The American

The American Connection.

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US forces give the nod; It's a setback for your country. — from `US Forces', 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Force had a secret. The Parmaster wanted it. Like most hackers, The Parmaster didn't just want the secret, he needed it. He was in that peculiar state attained by real hackers where they will do just about anything to obtain a certain piece of information. He was obsessed. Of course, it wasn't the first time The Parmaster craved a juicy piece of information. Both he and Force knew all about infatuation. That's how it worked with real hackers. They didn't just fancy a titbit here and there. Once they knew information about a particular system was available, that there was a hidden entrance, they chased it down relentlessly. So that was exactly what Par was doing. Chasing Force endlessly, until he got what he wanted. It began innocently enough as idle conversation between two giants in the computer underground in the first half of 1988. Force, the well-known Australian hacker who ran the exclusive Realm BBS in Melbourne, sat chatting with Par, the American master of X.25 networks, in Germany. Neither of them was physically in Germany, but Altos was. Altos Computer Systems in Hamburg ran a conference feature called Altos Chat on one of its machines. You could call up from anywhere on the X.25 data communications network, and the company's computer would let you connect. Once connected, with a few brief keystrokes, the German machine would drop you into a real-time, on-screen talk session with anyone else who happened to be on-line. While the rest of the company's computer system grunted and toiled with everyday labours, this corner of the machine was reserved for live on-line chatting. For free. It was like an early form of the Internet Relay Chat. The company probably hadn't meant to become the world's most prestigious hacker hang-out, but it soon ended up doing so.
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Suelette Dreyfus

Tech researcher, journalist, lecturer at University of Melbourne, specializes in tech's impact on whistleblowing.

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