8 Online Fads You Didn't Know Were Invented Decades Ago

#4. Hacking

Hacking... yeah, we've all been there, right guys? Breaking into some poor bastard's CPU, flooding his library scripts, remotely exploding his water heater... OK, we have no idea what hacking really is, but we are fairly sure it has something to do with computers and the Internet.


Actually Been Around Since...

As it turns out, what we today understand as "hacking" started as far back as the fucking 1950s, and they called it Phone Phreaking.


Phone Phreaking exploited a flaw in the computerized switch boards of the time, which transferred calls via a single sound frequency of 2600 Hz. In 1957, a blind seven-year-old named Joe Engressia found out that by whistling the right tone, he could reset his phone and dial numbers on it without paying a dime.

Later on another "phreaker" named John Draper discovered that he could produce the Hacking Tone of 2600 Hz through a toy that came free with Captain Crunch.


In the 1970s, phone companies switched from single frequency to multiple frequency technology, so phone phreakers became more sophisticated as well. Draper designed and built the "Blue Box," a device which produced necessary dial tones for each number through a portable keyboard pad. The Blue Box phreakers could "hack" phones to make long distance calls for free and even hold secret conference calls with each other, basically the predecessor to IRC chat rooms.

The Blue Box, which here is black for some reason.

Of course, they didn't have anything like the technology to do the large-scale assaults hackers do these days, like DDoS attacks.

Oh, wait...

#3. DDoS Attacks

To DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service Attack) someone means to flood their computer (or server) with so many requests that it shits all over itself and shuts down, sort of like during the Super Bowl when everyone and their brother orders a pizza and backs delivery up for three weeks.

Without pizza, there is chaos.

Actually Been Around Since...

While this is certainly a technique favored by legions of slighted Internet nerds flamed on a Battlestar Galactica forum, people have been doing it since the 1970s with something called Black Faxes, which meant rigging a fax machine to continuously send a full black page to another fax machine.

The attack was meant to use up all the toner in the receiving machine (which was balls expensive at the time), screwing your target twofold by wasting their money and rendering their fax machine useless until they dropped the cash to refill the toner. Theoretically, a more diabolical person could fax something other than just a simple black page, such as a 500-thousand word piece of erotic Star Wars fanfiction.

"Please, just stop! I'll do anything, just stop sending this... this...

But fucking with people's computers goes back even before fax machines, back to when computers were the size of a building and used those cardboard punch card programs to operate. Enter the Lace Card, a typical IBM computing punch card only with every single hole punctured.

When inserted into a computer, the card would disintegrate and all of its pieces would have to be manually removed for the computer to be able to operate again. It was sort of like shitting into someone's DVD-ROM drive--simple, classy and effective.

#2. Instant Messaging, Email and Chat Rooms

"What? Now you're going to tell us people sat around in some primitive chat room before World War II or some shit? Oh Cracked, your rampaging alcoholism makes for the cutest factual errors. I shall take to the message boards to insult you from a distance without any repercussions."

Actually Been Around Since...

Well, keep reading and learn about The Teleprinter.

A teleprinter was a large typewriter-like machine that went into common use in the early 1920s. You loaded a piece of paper into it, stuck a phone line in the back and used it to dial numbers to connect you to other teleprinters. Whatever you typed on your teleprinter's keyboard was automatically typed on the receiving machine, allowing for instant messaging across great distances, just like e-mail and... well, instant messaging.

But teleprinters could also be connected in a special loop, where one person's message would show up on a number of selected machines, basically making it an Internet chat room presumably full of flappers and speakeasy lushes instead of 13-year-old girls and your fiance's sexually frustrated roommate.

Flappers: just like these young men pictured, only with vaginas.

The Telex Net was established in 1920 as a worldwide teleprinter network with automatic switch boards that relayed connections from one end of the globe to another, enabling text based communication worldwide decades before even the most primitive incarnation of the Internet.

So really, when your grandpa is staring confusedly over your shoulder at the MSN conversation you are having with some dude in China, it's not the technology that's foreign, he just can't figure out where you put the paper in the damn thing.

#1. Software File Sharing (Yes, Even Before The Invention of Floppy Disks)

Call us pretentious, but we're pretty sure half the crap you're listening to in iTunes while you read this article was downloaded from Bit Torrent, so you should be familiar with the basic premise of file sharing. You might be thinking there's no way this was possible back in the day, unless you had a guy stand in the middle of a public square shouting code at people.

GTA 4!!! Disc 2!!! 001101...

Actually Been Around Since...

All of you Mountain Dew-drinking game pirates worried that one day you'll get hurled back in time to the 1980s can now breathe a sigh of relief. In those days it was actually possible to share games over the radio, thanks to the ZX Spectrum, a 1982 home computer with a vast selection of software which occasionally came on audio cassettes (by our estimate, to put today's games on that format you'd need a cassette the size of the moon).

Shortly after its launch, the company that owned the Spectrum allowed some of its freeware programs to be aired on a few radio shows so people could record them at home. It took gamers about half of an ALF commercial break to realize they could share their entire game libraries with each other in the exact same way.

Nerds weren't any cooler back then, just in case you were wondering.

If you were a kid in Eastern Europe or Brazil after 1982 (we're going to go ahead and assume that's exactly none of you, at all, that are reading this article right now), all you had to do was tune in to your favorite pirate radio station and hit record on your ghetto blaster when the DJ said so. If there were no problems with the transmission, you could start playing Frogger on the spot. And of course gaming was immediately forever ruined as a profitable business.

Cezary also writes at DrownYourself(.com).

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