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This Day in Computer History: December 21

written by: Pipedreamergrey•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 12/23/2008

Today marks the anniversary of the Children’s Internet Protection Act being signed into law to protect children from sexual content online. Read more in "This Day in Computer History", a chronology of notable events in the computer, ecommerce, and software industries on this day in history.

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    This Day in Computer History


    Hewlett-Packard released HP-UX 8.07 (S300/S700), its proprietary Unix operating system.


    The Village Voice of New York published an article entitled “Rape in Cyberspace or How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database Into a Society" by Julian Dibbell. In it, Dibbel described an incident that had occurred between two game avatars in the Multi-User Dungeon (MUD) LambdaMOO, which he dubbed a "cyberrape." The "cyberrape" occurred when one user ran a subprogram allowing him to falsely attribute acts to other game characters. These acts, which would be signified with text, included sexual acts that, in the incident discussed in the article, went far beyond the game's community norms and continued hours. Rather than being viewed as a software hack, they were interpreted by members of the community as a sexual violation of the characters whose names were falsely used. The incident incited a disproportionate amount of outrage among the LambdaMOO users, and raised involved ethical questions regarding the line dividing real-life and virtual life throughout the internet. The essay would later be dubbed "one of the most frequently cited essays about cloaked identity in cyberspace."


    A hacking group calling itself “KAOS 97″ defaced the websites of ATEC software,, Netalia Internet, and Netstar of the U.K.

    The website of Sierra On-Line games was defaced. When the site was returned to normal three hours later, it was accompanied by reassurances to the media that the hacker had not accessed the company's credit card or customer databases.


    Retail giant Best Buy announced that it would reduce the price of Apple Computer iMacs from $1,299 to $1,099, while Reuters reported that CompUSA Inc. and CompuTown would keep the original price.


    John Carmack of id Software released the Quake engine source code on the Internet under the terms of the GNU General Public License. The released would allow programmers to modify the engine.


    United States President William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton signed the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) into law in an attempt to limit children's access to sexual content over the internet after the failures of the earlier Communications Decency and Child Online Protection Acts, both of which were struck down as unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court. This third attempt would be upheld following a June 23, 2003 legal challenge by the American Library Association (ALA). The bill was introduced by Senator John McCain of Arizona.


    Guido van Rossum released version 2.2 of the Python programming language, introducing the unification of Python's classes and types into a single hierarchy for greater consistency.

    Version 3.19 of the source code for the first-person shooter Quake II was released on id Software's FTP server under a GNU General Public License.