The First Hacker

by @edent | 1 comment | Read ~173 times.

It's hard to ascribe "firsts" in history. Did Ada Lovelace write the first computer program? Does it count if it is a mechanical computer? Are Bombe and Tunny really computers in the modern sense? Was Pong the first home video game? Who was the first hacker?

What is a hacker? Someone who (maliciously or otherwise) convinces a computer to do something that it isn't supposed to do. Sometimes for fun and sometimes for profit. Sometimes ethical and sometimes not.

Anyway, I'd like to introduce you to René Carmille. He helped create one of the world's first digital censuses during the Nazi occupation of France. Using IBM's 80 column punch cards, he was able to record all sorts of statistical data about people living in France. Including, on column 11, whether or not they were Jewish.

Except, thankfully, he didn't.

Over the course of two years, Carmille and his group purposely delayed the process by mishandling the punch cards. He also hacked his own machines, reprogramming them so that they’d never punch information from Column 11 onto any census card.
A History of Hacking - Amanda Davis IEEE

There's a lovely short film and Carmille and his work, which I highly recommend:

Today, Carmille is all but forgotten outside France. But, I think, he embodies the ethical hacker spirit. He built something wonderful and, when it turned monstrous, he used his technical nous to do his best to subvert it.

Vive le piratage!

One thought on “The First Hacker

  1. A part of Tech history I was unaware of...

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