John Markoff

John Gregory Markoff (born October 29, 1949)[1] is a journalist best known for his work at The New York Times,[2] and a book and series of articles about the 1990s pursuit and capture of hacker Kevin Mitnick.[3]

John Markoff
John Markoff
John Markoff
BornOctober 29, 1949 (age 69)
Alma materWhitman College
University of Oregon


Markoff was born in Oakland, California and grew up in Palo Alto, California.[1] He graduated from Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington, with a B.A. in Sociology in 1971. Additionally he received an M.A. in sociology from the University of Oregon in 1976.[4]

After leaving graduate school, he returned to California where he began writing for Pacific News Service, an alternative news syndicate based in San Francisco. He freelanced for a number of publications including The Nation, Mother Jones and Saturday Review. In 1981 he became part of the original staff of the computer industry weekly InfoWorld. In 1984 he became an editor at Byte Magazine and in 1985 he left to become a reporter in the business section of the San Francisco Examiner, where he wrote about Silicon Valley.

In 1988 he moved to New York to write for the business section of the New York Times. In November 1988 he reported that Robert Tappan Morris, son of National Security Agency cryptographer Robert Morris, was the author of what would become known as the Internet worm.

In December 1993 he wrote an early article about the World Wide Web, referring to it as a "map to the buried treasures of the Information Age."[2]

Markoff and Kevin Mitnick

On July 4, 1994 he wrote an article about Kevin Mitnick, who was then a fugitive from a number of law enforcement agencies. He wrote several more pieces detailing Mitnick's capture. Markoff also co-wrote, with Tsutomu Shimomura, the book Takedown about the chase. The book later became a film that was released direct to video in the United States. Markoff's writing about Mitnick was the subject of criticism by Mitnick supporters and unaffiliated parties who maintained that Markoff's accounts exaggerated or even invented Mitnick's activities and successes. Markoff stood by his reporting in several responses.

The film went much further, with Markoff himself stating to the San Francisco Chronicle in 2000, "I thought it was a fundamentally dishonest movie." (Mitnick stated that he settled a lawsuit with distributor Miramax over the film, but details were confidential; Miramax has not confirmed that.)[5]

John Markoff at San Francisco New York Times bureau

Markoff was also accused by Jonathan Littman of journalistic impropriety and of over-hyping Mitnick's actual crimes. Littman published a more sympathetic account of Mitnick's time as a fugitive in his own book on the incident, The Fugitive Game. Further controversy came over the release of the movie Takedown, with Littman alleging that portions of the film were taken from his book The Fugitive Game without permission.

Markoff's involvement with Mitnick is thoroughly covered in the documentary Freedom Downtime, in which an interview is conducted with Markoff who is unable to elaborate on the veracity of Mitnick's charges.


After Mitnick, Markoff continued to write about technology, focusing at times on wireless networking, writing early stories about non-line-of-sight broadband wireless, phased-array antennas, and multiple-in, multiple-out (MIMO) antenna systems to enhance Wi-Fi. He covered Jim Gillogly's 1999 break of the first three sections of the CIA's Kryptos cipher [1], and writes regularly about semiconductors and supercomputers as well. He wrote the first two articles describing Admiral John Poindexter's return to government and the creation of the Total Information Awareness project. He shared the 2005 Gerald Loeb Award in the Deadline Writing category for the story "End of an Era".[6] In 2009 he moved from the Business/Tech section of the New York Times to the Science section.

Markoff contributed to the New York Times staff entry that received the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. The series of 10 articles explored the business practices of Apple and other technology companies.[7][8] He retired from his full-time position with the New York Times on December 1, 2016.[9] He continues to work as a freelance journalist for the Times and other organizations and volunteers at the Computer History Museum.[2]

Markoff is interviewed in Do You Trust This Computer?, a 2018 documentary on artificial intelligence.


  • The High Cost of High Tech (with Lennie Siegel) (1985) ISBN 0-06-039045-X
  • Hafner, Katie; Markoff, John (1991). Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-68322-5.
  • Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of America's Most Wanted Computer Outlaw (with Tsutomu Shimomura) (1995) ISBN 0-7868-6210-6
  • What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry (2005) ISBN 0-670-03382-0
  • A robot network seeks to enlist your computer: New York Times (October 2008)
  • Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots (2015)[2]

See also

  • Interview with John Markoff about What the Dormouse Said, April 13, 2006 (audio)
  • The Secret History of Hacking, a 2001 documentary film featuring Markoff.


  1. ^ a b "John Gregory Markoff". AI and the Future of Work. MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). 2017. Retrieved 2018-03-06.
  2. ^ a b c d John Markoff interviewed on the TV show Triangulation on the network
  3. ^
  4. ^ "John Markoff". NNDB. Soylent Communications. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  5. ^ Fost, Dan (May 4, 2000). "Movie About Notorious Hacker Inspires a Tangle of Suits and Subplots: Marin County author of Mitnick book says he was ripped off". SFGate. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
  6. ^ "2005 Winners". UCLA Anderson School of Management. Archived from the original on December 16, 2005. Retrieved May 22, 2010 – via Internet Archive.
  7. ^ "The 2013 Pulitzer Prize Winners - Explanatory Reporting". Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  8. ^ "2013 Journalism Pulitzer Winners". New York Times. 15 April 2013. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  9. ^ "I Covered Tech for the Times for 28 Years, And Now My Time Is Over". WIRED. Retrieved 2018-03-06.

External links

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Cranky Geeks was a technology-related Internet show produced by Ziff Davis Media centered on discussion of technology topics of the week. It was hosted by industry pundit John C. Dvorak. Each week three guest panelists, usually selected from a pool of technology journalists and entrepreneurs, joined Dvorak.

The show, formerly produced by TechTV's Annaliza Savage, premiered to viewers of DL.TV on March 15, 2006 and has since received its own website. The show is similar to Dvorak's previous show, Silicon Spin.

The show was streamed live weekly on Wednesdays at 4:00 p.m. ET/1:00 p.m. PT from the Ziff Davis office in San Francisco, California. In addition, it was offered for download in multiple file sizes and formats after the live show aired. This included a video or audio podcast which viewers could subscribe to in iTunes or any other podcasting client.

Show guests included Martin Sargent, Neil Gaiman, Adam Curry, Chris DiBona, Om Malik, Larry Lessig, Leo Laporte, Veronica Belmont, John Markoff, Natalie Del Conte, Robert Scoble, Jimmy Wales, Alex Albrecht, Molly Wood and Kevin Rose. Dvorak has humorously mentioned his intention to invite Danica Patrick, the IndyCar driver endorsing Go Daddy, one of the show's sponsors, whose commercial airs in every episode.

In May 2010, the show's "Co-Crank," permanent guest/sidekick Sebastian Rupley, who appeared on the show from its inception, announced he was leaving the show.

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Fred Moore was also active in disarmament and social justice activism, as well as nonviolent civil disobedience and direct actions. As a UC Berkeley freshman in 1959, he held a two-day hunger strike on campus against the compulsory Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program, attracting media attention and influencing later activists of the student movement of the 1960s. After the 1980 reinstitution of draft registration in the United States, Moore became a leader in the draft resistance movement, for a time editing the newspaper, Resistance News.Moore was a single father, raising his daughter Irene Moore, born 1968.

He married Julie Kiser in 1992, and they had a daughter Mira Moore, born 1993.

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Freedom Downtime

Freedom Downtime is a 2001 documentary film sympathetic to the convicted computer hacker Kevin Mitnick, directed by Emmanuel Goldstein and produced by 2600 Films.

The documentary centers on the fate of Mitnick, who is claimed to have been misrepresented in the feature film Takedown (2000) produced by Miramax and adapted from the book by the same name by Tsutomu Shimomura and John Markoff, which is based on disputed events. The film also documents a number of computer enthusiasts who drive across the United States searching for Miramax representatives and demonstrating their discontent with certain aspects of the bootleg script of Takedown they had acquired. One of their major points of criticism was that the script ended with Mitnick being convicted to serve a long-term prison sentence, while in reality, at the time the film's production, Mitnick had not yet even had a trial but nonetheless was incarcerated for five years without bail in a high-security facility. Freedom Downtime also touches on what happened to other hackers after being sentenced. The development of the Free Kevin movement is also covered.

Several notable and iconic figures from the hacking community appear in the movie, including Phiber Optik (Mark Abene), Bernie S (Ed Cummings), Alex Kasper, and director Emmanuel Goldstein (Eric Corley). Freedom Downtime tries to communicate a different view of the hacker community from that usually shown by the mainstream media, with hackers being depicted as curious people who rarely intend to cause damage, driven by a desire to explore and conduct pranks. The film goes on to question the rationality of placing computer hackers who went "over the line" in the same environment as serious felons.

It also contains interviews with people related to Mitnick and hacker culture in general. The authors of Hafner, Katie; Markoff, John (1991). Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-68322-5., ex-couple Katie Hafner and John Markoff, appear in very different roles. While Hafner's empathy for Mitnick is shown to have grown, Markoff continues to defend his critical book and articles in The New York Times newspaper about the hacker. Markoff is ridiculed as the narrator, director Goldstein (a hacker himself), points out his factual errors during the interview. Reba Vartanian, Mitnick's grandmother, also appears in a number of interview segments. Furthermore, lawyers, friends, and libertarians give their view of the story. Footage and interviews from the DEF CON and Hackers on Planet Earth conventions try to dispel some hacker myths and confirm others.

The film premiered at H2K, the 2000 H.O.P.E. convention. After that the film saw a limited independent theatrical release and was shown at film festivals. It was released on VHS and sold via the 2600 web site.

In June 2004, a DVD was released. The DVD includes a wealth of extra material spread over two discs, including three hours of extra footage, an interview with Kevin Mitnick in January 2003 (shortly after his supervised release ended), and various DVD eggs.. It also includes subtitles in 20 languages, provided by volunteers.

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The Secret History of Hacking

The Secret History of Hacking is a 2001 documentary film that focuses on phreaking, computer hacking and social engineering occurring from the 1970s through to the 1990s. Archive footage concerning the subject matter and (computer generated) graphical imagery specifically created for the film are voiced over with narrative audio commentary, intermixed with commentary from people who in one way or another have been closely involved in these matters.

The film starts by reviewing the concept and the early days of phreaking, featuring anecdotes of phreaking experiences (often involving the use of a blue box) recounted by John Draper and Denny Teresi. By way of commentary from Steve Wozniak, the film progresses from phreaking to computer hobbyist hacking (including anecdotal experiences of the Homebrew Computer Club) on to computer security hacking, noting differences between the latter 2 forms of hacking in the process. The featured computer security hacking and social engineering stories and anecdotes predominately concern experiences involving Kevin Mitnick. The film also deals with how society's (and notably law enforcement's) fear of hacking has increased over time due to media attention of hacking (by way of the film WarGames as well as journalistic reporting on actual hackers) combined with society's further increase in adoption of and subsequent reliance on computing and communication networks.

John Draper, Steve Wozniak and Kevin Mitnick are prominently featured while the film additionally features comments from or else archive footage concerning Denny Teresi, Joybubbles, Mike Gorman, Ron Rosenbaum, Steven Levy, Paul Loser, Lee Felsenstein, Jim Warren, John Markoff, Jay Foster, FBI Special Agent Ken McGuire, Jonathan Littman, Michael Strickland and others.

Track Down

Track Down (also known as Takedown outside the United States), is a 2000 film directed by Joe Chappelle and starring Skeet Ulrich and Russell Wong. The screenplay concerns computer hacker Kevin Mitnick. The film was based on the book Takedown by John Markoff and Tsutomu Shimomura.

Tsutomu Shimomura

Tsutomu Shimomura (下村 努, Shimomura Tsutomu, born October 23, 1964) is an American physicist and computer security expert. He is known for helping the FBI track and arrest hacker Kevin Mitnick. Takedown, his 1996 book on the subject with journalist John Markoff, was later adapted for the screen in Track Down in 2000.

Shimomura was a founder of semiconductor company Neofocal Systems, and served as CEO and CTO until 2016.

What the Dormouse Said

What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry, is a 2005 non-fiction book by John Markoff. The book details the history of the personal computer, closely tying the ideologies of the collaboration-driven, World War II-era defense research community to the embryonic cooperatives and psychedelics use of the American counterculture of the 1960s.

The book follows the history chronologically, beginning with Vannevar Bush's description of his inspirational memex machine in his 1945 article "As We May Think". Markoff describes many of the people and organizations who helped develop the ideology and technology of the computer as we know it today, including Doug Engelbart, Xerox PARC, Apple Computer and Microsoft Windows.

Markoff argues for a direct connection between the counterculture of the late 1950s and 1960s (using examples such as Kepler's Books in Menlo Park California) and the development of the computer industry. The book also discusses the early split between the idea of commercial and free-supply computing.

The main part of the title, "What the Dormouse Said," is a reference to a line at the end of the 1967 Jefferson Airplane song "White Rabbit": "Remember what the dormouse said: feed your head." which is itself a reference to Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

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