He knew full well that he was flirting with danger—he could certainly guess how some of his traps might be used. But he also thought that California’s law on hidden compartments, one of the very few in the nation, offered clear guidance: Building a trap was illegal only if it was done with the “intent to store, conceal, smuggle, or transport a controlled substance.” Based on his consultations with fellow installers, Anaya believed he would cross that line only if a client specifically mentioned drugs.
Like any good hacker, Cabrera decided to express his admiration for IGT’s technology by trying to beat it. Using blueprints meant to assist casino service personnel, he figured out a way to solder a half-dozen jumper wires between the memory cards and the motherboards, completing circuits that circumvented the machine’s security. This gave him the ability to load any IGT game he wanted onto the boards. If he was given a used Pharaoh’s Gold machine, for example, he could convert it to a Cleopatra II by swapping in freshly programmed memory cards.
However innocent his initial intentions, Cabrera quickly saw the business potential in this breakthrough. He knew that converting machines without IGT’s OK wasn’t legal. But this was Latvia, he figured, where capitalism is wild and woolly. Surely no one would notice if he made a few bucks on the side by hacking IGT’s tech.
AA and its steps have become ubiquitous despite the fact that no one is quite sure how—or, for that matter, how well—they work. The organization is notoriously difficult to study, thanks to its insistence on anonymity and its fluid membership. And AA’s method, which requires “surrender” to a vaguely defined “higher power,” involves the kind of spiritual revelations that neuroscientists have only begun to explore.