-- is my favorite movie. I don't love it for the camp – I was only brought to the realization that it was campy about a year ago – it is a pure and sincere love, full of hope and wonder. I saw Hackers in theatres when I was twelve or thirteen, and it was right around the time when we got Internet in my house and my father and I were exploring this thing called America Online. It was four years before I would code my own website, and five years before I would step foot in New York for the first time.
I remember walking out of the theatre stunned, in a complete daze. This might sound ridiculous to everyone who doesn't know me well (or even those who do know me well!), but this movie was the beginning of everything for me. I didn't know a world outside of the version I had lived in, and hadn't thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Hackers is unrealistic and ridiculous, but I didn't know that at the time. I thought that world was real. It was full of energy, of a group of friends who would dig into things to see how they worked, and defeat the bad guys through code. It was a completely foreign way to spend time and of having fun that I had never considered or knew existed. And then there was this person --
I had never seen a girl lead character who seemed so cool to me in a movie until then. Everything else seemed too gender stereotyped, and it wasn't that I didn't look up to those girls, it was that I hadn't even thought of them at all. This girl was different. This character was a loner. She had her own style. She was brilliant. She was independent. And she helped save the day in the end.
After seeing this movie in 1995, I was drawn to computers in an insane way. I stayed up late regularly, posting on AOL message boards. A few years later, Laura got me into Angelfire, which had me staying up even later once I had graduated beyond the rich text editor and dived into rows and rows of code. It was a fun puzzle, looking at the source of the websites I liked and changing letter after letter to see what these changes affected, and slowly learning how different scripts worked. I got into webrings, hosts, regular site/design updating (which at the time required manually changing dozens of individual Notepad files and took around four hours each redesign), and packing up shop to nomadically move each time my host launched pop-up ads. It was the most fun I'd ever had.
I don't tell people I can code anymore, because my knowledge is frozen in time along with this movie – it barely clears CSS. But the respect I have for what the Internet has let happen is as strong as ever, and many life decisions I've made reflect that respect – from internship, graduate school and job applications to tattoos and my current job. And I really do owe it all to this.
Oh my god, how cool is this movie. Give it a spin if you haven't seen it – you'll hear references to 28.8 BPS modems, the speed of a Pentium, phreaking, and worms. It's mystical, especially for someone around 30 years old who's experienced (and remembers) an analogue world, and has slowly watched this craziness unfold over the past couple of decades.