Or, Manchild in Tomorrowland: a memoir in which budding geek escapes Brooklyn slum via computer magic.
The offspring of a drug-addicted mother and a largely absent father, Nuwere found solace in performing and protection in gangs, recognizing early on that in Bedford-Stuyvesant, “your life can go away at any time. You have to be prepared.” With the encouragement of an assistant principal at his middle school, he began tinkering with computers in the early 1990s, eventually learning enough about them to become a neighborhood resource, an entrepreneur, and then a 14-year-old whiz-kid at a startup Manhattan Internet provider. At the same time, Nuwere was loading his own machines with pirated software, cracking into systems around the country, stealing credit card numbers online (“I was so completely ignorant of these things that I assumed everyone who had a credit card must have a ton of money”), taking an honored place in the hacker demimonde, and from time to time getting caught. At the ripe old age of 17, having managed not to get thrown into jail, he became a security consultant and began catching fellow hackers at their online shenanigans; as we leave our narrator, he is busily closing backdoors, ferreting out sniffers, mastering karate and OpenBSD, and—in a nicely developed turn to this coming-of-age tale—getting a Wall Street brokerage’s system up and running again in the wake of the World Trade Center attack. The account is well intended, though repetitive and sometimes unfocused; Clifford Stoll’s The Cuckoo’s Egg (1989) and Steven Levy’s Hackers (1984) are far better, if now dated, glimpses of the shadowy world of computer hacking and contain more circumstantial detail for readers with knowledge of computers.
Nonetheless, Nuwere’s version is noteworthy as an account of a techie’s sentimental education—and a testimonial to the power of positive, if sometimes illegal, thinking.