Like a Sir: Marconi trolled by magician in world’s first hack 110 years ago

by 5ocietyx


In June 1903, copyright troll Guglielmo Marconi and his partner Ambrose Flemming were about to give the first demonstration of long-range wireless communication at the Royal Institution in London, which, Marconi said, could be sent in complete confidentiality with no fear of the messages being hijacked. Suddenly, the silence was broken by a huge mysterious wireless pulse strong enough to take over the carbon-arc projector and make it sputter messages in Morse Code. First, it repeated the word ‘Rats’ over and over again (abusive at that time). Then it tapped out, ‘There was a young fellow of Italy, who diddled the public quite prettily.’ Further rude epithets followed. It was Nevil Maskelyne, a stage musician and inventor who was annoyed because Marconi’s patents prevented him from using wireless. It was the first hacking, to demonstrate an insecure system.

The 5ociety salutes the stage magus Nevil Maskelyne for his audacious endeavour and deservedly takes his place in the Real-life Heroes of Steampunk Hall of Fame.

For the full remarkable story of the world’s first hack see article in New Scientist here.