Edward Tufte on Aaron Swartz and his own hacking career


Designer and theorist Edward Tufte was a friend and mentor of Aaron Swartz's. At Saturday's memorial to Aaron at the Cooper Union in NYC, Tufte remembered both Aaron and his own hacking career, inventing "blue boxes" and using them to make illegal calls on AT&T's network, and wondered about what would have become of him had he run into the same prosecutorial zeal as Aaron faced. Here's a quote from Dan Nguyen's transcript of the Livestream video feed:

…[Bowen] then became president of the Mellon Foundation and he had retired from the Mellon foundation. But he was asked by he foundation to handle the problem of JSTOR and Aaron.

So I wrote Bill Bowen an email about it. And I said first that Aaron is a treasure. And then I told a personal story about how I had done some illegal hacking as a student and had been caught at it and what happened.

In 1962, my housemate and I invented the first blue box. That’s a device that allows for free, undetectable, unbillable long-distance telephone calls.

And we got this up. And played around with it and at the end of our research came when we completed was what we thought was the longest long distance phone call ever made, which was from Palo Alto to New York time of day, via Hawaii.

Edward Tufte’s defense of Aaron Swartz and the “marvelously different”

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