There is perhaps no name in the world of hacking as legendary as Geohot. George Hotz was the first person to unlock the original iPhone back in 2007. He was 17 years old at the time. He also released multiple jailbreaks, including “purplera1n” for the iPhone 3GS. Hotz later went on to hack the PlayStation 3 and battle Sony in a high-profile lawsuit.
In a recent profile by The New Yorker, we get a fascinating look at Hotz and several stories from his career as a prolific, self-taught hacker.
How Hotz unlocked the original iPhone:
He used a Phillips-head eyeglass screwdriver to undo the two screws in the back of the phone. Then he slid a guitar pick around the tiny groove, and twisted free the shell with a snap. Eventually, he found his target: a square sliver of black plastic called a baseband processor, the chip that limited the carriers with which it could work. To get the baseband to listen to him, he had to override the commands it was getting from another part of the phone. He soldered a wire to the chip, held some voltage on it, and scrambled its code. The iPhone was now at his command. On his PC, he wrote a program that enabled the iPhone to work on any wireless carrier.
The next morning, Hotz stood in his parents’ kitchen and hit “Record” on a video camera set up to face him. He had unruly curls and wispy chin stubble, and spoke with a Jersey accent. “Hi, everyone, I’m geohot,” he said, referring to his online handle, then whisked an iPhone from his pocket. “This is the world’s first unlocked iPhone.”
Interestingly, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak sent Hotz a congratulatory email for unlocking Apple’s ‘Jesus phone’. David Kushner explains in The New Yorker:
Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, who hacked telephone systems early in his career, sent Hotz a congratulatory e-mail. “It was like a story out of a movie of someone who solves an incredible mystery,” Wozniak told me. “I understand the mind-set of a person who wants to do that, and I don’t think of people like that as criminals. In fact, I think that misbehavior is very strongly correlated with and responsible for creative thought.”
The whole profile is an incredibly fascinating piece that extensively chronicles Hotz hacking the PS3 and battling with Sony. After working at Google and Facebook, Hotz says he still hacks because he’s “bored.” He also raises important questions about the freedom of information. We highly recommend heading over to The New Yorker to read the whole thing.
- Image via flickr