EFF Pioneer Award

I just had a legendary drop!

[EFF Pioneer Award]

alt-text

EFF Pioneer Award

Binds when picked up
Unique
Trinket
+768 Stamina
Requires Level 85

Equip: Chance to remove freedom-impairing effects
Use: Rallies powerful allies that defend your rights on the digital frontier

"You can tell who the pioneers are because they have arrows in their back."

I’m incredibly humbled and honored to receive a Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Thanks to everyone who nominated me for this amazing award. The recognition motivates me to work harder!

Over a decade ago when I first set out reverse engineering the Xbox, I didn’t set out to be on the electronic frontier. In fact, it was business as usual for me, trodding the same ground I had walked since I was a child: the frontier came to me. The passage of the DMCA in 1998 redrew the borders of the frontier, and I became a pioneer without ever having to journey from the doorstep of my log cabin.

You could say I have a very traditional notion of ownership. If I buy something, I find it odd to think that I don’t own it. However, in the world of software, that’s the standard: you cannot own the expressive results of another’s thoughts; you can merely license a copy of it. This has lead to a number of ownership paradoxes. For example, a few years ago, you could license a copy of a video game called Diablo II, and the license was such that decades from now, you could legally enjoy a moment of nostalgia while you played it on an old computer. Today, you can license a copy of its sequel, Diablo III, but it relies upon a cloud service to authenticate the copy. The owner has the right to terminate the authentication service and in doing so you agree to stop playing. Decades from now, you may still have the computer; you may still have a copy of the software; but you no longer have the legal right to play, as you gave it away in a click-through agreement.

I like hardware because it’s relatively free of paradoxes like this. There is a notion that when I buy a book, it’s mine to do with what I want. I can give it to a friend, sell it in a second-hand shop; I can tear pages out, scribble on it, use it as a doorstop or a bug-smashing instrument. I can even photocopy pages for my personal use. Since I was a child, I had applied this intuitive definition of ownership to hardware. I’ve always felt empowered to take apart hardware and rip-mix-and-sometimes-burn, much to my parent’s chagrin. Hardware to me is like a book: in fact, much of the technology used to make hardware relies on similar lithographic and printing processes. A PCB isn’t a “Printed Circuit Board” for nothing. You can open and read hardware like a book; to me a schematic and a circuit board or IC layout are expressing the same idea, just translated in different languages.

And so, when I first punctured the warranty seal on the Xbox with my screwdriver, I had no idea I was about to embark on a journey to become a pioneer. But as they say, ‘you can tell the pioneers — they have the arrows coming out of their back’. But really, all I’ve done since then is just stand my ground and defend my little log cabin, built out of simple notions that are as old as the first trade of eggs for grain.

I believe you have the right to tinker and take things apart, which is an essential prerequisite to owning something; and I believe that ideas are most powerful when they are set free and shared openly. While the lines that define the electronic frontier are constantly changing, we need not be victims of circumstance: take a stand, and be a pioneer.

Thanks to everyone who supported me and gave me the courage to earn this award — my parents, my partner, my teachers and advisors, particularly Tom Knight and Hal Abelson; and my friends and my colleagues who stood by me even in my darkest times.

15 Responses to “EFF Pioneer Award”

  1. [...] Bunnie’s EFF Pioneer Award post. …There is a notion that when I buy a book, it’s mine to do with what I want. I can give it to a friend, sell it in a second-hand shop; I can tear pages out, scribble on it, use it as a doorstop or a bug-smashing instrument. I can even photocopy pages for my personal use. Since I was a child, I had applied this intuitive definition of ownership to hardware. I’ve always felt empowered to take apart hardware and rip-mix-and-sometimes-burn, much to my parent’s chagrin. Hardware to me is like a book: in fact, much of the technology used to make hardware relies on similar lithographic and printing processes. A PCB isn’t a “Printed Circuit Board” for nothing. You can open and read hardware like a book; to me a schematic and a circuit board or IC layout are expressing the same idea, just translated in different languages. [...]

  2. David Bley says:

    There is much interest in STEM nowadays. This process of taking things apart, fixng, repurposing, modifying and seeing how they work and were designed is the beginning of STEM education. We learn best when we are playing. Trying things out with no particular agenda (not external but an internal one) and no particular deadline. This is called by many names: puttering and tinkering are two that come to mind.

    I believe that not only is this tinkering a right, it is our obligation both as individuals and as a nation (speaking as an American). One of the purposes of the US patent system was to DISSEMINATE ideas! Let us encourage the re-dedication to this purpose by encouraging and championing tinkering.

  3. J. Peterson says:

    Congratulations on the award! Hacking The XBox is one of my favorite tech books (and I’ve never even owned an XBox).

  4. Jinete del Apocalipsis says:

    Congratulations Bunnie,

    I respect and admire you very much.

    You make the world a better place.

    Sincerely,

    J

  5. Now you are truly entitled to walk up to women and say the line: “You know, I’m kind of a big deal around here” :)

    Jokes aside, congrats and keep it up!

  6. f4grx says:

    Congratulations, this is a wonderful achievement.

    I really like your clear wording and expression, very easy to read and full of wisdom.

    It’s really a pleasure to read you and thinking twice about what you say. That’s a really cool way to think about hardware.

    thank you for making me think and giving me inspiration.

  7. [...] now that you know everything, don’t wait a second before reading the article he wrote about that, and after that, just take a tour of his blog, it’s worth the [...]

  8. William says:

    And thoroughly deserved; your work is an inspiration to many.

  9. mangel says:

    Congratulations!!

    You deserved it.

    Open hardware is nowadays the frontier, as were open software in the past. Next will be open mechanics, with 3D printers. And crowdfunding to make things possible out of banks and multinationals.

    All of this will make our knowledge avance faster, with people collaborating without limits.

    And next objective must be the international patent system, that becames a method to cut initiatives and preserve priviledges to big companies.

    Please, keep been there.

  10. [...] pouvez aller sur son blog pour lire l’article original en anglais, ou continuer votre lecture de la version française ici. Après cela, allez faire un tour pour [...]

  11. Jeffrey Huo says:

    Sincerest congratulations. The whole family is really proud of you. :-)

  12. Gautam says:

    I have learnt more than you have intended to teach by simply following you.
    You are indeed the pioneer the way they are meant to be. Congratulations!

  13. Timothy Chen says:

    Congrats Bunnie. You deserve it. More importantly you are a great guy!

  14. Sid Cardejon says:

    You just need access to the printers’ web page which if left open to the internet doesnt require network level authentication.

  15. Troy Wahn says:

    What i don’t understood is actually how you’re not really much more well-liked than you might be now. You’re very intelligent. You realize thus significantly relating to this subject, made me personally consider it from so many varied angles. Its like women and men aren’t fascinated unless it’s one thing to do with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs nice. Always maintain it up!