Sunday, October 9, 2011

Forensic Science in the News: RIP, Steve Jobs

I came on board pretty early with Apple. It must have been 1984 or 1985 when my research advisor at the University of Chicago bought a few computers for the lab. I hadn't had a lot of experience with computers at the time--well, who had?--but this one seemed different from the other clumsy personal computers that were available at the time. I loved it. I wrote much of my thesis on it. When it came time to buy a computer of my own, I didn't think about anything other than a Mac.

Fast forward. I'm writing this on my new 27-inch (the better to accomodate my aging eyes) iMac. I've worked, reluctantly, on PCs at other jobs, but at home I've always had Macs, iPhones, and now an iPad. I'm not an acolyte, exactly, but I know what works for me, and Apple has always worked for me.

So Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple and the genius behind the modern brand, has always been a special figure in my life. Something you might not know is that Jobs and Steve Wozniak, co-creators of the original Apple computer, had been inspired by a 1971 article in Esquire magazine (reprinted here) about "phone phreaks," a group of people who realized that they could manipulate the computerized phone network to place free calls anywhere in the world.

You can learn more about Jobs' involvement with phone phreaks* and the history of computer hacking in my book, Cybercrime: Data Trails DO Tell Tales (Enslow Publishers, 2011). Jobs, like the other early computer hackers, weren't interested in stealing data--they simply wanted to understand the ways in which computers  and computer networks worked.

*"Phreaking" is a portmanteau word made by combining "freak" an "phone" (and, in some definitions, "free"). Lewis Carroll, the author of Through the Looking Glass, adopted the word "portmanteau"--the French word fo suitcase--to describe combining the sound and meaning of two words to create a new one. (Cybercrime: Data Trails DO Tell Tales, Enslow Publishers, 2011, p. 26)

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