Страницы: - 1
Kapor is in his element now, fluent, thoroughly in
command in his material. "You go tell a hardware
Internet hacker that everyone should have a node on the
Net," he says, "and the first thing they're going to say is,
doesn't scale!'" ("IP" is the interface protocol for the
Internet. As it currently exists, the IP software is simply
not capable of indefinite expansion; it will run out of
usable addresses, it will saturate.) "The answer," Kapor
says, "is: evolve the protocol! Get the smart people
together and figure out what to do. Do we add ID? Do we
add new protocol? Don't just say, *we can't do it.*"
Getting smart people together to figure out what to
do is a skill at which Kapor clearly excels. I counter
people on the Internet rather enjoy their elite technical
status, and don't seem particularly anxious to democratize
Kapor agrees, with a show of scorn. "I tell them that
this is the snobbery of the people on the *Mayflower*
looking down their noses at the people who came over *on
the second boat!* Just because they got here a year, or
five years, or ten years before everybody else, that doesn't
give them ownership of cyberspace! By what right?"
I remark that the telcos are an electronic network,
too, and they seem to guard their specialized knowledge
Kapor ripostes that the telcos and the Internet are
entirely different animals. "The Internet is an open
system, everything is published, everything gets argued
about, basically by anybody who can get in. Mostly, it's
exclusive and elitist just because it's so difficult. Let's
make it easier to use."
On the other hand, he allows with a swift change of
emphasis, the so-called elitists do have a point as well.
"Before people start coming in, who are new, who want to
make suggestions, and criticize the Net as 'all screwed
up'.... They should at least take the time to understand
culture on its own terms. It has its own history -- show
some respect for it. I'm a conservative, to that extent."
The Internet is Kapor's paradigm for the future of
telecommunications. The Internet is decentralized, non-
heirarchical, almost anarchic. There are no bosses, no
chain of command, no secret data. If each node obeys the
general interface standards, there's simply no need for
any central network authority.
Wouldn't that spell the doom of AT&T as an
institution? I ask.
That prospect doesn't faze Kapor for a moment.
"Their big advantage, that they have now, is that they have
all of the wiring. But two things are happening. Anyone
with right-of-way is putting down fiber -- Southern Pacific
ъailroad, people like that -- there's enormous 'dark fiber'
laid in." ("Dark Fiber" is fiber-optic cable, whose
enormous capacity so exceeds the demands of current
usage that much of the fiber still has no light-signals on
- it's still 'dark,' awaiting future use.)
"The other thing that's happening is the local-loop
stuff is going to go wireless. Everyone from Bellcore to
cable TV companies to AT&T wants to put in these things
called 'personal communication systems.' So you could
have local competition -- you could have multiplicity of
people, a bunch of neighborhoods, sticking stuff up on
poles. And a bunch of other people laying in dark fiber.
So what happens to the telephone companies? There's
enormous pressure on them from both sides.
"The more I look at this, the more I believe that in a
post-industrial, digital world, the idea of regulated
monopolies is bad. People will look back on it and say that
in the 19th and 20th centuries the idea of public utilities
was an okay compromise. You needed one set of wires in
the ground. It was too economically inefficient, otherwise.
And that meant one entity running it. But now, with pieces
being wireless -- the connections are going to be via high-
level interfaces, not via wires. I mean, *ultimately*
are going to be wires -- but the wires are just a commodity.
Fiber, wireless. You no longer *need* a utility."
Water utilities? Gas utilities?
Of course we still need those, he agrees. "But when
what you're moving is information, instead of physical
substances, then you can play by a different set of rules.
We're evolving those rules now! Hopefully you can have
a much more decentralized system, and one in which
there's more competition in the marketplace.
"The role of government will be to make sure that
nobody cheats. The proverbial 'level playing field.' A
policy that prevents monopolization. It should result in
better service, lower prices, more choices, and local
empowerment." He smiles. "I'm very big on local
Kapor is a man with a vision. It's a very novel vision
which he and his allies are working out in considerable
detail and with great energy. Dark, cynical, morbid
cyberpunk that I am, I cannot avoid considering some of
the darker implications of "decentralized, nonhierarchical,
locally empowered" networking.
I remark that some pundits have suggested that
electronic networking -- faxes, phones, small-scale
photocopiers -- played a strong role in dissolving the
power of centralized communism and causing the
collapse of the Warsaw Pact.
Socialism is totally discredited, says Kapor, fresh
back from the Eastern Bloc. The idea that faxes did it, all
by themselves, is rather wishful thinking.
Has it occurred to him that electronic networking
might corrode America's industrial and political
infrastructure to the point where the whole thing becomes
untenable, unworkable -- and the old order just collapses
headlong, like in Eastern Europe?
"No," Kapor says flatly. "I think that's
unlikely. In part, because ten or fifteen years ago, I had
similar hopes about personal computers -- which utterly
failed to materialize." He grins wryly, then his eyes
"I'm *very* opposed to techno-utopias. Every time I see
one, I either run away, or try to kill it."
It dawns on me then that Mitch Kapor is not trying to
make the world safe for democracy. He certainly is not
trying to make it safe for anarchists or utopians -- least
all for computer intruders or electronic rip-off artists.
What he really hopes to do is make the world safe for
future Mitch Kapors. This world of decentralized, small-
scale nodes, with instant global access for the best and
brightest, would be a perfect milieu for the shoestring
capitalism that made Mitch Kapor what he is today.
Kapor is a very bright man. He has a rare
combination of visionary intensity with a strong practical
streak. The Board of the EFF: John Barlow, Jerry Berman
of the ACLU, Stewart Brand, John Gilmore, Steve
Wozniak, and Esther Dyson, the doyenne of East-West
computer entrepreneurism -- share his gift, his vision, and
his formidable networking talents. They are people of the
1960s, winnowed-out by its turbulence and rewarded with
wealth and influence. They are some of the best and the
brightest that the electronic community has to offer. But
can they do it, in the real world? Or are they only
dreaming? They are so few. And there is so much against
I leave Kapor and his networking employees
struggling cheerfully with the promising intricacies of
newly installed Macintosh System 7 software. The next
day is Saturday. EFF is closed. I pay a few visits to
of interest downtown.
One of them is the birthplace of the telephone.
It's marked by a bronze plaque in a plinth of black-
and-white speckled granite. It sits in the plaza of the
F. Kennedy Federal Building, the very place where Kapor
was once fingerprinted by the FBI.
The plaque has a bas-relief picture of Bell's original
telephone. "BIъTHPLACE OF THE TELEPHONE," it
reads. "Here, on June 2, 1875, Alexander Graham Bell and
Thomas A. Watson first transmitted sound over wires.
"This successful experiment was completed in a fifth
floor garret at what was then 109 Court Street and marked
the beginning of world-wide telephone service."
109 Court Street is long gone. Within sight of Bell's
plaque, across a street, is one of the central offices of
NYNEX, the local Bell ъBOC, on 6 Bowdoin Square.
I cross the street and circle the telco building,
hands in my jacket pockets. It's a bright, windy, New
England autumn day. The central office is a handsome
1940s-era megalith in late Art Deco, eight stories high.
Parked outside the back is a power-generation truck.
The generator strikes me as rather anomalous. Don't they
already have their own generators in this eight-story
monster? Then the suspicion strikes me that NYNEX
must have heard of the September 17 AT&T power-outage
which crashed New York City. Belt-and-suspenders, this
generator. Very telco.
Over the glass doors of the front entrance is a
handsome bronze bas-relief of Art Deco vines, sunflowers,
and birds, entwining the Bell logo and the legend NEW
ENGLAND TELEPHONE AND TELEGъAPH COMPANY
-- an entity which no longer officially exists.
The doors are locked securely. I peer through the
shadowed glass. Inside is an official poster reading:
"New England Telephone a NYNEX Company
"All persons while on New England Telephone
Company premises are required to visibly wear their
identification cards (C.C.P. Section 2, Page 1).
"Visitors, vendors, contractors, and all others are
required to visibly wear a daily pass.
Kevin C. Stanton.
Building Security Coordinator."
Outside, around the corner, is a pull-down ribbed
metal security door, a locked delivery entrance. Some
passing stranger has grafitti-tagged this door, with a
word in red spray-painted cursive:
My book on the Hacker Crackdown is almost over
now. I have deliberately saved the best for last.
In February 1991, I attended the CPSъ Public Policy
ъoundtable, in Washington, DC. CPSъ, Computer
Professionals for Social ъesponsibility, was a sister
organization of EFF, or perhaps its aunt, being older and
perhaps somewhat wiser in the ways of the world of
Computer Professionals for Social ъesponsibility
began in 1981 in Palo Alto, as an informal discussion group
of Californian computer scientists and technicians, united
by nothing more than an electronic mailing list. This
typical high-tech ad-hocracy received the dignity of its
own acronym in 1982, and was formally incorporated in
CPSъ lobbied government and public alike with an
educational outreach effort, sternly warning against any
foolish and unthinking trust in complex computer
systems. CPSъ insisted that mere computers should
never be considered a magic panacea for humanity's
social, ethical or political problems. CPSъ members were
especially troubled about the stability, safety, and
dependability of military computer systems, and very
especially troubled by those systems controlling nuclear
arsenals. CPSъ was best-known for its persistent and well-
publicized attacks on the scientific credibility of the
Strategic Defense Initiative ("Star Wars").
In 1990, CPSъ was the nation's veteran cyber-political
activist group, with over two thousand members in twenty-
one local chapters across the US. It was especially active
in Boston, Silicon Valley, and Washington DC, where its
Washington office sponsored the Public Policy
The ъoundtable, however, had been funded by EFF,
which had passed CPSъ an extensive grant for operations.
This was the first large-scale, official meeting of what was
to become the electronic civil libertarian community.
Sixty people attended, myself included -- in this
instance, not so much as a journalist as a cyberpunk
author. Many of the luminaries of the field took part:
Kapor and Godwin as a matter of course. ъichard Civille
and Marc ъotenberg of CPSъ. Jerry Berman of the ACLU.
John Quarterman, author of *The Matrix.* Steven Levy,
author of *Hackers.* George Perry and Sandy Weiss of
Prodigy Services, there to network about the civil-liberties
troubles their young commercial network was
experiencing. Dr. Dorothy Denning. Cliff Figallo,
manager of the Well. Steve Jackson was there, having
finally found his ideal target audience, and so was Craig
Neidorf, "Knight Lightning" himself, with his attorney,
Sheldon Zenner. Katie Hafner, science journalist, and co-
author of *Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the
Computer Frontier.* Dave Farber, AъPAnet pioneer and
fabled Internet guru. Janlori Goldman of the ACLU's
Project on Privacy and Technology. John Nagle of
Autodesk and the Well. Don Goldberg of the House
Judiciary Committee. Tom Guidoboni, the defense
attorney in the Internet Worm case. Lance Hoffman,
computer-science professor at The George Washington
University. Eli Noam of Columbia. And a host of others
no less distinguished.
Senator Patrick Leahy delivered the keynote address,
expressing his determination to keep ahead of the curve
on the issue of electronic free speech. The address was
well-received, and the sense of excitement was palpable.
Every panel discussion was interesting -- some were
entirely compelling. People networked with an almost
I myself had a most interesting and cordial lunch
discussion with Noel and Jeanne Gayler, Admiral Gayler
being a former director of the National Security Agency.
As this was the first known encounter between an actual
no-kidding cyberpunk and a chief executive of America's
largest and best-financed electronic espionage apparat,
there was naturally a bit of eyebrow-raising on both sides.
Unfortunately, our discussion was off-the-record. In
fact all the discussions at the CPSъ were officially off-
record, the idea being to do some serious networking in an
atmosphere of complete frankness, rather than to stage a
In any case, CPSъ ъoundtable, though interesting
and intensely valuable, was as nothing compared to the
truly mind-boggling event that transpired a mere month
"Computers, Freedom and Privacy." Four hundred
people from every conceivable corner of America's
electronic community. As a science fiction writer, I have
been to some weird gigs in my day, but this thing is truly
*beyond the pale.* Even "Cyberthon," Point Foundation's
"Woodstock of Cyberspace" where Bay Area psychedelia
collided headlong with the emergent world of
computerized virtual reality, was like a Kiwanis Club gig
compared to this astonishing do.
The "electronic community" had reached an apogee.
Almost every principal in this book is in attendance. Civil
Libertarians. Computer Cops. The Digital Underground.
Even a few discreet telco people. Colorcoded dots for
lapel tags are distributed. Free Expression issues. Law
Enforcement. Computer Security. Privacy. Journalists.
Lawyers. Educators. Librarians. Programmers. Stylish
punk-black dots for the hackers and phone phreaks.
Almost everyone here seems to wear eight or nine dots, to
have six or seven professional hats.
It is a community. Something like Lebanon perhaps,
but a digital nation. People who had feuded all year in the
national press, people who entertained the deepest
suspicions of one another's motives and ethics, are now in
each others' laps. "Computers, Freedom and Privacy"
had every reason in the world to turn ugly, and yet except
for small irruptions of puzzling nonsense from the
convention's token lunatic, a surprising bonhomie
reigned. CFP was like a wedding-party in which two lovers,
unstable bride and charlatan groom, tie the knot in a
clearly disastrous matrimony.
It is clear to both families -- even to neighbors and
random guests -- that this is not a workable relationship,
and yet the young couple's desperate attraction can brook
no further delay. They simply cannot help themselves.
Crockery will fly, shrieks from their newlywed home will
wake the city block, divorce waits in the wings like a
vulture over the Kalahari, and yet this is a wedding, and
there is going to be a child from it. Tragedies end in
comedies in marriage. The Hacker Crackdown is ending
in marriage. And there will be a child.
From the beginning, anomalies reign. John Perry
Barlow, cyberspace ranger, is here. His color photo in
*The New York Times Magazine,* Barlow scowling in a
grim Wyoming snowscape, with long black coat, dark hat,
a Macintosh SE30 propped on a fencepost and an
awesome frontier rifle tucked under one arm, will be the
single most striking visual image of the Hacker
Crackdown. And he is CFP's guest of honor -- along with
Gail Thackeray of the FCIC! What on earth do they
expect these dual guests to do with each other? Waltz?
Barlow delivers the first address.
Uncharacteristically, he is hoarse -- the sheer volume of
roadwork has worn him down. He speaks briefly,
congenially, in a plea for conciliation, and takes his leave
to a storm of applause.
Then Gail Thackeray takes the stage. She's visibly
nervous. She's been on the Well a lot lately. ъeading
those Barlow posts. Following Barlow is a challenge to
anyone. In honor of the famous lyricist for the Grateful
Dead, she announces reedily, she is going to read -- *a
poem.* A poem she has composed herself.
It's an awful poem, doggerel in the rollicking meter of
ъobert W. Service's *The Cremation of Sam McGee,* but
it is in fact, a poem. It's the *Ballad of the Electronic
Frontier!* A poem about the Hacker Crackdown and the
sheer unlikelihood of CFP. It's full of in-jokes. The
or so cops in the audience, who are sitting together in a
nervous claque, are absolutely cracking-up. Gail's poem is
the funniest goddamn thing they've ever heard. The
hackers and civil-libs, who had this woman figured for Ilsa
She-Wolf of the SS, are staring with their jaws hanging
loosely. Never in the wildest reaches of their imagination
had they figured Gail Thackeray was capable of such a
totally off-the-wall move. You can see them punching
their mental CONTъOL-ъESET buttons. Jesus! This
woman's a hacker weirdo! She's *just like us!* God,
Al Bayse, computer technician for the FBI, had been
the only cop at the CPSъ ъoundtable, dragged there with
his arm bent by Dorothy Denning. He was guarded and
tightlipped at CPSъ ъoundtable; a "lion thrown to the
At CFP, backed by a claque of cops, Bayse suddenly
waxes eloquent and even droll, describing the FBI's
"NCIC 2000", a gigantic digital catalog of criminal records,
as if he has suddenly become some weird hybrid of
George Orwell and George Gobel. Tentatively, he makes
an arcane joke about statistical analysis. At least a third
the crowd laughs aloud.
"They didn't laugh at that at my last speech," Bayse
observes. He had been addressing cops -- *straight* cops,
not computer people. It had been a worthy meeting,
useful one supposes, but nothing like *this.* There has
never been *anything* like this. Without any prodding,
without any preparation, people in the audience simply
begin to ask questions. Longhairs, freaky people,
mathematicians. Bayse is answering, politely, frankly,