Back in the old days of text files and BBSes — days that hopefully you don't remember, kids — we used to do things like trade warez and pr0n cuz we were 1337 haXOrz man. No really, we were. But the people who were the true hackers of the 1980s and 90s were the people like Emmanuel Goldstein, who ran the underground techno-anarchist zine 2600 for curious, technically-minded people who wanted to learn about things such as tweaking the phone system or lock-picking or social engineering. Articles in 2600 became the stuff of legends, and influenced (for better or worse) movies like Sneakers and Hackers. Now the first-ever collection of these influential early hacker essays is coming out, just in time for the last-ever Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) conference in NYC.

HOPE happens July 18-20, but even if you can't be there, you can pre-order the book online. Here's what the publisher says about it:

Since its introduction in January of 1984, 2600 has been a unique source of information for readers with a strong sense of curiosity and an affinity for technology. The articles in 2600 have been consistently fascinating and frequently controversial. Over the past couple of decades the magazine has evolved from three sheets of loose-leaf paper stuffed into an envelope (readers "subscribed" by responding to a notice on a popular BBS frequented by hackers and sending in a SASE) to a professionally produced quarterly magazine. At the same time, the creators' anticipated audience of "a few dozen people tied together in a closely knit circle of conspiracy and mischief" grew to a global audience of tens of thousands of subscribers.

In The Best of 2600, Emmanuel Goldstein collects some of the strongest, most interesting, and often controversial articles, chronicling milestone events and technology changes that have occurred during the last 24 years - all from the hacker perspective. Examples:

* The creation of the infamous tone dialer "red box" that drove Radio Shack and the phone companies crazy. It was in the pages of 2600 that this simple conversion was first brought to light. By modifying an inexpensive Radio Shack touch tone dialer with a readily available crystal, free phone calls could easily be made from all of the nation's payphones.

* An historical chronology of events in the hacker world that led to the founding of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

* A close looks at the insecurity of modern locks through an article entitled "An Illusion of Security" that debunked the value of Simplex pushbutton locks, used on everything from schools to homes to FedEx boxes.

* The stories of famed hackers Kevin Mitnick, Bernie S., and Phiber Optik as they unfolded. Through 2600, the world heard these controversial tales despite the efforts of authorities and the mass media.

Oh man, I loved 2600 when I discovered it as a little script kiddie weenie in high school. It made me realize that there were other smart, technical, disobedient people in the world. As a grown-up I've spoken at HOPE a couple of times, and can guarantee it is one of the best hacker conferences in the U.S. Better than DefCon, you bitches. Seriously.

The Best of 2600