Compared with the sparsely populated CB airwaves, online chat rooms were a revelation. in the seventies, told me that the original hackers had unwritten rules and that the first one was “Do no damage.” In Cambridge, Doyon supported himself through odd jobs and panhandling, preferring the freedom of sleeping on park benches to the monotony of a regular job.
In a series of conversations over the past year, he told me that he saw himself as an activist, in the radical tradition of Abbie Hoffman and Eldridge Cleaver; technology was merely his medium of dissent. “Most of our work was still done using a bullhorn,” he said. In 2003, Christopher Poole, a fifteen-year-old insomniac from New York City, launched 4chan, a discussion board where fans of anime could post photographs and snarky comments.
In 1992, at a Grateful Dead concert in Indiana, Doyon sold three hundred hits of acid to an undercover narcotics agent. The focus quickly widened to include many of the Internet’s earliest memes: LOLcats, Chocolate Rain, Rick Rolls.
They launched vigilante campaigns that were purposeful, if sometimes misguided.
More than once, they posed as underage girls in order to entrap pedophiles, whose personal information they sent to the police.
Anonymous viewed the church’s demands as attempts at censorship.
“I think it’s time for /b/ to do something big,” someone posted on 4chan.
Anyone who wanted to be a part of Anonymous—an Anon—could simply claim allegiance.
Despite 4chan’s focus on trivial topics, many Anons considered themselves crusaders for justice.
“It was just breathtaking.” At the age of fourteen, he ran away from home, and two years later he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, a hub of the emerging computer counterculture. They adopted aliases: the founder, a towering middle-aged man who claimed to be a military veteran, called himself Commander Adama; Doyon went by Commander X.
The Tech Model Railroad Club, which had been founded thirty-four years earlier by train hobbyists at M. T., had evolved into “hackers”—the first group to popularize the term. It was just a thing that people did to impress each other.” Some of their “hacks” were fun (coding video games); others were functional (improving computer-processing speeds); and some were pranks that took place in the real world (placing mock street signs near campus). Inspired by the Merry Pranksters, they sold LSD at Grateful Dead shows and used some of the cash to outfit an old school bus with bullhorns, cameras, and battery chargers.
In the mid-nineteen-seventies, when Christopher Doyon was a child in rural Maine, he spent hours chatting with strangers on CB radio. Transmitters lined the walls of his bedroom, and he persuaded his father to attach two directional antennas to the roof of their house.