arzumy md short notes on small discoveries

The Hack That Changed My World

Circa 1993, probably end of the year

By this time, computers weren’t something new to me. I knew my way around them. But like any other kid, a computer was just a slick gaming machine. Nothing more.

Few years back the school did teach us how to code. At that time, I didn’t realize what it meant. To me, coding was just an activity that you do with the machine. Much like playing games. I did not know the real potential.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that I could get the machine to do what I want.

My uncle brought back a machine. I don’t remember what the model was, but I’m pretty sure it was running Microsoft Windows 3.1 because I remember the File Manager. There was a game called First Samurai. I spent almost all my time in front of the machine, playing First Samurai, maybe Minesweeper once in a while :). After a while, I started to get bored. Mainly because of the endless repetition of the same thing from one level to the next (or maybe because I got stuck in one level).

One day, instead of playing games, I sat there and browsed around with File Manager. Nothing made sense much to me. But somehow I found myself staring at First Samurai’s directory. I started to poke around. There was a file that looks impressive, it was a config file or maybe flat file database. Inside that file, there was something that resembled current game level status. I don’t remember the exact details. But when I changed the level number inside that file and started the game, I saw an entirely new level loaded up!

What!? Was that for real?

That was the aha! moment for me. To understand the real potential. It wasn’t just about the game, at that moment I knew that this can be done on anything in the machine. I could make them do what I want.

And at that moment too, something snapped. I completely lost interest in playing computer games. The gamer was gone. A hacker was born.

arzumy md, CTO at Fave and BillPlz.