Going to California

The Hacker Crackdown — 7

Also, because I can’t leave it alone, where did they store and what did they do with 23,000 floppy disks?

Okay, I’ll leave it alone.

After getting stung by the judge in open courtroom, the defense attorney began their case by making a brief attempt to downplay any harm that might have been done. Then the defense quickly rested. Presumably they weren’t seeing a positive outcome to the trial, and were likely anticipating a sizably punishing judgement against them.

Again proving visionary, the Secret Service lost the case, and they had to pay back the EFF’s legal fees, around $300,000. There were other details as well, most important of which to me was a $50,000 award to Steve Jackson Games.

Most important to everyone else in America, the case would eventually set the first legal precedent that electronic mail has the same rights and protections as physical mail. Thanks, Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Nine or so months before the trial in Spring of 1992, I’d called the Mentor to catch up. When he heard that I was about to walk off campus with a design degree, and he called me over for an interview. A week later I had a job offer at the game company I’d worshipped since I’d turned thirteen. It wasn’t glamorous work, at first, but it got me in the door.

The upside of being in the door was that I was there when $50,000 walked in, along with a few new faces around the office and a fresh idea: What if we spent the Secret Service money setting up a new kind of bulletin-board system? They set up a couple of really beefy machines, with a whole bank of modems behind them. Add in a gigantic pipe to the Internet, also thanks to the phone company, and you could sell Internet access to anyone with a computer and a modem of their own for only $10 a month.

And that’s how in 1993 we started a very early Internet Service Provider called Illuminati Online. I know this was a bit of a long tangent just to give you more context for the rest of my story, but the truth is I can draw a straight line from Secret Service agents barging into a game company, guns drawn, to me ending up in California.

If only it had been as simple as walking a straight line.

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