Historic Hacks in Portable Computing

Presented at HOPE Number Nine (2012), July 14, 2012, 11 a.m. (60 minutes)

“Portable” computing began with handheld calculating aides such as the abacus and slide rule, continued in the 1950s with mainframes mounted inside Army trucks, and emerged in suitcases, briefcases, and even pockets in the 1970s. All throughout this rich history, there were clever, funny, and security-themed hacks involved. In some cases, there were hacks needed just to construct the systems, and in others there were hacks in system usage. This talk will explain a dozen examples from which modern hackers can learn.


  • Bill Degnan
    Bill Degnan is a former IBM technician, owner of an ISP and computer repair store, and serves as an adjunct professor of computer history at the University of Delaware. He’s also CTO of MARCH (Mid-Atlantic Retro Computing Hobbyists).
  • Evan Koblentz
    Evan Koblentz is a technology journalist and computer historian with expertise in the history of portable computing. He is president and co-founder of MARCH (Mid-Atlantic Retro Computing Hobbyists).


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