hard to
understand technically, the full truth of the matter and its implications
were not widely and thoroughly aired and explained.  The root cause of the
crash remained obscure, surrounded by rumor and fear.

     The crash was a grave corporate embarrassment. The "culprit" was a bug
in AT&T's own software -- not the sort of admission the telecommunications
giant wanted to make, especially in the face of increasing competition.
Still, the truth *was*  told, in the baffling technical terms necessary to
explain it.

     Somehow  the explanation failed to persuade American law enforcement
officials and even telephone corporate security personnel.   These people
were not technical experts or software wizards, and they had their own
suspicions about the cause of this disaster.

     The police and telco security  had important sources of information
denied to mere software engineers.   They had informants in the computer
underground and  years of experience in dealing with high-tech rascality that
seemed to grow ever more sophisticated.   For years they had been expecting
a direct and savage attack against the American national telephone system. 
And with the Crash of January 15 -- the first month of a new, high-tech
decade -- their predictions, fears, and suspicions seemed at last to have 
entered the real world.   A world where the telephone system had not merely
crashed, but, quite likely, *been* crashed -- by "hackers."

     The  crash created a large dark cloud of suspicion that would color 
certain people's assumptions and actions for months.  The fact that it took
place in the realm of software was suspicious on its face.   The fact that it
occurred on Martin Luther King Day, still the most politically touchy of
American holidays, made it more suspicious yet.

             The  Crash of January 15  gave the Hacker Crackdown its sense of
edge and  its sweaty urgency.   It made people, powerful people in positions
of public authority, willing to believe the worst.  And, most fatally, it
helped to give investigators a willingness to take extreme measures and the
determination to preserve almost total secrecy.

      An obscure software fault in an aging switching system in New York  was
to lead to a chain reaction of legal and constitutional trouble all across
the country.

                         #

     Like the crash in the telephone system, this chain reaction was ready
and waiting to happen.  During the 1980s, the American legal system was
extensively patched to deal with the novel issues of computer crime.  There
was, for instance, the Electronic  Communications Privacy Act of 1986 
(eloquently described as "a stinking mess" by a prominent law enforcement
official).   And there was the draconian Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of
1986, passed unanimously by the United States Senate, which later would
reveal a large number of flaws.   Extensive, well- meant efforts had been
made to keep the legal system up to date.  But in the day-to-day grind of the
real world, even the most elegant software tends to crumble and suddenly
reveal its hidden bugs.

     Like the advancing telephone system, the American legal system was
certainly not ruined by its temporary crash; but for those caught under the
weight of the collapsing system, life became a series of blackouts and
anomalies.

     In order to understand why these weird events occurred, both in the
world of technology and in the world of law, it's not enough to understand
the merely technical problems.  We will get to those; but first and foremost,
we must try to understand the telephone, and the business of telephones, and
the community of human beings that telephones have created.

                         #

     Technologies have life cycles, like cities do, like institutions do,
like laws and governments do.

     The first stage of  any technology is  the Question Mark, often known as
the "Golden Vaporware" stage.   At this early point, the technology is only
a phantom, a mere gleam in the inventor's eye.   One such inventor was a
speech teacher and electrical tinkerer named Alexander Graham Bell.

     Bell's early inventions, while ingenious, failed to move the world.   In
1863, the teenage Bell and his brother Melville made an artificial talking
mechanism out of wood, rubber, gutta-percha, and tin.  This weird device had
a rubber-covered "tongue" made of movable wooden segments, with vibrating
rubber "vocal cords," and rubber "lips" and "cheeks."  While Melville puffed
a bellows into a tin tube, imitating the lungs,  young Alec  Bell would
manipulate the "lips," "teeth," and "tongue," causing the thing to emit
high-pitched falsetto gibberish.

     Another would-be technical breakthrough was the Bell "phonautograph" of
1874, actually made out of a human cadaver's ear.  Clamped into place on a
tripod, this grisly gadget drew sound-wave images on smoked glass through a
thin straw glued to its vibrating earbones.

     By 1875, Bell had learned to produce audible sounds - - ugly shrieks and
squawks -- by using magnets, diaphragms, and electrical current.

     Most "Golden Vaporware" technologies go nowhere.

     But the second stage of technology is the Rising Star, or, the "Goofy
Prototype," stage.   The telephone, Bell's most ambitious gadget yet, 
reached this stage on March 10, 1876.  On that great day, Alexander Graham
Bell became the first person to transmit intelligible human speech electri-
cally.   As it happened, young Professor Bell, industriously tinkering in his
Boston lab,  had spattered his trousers with acid.   His assistant, Mr.
Watson, heard his cry for help -- over Bell's experimental audio- telegraph. 
This was an event without precedent.

     Technologies in their "Goofy Prototype" stage rarely work very well. 
They're experimental, and therefore half- baked and rather frazzled.  The
prototype may be attractive and novel, and it does look as if it ought to be
good for something-or-other.  But nobody, including the inventor, is quite
sure what.  Inventors, and speculators, and pundits may have very firm ideas
about its potential use, but those ideas are often very wrong.

       The natural habitat of the Goofy Prototype is in trade shows and in
the popular press.   Infant technologies need publicity and investment money
like a tottering calf need milk.  This was very true of Bell's machine.   To
raise research and development money,  Bell toured with his device as a stage
attraction.

       Contemporary press reports of the stage debut of the telephone showed
pleased astonishment mixed with considerable dread.   Bell's stage telephone
was a large wooden box with a crude speaker-nozzle, the whole contraption
about the size and shape of an overgrown Brownie camera.   Its buzzing steel
soundplate, pumped up by powerful electromagnets,  was loud enough to fill an
auditorium.  Bell's assistant Mr. Watson, who could manage on the keyboards
fairly well, kicked in by playing the organ from distant rooms, and, later,
distant cities. This feat was considered marvellous, but very eerie indeed.

      Bell's original notion for the telephone, an idea promoted for a couple
of  years, was that it would become a mass medium.  We might recognize Bell's
idea today as something close to modern "cable radio."    Telephones  at a
central source would transmit music, Sunday sermons, and important public
speeches to a paying network of wired-up subscribers.

     At the time, most people thought this notion made good sense.    In
fact, Bell's idea  was workable.  In Hungary, this philosophy of the
telephone was successfully put into everyday practice.  In Budapest, for
decades, from 1893 until after World War I, there was a government-run
information  service called "Telefon Hirmondo=."   Hirmondo= was a central-
ized source of news and entertainment and culture, including stock reports,
plays, concerts, and novels read aloud.  At certain hours of the day, the
phone would ring, you would plug in a loudspeaker for the use of the family,
and Telefon Hirmondo= would be on the air -- or rather, on the phone.

     Hirmondo= is dead tech today, but  Hirmondo= might be considered a
spiritual ancestor of the modern telephone-accessed computer data services,
such as CompuServe, GEnie or Prodigy.  The principle behind Hirmondo= is also
not too far from computer "bulletin- board systems" or BBS's, which arrived
in the late 1970s, spread rapidly across America, and will figure largely in
this book.

     We are used to using telephones for individual person-to-person speech,
because we are used to the Bell system.  But this was just one possibility
among many. Communication networks are very flexible and protean, especially
when their hardware becomes sufficiently advanced.  They can be put to all
kinds of uses.   And they have been -- and they will be.

     Bell's telephone was bound for glory, but this was a combination of
political decisions, canny infighting in court, inspired industrial
leadership, receptive local conditions and outright good luck.  Much the same
is true of communications systems today.

     As Bell and his backers struggled to install their newfangled system in
the real world of nineteenth-century New England, they had to fight against
skepticism and industrial rivalry.  There was already a strong electrical
communications network present in America: the telegraph.  The head of the
Western Union telegraph system dismissed Bell's prototype as "an electrical
toy" and refused to buy the rights to Bell's  patent.    The telephone, it
seemed,  might be all right as a parlor entertainment -- but not for serious
business.

     Telegrams, unlike mere telephones, left a permanent physical record of
their messages.  Telegrams, unlike telephones,  could be answered whenever
the recipient had time and convenience.  And the telegram had a much longer
distance-range than Bell's early telephone.  These factors made telegraphy
seem a much more sound and businesslike technology -- at least to some.

     The telegraph system was huge, and well-entrenched. In 1876, the United
States had 214,000 miles of telegraph wire, and 8500 telegraph offices. 
There were specialized telegraphs for businesses and stock traders,
government, police and fire departments.  And Bell's "toy" was best known as
a stage-magic musical device.

     The third stage of technology is known as the "Cash Cow" stage.   In the
"cash cow" stage, a technology finds its place in the world, and matures, and
becomes settled and productive.   After a year or so,  Alexander Graham Bell
and his capitalist backers concluded that eerie music piped from
nineteenth-century cyberspace was not the real selling-point of his
invention.  Instead, the telephone was about speech -- individual, personal
speech, the human voice, human conversation and  human interaction.   The
telephone was not to be managed from any centralized broadcast center.  It
was to be a personal, intimate technology.

     When you picked up a telephone, you were not absorbing the cold output
of a machine -- you were speaking to another human being.   Once people
realized this, their instinctive dread of the telephone as an eerie,
unnatural device, swiftly vanished.   A "telephone call" was not a "call"
from a "telephone" itself,  but a call from another human being, someone you
would generally know and recognize.   The real point was not what the machine
could do for you (or to you), but what you yourself, a person and citizen,
could do *through* the machine.  This decision on the part of the young Bell
Company was absolutely vital.

     The first telephone networks went up around Boston - - mostly among the
technically curious and the well-to-do (much the same segment of the American
populace that, a hundred years later, would be buying personal computers). 
Entrenched backers of the telegraph continued to scoff.

     But in January 1878, a disaster made the telephone famous.   A train
crashed in Tarriffville, Connecticut. Forward-looking doctors in the nearby
city of Hartford had had Bell's "speaking telephone" installed.    An alert
local druggist was able to telephone an entire community of local doctors,
who rushed to the site to give aid.  The disaster, as disasters do, aroused
intense press coverage. The phone had proven its usefulness in the real
world.

     After Tarriffville, the telephone network spread like crabgrass.  By
1890 it was all over New England.  By '93, out to Chicago.  By '97, into
Minnesota, Nebraska and Texas. By 1904 it was all over the continent.

     The telephone had become a mature technology. Professor Bell  (now
generally known as "Dr. Bell" despite his lack of a formal degree) became
quite wealthy.   He lost interest in the tedious day-to-day business muddle
of the booming telephone network, and gratefully returned his attention to
creatively hacking-around in his  various laboratories, which were now much
larger, better- ventilated,  and gratifyingly better-equipped.   Bell was
never to have another great inventive success, though his speculations and
prototypes anticipated fiber-optic transmission, manned flight, sonar,
hydrofoil ships, tetrahedral construction, and Montessori education.   The
"decibel," the standard scientific measure of sound intensity, was named
after Bell.

     Not all Bell's vaporware notions were inspired.  He was fascinated by
human eugenics.   He also spent many years developing a weird personal system
of astrophysics in which gravity did not exist.

     Bell was a definite eccentric.  He was something of a hypochondriac, and
throughout his life he habitually stayed up until four A.M., refusing to rise
before noon. But Bell had accomplished a great feat; he was an idol of
millions and his influence, wealth, and great personal charm, combined with
his eccentricity, made him something of a loose cannon on deck.   Bell
maintained a thriving scientific salon in his winter mansion in Washington,
D.C., which gave him considerable backstage influence in governmental and
scientific circles.   He was a major financial backer of the the magazines
*Science* and *National Geographic,* both still flourishing today as
important organs of the American scientific establishment.

      Bell's companion Thomas Watson, similarly wealthy and similarly odd,
became the ardent political disciple of a 19th-century science-fiction writer
and would-be social reformer, Edward Bellamy.  Watson also trod the boards
briefly as a Shakespearian actor.

     There would never be another Alexander Graham Bell, but in years to come
there would be surprising numbers of people like him.  Bell was a prototype
of the high-tech entrepreneur.   High-tech entrepreneurs will play a very
prominent role in this book: not merely as technicians and businessmen, but
as pioneers of the technical frontier, who can carry the power and prestige
they derive from high-technology into the political and social arena.

     Like later entrepreneurs, Bell was fierce in defense of his own
technological territory.  As the telephone began to flourish, Bell was soon
involved in violent lawsuits in the defense of his patents.  Bell's Boston
lawyers were excellent, however, and Bell himself, as an elecution teacher
and gifted public speaker, was a devastatingly effective legal witness.  In
the eighteen years of  Bell's patents, the Bell company was involved in six
hundred separate lawsuits.  The legal records printed filled 149 volumes.  
The Bell Company won every single suit.

     After Bell's exclusive patents expired, rival telephone companies sprang
up all over America.  Bell's company, American Bell Telephone, was soon in
deep trouble.  In 1907, American Bell Telephone fell into the hands of the
rather sinister J.P. Morgan financial cartel, robber-baron speculators who
dominated Wall Street.

     At this point, history might have taken a different turn.  American
might well have been served forever by a patchwork of locally owned telephone
companies.   Many state politicians and local businessmen considered this an
excellent solution.

     But the new Bell holding company, American Telephone and Telegraph or
AT&T, put in a new man at the helm, a visionary industrialist named Theodore
Vail. Vail, a former Post Office manager, understood large organizations and
had an innate feeling for the nature of large-scale communications.   Vail
quickly saw to it that AT&T seized the technological edge once again.   The
Pupin and Campbell "loading coil," and the deForest "audion," are both
extinct technology today, but in 1913 they gave Vail's company the best
*long-distance*  lines ever built.  By controlling long-distance -- the links
between, and over, and above the smaller local phone companies -- AT&T
swiftly gained the whip-hand over them, and was soon devouring them right and
left.

      Vail plowed the profits back into research and development, starting
the Bell tradition of huge-scale and brilliant industrial research.

     Technically and financially, AT&T gradually steamrollered the opposi-
tion.  Independent telephone companies never became entirely extinct, and
hundreds of them flourish today.  But Vail's  AT&T became the supreme
communications company.   At one point, Vail's AT&T bought Western Union
itself, the very company that had derided Bell's telephone as a "toy."   Vail
thoroughly reformed Western Union's hidebound business along his modern
principles;  but when the federal government grew anxious at this centraliza-
tion of power, Vail politely  gave Western Union back.

     This centralizing process was not unique.  Very similar  events had
happened in American steel, oil, and railroads.   But AT&T, unlike the other
companies, was to remain supreme.  The monopoly robber-barons of those other
industries were humbled and shattered by government trust-busting.

     Vail, the former Post Office official, was quite willing to accommodate
the US government; in fact he would forge an active alliance with it.   AT&T
would become almost a wing of the American government, almost another Post
Office -- though not quite.   AT&T would willingly submit to federal
regulation, but in return, it would use the government's regulators as its
own police, who would keep out competitors and assure the Bell system's
profits and preeminence.

      This was the second birth -- the political birth -- of the American
telephone system.  Vail's arrangement was to persist, with vast success, for
many decades, until 1982. His system was an odd kind of American industrial
socialism.  It was born at about the same time as Leninist Communism, and it
lasted almost as long -- and, it must be admitted, to considerably better
effect.

     Vail's system worked.  Except perhaps for aerospace, there has been no
technology more thoroughly dominated by Americans than the telephone.   The
telephone was seen from the beginning as a quintessentially American
technology.   Bell's policy, and the policy of Theodore Vail, was a
profoundly democratic policy of *universal access.* Vail's famous corporate
slogan, "One Policy, One System, Universal Service," was a political slogan,
with a very American ring to it.

     The American telephone was not to become the specialized tool of
government or business, but a general public utility.  At first, it was true,
only the wealthy could afford private telephones, and Bell's company pursued
the business markets primarily.   The American phone system was a capitalist
effort, meant to make money; it was not a charity.  But from the first,
almost all communities with telephone service had public telephones.  And
many stores -- especially drugstores -- offered public use of their phones. 
You might not own a telephone -- but you could always get into the system, if
you really needed to.

     There was nothing inevitable about this decision to make telephones
"public" and "universal."   Vail's system involved a profound act of trust in
the public.  This decision was a political one, informed by the basic values
of the American republic.  The situation might have been very different;  and
in other countries, under other systems, it certainly was.

     Joseph Stalin, for instance, vetoed plans for a Soviet phone system soon
after the Bolshevik revolution.  Stalin was certain that publicly accessible
telephones would become instruments of anti-Soviet counterrevolution and
conspiracy.   (He was probably right.)  When telephones did arrive in the
Soviet Union, they would be instruments of Party authority, and always
heavily tapped.  (Alexander Solzhenitsyn's  prison-camp novel *The First
Circle* describes efforts to develop a phone system more suited to Stalinist
purposes.)

     France, with its tradition of rational centralized government, had
fought bitterly even against the electric telegraph, which seemed to the
French entirely too anarchical and frivolous.   For decades, nineteenth-
century France communicated via the "visual telegraph," a nation-spanning,
government-owned  semaphore system of huge stone towers that signalled from
hilltops, across vast distances, with big windmill-like arms.  In 1846, one
Dr. Barbay, a semaphore enthusiast, memorably uttered an early version of
what might be called "the security expert's argument" against the open media.

     "No, the electric telegraph is not a sound invention. It will always be
at the mercy of the slightest disruption, wild youths, drunkards, bums,
etc....  The electric telegraph meets those destructive elements with only a
few meters of wire over which supervision is impossible.  A single man could,
without being seen, cut the telegraph wires leading to Paris, and in
twenty-four hours cut in ten different places the wires of the same line,
without being arrested. The visual telegraph, on the contrary, has its
towers, its high walls, its gates well-guarded from inside by strong armed
men.  Yes, I declare, substitution of the electric telegraph for the visual
one is a dreadful measure, a truly idiotic act."

     Dr. Barbay and his high-security stone machines were eventually
unsuccessful, but his argument -- that communication  exists for the safety
and convenience of the state, and must be carefully protected from the wild
boys and the gutter rabble  who might want to crash the system -- would be
heard again and again.

     When the French telephone system finally did arrive, its snarled
inadequacy was to be notorious.  Devotees of the American Bell System often
recommended a trip to France, for skeptics.

     In Edwardian Britain, issues of class and privacy were a ball-and-chain
for telephonic progress.   It was considered outrageous that anyone -- any
wild fool off the street -- could simply barge bellowing into one's office or
home, preceded only by the ringing of a telephone bell. In Britain, phones
were tolerated for the use of business, but private phones tended be stuffed
away into closets, smoking rooms, or servants' quarters.  Telephone operators
were resented in Britain because they did not seem to "know their place."  
And no one of breeding would print a telephone number on a business card;
this seemed a crass attempt to make the acquaintance of strangers.

     But phone access in America was to become a popular right; something
like universal suffrage, only more so.  American women could not yet vote
when the phone system came through; yet from the beginning American women
doted on the telephone.  This "feminization" of the American telephone was
often commented on by foreigners.   Phones in America were not censored or
stiff or  formalized; they were social, private, intimate, and domestic.   In
America, Mother's Day is by far the busiest day of the year for the phone
network.

     The early telephone companies, and especially AT&T, were among the
foremost employers of American women.  They employed the daughters of the
American middle-class in great armies: in 1891, eight thousand women; by
1946, almost a quarter of a million.   Women seemed to enjoy telephone work;
it was respectable, it was steady, it paid fairly well as women's work went,
and -- not least -- it seemed a genuine contribution to the social good of
the community.   Women found Vail's ideal of public service attractive.  This
was especially true in rural areas, where women operators, running extensive
rural party- lines, enjoyed considerable social power.   The operator knew
everyone on the party-line, and everyone knew her.

     Although Bell himself was an ardent suffragist, the telephone company
did not employ women for the sake of advancing female liberation.  AT&T  did
this for sound commercial reasons.  The first telephone operators of the Bell
system were not women, but teenage American boys. They were telegraphic 
messenger boys (a group about to be rendered technically obsolescent), who
swept up around the phone office, dunned customers for bills, and made phone
connections on the switchboard, all on the cheap.

     Within the very first  year of operation, 1878, Bell's company learned
a sharp lesson about combining teenage boys and telephone switchboards.  
Putting teenage boys in charge of the phone system brought swift and
consistent disaster.  Bell's chief engineer described them as "Wild Indians." 
The boys were openly rude to customers.  They talked back to subscribers,
saucing off, uttering facetious remarks, and generally giving lip.  The
rascals took Saint Patrick's Day off without permission. And worst of all
they played clever tricks with the switchboard plugs:  disconnecting calls,
crossing lines so that customers found themselves talking to strangers, and
so forth.

     This combination of power, technical mastery, and effective anonymity
seemed to act like catnip on teenage boys.

     This wild-kid-on-the-wires phenomenon was not confined to the USA; from
the beginning, the same was true of the British phone system.   An early
British commentator kindly remarked:  "No doubt boys in their teens found the
work not a little irksome, and it is also highly probable that under the
early conditions of employment the adventurous and inquisitive spirits of
which the average healthy boy of that age is possessed, were not always
conducive to the best attention being given to the wants of the telephone
subscribers."

     So the boys were flung off the system -- or at least, deprived of
control of the switchboard.  But the "adventurous and inquisitive spirits" of
the teenage boys would be heard from in the world of telephony, again and
again.

     The fourth stage in the technological life-cycle is death:  "the Dog,"
dead tech.   The telephone has so far avoided this fate.  On the contrary, it
is thriving, still spreading, still evolving, and at increasing speed.

      The telephone has achieved a rare and exalted state for a technological
artifact:  it has become a *household object.*    The telephone, like the
clock, like pen and paper, like kitchen utensils and  running water, has
become a technology that is visible only by its absence. The telephone is
technologically transparent.  The global telephone system is the largest and
most complex machine in the world, yet it is easy to use.  More remarkable
yet,  the telephone is almost entirely physically safe for the user.

      For the average citizen in the 1870s, the telephone was weirder, more
shocking, more "high-tech" and harder to comprehend, than the most outrageous
stunts of advanced computing for us Americans in the 1990s.   In trying to
understand what is happening to us today, with our bulletin-board systems,
direct overseas dialling, fiber- optic transmissions, computer viruses,
hacking stunts, and a vivid tangle of new laws and new crimes, it is
important to realize that our society has been through a similar challenge
before -- and that, all in all, we did rather well by it.

     Bell's stage telephone seemed bizarre at first.  But the sensations of
weirdness vanished quickly, once people began to hear the familiar voices of
relatives and friends, in their own homes on their own telephones.   The
telephone changed from a fearsome high-tech totem to an everyday pillar of
human community.

     This has also happened, and is still happening, to computer networks.  
Computer networks  such as NSFnet, BITnet,  USENET, JANET,  are technically
advanced, intimidating, and much harder to use than telephones.  Even the
popular, commercial computer networks, such as GEnie, Prodigy, and
CompuServe, cause much head-scratching and have been described as
"user-hateful."   Nevertheless they too are changing from fancy high-tech
items into everyday sources of human community.

     The words "community" and "communication" have the same root.   Wherever
you put a communications network, you put a community as well.  And whenever
you *take away*  that network -- confiscate it, outlaw it, crash it, raise
its price beyond affordability -- then you hurt that community.

     Communities  will fight to defend themselves.  People will fight harder
and more bitterly to defend their communities,  than they will fight to
defend their own individual selves.   And this is very true of the "electron-
ic community" that arose around computer networks in the 1980s  -- or rather,
the *various* electronic communities, in telephony, law enforcement,
computing, and the digital underground that, by  the year 1990, were raiding,
rallying, arresting, suing, jailing, fining and issuing angry manifestos.

     None of the events of 1990 were entirely new. Nothing happened in 1990
that did not have some kind of earlier and more understandable precedent.  
What gave the Hacker Crackdown its new sense of gravity and importance was
the feeling -- the *community* feeling -- that the political stakes had been
raised; that trouble in cyberspace was no longer mere mischief or inconclu-
sive skirmishing, but a genuine fight over genuine issues, a fight for
community survival and the shape of the future.

     These electronic communities, having flourished throughout the 1980s,
were becoming aware of themselves, and increasingly, becoming aware of other,
rival communities.   Worries were sprouting up right and left, with
complaints, rumors, uneasy speculations.   But it would take a catalyst, a
shock, to make the new world evident.   Like Bell's great publicity break,
the Tarriffville Rail Disaster of January 1878, it would take a cause
celebre.

       That cause was the AT&T Crash of January 15, 1990. After the Crash,
the wounded and anxious telephone community would come out fighting hard.

                         #

     The community of telephone technicians, engineers, operators and
researchers is the oldest community in cyberspace.   These are the veterans,
the most developed group,  the richest, the most respectable, in most ways
the most powerful.   Whole generations  have come and gone since Alexander
Graham Bell's day, but the community he founded survives; people work for the
phone system today whose great-grandparents worked for the phone system. Its
specialty magazines, such as *Telephony,*  *AT&T Technical Journal,*  
*Telephone Engineer and Management,*  are decades old; they make computer
publications like *Macworld* and *PC Week*  look like amateur
johnny-come-latelies.

     And the phone companies take no back seat in high- technology, either. 
Other companies' industrial researchers may have won new markets;  but the
researchers of Bell Labs have won *seven  Nobel Prizes.* One potent device
that Bell Labs originated, the transistor, has created entire *groups* of
industries.  Bell Labs are world-famous for generating "a patent a day," and
have even made vital discoveries in astronomy, physics and cosmology.

     Throughout its seventy-year history, "Ma Bell" was not so much a company
as a way of life.  Until the cataclysmic divestiture of the 1980s, Ma Bell
was perhaps the ultimate maternalist mega-employer.   The AT&T corporate
image was the "gentle giant,"  "the voice with a smile," a vaguely
socialist-realist world of cleanshaven linemen in shiny helmets and blandly
pretty phone-girls in headsets and nylons.   Bell System employees were
famous as rock-ribbed Kiwanis and Rotary members, Little-League enthusiasts,
school-board people.

     During the long heyday of Ma Bell, the Bell employee corps were nurtured
top-to-botton on a corporate ethos of public service.   There was good money
in Bell, but Bell was not *about* money; Bell used public relations, but
never mere marketeering.   People went into the Bell System for a good life,
and they had a good life. But it was not mere money that led Bell people out
in the midst of storms and earthquakes to fight with toppled phone-poles, to
wade in flooded manholes, to pull the red- eyed graveyard-shift over
collapsing switching-systems. The Bell ethic was the electrical equivalent of
the postman's: neither rain, nor snow, nor gloom of night would stop these
couriers.

      It is easy to be cynical about this, as it is easy to be cynical about
any political or social system;  but cynicism does not change the fact that
thousands of people took these ideals very seriously.   And some still do.

     The Bell ethos was about public service; and that was gratifying; but it
was also about private *power,* and that was gratifying too.   As a
corporation, Bell was very special. Bell was privileged.  Bell had snuggled
up close to the state.  In fact, Bell was as close to government as you could
get in America and still make a whole lot of legitimate money.

       But unlike other companies,  Bell was above and beyond the vulgar
commercial fray.  Through its regional operating companies, Bell was
omnipresent, local, and intimate, all over America;  but the central ivory
towers at its corporate heart were the tallest and the ivoriest around.

      There were other phone companies in America, to be sure;  the so-called
independents.  Rural cooperatives, mostly; small fry, mostly tolerated,
sometimes warred upon.  For many decades, "independent" American phone
companies lived in fear and loathing of the official Bell monopoly  (or the
"Bell Octopus," as Ma Bell's nineteenth- century enemies described her in
many angry newspaper manifestos).  Some few of these independent entrepre-
neurs,  while legally in the wrong,  fought so bitterly against the Octopus
that their illegal phone networks were cast into the street by Bell agents
and publicly burned.

     The pure technical sweetness of the Bell System gave its operators,
inventors and engineers a deeply satisfying sense of power and mastery.  They
had devoted their lives to improving this vast nation-spanning machine; over
years, whole human lives, they had watched it improve and grow.   It was like
a great technological  temple.  They were an elite, and they knew it -- even
if others did not; in fact, they felt even more powerful *because* others did
not understand.

       The deep attraction of this sensation  of elite technical power should
never be underestimated. "Technical power" is not for everybody; for many
people it simply has no charm at all.  But for some people, it becomes the
core of their lives.  For a few, it is overwhelming, obsessive;  it becomes
something close to an addiction.   People -- especially clever teenage boys
whose lives are otherwise mostly powerless and put-upon - -  love this
sensation of secret power, and are willing to do all sorts of amazing things
to achieve it.  The technical *power* of electronics has motivated many 
strange acts detailed in this book, which would otherwise be inexplicable.

     So Bell had power beyond mere capitalism.  The Bell service  ethos
worked, and was often propagandized, in a rather saccharine fashion.  Over
the decades,  people slowly grew tired of this.   And then, openly impatient
with it.  By the early 1980s, Ma Bell was to find herself with scarcely a
real friend in the world.   Vail's industrial socialism had become hopelessly
out-of-fashion politically.  Bell would be punished for that.  And that
punishment would fall harshly upon the people of the telephone community.

                         #

     In 1983, Ma Bell was dismantled by federal court action.  The pieces of
Bell are now separate corporate entities.  The core of the company became
AT&T Communications, and also AT&T  Industries (formerly Western Electric,
Bell's manufacturing arm).  AT&T Bell Labs become Bell Communications
Research, Bellcore. Then there are the Regional Bell Operating Companies, or 
RBOCs, pronounced "arbocks."

     Bell was a titan and even these regional chunks are gigantic enterpris-
es:  Fortune 50 companies with plenty of wealth and power behind them.    
But the clean lines of "One Policy, One System, Universal Service" have been
shattered, apparently forever.

     The "One Policy" of the early Reagan Administration was to shatter a
system that smacked of noncompetitive socialism.  Since that time, there has
been no real telephone "policy" on the federal level.  Despite the breakup,
the remnants of Bell have never been set free to compete in the open
marketplace.

     The RBOCs are still very heavily regulated, but not from the top. 
Instead, they struggle politically, economically and legally, in what seems
an endless turmoil, in a patchwork of overlapping federal and state
jurisdictions.   Increasingly, like other major American corporations, the
RBOCs  are becoming multinational, acquiring important commercial interests
in Europe, Latin America, and the Pacific Rim.  But this, too, adds to their
legal and political predicament.

     The people of what used to be Ma Bell are not happy about their fate. 
They feel ill-used.  They might have been grudgingly willing to make a full
transition to the free market; to become just companies amid other companies.
But this never happened.   Instead,  AT&T and the RBOCS ("the Baby Bells") 
feel themselves wrenched from side to side by state regulators, by Congress,
by the FCC,  and especially by the federal court of Judge Harold Greene, the
magistrate who ordered the Bell breakup and who has been the de facto czar of
American telecommunications ever since 1983.

     Bell people feel that they exist in a kind of paralegal limbo today.  
They don't understand what's demanded of them.   If it's "service," why
aren't they treated like a public service?  And if it's money, then why
aren't they free to compete for it?  No one seems to know, really.   Those
who claim to know  keep changing their minds.  Nobody in authority seems
willing to grasp the nettle for once and all.

     Telephone people from other countries are amazed by the American
telephone system today.  Not that it works so well; for nowadays even the
French telephone system works, more or less.  They are amazed that the
American telephone system *still*  works *at all,* under these strange
conditions.

     Bell's  "One System" of long-distance service is now only about eighty
percent of a system, with the remainder held by Sprint, MCI, and the midget
long-distance companies.   Ugly wars over dubious corporate practices such as
"slamming" (an underhanded method of snitching clients from rivals) break out
with some regularity in the realm of long-distance service.  The battle to
break Bell's long-distance monopoly was long and ugly, and since the breakup
the battlefield has not become much prettier. AT&T's famous shame-and-blame
advertisements, which emphasized the shoddy work and purported ethical
shadiness of their competitors,  were much remarked on for their studied
psychological cruelty.

     There is much bad blood in this industry, and much long-treasured
resentment.  AT&T's post-breakup corporate logo, a striped sphere, is known
in the industry as the "Death Star"  (a reference from the movie *Star Wars,*
in which the "Death Star" was the spherical  high- tech fortress of the
harsh-breathing  imperial ultra-baddie, Darth Vader.)   Even AT&T employees
are less than thrilled by the Death Star.   A popular (though banned) T-
shirt among AT&T employees bears the old-fashioned Bell logo of the Bell
System, plus the newfangled striped sphere, with the before-and-after
comments:  "This is your brain -- This is your brain on drugs!"   AT&T made
a very well-financed and determined effort to break into the personal
computer market;  it was disastrous, and telco computer experts are
derisively known by their competitors as "the pole-climbers."  AT&T and the
Baby Bell arbocks still seem to have few friends.

     Under conditions of sharp commercial competition, a crash like that of
January 15, 1990 was a major embarrassment to AT&T.  It was a direct blow
against their much-treasured reputation for reliability.   Within days of the
crash AT&T's Chief Executive Officer, Bob Allen, officially apologized, in
terms of deeply pained  humility:

     "AT&T had a major service disruption last Monday. We didn't live up to
our own standards of quality, and we didn't live up to yours. It's as simple
as that.  And that's not acceptable to us.  Or to you.... We understand how
much people have come to depend upon AT&T service, so our AT&T Bell
Laboratories scientists and our network engineers are doing everything
possible to guard against a recurrence.... We know there's no way to make up
for the inconvenience this problem may have caused you."

     Mr Allen's "open letter to customers" was printed in lavish ads all over
the country:  in the *Wall Street Journal,*  *USA Today,*  *New York Times,*
*Los Angeles Times,*  *Chicago Tribune,* *Philadelphia Inquirer,*  *San
Francisco Chronicle Examiner,* *Boston Globe,*  *Dallas Morning News,*
*Detroit Free Press,* *Washington Post,* *Houston Chronicle,* *Cleveland
Plain Dealer,* *Atlanta Journal Constitution,* *Minneapolis Star Tribune,*
*St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch,*  *Seattle Times/Post Intelligencer,*
*Tacoma News Tribune,* *Miami Herald,* *Pittsburgh Press,*  *St. Louis Post
Dispatch,* *Denver Post,* *Phoenix Republic Gazette* and *Tampa Tribune.*

     In another press release, AT&T went to some pains to suggest that this
"software glitch" *might* have happened just as easily to MCI, although, in
fact, it hadn't.  (MCI's switching software was quite different from AT&T's
-- though not necessarily any safer.)   AT&T also announced their plans to
offer a rebate of service on Valentine's Day to make up for the loss during
the Crash.

     "Every technical resource available, including Bell Labs scientists and
engineers, has been devoted to assuring it will not occur again," the public
was told. They were further assured that "The chances of a recurrence are
small--a problem of this magnitude never occurred before."

     In the meantime, however, police and corporate security maintained their
own suspicions about "the chances of recurrence" and the real reason why a
"problem of this magnitude" had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.   Police
and security knew for a fact that hackers of unprecedented sophistication
were illegally entering, and reprogramming, certain digital switching
stations.  Rumors of hidden "viruses" and secret "logic bombs" in the
switches ran rampant in the underground, with much chortling over AT&T's
predicament, and idle speculation over what unsung hacker genius was
responsible for it.  Some hackers, including police informants, were trying
hard to finger one another as the true culprits  of the Crash.

     Telco people found little comfort in objectivity when they contemplated
these possibilities.   It was just too close to the bone for them; it was
embarrassing; it hurt so much, it was hard even to talk about.

     There has always been thieving and misbehavior in the phone system. 
There has always been trouble with the rival independents, and in the local
loops.  But to have such trouble in the core of the system, the long-distance
switching stations, is a horrifying affair.   To telco people, this is all
the difference between finding roaches in your kitchen and big horrid
sewer-rats in your bedroom.

     From the outside, to the average citizen, the telcos still seem gigantic
and impersonal.  The American public seems to regard them as something akin
to Soviet apparats.  Even when the telcos  do their best corporate- citizen
routine,  subsidizing magnet high-schools and sponsoring news-shows on public
television, they seem to win little except public suspicion.

     But from the inside, all this looks very different. There's harsh
competition.  A legal and political system that seems baffled  and bored,
when not actively hostile to telco interests.  There's a loss of morale, a
deep sensation of having somehow lost the upper hand.  Technological change
has caused a loss of data and revenue to other, newer forms of transmission. 
 There's theft, and new forms of theft, of growing scale and boldness and
sophistication.  With all these factors, it was no surprise to see the
telcos, large and small, break out in a litany of bitter complaint.

     In late '88 and throughout 1989, telco representatives grew shrill in
their complaints to those few American law enforcement officials who make it
their business to try to understand what telephone people are talking about.
Telco security officials had discovered the computer- hacker underground,
infiltrated it thoroughly, and become deeply alarmed at its growing
expertise.  Here they had found a target that was not only loathsome on its
face, but clearly ripe for counterattack.

      Those bitter rivals: AT&T, MCI and Sprint -- and a crowd of Baby Bells: 
PacBell, Bell South, Southwestern Bell, NYNEX, USWest, as well as the Bell
research consortium Bellcore, and the independent long-distance carrier 
Mid-American  -- all were to have their role in the great hacker dragnet of
1990.   After years of being battered and pushed around, the telcos had, at
least in a small way, seized the initiative again.  After years of turmoil,
telcos and government officials were once again to work smoothly in concert
in defense of the System. Optimism blossomed; enthusiasm grew on all sides;
the prospective taste of vengeance was sweet.

                         #

     From the beginning -- even before the crackdown had a name -- secrecy
was a big problem.  There were many good reasons for secrecy in the hacker
crackdown. Hackers and code-thieves were wily prey, slinking back to their
bedrooms and basements and destroying vital incriminating evidence at the
first hint of trouble. Furthermore, the crimes themselves were heavily
technical and difficult to describe, even to police -- much less to the
general public.

      When such crimes *had* been described intelligibly to the public, in
the past, that very publicity had tended to *increase* the crimes enormously. 
 Telco officials, while painfully aware of the vulnerabilities of their
systems, were anxious not to publicize those weaknesses.   Experience showed
them that those weaknesses, once discovered, would be pitilessly exploited by
tens of thousands of people -- not only by professional grifters and by
underground hackers and phone phreaks, but by many otherwise more-or-less
honest everyday folks, who regarded stealing service from the faceless,
soulless "Phone Company" as a kind of harmless indoor sport. When it came to
protecting their interests, telcos had long since given up on general public
sympathy for "the Voice with a Smile."  Nowadays the telco's "Voice" was very
likely to be a computer's; and the American public showed much less of the
proper respect and gratitude due the fine public service bequeathed them by
Dr. Bell and Mr. Vail. The more efficient, high-tech, computerized, and
impersonal the telcos became, it seemed, the more they were met by sullen
public resentment and amoral greed.

     Telco officials wanted to punish the phone-phreak underground,  in as
public and exemplary a manner as possible.  They wanted to make dire examples
of the worst offenders, to seize the ringleaders and intimidate the small
fry, to discourage and frighten the wacky hobbyists, and send the profession-
al grifters to jail.  To do all this, publicity was vital.

     Yet operational secrecy was even more so.  If word got out that a
nationwide crackdown was coming, the hackers might simply vanish; destroy the
evidence, hide their computers, go to earth, and wait for the campaign to
blow over.  Even the young  hackers were crafty and suspicious, and as for
the professional grifters, they tended to split for the nearest state-line at
the first sign of trouble.  For the crackdown to work well, they would all
have to be caught red-handed, swept upon suddenly, out of the blue, from
every corner of the compass.

     And there was another strong motive for secrecy.  In the worst-case
scenario, a blown campaign might leave the telcos open to a devastating
hacker counter-attack.   If there were indeed hackers loose in America  who
had caused the January 15 Crash -- if there were truly gifted hackers, loose
in the nation's long-distance switching systems, and enraged or frightened by
the crackdown -- then they might react unpredictably to an attempt to collar
them.   Even if caught, they might have talented and vengeful friends still
running around loose.   Conceivably, it could turn ugly.  Very ugly.  In
fact, it was hard to imagine just how ugly things might turn, given that
possibility.

     Counter-attack from hackers was a genuine concern for the telcos.  In
point of fact, they would never suffer any such counter-attack.  But in
months to come, they would be at some pains to publicize this notion and to
utter grim warnings about it.

     Still, that risk seemed well worth running.  Better to run the risk of
vengeful attacks, than to live at the mercy of potential crashers.  Any cop
would tell you that a protection racket had no real future.

      And publicity was such a useful thing.   Corporate security officers,
including telco security,  generally work under conditions of great
discretion.  And corporate security officials do not make money for their
companies. Their job is to *prevent the loss* of money, which is much less
glamorous than actually winning profits.

     If you are a corporate security official, and you do your job brilliant-
ly, then nothing bad happens to your company at all.  Because of this, you
appear completely superfluous.   This is one of the many unattractive aspects
of security work.   It's rare that these folks have the chance to draw some
healthy attention to their own efforts.

     Publicity also served the interest of their friends in law enforcement. 
Public officials, including law enforcement officials,  thrive by attracting
favorable public interest.  A brilliant prosecution in a matter of vital
public interest  can make the career of a prosecuting attorney.  And for a
police officer, good publicity opens the purses of the legislature; it may
bring a citation, or a promotion, or at least a rise in status and the
respect of one's peers.

     But to have both publicity and secrecy is to have one's cake and eat it
too.  In months to come, as we will show, this impossible act was to cause
great pain to the agents of the crackdown.  But early on, it seemed possible
-- maybe even likely -- that the crackdown could successfully combine the
best of both worlds.   The *arrest* of hackers would be heavily publicized. 
The actual *deeds* of the hackers, which were technically hard to explain and
also a security risk, would be left decently obscured.   The *threat* hackers
posed would be heavily trumpeted; the likelihood of their actually committing
such fearsome crimes would be left to the public's imagination.  The spread
of the computer underground, and its growing technical sophistication, would
be heavily promoted;  the actual hackers themselves, mostly bespectacled
middle-class white suburban teenagers, would be denied any personal
publicity.

     It does not seem to have occurred to any telco official that the hackers
accused would demand a day in court; that journalists would smile upon the
hackers as "good copy;"  that wealthy high-tech entrepreneurs would offer
moral and financial support to crackdown victims; that constitutional lawyers
would show up with briefcases, frowning mightily.   This possibility does not
seem to have ever entered the game-plan.

     And even if it had, it probably would not have slowed the ferocious
pursuit of a stolen phone-company document, mellifluously known as "Control
Office Administration of Enhanced 911 Services for Special Services and Major
Account Centers."

     In the chapters to follow, we will explore the worlds of police and the
computer underground, and the large shadowy area where they overlap.   But
first, we must explore the battleground.  Before we leave the world of the
telcos, we must understand what a switching system actually is and how your
telephone actually works.

                         #

     To the average citizen, the idea of the telephone is represented by,
well,  a *telephone:*  a device that you talk into.  To a telco professional,
however, the telephone itself is known, in lordly fashion, as a "subset."  
The "subset" in your house is a mere adjunct, a distant nerve ending, of the
central switching stations, which are ranked in levels of heirarchy, up to
the  long-distance electronic switching stations, which are some of the
largest computers on earth.

     Let us imagine that it is, say, 1925,  before the introduction of
computers, when the phone system was simpler and somewhat easier to grasp.  
Let's further imagine that you are Miss Leticia Luthor, a fictional operator
for Ma Bell in New York City of the 20s.

     Basically, you, Miss Luthor, *are* the "switching system."  You are
sitting in front of a large vertical switchboard, known as a "cordboard,"
made of shiny wooden panels, with ten thousand metal-rimmed holes punched in
them, known as jacks.  The engineers would have put more holes into your
switchboard, but ten thousand is as many as you can reach without actually
having to get up out of your chair.

      Each of these ten thousand holes has its own little electric lightbulb,
known as a "lamp," and its own neatly printed number code.

      With the ease of long habit, you are scanning your board for lit-up
bulbs.  This is what you do most of the time, so you are used to it.

       A lamp lights up.  This means that the phone at the end of that line
has been taken off the hook.   Whenever a handset is taken off the hook, that
closes a circuit inside the phone which then signals the local office, i.e.
you, automatically.  There might be somebody calling, or then again the phone
might be simply off the hook, but this does not matter to you yet.  The first
thing you do, is record that number in your logbook, in your fine American
public-school handwriting.   This comes first, naturally, since it is done
for billing purposes.

     You now take the plug of your answering cord, which goes directly to
your headset, and plug it into the lit-up hole.  "Operator," you announce.

     In operator's classes, before taking this job, you have been issued a
large pamphlet full of canned operator's responses for all kinds of
contingencies, which you had to memorize.  You have also been trained in a
proper non- regional, non-ethnic pronunciation and tone of voice.  You rarely 
have the occasion to make any spontaneous remark to a customer, and in fact
this is frowned upon (except out on the rural lines where people  have time
on their hands and get up to all kinds of mischief).

     A tough-sounding user's voice at the end of the line gives you a number. 
Immediately, you write that number down in your logbook, next to the caller's
number, which you just wrote earlier.  You then look and see if the number
this guy wants is in fact on your switchboard, which it generally is, since
it's generally a local call. Long distance costs so much that people use it
sparingly.

     Only then do you pick up a calling-cord from a shelf at the base of the
switchboard.  This is a long elastic cord mounted on a kind of reel so that
it will zip back in when you unplug it.  There are a lot of cords down there,
and when a bunch of them are out at once they look like a nest of snakes. 
Some of the girls think there are bugs living in those cable-holes.  They're
called "cable mites" and are supposed to bite your hands and give you rashes. 
You don't believe this, yourself.

     Gripping the head of your calling-cord, you slip the tip of it deftly
into the sleeve of the jack for the called person.  Not all the way in,
though.  You just touch it.  If you hear a clicking sound, that means the
line is busy and you can't put the call through.  If the line is busy, you
have to stick the calling-cord into a "busy-tone jack," which will give the
guy a busy-tone.  This way you don't have to talk to him yourself and absorb
his natural human frustration.

     But the line isn't busy.  So you pop the cord all the way in.   Relay
circuits in your board make the distant phone ring, and if somebody picks it
up off the hook, then a phone conversation starts.   You can hear this
conversation on your answering cord, until you unplug it. In fact you could
listen to the whole conversation if you wanted, but this is sternly frowned
upon by management, and frankly, when you've overheard one, you've pretty
much heard 'em all.

      You can tell how long the conversation lasts by the glow of the
calling-cord's lamp, down on the calling-cord's shelf.   When it's over, you
unplug and the calling-cord zips back into place.

     Having done this stuff a few hundred thousand times, you become quite
good at it.  In fact you're plugging, and connecting, and disconnecting, ten,
twenty, forty cords at a time.  It's a manual handicraft, really, quite
satisfying in a way, rather like weaving on an upright loom.

     Should a long-distance call come up, it would be different, but not all
that different.  Instead of connecting the call through your own local
switchboard, you have to go up the hierarchy, onto the long-distance lines,
known as "trunklines."  Depending on how far the call goes, it may have to
work its way through a whole series of operators, which can take quite a
while.   The caller doesn't wait on the line while this complex process is
negotiated across the country by the gaggle of operators.   Instead, the
caller hangs up, and you call him back yourself when the call has finally
worked its way through.

     After four or five years of this work, you get married, and you have to
quit your job, this being the natural order of womanhood in the American
1920s.  The phone company has to train somebody else -- maybe two people,
since the phone system has grown somewhat in the meantime.  And this costs
money.

     In fact, to use any kind of human being as a switching system is a very
expensive proposition.   Eight thousand Leticia Luthors would be bad enough,
but a quarter of a million of them is a military-scale proposition and makes
drastic measures in automation financially worthwhile.

     Although the phone system continues to grow today, the number of human
beings employed by telcos has been dropping steadily for years.  Phone
"operators" now deal with nothing but unusual contingencies, all routine
operations having been shrugged off onto machines. Consequently, telephone
operators are considerably less machine-like nowadays,  and have been known
to have accents and actual character in their voices.  When you reach a human
operator today, the operators are rather more "human" than they were in
Leticia's day -- but on the other hand, human beings in the phone system are
much harder to reach in the first place.

     Over the first half of the twentieth century, "electromechanical"
switching systems of growing complexity were cautiously introduced into the
phone system.  In certain backwaters, some of these hybrid systems are still
in use.  But after 1965, the phone system began to go completely electronic,
and this is by far the dominant mode today.  Electromechanical systems have
"crossbars," and "brushes," and other large moving mechanical parts, which,
while faster and cheaper than Leticia, are still slow, and tend to wear out
fairly quickly.

     But fully electronic systems are inscribed on silicon chips, and are
lightning-fast, very cheap, and quite durable.   They are much cheaper to
maintain than even the best electromechanical systems, and they fit into half
the space.   And with every year, the silicon chip grows smaller, faster, and
cheaper yet.  Best of all,  automated electronics work around the clock and
don't have salaries or health insurance.

     There are, however, quite serious drawbacks to the use of
computer-chips.   When they do break down, it is a daunting challenge to
figure out what the heck has gone wrong with them.  A broken cordboard
generally had a problem in it big enough to see.  A broken chip has
invisible, microscopic faults.  And the faults in bad software can be so
subtle as to be practically theological.

     If you want a mechanical system to do something new, then you must
travel to where it is, and pull pieces out of it, and wire in new pieces. 
This costs money.  However, if you want a chip to do something new, all you
have to do is change its software, which is easy, fast and dirt-cheap. You
don't even have to see the chip to change its program. Even if you did see
the chip, it wouldn't look like much.  A chip with program X doesn't look one
whit different from a chip with program Y.

     With the proper codes and sequences, and access to specialized
phone-lines, you can change electronic switching systems all over America
from anywhere you please.

     And so can other people.  If they know how, and if they want to, they
can sneak into a  microchip via the special phonelines and diddle with it,
leaving no physical trace at all.  If they broke into the operator's station
and held Leticia at gunpoint, that would be very obvious.  If they broke into
a telco building and went after an electromechanical switch with a toolbelt,
that would at least leave many traces.  But people can do all manner of
amazing things to computer switches just by typing on a keyboard, and
keyboards are everywhere today.  The extent of this vulnerability is deep,
dark, broad, almost mind-boggling, and yet this is a basic, primal fact of
life about any computer on a network.

     Security experts over the past twenty years have insisted, with growing
urgency, that this basic vulnerability of computers represents an entirely
new level of risk, of unknown but obviously dire potential to society.   And
they are right.

     An electronic switching station does pretty much everything Letitia did,
except in nanoseconds and on a much larger scale.  Compared to Miss Luthor's
ten thousand jacks, even a primitive 1ESS switching computer, 60s vintage, 
has a 128,000 lines.   And the current AT&T system of choice is the monstrous
fifth-generation 5ESS.

      An Electronic Switching Station can scan every line on its "board" in
a tenth of a second, and it does this over and over, tirelessly, around the
clock.  Instead of eyes, it uses "ferrod scanners" to check the condition of
local lines and trunks.  Instead of hands, it has "signal distributors,"
"central pulse distributors," "magnetic latching relays," and "reed
switches," which complete and break the calls. Instead of a brain, it has a
"central processor."   Instead of an instruction manual, it has a program.  
Instead of a handwritten logbook for recording and billing calls, it has
magnetic tapes. And it never has to talk to anybody. Everything a customer
might say to it is done by punching the direct-dial tone buttons on your
subset.

     Although an Electronic Switching Station can't talk, it does need an
interface, some way to relate to its, er, employers.   This interface is
known as the "master control center."  (This interface might be better known
simply as "the interface," since it doesn't actually "control" phone calls
directly.  However, a term like "Master Control Center" is just the kind of
rhetoric that telco maintenance engineers  -- and hackers -- find particular-
ly satisfying.)

     Using the master control center, a phone engineer can test local and
trunk lines for malfunctions.  He (rarely she) can check various alarm
displays, measure traffic on the lines, examine the records of telephone
usage and the charges for those calls, and change the programming.

     And, of course, anybody else who gets into the master control center by
remote control can also do these things, if he (rarely she) has managed to
figure them out, or, more likely, has somehow swiped the knowledge from
people who already know.

     In 1989 and 1990, one particular RBOC, BellSouth, which felt particular-
ly troubled, spent a purported $1.2 million on computer security.   Some
think it spent as much as two million, if you count all the associated costs.
Two million dollars is still very little compared to the great cost-saving
utility of telephonic computer systems.

     Unfortunately, computers are also stupid.  Unlike human beings,
computers  possess the truly profound stupidity of the inanimate.

      In the 1960s, in the first shocks of spreading computerization, there
was much easy talk about the stupidity of computers -- how they could "only
follow the program" and were rigidly required to do "only what they were
told."   There has been rather less talk about the stupidity of computers
since they began to achieve grandmaster status in chess tournaments, and to
manifest many other impressive forms of apparent cleverness.

       Nevertheless, computers *still* are profoundly brittle and stupid;
they are simply vastly more subtle in their stupidity and brittleness.   The
computers of the 1990s are much more reliable in their components than
earlier computer systems, but they are also called upon to do far more
complex things, under far more challenging conditions.

     On a basic mathematical level, every single line of a software program
offers a chance for some possible screwup.   Software does not sit still when
it works; it "runs," it interacts with itself and with its own inputs and
outputs. By analogy, it stretches like putty into millions of possible shapes
and conditions, so many shapes that they can never all be successfully
tested, not even in the lifespan of the universe.  Sometimes the putty snaps.

     The stuff we call "software" is not like anything that human society is
used to thinking about.  Software is something like a machine, and something
like mathematics, and something like language, and something like thought,
and art, and information....  but software is not in fact any of those other
things.   The protean quality of software is one of the great sources of its
fascination.  It also makes software very powerful, very subtle, very
unpredictable, and very risky.

     Some software is bad and buggy.  Some is "robust," even "bulletproof." 
The best software is that which has been tested by thousands of users under
thousands of different conditions, over years.  It is then known as "stable." 
 This does *not* mean that the software is now flawless, free of bugs.  It
generally means that there are plenty of bugs in it, but the bugs are
well-identified and fairly well understood.

      There is simply no way to assure that software is free of flaws. 
Though software is mathematical in nature, it cannot by "proven" like a
mathematical theorem; software is more like language, with inherent
ambiguities, with different definitions, different assumptions, different
levels of meaning that can conflict.

      Human beings can manage, more or less, with human language because we
can catch the gist of it.

     Computers, despite years of effort in "artificial intelligence," have
proven spectacularly bad in "catching the gist" of anything at all.  The
tiniest bit of semantic grit may still bring the mightiest computer tumbling
down. One of the most hazardous things you can do to a computer program is
try to improve it -- to try to make it safer.  Software "patches" represent
new, untried un- "stable" software, which is by definition riskier.

     The modern telephone system has come to depend, utterly and irretriev-
ably, upon software.  And the System Crash of January 15, 1990, was caused by
an *improvement* in software.  Or rather, an *attempted* improvement.

     As it happened, the problem itself -- the problem per se  --  took this
form.  A piece of telco software had been written in C language, a standard
language of the telco field.  Within the C software was a long "do... while"
construct.  The "do... while" construct contained a "switch" statement.  The
"switch" statement contained an "if" clause.  The "if" clause contained a
"break."  The "break" was *supposed* to "break" the "if clause."  Instead,
the "break" broke the "switch" statement.

     That was the problem, the actual reason why people picking up phones on
January 15, 1990, could not talk to one another.

     Or at least, that was the subtle, abstract, cyberspatial seed of the
problem.  This is how the problem manifested itself from the realm of
programming into the realm of real life.

     The System 7 software for AT&T's 4ESS switching station, the "Generic
44E14 Central Office Switch Software," had been extensively tested, and was
considered very stable.   By the end of 1989, eighty of AT&T's switching
systems nationwide had been programmed with the new software.  Cautiously,
thirty- four stations were left to run the slower, less-capable System 6,
because AT&T suspected there might be shakedown problems with the new and
unprecedently sophisticated System 7 network.

     The stations with System 7 were programmed to switch over to a backup
net in case of any problems.  In mid-December 1989, however, a new
high-velocity, high- security software patch was distributed to each of the
4ESS switches that would enable them to switch over even more quickly, making
the System 7 network that much more secure.

     Unfortunately, every one of these 4ESS switches was now in possession of
a small but deadly flaw.

      In order to maintain the network, switches must monitor the condition
of other switches -- whether they are up and running, whether they have
temporarily shut down, whether they are overloaded and in need of assistance,
and so forth.  The new software helped control this bookkeeping function by
monitoring the status calls from other switches.

     It only takes four to six seconds for a troubled 4ESS switch to rid
itself of all its calls, drop everything temporarily, and re-boot its
software from scratch. Starting over from scratch will generally rid the
switch of any software problems that may have developed in the course of
running the system.   Bugs that arise will be simply wiped out by this
process.  It is a clever idea. This process of automatically re-booting from
scratch is known as the "normal fault recovery routine."   Since AT&T's
software is in fact exceptionally stable, systems rarely have to go into
"fault recovery" in the first place;  but AT&T has always boasted of its
"real world" reliability, and this tactic is a belt-and-suspenders routine.

     The 4ESS switch used its new software to monitor its fellow switches as
they recovered from faults.   As other switches came back on line after
recovery, they would send their "OK" signals to the switch.   The switch
would make a little note to that effect in its "status map," recognizing that
the fellow switch was back and ready to go, and should be sent some calls and
put back to regular work.

     Unfortunately, while it was busy bookkeeping with the status map, the
tiny flaw in the brand-new software came into play.  The flaw caused the 4ESS
switch to interacted, subtly but drastically, with incoming telephone calls
from human users.  If -- and only if -- two incoming phone-calls happened to
hit the switch within a hundredth of a second,  then a small patch of data
would be garbled by the flaw.

     But the switch had been programmed to monitor itself constantly for any
possible damage to its data. When the switch perceived that its data had been
somehow  garbled, then it too would go down, for swift repairs to its
software.  It would signal its fellow switches not to send any more work.  It
would go into the fault- recovery mode for four to six seconds.  And then the
switch would be fine again, and would send out its "OK, ready for work"
signal.

     However, the "OK, ready for work" signal was the *very thing that had
caused the   switch to go down in the first place.*  And *all* the System 7
switches had the same flaw in their status-map software.  As soon as they
stopped to make  the bookkeeping note that their fellow switch was "OK," then
they too would become vulnerable to the slight chance that two phone-calls
would hit them within a hundredth of a second.

     At approximately 2:25 p.m. EST on Monday, January 15, one of AT&T's 4ESS
toll switching systems in New York City had an actual, legitimate, minor
problem.  It went into fault recovery routines, announced "I'm going down,"
then announced, "I'm back, I'm OK."   And this cheery message then blasted
throughout the network to many of its fellow 4ESS switches.

     Many of the switches, at first, completely escaped trouble.  These lucky
switches were not hit by the coincidence of two phone calls within a
hundredth of a second.   Their software did not fail -- at first.  But three
switches -- in Atlanta, St. Louis, and Detroit --  were unlucky, and were
caught with their hands full.  And they went down.  And they came back up,
almost immediately. And they too began to broadcast the lethal message that
they, too, were "OK" again, activating the lurking software bug in yet other
switches.

     As more and more switches did have that bit of bad luck and collapsed,
the call-traffic became more and more densely packed in the remaining
switches, which were groaning to keep up with the load.   And of course, as
the calls became more densely packed, the switches were *much more likely* to
be hit twice within a hundredth of a second.

     It only took four seconds for a switch to get well. There was no
*physical* damage of any kind to the switches, after all.   Physically, they
were working perfectly. This situation was "only" a software problem.

     But the 4ESS switches were leaping up and down every four to six
seconds, in a virulent spreading wave all over America,  in utter, manic,
mechanical stupidity.  They kept *knocking*  one another down with their
contagious "OK" messages.

     It took about ten minutes for the chain reaction to cripple the network. 
Even then, switches would periodically luck-out and manage to resume their
normal work.  Many calls -- millions of them -- were managing to get through. 
But millions weren't.

     The switching stations that used System 6 were not directly affected. 
Thanks to these old-fashioned switches, AT&T's national system avoided
complete collapse.  This fact also made it clear to engineers that System 7
was at fault.

     Bell Labs engineers, working feverishly in New Jersey, Illinois, and
Ohio, first tried their entire repertoire of standard network remedies on the
malfunctioning System 7.  None of the remedies worked, of course, because
nothing like this had ever happened to any phone system before.

     By cutting out the backup safety network entirely, they were able to
reduce the frenzy of "OK" messages by about half.  The system then began to
recover, as the chain reaction slowed.   By 11:30 pm on Monday January 15,
sweating engineers on the midnight shift breathed a sigh of relief as the
last switch cleared-up.

     By Tuesday they were pulling all the brand-new 4ESS software and
replacing it with an earlier version of System 7.

     If these had been human operators, rather than computers at work,
someone would simply have eventually stopped screaming.  It would have been
*obvious* that the situation was not "OK," and common sense would have kicked
in.   Humans possess common sense -- at least to some extent.   Computers
simply don't.

     On the other hand, computers can handle hundreds of calls per second. 
Humans simply can't.   If every single human being in America worked for the
phone company, we couldn't match the performance of digital switches:
direct-dialling, three-way calling, speed-calling, call- waiting, Caller ID,
all the rest of the cornucopia of digital bounty.   Replacing computers with
operators is simply not an option any more.

     And yet we still, anachronistically,  expect humans to be running our
phone system.   It is hard for us to understand that we have sacrificed huge
amounts of initiative and control to senseless yet powerful machines. When
the phones fail, we want somebody to be responsible.  We want somebody to
blame.

     When the Crash of January 15 happened, the American populace was simply
not prepared to understand that enormous landslides in cyberspace, like the
Crash itself, can happen, and can be nobody's fault in particular.   It was
easier to believe, maybe even in some odd way more reassuring to believe,
that some evil person, or evil group, had done this to us.  "Hackers" had
done it. With a virus.   A trojan horse.  A software bomb.  A dirty plot of
some kind.   People believed this, responsible people.  In 1990, they were
looking hard for evidence to confirm their heartfelt suspicions.

     And they would look in a lot of places.

     Come 1991, however, the outlines of an apparent new reality would begin
to emerge from the fog.

     On July 1 and 2, 1991, computer-software collapses in telephone
switching stations disrupted service in Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Los
Angeles and San Francisco.   Once again, seemingly minor maintenance problems
had crippled the digital System 7.  About twelve million people were affected
in the Crash of July 1, 1991.

     Said the New York Times Service:  "Telephone company executives and
federal regulators said they were not ruling out the possibility of sabotage
by computer hackers, but most seemed to think the problems stemmed from some
unknown defect in the software running the networks."

     And sure enough, within the week, a red-faced software company, DSC
Communications Corporation of Plano, Texas, owned up to "glitches" in the
"signal transfer point" software that DSC had designed for Bell Atlantic and
Pacific Bell.  The immediate cause of the July 1 Crash was a single mistyped
character:  one tiny typographical flaw in one single line of the software. 
One mistyped letter, in one single line, had deprived the nation's capital of
phone service.  It was not particularly surprising that this tiny flaw had
escaped attention: a typical System 7 station requires *ten million* lines of
code.

     On Tuesday, September 17, 1991, came the most spectacular outage yet.  
This case had nothing to do with software failures -- at least, not directly. 
Instead, a group of AT&T's switching stations in New York City had simply run
out of electrical power and shut down cold.  Their back-up batteries had
failed.  Automatic warning systems were supposed to warn of the loss of
battery power, but those automatic systems had failed as well.

     This time, Kennedy, La Guardia, and Newark airports all had their voice
and data communications cut.   This horrifying event was particularly ironic,
as attacks on airport computers by hackers had long been a standard nightmare
scenario, much trumpeted by computer- security experts who feared the
computer underground. There had even been a Hollywood thriller about sinister
hackers ruining airport computers -- *Die Hard II.*

     Now AT&T itself had crippled airports with computer malfunctions  -- not
just one airport, but three at once, some of the busiest in the world.

     Air traffic came to a standstill throughout the Greater New York area,
causing more than 500 flights to be cancelled, in a spreading wave all over
America and even into Europe.  Another 500 or so flights were delayed,
affecting, all in all, about 85,000 passengers.  (One of these passengers was
the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.)

     Stranded passengers in New York and New Jersey were further infuriated
to discover that they could not even manage to make a long distance phone
call, to explain their delay to loved ones or business associates. Thanks to
the crash, about four and a half million domestic calls, and half a million
international calls, failed to get through.

     The September 17 NYC Crash, unlike the previous ones, involved not a
whisper of "hacker" misdeeds.  On the contrary,  by 1991, AT&T itself was
suffering much of the vilification that had formerly been directed at
hackers. Congressmen were grumbling.  So were state and federal regulators. 
And so was the press.

     For their part, ancient rival MCI took out snide full- page newspaper
ads in New York, offering their own long- distance services for the "next
time that AT&T goes down."

     "You wouldn't find a classy company like AT&T using such advertising,"
protested AT&T Chairman Robert Allen, unconvincingly.  Once again, out came
the full-page AT&T apologies in newspapers, apologies for "an inexcusable
culmination of both human and mechanical failure."   (This time, however,
AT&T offered no discount on later calls.  Unkind critics suggested that AT&T
were worried about setting any precedent for refunding the financial losses
caused by telephone crashes.)

     Industry journals asked  publicly if AT&T was "asleep at the switch."  
The telephone network, America's purported marvel of high-tech reliability, 
had gone down three times in 18 months.  *Fortune* magazine listed the Crash
of September 17 among the "Biggest Business Goofs of 1991,"  cruelly
parodying AT&T's ad campaign in an article entitled "AT&T Wants You Back
(Safely On the Ground, God Willing)."

     Why had those New York switching systems simply run out of power? 
Because no human being had attended to the alarm system.  Why did the alarm
systems blare automatically, without any human being noticing? Because the
three telco technicians who *should* have been listening were absent from
their stations in the power-room, on another floor of the building --
attending a training class.  A training class about the alarm systems for the
power room!

     "Crashing the System" was no longer "unprecedented" by late 1991.   On
the contrary, it no longer even seemed an oddity.   By 1991, it was clear
that all the policemen in the world could no longer "protect" the phone
system from crashes.   By far the worst crashes the system had ever had, had
been inflicted, by the system, upon *itself.*  And this time nobody was
making cocksure statements that this was an anomaly, something that would
never happen again.   By 1991 the System's defenders had met their nebulous
Enemy, and the Enemy was -- the System.