Matthew Broderick: Hacker Icon

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My financial unhappiness can be traced back to a decision I made at the age of 15. I got a car instead of a computer. I call this the Reverse Ferris Bueller. If I had the foresight to start fooling around on the Internet in the 90s, who knows how much I would’ve been able to win and lose during the first dot-com bust?

In the 1986 classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the lead character, Ferris, laments early in the film that his parents got him a computer instead of a car. The rest of the film is essentially about how he goes about getting a hot car, free time to enjoy it, and deal with the collateral damage of potentially ruining his best friend’s already tenuous relationship with his father.

Ferris is a computer hacker. He hacks right into his school’s database to change the number of absentee days on his record. He uses social engineering to bust his girlfriend out of class and get a table at a fancy restaurant. Not bad for a motivated teen heartthrob.

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We’ve seen this in an earlier Matthew Broderick film, Wargames. In this even more computer focused 1983 Cold War classic (nominated for three Academy Awards) Broderick plays David Lightman, a hacker who gets through high school by changing his grades by infiltrating his school’s computers. After impressing a girl with his mad skillz, he gets pretty close to starting World War 3 fooling around with the United States Government’s computers. The only thing that stops global annihilation is the terminal boredom of playing tic-tac-toe.

I’m not sure I would go back in time to change my choice, though. For $700 I got myself a 1986 Dodge Colt. It came with the freedom to drive girls around after curfew to late night showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I was already on the path to sci-fi fandom, but this experience of midnight shenanigans with friendly women made sure I’d never be content without the company of weirdoes ever again.

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