24 Following


Wizzywig: Portrait of a Serial Hacker

Wizzywig: Portrait of a Serial Hacker - Ed Piskor The plot of the graphic novel can be summarized in one brief sentence: Kevin "Boingthump" Phenicle (I challenge you to say his name fast several times) is a collective portrait of hackers from their early days - they were not even called hackers those days; the correct term was and still is "cracker". The guy broke into a phone system to make free long-distance calls, later rigged it to always be the one to win a radio contests - the type where you have to be a caller number 21 to win, and so on. Eventually he gets caught and spends a long time in jail without any king of trial, or even without any charge against him while mass media does its best to raise anti-hacker hysteria levels to keep the people scared (substitute hacker with terrorist to understand exactly what I talk about).

The novel did not work at some of things for me. The biggest concern is: I did not care about the main character at all. All the breaking into things he does, he does it out of monetary gain, or without any motivation I could see. I felt bad for him when the justice system failed him completely, but I never felt he was completely innocent, either. Another problem is that the subjects discussed in the book became old by the time of the comic publication. I already mentioned that the governments all over the world found a much better scapegoat to keep their people under the thumb - terrorists instead of hackers. In the biggest irony twist, the same governments turned out to be the biggest hackers of them all: NSA, I am looking at you.

Having said all of these I still liked some parts of the book. For the people who missed the early hackers culture the novel gives a fairly good picture of it showing some of the methods used by the people, including simulating dial tones using a simple whistle (I am dead serious here: it did work for some time), social engineering, software backdoors, cable rewiring, etc. It also gives a good reminder that the current prison system in a lot of first-world countries serves as a punishment tool instead of reforming one.

The final rating is 3 stars: good, but not excellent by any stretch of imagination.

This review is a copy/paste of my BookLikes one: http://gene.booklikes.com/post/907031/hacker-or-cracker-you-decide