October 18, 2010

1983 Video: "Captain Crunch" and "Computer Hacking" (TV Interview)

Greetings. A couple of days ago, in Technology History -- Courtesy of the Betamax Videotape Extraction Lab, I explained some of the nitty-gritty aspects of my new project to extract viewable video (especially related to technology and science topics) from my collection of ancient videotapes, long since declared to be unviewable on any available equipment due to serious deterioration of the tapes over time.

Using the techniques described in that posting (with the most deeply recalcitrant specimens helped along with an additional secret weapon that I'll explain in detail sometime), plus some rather computationally intensive post-processing, some of the results are looking far better than I originally thought would be possible.

There will be a variety of interesting/amusing items appearing as I have time to process them fully, but let's look now at a genuine period piece, chock full memories for those of us who lived through that time, and hopefully an educational slice of life for younger folks.

We begin with this "Computer Skulduggery, Break-ins, and Piracy" television interview from almost 30 years ago -- of once notorious phone phreak Captain Crunch (John Draper), conducted by reporter Sam Donaldson.

I've dated the piece to 1983 -- coincidentally the year often (but still with some controversy) cited as the "official birth year" of the Internet (at least in terms of the transition to TCP/IP from the precursor ARPANET NCP and other protocols). This was also the year that the rather insipid film WarGames was released, resulting in everyone who saw my IMSAI 8080 micro kit at the time to exclaim, "Hey, Lauren, you have the War Games computer!"

The 1983 interview video segment was apparently particularly inspired by the then recent FBI busts of the Milwaukee "414s" -- accused of a large number of computer penetrations including most famously Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Los Alamos National Lab.

The interview also includes an anonymous 15-year-old "software pirate" who explains how the DOS "copy" command functions -- utterly confusing his interviewer. (C'mon kid, you don't have to hide now. You're grown up and the statute of limitations should have run out ages ago.)

It's interesting to note that the once venerable, honorable, and completely legitimate term "hacker" had not yet completely fallen from popular grace by this point in time. During the entire segment, the term "hacker" is actually only used once -- and that's in a Chyron banner identifying Draper as a "telephone hacker."

The old video is replete with quaint technology references and can't help but elicit quite a few smiles viewed from this distance. The video quality even after all my processing is very far from perfect, and as you'll see in the future there will be other items that will fall way short even of that level. But I'm striving to get them all into the best condition that I can.

I hope that you enjoy this initial offering from my archive.

"Happy hacking!"

1983 Video: "Captain Crunch" and "Computer Hacking" (TV Interview)
[YouTube] (~8.5 minutes)


Posted by Lauren at October 18, 2010 12:03 AM | Permalink
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