Jun 282008
 

A Little Background

Last year I went to the Chaos Communications Camp, a gathering of people who are at the intersection of software, hardware, hacking, and art. Around 2000 people gathered for a week of hardware and software hacking, presentations and discussion. I had arrived with 35 others on a coordinated trip called Hackers on a Plane. It was on this trip around a table in Cologne that NYCResistor was born.

Camp took place in a former soviet era air force base near Finowfurt that has been converted to a flight museum. With mig jets spread out on the lawn and spectacular light shows at night, it was the perfect place to have a hacker camp for a week. Fiber optic cables had been laid down along the railroad tracks to the nearest town giving camp acceptable bandwidth. (Video Link)

One of the presentations that I was really excited about was led by Jens Ohlig and Nika Bertram about creating text adventure games. Having grown up on Zork, I was inspired by this presentation enough to play the text adventure game that Jens created for camp. While I was playing his game, Jens showed up at the American tent and we got into a great conversation which led to a spontaneous tutoring session and within a few hours, Jens and I had created a basic text adventure game.

After expressing my interest in developing hacker spaces in the states, Jens and I got into a great conversation about the origins and history of the Chaos Computer Club. The CCC is a group of hardware and software hackers that has been together as a group since the early days of computing.

As we began chatting, I pulled out my pen and paper and started jotting down notes. That was a year ago and before it gets too distant, I’m breaking my notes into some blog posts. If I’ve gotten anything wrong, or I’ve forgotten important details, shoot me an email or leave a note in the comments.

The Chaos Computer Club 1981-1984

Wau Holland in a phone booth with an acoustic coupler. (Image via Tim)

It began on September 12, 1981 on a Tuesday, 5 or so people, headed by Wau Holland met with some friends to explore the issues surrounding the rise of technology and they formed the Chaos Computer Club. With 1984 around the corner, many people thought that computers would bring about more surveillance and fascism, but this fresh group thought interesting things could be done with new technology. They wanted to talk about cryptography, bbs, amateur radio, and build computers. With a strong anti-authoritarian mindset, they felt that technology should be in the hands of the people and that everyone should be able to learn anything without hindrance.

In 1984 things clicked. It was an auspicious year with issues of privacy and data surveillance and by that time there was widespread computer use. Wau had become a software developer but when he found that the software he worked on was being used by the U.S. military, he quit and moved to Hamburg which is where the CCC started gaining more momentum.

Stay tuned for the next installment in this series of blogposts about the History of the Chaos Computer Club.