I’m with Mike Arrington on this one: I think the news that Tom Anderson was a teenaged “War Games” hacker is pretty darn cool. According to old news stories that TechCrunch came across, as well as reports from a source close to the MySpace co-founder, he was a hacker known as Lord Flathead when he was just 14, and was part of a huge FBI sting operation after he hacked his way into a large mainframe computer used by Chase Manhattan Bank, where he changed passwords and reconfigured accounts to block access by bank officials. Although Anderson wasn’t charged because he was under-age, his computer equipment was apparently seized by the government.
To fully appreciate this news, of course, you have to be a fan of the movie War Games, which is about 20 years old now but is still one of the finest early tech movies. It features Matthew Broderick as a young hacker who breaks into the Pentagon’s war-games system and unknowingly gets the central computer to start a real-life war scenario with the Soviet Union, and it’s a great look at what hacking was like before the Internet, with online text-based chat rooms and modems with rubber couplings that attached to either end of an old rotary phone handset (I remember using a similar one at my first real journalism job).
The only un-cool thing about the Tom Anderson news, of course, is that he grew up to create something as lame as MySpace. I mean, sure it’s a huge social network and all, which is very impressive; but compared with hacking into mainframes it just doesn’t compare.