AT&T went down.
Long distance telephone service in many areas of the United States was interrupted for hours as technicians frantically scrambled to locate the source of the problem and get the system back up and running again.
The result was near chaos. Business ground to a halt. Tens of thousands of long distance phone calls went uncompleted.
Although it was later discovered that the crash had been caused by a bug in AT&T code, suspicion immediately fell on the nation's hackers.
This was the moment law enforcement agencies around the country had been awaiting for years - the first sign of a general hacker uprising intended to destabilize the United States.
The response was quick and aggressive. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and telephone company security raided the homes and offices of hundreds of suspected hackers in cities around the country in a coordinated sweep. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of computer equipment was seized. Hundreds were thrown in jail.
By the time it was all over, the civil liberties of hundreds of people had been needlessly violated, thousands of dollars of perfectly legal computer equipment had disappeared and at least one legitimate business, Steve Jackson Games, of Austin, Texas, had been almost forced into bankruptcy.
The story that journalist and Science Fiction author Bruce Sterling tells in the Hacker Crackdown has long been a cult favorite on the net.
It's a compelling tale - the true story of what really went on in the battle between cops and hackers. The plot has all the elements that make for a great read: greedy multinational corporations, idealism, powerful computers, stupidity (on the part of more than one of the hackers), incompetence (on the part of telco security), larceny, guns, pornography and a great ending.
Sterling, who sometimes writes for Wired Magazine, has made the electronic distribution version of the book available online for free download.
Of course, if the idea of squinting your way through a 300 page book, makes you nervous, you can always order it online.