Were your grandparents hacking in 1963?

Computer hacking isn’t that new…

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
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More than 50 years ago, on November 20, 1963, MIT’s campus newspaper The Tech published what is believed to be the first ever mention of computer hacking.

1963 news report

Many telephone services have been curtailed because of so-called hackers, according to Profess Carlton Tucker… The hackers have accomplished such things as tying up all tie-lines between Harvard and MIT, or making long-distance calls by charging them to a local radar installation. One method involved connecting the PDP-1 computer to the phone system to search the lines until a dial tone, indicating an outside line, was found.

It was a different time – Kennedy was just a couple of days away from being assassinated, and in a few months The Beatles would appear on the Ed Sullivan show.

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So next time your parents or grandparents shake their heads about the malicious hacks that take place today, perhaps point them towards this and remind them “It’s your generation which started all this!”

According to MIT, the word “hack” itself (in terms of meddling with technology, at least) dates back even earlier, to 1955. Learn more by reading the article on MIT’s Slice.


Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

3 comments on “Were your grandparents hacking in 1963?”

  1. Alex

    "So next time your parents or grandparents shake their heads about the malicious hacks that take place today, perhaps point them towards this and remind them "It's your generation which started all this!"

    BUT before you "remind" them of anything, remind yourself that you wouldn't be here without these people, and keep your mouth shut.

  2. Jonny T

    This may be an early use of the word "hack" but the first person to intercept and interfere with electronic communications was probably Nevil Maskelyne in 1903. The story can be found here: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228440-700-dot-dash-diss-the-gentleman-hackers-1903-lulz/

  3. Sparx

    I believe with the old 'Button A/Button B' phoneboxes, which survived in the UK up to the 1970s (and a few much later than that), it was possible to fool the phone into giving you a free call by tapping the number out on the handset rest rather than dialling it!

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