Goodbook Badbook

I just finished reading two related but quite different books, namely "Hackers' tales" and "Backroom Boys". They are related in a very tenuous way in that they are both books about british 'engineers' in a field which is dominated by our buddies over in the US, however whereas one was well written and researched the other was IMHO complete rubbish. I picked up Hackers' Tales in a local ottakars near my Mum's place over Christmas, I have quite a collection of 'hacker' books which I started back in about 1986 when I picked up "Hugo Cornwall's" book The New Hackers Handbook. I was about 16 at the time, and the whole world around hacking seemed very mysterious and exciting. It was on the back of this book that I pursuaded my dad to get me the clunky 1200/75 modem that plugged into the back of the C64. But that's another story.... anyway Hackers' Tales is absolutely terrible. I'm pretty sure that there are some interesting stories to be told from the past 15-20 years of hacking in the UK, beyond all the well known hacks, but they are certainly not in this book. What you get is stuff like this

"I was in the Mathematics teachers office...." and basically goes on to describe how someone had written down their userid and password for the voicemail system. The userID and password happened to be the same.... and guess what lots of people never bothered to change the default. How that makes a worthy story is beyond me. The authors are all anonymous, which is fair enough - but it seems that the big boys declined to contribute so the project seems to have stalled and all that was left is a bunch of wannabees.

"Backroom boys" on the other hand is absolutely excellent, and deserves all the praise it has received. The section on the creation of Elite for the BBC is superb, as is the stuff on Beagle2, Concorde.. in fact the whole book is superb. If you've read and enjoyed any pop-science books you'll like Backroom Boys.

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