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ATPM 10.09
September 2004




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Review: Hardware Hacking: Have Fun While Voiding Your Warranty (book)

by Chris Lawson,

Author: Joe Grand (editor)
Publisher: Syngress

Price: $40 (list); $28 (Amazon)

Trial: Table of Contents and Sample Chapter


Hardware Hacking: Have Fun While Voiding Your Warranty outlines the basics of hacking and electrical engineering and then presents several projects for the aspiring hacker to try at home. Aimed at the most entry-level audience, readers with prior experience in the field will likely find much of the material rather elementary and redundant.


Layout and Organization

The 537-page book, measuring about 8" by 9", is divided into 15 chapters, organized into three sections. You can download a PDF copy of the Table of Contents from Syngress.

Observations and Opinions

The most compelling reasons for buying this book are probably the first two chapters, which provide a fairly thorough overview of basic hardware hacking tools and basic electrical engineering. Loaded with photos and further reading online, these two chapters are really the highlight of the book.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book is rather less compelling. Two well-written and well-organized chapters on Atari hacks are bright spots in an otherwise very basic and fairly mundane compilation of material that is nearly all available for free—and with more detail—on the Web. In fact, the book makes extensive reference to Web sites throughout, for which its authors should be commended, but it leaves an experienced hacker such as this reviewer wondering why anyone would buy the book instead of spending some quality time with Google. Several of the chapters manage to stray substantially from the topic of hardware hacking, with entire sections devoted to software-only topics. While it’s clearly acceptable to discuss software-related aspects of a hardware modification—I’m intimately familiar with several such cases—an entire section on reformatting an iPod to work on a Windows machine hardly seems relevant to a book on hardware hacking.

Having nine separate authors writing the various chapters also works against this book. The editing is inconsistent, and the book vacillates between the extremely basic (replacing an iPod’s battery, changing an LED) and the terribly complex (adding a serial port interface to a PlayStation 2 and writing software for it).


  • Good overview of the basics.


  • Never gets past the basics for the most part, but goes far, far past them when it does.
  • Struggles to be more than a compilation of already-available material.


Having recently reviewed a very similar book, making mental comparisons was inevitable. While the previous book could perhaps be faulted for thinking too big—after all, making a skyscraper-sized Tetris game isn’t a two-hour project—it was, above all, entertaining. Hardware Hacking, unfortunately, misses that mark by aiming too low. A young teenager with a strong desire to tinker and a patient parent for supervision might enjoy this book, but those with experience and a working knowledge of Google would do better to put those skills to use instead.

Reader Comments (1)

Dan J · October 3, 2008 - 19:19 EST #1
I have to say that i think i would find this book very interesting. As i am an inexperienced "hacker" as it were, the things you mentioned would suit me perfectly. Now that is my own opinion obviously, so others might disagree. Just thought i'd share my insight.

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