Andrew Bunnie Huang '97, MEng '97, PhD '02 is the author of The Hardware Hacker: Adventures in Making and Breaking Hardware, published in March 2017 by No Starch Press. Huang discusses the book in the MIT Alumni Books Podcast.
Few MIT alumni books make their way to Edward Snowden’s reading list, but he was one of Huang’s first readers, calling it “a look inside a mind without a peer.”
In the book, Huang tells the story of his first formative experiences with taking hardware apart, beginning with his own Apple II in the 1980s.
“It’s very important for us not to think that technology has become a black box that we can only buy from Apples and Googles and Samsungs,” says Huang. “Everything in electronics is made by humans. By definition, it’s all understandable by humans. There’s nothing in our boxes that should make us feel that we don’t understand them, and I would like to give people the beginning of the string to pull to discover that if they want to.”
Huang’s philosophy of hardware has extended beyond his own hardware designs (he was lead engineer on the Chumby) to his own startup Chibitronics and Love to Code platform. It has inspired him to rethink ways to inspire young women to pursue computer science and to demand reform of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which he believes stifles innovation in would-be hackers.
“The fact that decryption itself may be a criminal act scares a lot of people from looking underneath rocks,” Huang says, “It is sort of like saying ‘you can’t look underneath rocks. Looking underneath rocks without the permission of the rock owner is going to be illegal.’ So no one’s going to look underneath rocks anymore and all the wonderful things people can find underneath rocks anymore will never be found…so many good ideas just die on the vine.”
Listen to the complete interview above then visit the Alumni Association’s Slice of MIT Podcast page on SoundCloud for a the full episode archive.