Big news… EFF pioneer award! “Hardware Hacker, E-Voting Investigator, and Public Domain Advocate Win Pioneer Awards”

Pioneer Front
We’re thrilled to be included in this group of amazing folks for the 2009 EFF pioneer awards! Harri Hursti, Carl Malamud and Limor “Ladyada” Fried. We’ll be in SF for the awards on Oct 22nd, get a ticket – we’ll see you there!

Press release here.… and in the more section…

Update: We’ve included a transcript of the introduction and Ladyada’s speech. For transcripts we used 3Play Media. We uploaded the video, they transcribed it, we paid via paypal, all under a week and under $30 for two videos total.

Hardware Hacker, E-Voting Investigator, and Public Domain Advocate Win Pioneer Awards

EFF to Honor Limor “Ladyada” Fried, Harri Hursti, and Carl Malamud at San Francisco Ceremony
San Francisco – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pleased to announce the winners of its 2009 Pioneer Awards: hardware hacker Limor “Ladyada” Fried, e-voting security researcher Harri Hursti, and public domain advocate Carl Malamud.

The award ceremony will be held at 7 p.m., October 22nd, at the Westin San Francisco in conjunction with the Web 2.0 Summit, co-produced by O’Reilly and TechWeb. LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffmann will keynote the event.

Limor “Ladyada” Fried is a pioneer in the field of open-source hardware and software hacking, helping the general public to engineer and adapt consumer electronics to better suit their needs. Her do-it-yourself ethic is founded on the idea that consumer electronics are best modified for use by customers, not corporations. Fried runs her own company, Adafruit Industries, which sells unique and fun do-it-yourself kits to help consumers make gadgets such as backup iPod chargers, green power monitors, and programmable displays for bicycle wheels. She also hosts an Internet video program called “Citizen Engineer” that provides step-by-step instructions to help consumers build and alter their own home devices.

Harri Hursti discovered gaping vulnerabilities in the widely used optical scan voting machines manufactured by Diebold Election Systems in 2005, in collaboration with the Leon County, Florida, Supervisor of Elections and elections watchdog group BBV. The “Hursti Hack,” as his breakthrough became known, brought about far-reaching scrutiny of voting machine hardware and software. Research conducted in other states confirmed numerous systematic flaws and led to the decertification of thousands of faulty voting machines. Hursti is currently Chief Technical Officer of the Clear Ballot Group, a Boston company that builds tools to rigorously and transparently verify election results.
Carl Malamud is a technologist, author, and public domain advocate, currently known for his foundation, As founder of the Internet Multicasting Service, Malamud was responsible for creating the first Internet radio station, for putting the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s EDGAR database on-line, and for creating the Internet 1996 World Exposition. Malamud is the author of eight books, including “Exploring the Internet” and “A World’s Fair.” He was a visiting professor at the MIT Media Laboratory and is the former chairman of the Internet Software Consortium.

“The Pioneer Award winners this year have empowered all of us as consumers, voters, and citizens, making sure that advances in technology enhance our lives instead of hemming us in,” said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. “We’re proud to honor Limor, Harri, and Carl for the invaluable contributions they have made to our digital world.”
Awarded every year since 1992, the Pioneer Awards recognize leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier. Past honorees include World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, Linux creator Linus Torvalds, and the Mozilla Foundation and its chairman Mitchell Baker, among many others.

Each year, candidates are nominated by the public with winners chosen by a panel of judges. This year’s panel includes Kim Alexander (President and founder, California Voter Foundation), Cory Doctorow (award-winning author and activist), Mitch Kapor (President, Kapor Enterprises and co-founder and former chairman of EFF), Drazen Pantic (Co-director, Location One), Barbara Simons (IBM Research [Retired] and former president ACM), and James Tyre (Co-founder, The Censorware Project and EFF policy fellow).
Pioneer Awards keynoter Reid Hoffman is Executive Chairman and a co-founder of LinkedIn. Previously, Hoffman was Executive Vice President of PayPal and has also held management roles at Fujitsu Software Corporation and Apple. Hoffman serves on the Board of Directors for SixApart,, and the Mozilla Corporation. Sponsors of the Pioneer Awards ceremony include MetroPCS, Facebook, SaurikIT, and Microsoft.

Tickets to the Pioneer Awards ceremony are $60 through Friday October 16, and $80 afterwards. You can buy your tickets in advance at Members of the media interested in attending should email [email protected].

For more information about the Pioneer Awards:

Katina Bishop
Development Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
[email protected]
Rebecca Jeschke
Media Relations Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
[email protected]

ANNOUNCER: I’m just introducing the presenters who will be introducing the award recipients. So, our first presenter, the presenters are all EFF staffers. And the first presenter is Tim Jones, who is our, God, his title is always, it’s complicated to me. The activism and technology manager. And if you think about it, activism and technology being managed by the same guy is kind of a strange thing. But Tim is like, the exact right person for this job. He both understands the tech and he gets why doing activism is really important. And has actually helped us with many of our tech projects. So EFF not only has a litany of lawyers who are litigating cases, but we also have some products that we release. And Tim has created a couple of those. And so, anyway, Tim is going to introduce our first award recipient.


TIM JONES: Hello. I’m coming, I’m on the tail end of a pretty bad cold right now. So my voice is extra-gravelly and authoritative. So that’s how you know I’m telling you the truth about everything I say. I’ve taken enough cough syrup that I would have dissolved into a bit of [INAUDIBLE] but not so much that I’ve become insane. So if I go off the deep end in either direction, let me apologize in advance here.

So I’m totally excited to be introducing Limor. About a year ago, I started for some strange reason trying to figure out electronics. It’s a pretty confusing thing to learn, I’m used to to coding software. And I started exploring the different resources available to people to try to learn this thing. And it’s a field, if you’ve ever played with it, that has a pretty steep barrier to entry. And most of the things that characterize themselves as for beginners seem like they’re more made for Martians. And Limor’s work on the company really stood head and shoulders above the rest in helping me kind of figure things out.

It’s pretty clear, as soon as you start looking at her website, or if you see her present, I saw her talk at E-tech last year, she’s a hacker in the best sense of the word. She’s interested in taking things apart, figuring out what makes them tick and how they work and then rebuilding them. What’s important, though, is that she goes beyond that and I think she’s also got real passion for education. Which is impressive to me because I’m kind of a hacker, but once I build something, I kind of get smug about it and move on to the next thing. But Limor doesn’t just figure out how things work, she goes out of her way to outline these findings clearly on her website, and find as many ways as possible to teach other people how to do the exact same thing.

Now, I guess that this is a pretty rare phenomenon in electronics. It’s a pretty esoteric, confusing field. If you get your usual kit for starters, is how you’re supposed to learn these things. You kind of get these indistinguishable, multi-colored plastic pieces and a sort of strange diagram, and you have to just kind of figure out how to put it together. And if you’re not an electrical engineer, or you have a cool electrical engineer dad, or even a class, it’s just completely bewildering. Limor, I think, gets that the internet created a real amazing opportunity to transmit information about how to build electronics and how to hack hardware, and learn how these things work. That hasn’t really existed before. She sells dozens of do it yourself electronic kits on her website, all which she’s designed and produced herself. And each has a really crystal-clear, step-by-step tutorial type instructions on how to build them. And then even beyond that, if you don’t know the super-basics, like how do I solder. What kind of equipment do I need, what’s electricity, she’s got tutorials for that stuff as well. And really simple step-by-step. And if you want to get more advanced, there’s forms and she talks with people.

Now, I would say it probably sounds like a pretty simple and obvious idea, especially for this crowd. Where I know with Web 2.0 Expo, so most people here spend most of their time trying to figure out how to leverage rich media online community, or whatever the buzzwords are this month. But, again, there’s not really anything else, or there’s very few things like this for do it yourself electronics. Not even wanting to lend herself to mere tutorials, she’s started a video podcast. The [? Filter Own ?] also here, called Citizen Engineer. They’re turning it into a comic book. So there’s now a comic book you can get that will teach you how to hack your mobile phone authentication chip, and how to hack the payphones, so traditional graphic novels are kind of getting [? pirate view, ?] there’s a new genre. She’s got these chat room events, Ask an Engineer. She’s creating a children’s coloring book, called Lady Ada’s Ease For Electronics. Oh, and her nickname’s Lady Ada. I don’t think I mentioned that.

But I also want to emphasize that this is really cool, weird, disruptive technology. Because I think my description so far sounds a little bit kumbayah. When Cindy was interviewing Reid earlier, and she said what’s your favorite thing about creating startups, I liked his first answer, which was I like building things that are disruptive to existing systems. So, hell yes.

Her most popular, and I think probably her favorite kits, are things like cellphone jammers, or a kit called TV-be-gone that turns off all the TVs in the room. Or a thing that lets you hack your mobile phone’s authentication chip. To this, in this direction, one thing I really like is, she’s not afraid to sort of bump up against the limits of the law. If you look up her name on YouTube, the first thing that you can see her saying to a pretty enthusiastic crowd is that it is illegal to use a cellphone jammer, but it’s not illegal to tell people how to build one.


TIM JONES: And I think in a world where a lot of technology law has not really been designed with fostering grassroots innovation or entrepreneurship in mind, and especially around things like cellphone spectrum, but more about sort of keeping existing big business monopolies in place, a willingness to engage with the limits of the law that way goes a really long way.

So all this makes her really a kind of perfect representative for what this thing called the Open Source Partner movement, which is the idea that, in the same way that open source software in the `90s really created the internet as we know it, and we have projects like Linux and Apache, and Mozilla, and closed projects like AOL and Prodigy did great work, but ultimately failed, that we can have a similar kind of process happening with hardware now. That with these new strategies for teaching people to build hardware, and learn how to do these complex things, and understand, and open up closed technology.

For instance, I can run any software I want to on my web server or on my computer, but the other piece of technology I use the most often is my iPhone, which Apple and AT&T have veto power over what I run on that. So it’s actually really important to begin to understand exactly what’s happening inside an iPhone, and begin to learn ways of doing new things that the people who built it wouldn’t necessarily expect with it. And indeed, when I sat down with Phil and Limor earlier, they said they were going to start building iPhones now. So, not really. They said they were thinking about it.

So, yes. So, the Open Source Hardware movement. Limor is a real giant in it. But she has a lot of partners. People like MAKE Magazine., you have a lot of local groups here in San Francisco like Noisebridge, Dorkbots, similar groups around the world. So I think it’s a pretty exciting time for what she does. And I’m happy to present this Pioneer Award to her.


LIMOR FRIED: I just want to speak for a few seconds. I’d like to thank the EFF for defending our digital rights for almost 20 years.


When I was younger, I remember their defending a lot of cases like Steve Jackson Games, and other net, the child protection law. The CDA. — internet based and computer based. I think it’s coincidental and interesting that only a few weeks ago they had to sort of defend a bunch of hardware hackers from Texas Instruments. People who wanted to hack their own graphing calculators and run the software they want to run on it, not what TI told them to. And I think it’s interesting that as more people gain the power to hack hardware, they’re going to need to get some help from the EFF and have the strong backing of this organization. So I’m really glad that EFF isn’t saying, we don’t want to get involved with hardware stuff but actually jumping right in and definitely defending people, probably like me soon.

I’d also like to point out some other pioneers of open source hardware. Among others, the Arduino team. Bunnie Hwang, who does Chumby and Rowetel, who does open-source telephony boxes. I’d like to thank Rich DeVaul and Saul Griffith for giving me the idea that you could open-source hardware, it was pretty exciting at MIT here that there was such a thing that you could actually design circuitry and then give it away just like software. And I’d also like to acknowledge the support of MAKE magazine and EYEBEAM who have definitely been instrumental in helping me build my business and also get all this information out there to people. And finally to my partner in crime Phil, who has done pretty much 70% of the work and I get all the credit.


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  1. Congrats!!!

  2. Congratulations Limor!

  3. Congratulations! It’s well earned.

    (Dang it, why does all the fun stuff happen when I’m out of town.)

  4. Shazbot! 😀

  5. Huzzah!

  6. HisKingdomComes

    Gefeliciteerd! Well you do deserve it too!

  7. Congratulations – and well deserved! You are an inspiration to all us would-be-electronics-engineers and your step-by-step kit instructions take the drama out of assembling seemingly complex – and cool – things. 🙂

  8. Just in case you haven’t gotten the message yet – congratulations, Limor! You don’t just make some of the coolest kits on the market, you’re also accessible to your adoring kit-building fans. That does more to encourage people to take up the soldering iron and voltmeter than any book or magazine ever could.

  9. EFF awards sponsored by… Microsoft??? Hmmmm…

    Anyway, congrats! It’s very much deserved.

  10. Congrats!

  11. Well deserved, Limor. Congrats!

  12. HisKingdomComes

    Well especially when I saw her presentation about Design Noir I knew I had to follow this geekess (not offending). After a while I discovered her blog and kept watching her by Google Reader. Never knew she had her own shop and even her own products. So now we all know she deserves a prize, an award of recognition and a stimulance for the future (products) to come!

    – HisKingdomComes –

  13. Congrats! It’s well deserved!

  14. That’s excellent news, and well-deserved.
    When you were just getting going with kits I thought you’d at least be an inspiration to young women interested in electronics, but figured it would be a longshot making it into a successful business – nothing personal, just that it usually takes a lot of hard work and patience to reach a critical mass. Congratulations, and keep ’em coming!

  15. Congratulations!

  16. sweet congrats!

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