It was the June 1995 issue of Macworld which led me astray; it described the widespread trade in commercial software which was taking place on America Online, something which I had imagined impossible given AOLís size and assumed security prowess. There were private chat rooms, the article said, where virtually anything could be traded.

The chat rooms all had unique names, but what were these rooms called? The article didn't say. A year as a long-distant participant in the Philadelphia pirate software BBS scene told me.

In the beginning was the word,
and the word was

What followed was a yearlong observation, and sometimes participation, in the world of hacking on America Online. This was not a world into which I was seduced or manipulated, but one which I entered willingly, poking into nooks and crannies of the system, watching hacking strategies be countered by AOL security, and seeing new tools created to counter them, on and on.