For the past 24 weeks, I've been reading Bruce Sterling's classic 1992 nonfiction book The Hacker Crackdown aloud on my podcast. The Hacker Crackdown was the first free online book I ever heard of, and it tells the engrossing story of the 1990 "Operation Sundevil" Secret Service sweep of hackers, which led to the formation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, my former employer.
When I told Bruce I wanted to read The Hacker Crackdown aloud, he said, "You're going to read the E911 document aloud?" The E911 document ("Control Office Administration Of Enhanced 911 Services For Special Services and Account Centers") is an impenetrable bureaucratic document that was pilfered from a Bell South compute by a young hacker, and which led to an incredible domino-chain of legal and political ramifications. Bell South claimed that the slim document cost more than $79,000 to produce (the calculus by which this number was arrived at is hilariously dumb), and that the document itself was so hot that it could not even be shown to a jury, lest it enter the court record and be used to crash the nation's emergency telecoms infrastructure.
(It turns out that the document was not secret after all -- that another division of Bell was selling it for $10)
So this week on my podcast, I got to the E911 document. It took about 25 minutes to read it aloud. It is the most amazing jumble of acronyms, passive voice prose and gibberish that I've ever seen. It's a hoot -- and a guaranteed soporific. Go ahead and download the podcast and see if you can make any sense of it.
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