1900s rural farmers: The original hackers?

Most of us think of hackers as people who tinker with computers and make tech do things it wasn't originally supposed to do. Some people trace hacking back to the 1950s and 1960s. That's when the technologically curious started tricking telephone signal systems into unlocking free long-distance calling. But as far back as the early 1900s, rural farmers -- or you could call them hackers -- got to tinkering as well.

At the time, phone companies were expanding their networks in U.S. cities, but not rural areas -- too expensive, too few customers. So ranchers and farmers hacked their own lines using the same barbed-wire fencing they used to pen in their livestock.

David Sicilia, assistant professor at University of Maryland who has written about the topic, joins Marketplace Tech to discuss.

About the author

Ben Johnson is the host of Marketplace Tech.

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