Hackers Gotta Hack

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Posted by: briansittley Comments: 0 0 Post Date: November 17, 2009

Those calculators are  from the graphing calculator collection belonging to one Brandon Wilson.  He’s one of a small breed of calculator hackers — hobbyists who trade tips and homemade hacks on how to reprogram calculators to do odd things, like turn into a synthesizer, or play Tetris, or become an Etch-A-Sketch. 

Unfortunately for Brandon and others, the calculators’ manufacturer, Texas Instruments, does not appreciate, nor approve of, their efforts.

It turns out T.I. has some secret codes embedded in their devices to prevent people from coopting the devices for such alternative uses.  Hackers like Benjamin Moody, who turned his TI into a Whack-A-Mole game, have received some rather stern cease and desist letters from the Dallas semiconductor company.  Like any good hacker, folks like Wilson and Moody are simply tickled to be able to spend long hours in pursuit of a well-spent hack just because, like the proverbial mountain, it’s there.

As the 23 year old Mr. Moody put it: “Pushing the limits of what the hardware can do, that’s where a lot of the fun is.”

Meanwhile, T.I. sees greater value in vigorously protecting its intellectual property, and has thus attempted to thwart these efforts through its legal department.  This in turn has brought out the notorious EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) in defense of the hackers.  The EFF has sent its own letter to TI, demanding that it “back off” on its intimidation of the hackers.  The hackers, for the most part, don’t appear to want any trouble, and have agreed to back off themselves.  After all, it’s hacking.  For them, it’s all about some harmless fun.  T.I. of course, would beg to differ.

You can draw your own conclusions, of course.  You’ll find a more in-depth article on this little dust-up here.  But the battle never ends.



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