This time around, we're talking about Dynamix's 1992 puzzle game, The Incredible Machine.
This week in the news:
Death Inc Kickstarter
Mage's Initiaition Kickstarter
Back in February, the Guys from Andromeda podcast interviewed Jim Walls, creator of Police Quest and he announced his intention to kickstart a new Police Quest style game.
Finally, Lord British has something to say at http://www.lordbritishpresents.com/
A few links from listener emails:
BJ Used to read this interesting eductionial software magazine:
King's Quest fan remakes from Father Beast:
1, 2 and 3 from AGD Interactive:
Episode based remake:
IA King's Quest 3 remake:
Finally, on the The Incredible Machine. We discuss all the usual suspects and cover the whole series of games.
Buy The Incredible Machine on GoG:
Next time we're going to cover the awesome LucasArts space sim: X-Wing. I'm super excited for this one!
Welcome to the History of Computing Podcast, where we explore the history of information technology. Because understanding the past prepares us for the innovations of the future! Today we’re going to look at the impact Stewart Brand had on computing. Brand was one of the greatest muses of the interactive computing and then the internet revolutions. This isn’t to take anything away from his capacity to create, but the inspiration he provided gave him far more reach than nearly anyone in computing. There’s a decent chance you might not know who he his. There’s even a chance that you’ve never heard of any of his creations. But you live and breath some of his ideas on a daily basis. So who was this guy and what did he do? Well, Stewart Brand was born in 1938, in Rockford, Illinois. He would go on to study biology at Stanford, enter the military and then study design and photography at other schools in the San Francisco area. This was a special time in San Francisco. Revolution was in the air. And one of the earliest scientific studies had him legitimately dosing on LSD. One of my all-time favorite books was The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe. In the book, Wolfe follows Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters along a journey of LSD and Benzedrine riddled hippy goodness, riding a converted school bus across the country and delivering a new kind of culture straight out of Haight-Ashbury and to the heart of middle America. All while steering clear of the shoes FBI agents of the day wore. Here he would have met members of the Grateful Dead, Neal Cassady, members of the Hells Angels, Wavy Gravy, Paul Krassner, and maybe even Kerouac and Ginsberg. This was a transition from the Beat Generation to the Hippies of the 60s. Then he started the Whole Earth Catalog. Here, he showed the first satallite imagery of the planet Earth, which he’d begun campaigning NASA to release two years earlier. In the 5 years he made the magazine, he spread ideals like ecology, a do it yourself mentality, self-sufficiency, and what the next wave of progress would look like. People like Craig Newmark of Craig’s List would see the magazine and it would help to form a new world view. In fact, the Whole Earth Catalog was a direct influence on Craig’s List. Steve Jobs compared the Whole Earth Catalog to a 60s era Google. It inspired Wired Magazine. Earth Day would be created two years later. Brand would loan equipment and inspire spinoffs of dozens of magazines and books. And even an inspiration for many early websites. The catalog put him in touch with so, so many influential people. One of the first was Doug Engelbart and The Mother Of All Demos involves him in the invention of the mouse and the first video conferencing. In fact, Brand helped produce the Mother Of All Demos! As we moved into the 70s he chronicled the oncoming hacker culture, and the connection to the 60s-era counterculture. He inspired and worked with Larry Brilliant, Lee Felsenstein, and Ted Nelson. He basically invented being a “futurist” founding CoEvolution Quarterly and spreading the word of digital utopianism. The Whole Earth Software Review would come along with the advent of personal computers. The end of the 70s would also see him become a special advisor to former California governor Jerry Brown. In the 70s and 80s, he saw the Internet form and went on to found one of the earliest Internet communities, called The WELL, or Whole Earth Lectronic Link. Collaborations in the WELL gave us Barlow’s The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a safe haunt for Kevin Mitnick while on the run, Grateful Dead tape trading, and many other Digerati. There would be other virtual communities and innovations to the concept like social networks, eventually giving us online forums, 4chan, Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn, and corporate virtual communities. But it started with The Well. He would go on to become a visiting scientist in the MIT Media Lab, organize conferences, found the Global Business Network with Peter Schwarts, Jay Ogilvy and other great thinkers to help with promoting values and various planning like scenario planning, a corporate strategy that involves thinking from the outside in. This is now a practice inside Deloitte. The decades proceeded on and Brand inspired whole new generations to leverage humor to push the buttons of authority. Much as the pranksters inspired him on the bus. But it wasn’t just anti-authority. It was a new and innovative approach in an upcoming era of maximizing short-term profits at the expense of the future. Brand founded The Long Now Foundation with an outlook that looked 10,000 years in the future. They started a clock on Jeff Bezos’ land in Texas, they started archiving languages approaching extinction, Brian Eno led seminars about long-term thinking, and inspired Anathem, a novel from one of my favorite authors, Neal Stephenson. Peter Norton, Pierre Omidyar, Bruce Sterling, Chris Anderson of the Economist and many others are also involved. But Brand inspired other counter-cultures as well. In the era of e-zines, he inspired Jesse Dresden, who Brand knew as Jefferson Airplane Spencer Drydens kid. The kid turned out to be dFx, who would found HoHo Con an inspiration for DefCon. Stewart Brand wrote 5 books in addition to the countless hours he spent editing books, magazines, web sites, and papers. Today, you’ll find him pimping blockchain and cryptocurrency, in an attempt to continue decentralization and innovation. He inherited a playful counter-culture. He watched the rise and fall and has since both watched and inspired the innovative iterations of countless technologies, extending of course into bio-hacking. He’s hobnobbed with the hippies, the minicomputer timeshares, the PC hackers, the founders of the internet, the tycoons of the web, and then helped set strategy for industry, NGOs, and governments. He left something with each. Urania was the muse of astronomy, some of the top science in ancient Greece. And he would probably giggle if anyone compared him to the muse. Both on the bus in the 60s, and in his 80s today. He’s one of the greats and we’re lucky he graced us with his presence on this rock - that he helped us see from above for the first time. Just as I’m lucky you elected to listen to this episode. So next time you’re arguing about silly little things at work, think about what really matters and listen to one of his Ted Talks. Context. 10,000 years. Have a great week and thanks for listening to this episode of the History of Computing Podcast.
The History of DEF CON Welcome to the History of Computing Podcast, where we explore the history of information technology. Because understanding the past prepares us for the innovations of the future! Todays episode is on the history of DEF CON. I have probably learned more about technology in my years attending Blackhat and DEF CON than from any other source other than reading and writing books. But DEF CON specifically expanded my outlook on the technology industry and made me think of how others might consider various innovations, and sometimes how they might break them. DEF CON also gave me an insight into the hacker culture that I might not have gotten otherwise. Not the hacker culture many think of, but the desire to just straight up tinkerate with everything. And I do mean everything, sometimes much to the chagrin of the Vegas casino or hotel hosting the event. The thing that I have always loved about DEF CON is that, while there is a little shaming of vendors here and there, there’s also a general desire to see security research push the envelope of what’s possible, making vendors better and making the world a more secure place. Not actually trying to back things in a criminal way. In fact, there’s an ethos that surrounds the culture. Yes, you want to find sweet, sweet o days. But when you do, you disclose the vulnerability before you tell the world that you can bring down any Cisco firewall. DEF CON has played a critical role in the development and remediation of rootlets, trojans, viruses, forensics, threat hunting research, social engineering, botnet detection and defeat, keystroke logging, DoS attacks, application security, network security, and privacy. In 2018, nearly 28,000 people attended Def Con. And the conference shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the number of people with tattoos of Jack, the skull and crossbones-esque logo, only seems to be growing. As does the number of people who have black badges, which give them free access to DEF CON for life. But where did it get its start? The name is derived from WarGames, a 1983 movie that saw Matthew Broderick almost start World War III by playing a simulation of a nuclear strike with a computer. This was obviously before his freewheeling days as Ferris Bueller. Over the next decade, Bulletin Board Networks had become a prime target for hackers in it for the lolz. Back then, Bullet Boards were kinda’ like what Reddit is today. But you dialed a network and then routed through a hierarchical system, with each site having a coordinator. A lot of Fido hacking was trying to become an admin of each board. If this sounds a lot like the Internet of today, the response would be “ish”. So Jeff Moss, also known as Dark Tangent, was a member of a group of hackers that liked to try to take over these bulletin boards called “Platinum Net”. He started planning a party for a network that was shut down. He had graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Criminal Justice a few years earlier, and invited #hack to join him in Vegas. Moss had graduated from Gonzaga University in Criminal Justice and so why not have 100 criminals join him in Vegas at the Sands Hotel and Casino! He got a little help from Dead Addict, and the event was a huge success. The next year, Artimage, Pappy Ozendorph, Stealth, Zac Franken, and Noid threw in to help coordinate things and the attendees at the conference doubled to around 200. They knew they had something special cookie’ up. Def Con two, which was held at the Sahara, got mentions by Business Week and the New York Times, as well as PC Magazine, which was big at the time. DEF CON 3 happened right after the Hackers movie at the Tropicana, and DEF CON 4 actually had the FBI show up to to tell the hackers all the things at the Monte Carlo. DEF CON 4 also saw the introduction of Black Hat, a conference that runs before DEF CON. DEF CON 5 though, saw ABC News ZDNet, Computer World, and saw people show up to the Aladdin from all over the world, which is how I heard of the conference. The conference continued to grow. People actually started waiting to release tools until DEF CON. DEF CON 6 was held at the Plaza and then it went to the Alexis Park Resort from DEF CON 7 to DEF CON 13. DEF CON 7 will always be remembered for the release of Back Orifice 2000, a plugin based remote admin tool (or RAT) that I regrettably had to remove from many a device throughout my career. Of course it had an option for IRC-based command and control, as did all the best stuff on the Silk Road. Over the next few years the conference grew and law enforcement agents started to show up. I mean, easy pickings, right? This led to a “spot the fed” contest. People would of course try to hack each other, which led to maybe the most well-known contest, the scavenger hunt. I am obviously a history nerd so I always loved the Hacker Jeapoardy contest. You can also go out to the desert to shoot automatic weapons, participate in scavenger hunts, pick all the locks, buy some shirts, and of course, enjoy all the types of beverages with all the types of humans. All of these mini-events associated with DEF CON have certainly helped make the event what it is today. I’ve met people from the Homebrew Computer Club, Anonymous, the Legion of Doom, ShadowCrew, the Cult of the Dead Cow, and other groups there. I also met legends like Captain Crunch, Kevin Poulsen, Kevin Mitnick, L0pht (of L0phtcrack, and many others. By DEF CON 7 in 2000, the conference was getting too big to manage. So the Goons started to take over various portions of the con. People like Cjunky, Agent X, CHS, Code24, flea, Acronym, cyber, Gattaca, Froggy, Lockheed, Londo, Major Malfunction, Mattrix, G Mark, JustaBill, helped me keep from getting by eyebrows shaved off and were joined by other goons over the years. Keep in mind there are a lot of younger script kiddies who show up and this crew helps keep them safe. My favorite goon might be Noid. This was around the time the wall of sheep appeared, showing passwords picked up on the network. DEF CON 11 saw a bit of hacktivism when the conference started raising money for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. By 2005 the conferences had grown enough that Cisco even tried to shut down a talk from Michael Lynn that could basically shut down the Internet as we know it. Those pages mentioning the talk had to be torn out of the books. In one of the funner moments I’ve seen Michell Madigan was run out of the con for trying to secretly record one of the most privacy oriented groups I’ve ever been a part of. Dan Kaminsky rose to prominence in 2008 when he found some serious flaws in DNS. He was one of the inaugural speakers at Def Con China 1 in 2018. 2008 also saw a judge order a subway card hacking talk be cancelled, preventing three MIT students from talking about how they hacked the Boston subway. 2012 saw Keith Alexander, then director of the NSA give the keynote. Will Smith dropped by in 2013, although it was just to prepare for a movie. Probably not Suicide Squad. He didn’t stay log. Probably because Dark Tangent asked the feds to stay away for awhile. DARPA came to play in 2016 giving out a 2 million dollar prize to the team that could build an autonomous AI bot that could handle offense and defense in a Capture the Flag style competition. 2017 made the news because they hosted a voting machine hacking village. Cambridge Global Advisors was a sponsor. They have no connection with Cambridge Analytica. No matter how you feel about politics, the hallmark of any democracy is certifying a fair and, um, democratic election. Jimmy Carter knows. He was 92 then. 2019 saw 30,000 people show up in Vegas for DEF CON 27. At this point, DEF CON has been on the X-Files, Mr. Robot, and given a node in the movie Jason Bourne. It is a special event. Being surrounded by so many people with unbridled curiosity is truly inspiring. I doubt I would ever have written my first book on security if not for the opportunity they gave me to speak at DEF CON and Blackhat. Oh, recording this episode just reminded me - I need to go book my room for next year! If you want to learn more about DEF CON, we’ll include a link to the documentary from 2013 about it in the show notes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ctQOmjQyYg