Day 1 - The Beginning Of The Exploit

Keith, Tom, and I were sitting in the Computer Center after hours doing whatever Student Assistants did, and trying to think of other things to do. The Computer Center was then in the basement of one of the dormitories, which was another story, not entirely computer related.

And one of the other two (I was not so imaginative on that day, my time came later) observed that the system Password File was a straight text file, and he knew where it sat (on one of the permanent system drives), for it was accessed throughout the day and night, whenever the online system was active. So we thought how much fun we could have peeking in all of the private faculty / student files, if we could write a program to open the Password File.

Well, this was not really a 5 minute project. It actually took us several days of experimenting, as the file was in EBCDIC, and the terminal system used ASCII (or was it vice versa). There was translation and transposition (one format stored two characters / word, reversed) of characters, so there was a bit of coding to do. And we did spend time with homework, occasionally.

Since reading the Password File involved EBCDIC to ASCII translation and transposition, we wrote the bulk of our hack in IBM 1800 Assembly code. The system was not terribly stable, and whenever we did something really stupid, we would get the equivalent of a Black Screen Of Death, which was then called a MLTP EAC (so named because an unrecoverable system error was characterised by MuLTiPle entries into the Error Alert Control program).

Anyway, sometime after Day 1, we had ourselves a hack. We were pretty proud of it too. But that was only the beginning.


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