Telehack: View, play games and hack in the early days of the internet

Telehack is a free simulation of a stylized arpanet / usenet from around 1985-1990. It shows you how they communicated, how they worked, how they played games but also how they broke computers at that time.

Telehack is a complete simulation of an early arpanet / usernet network that existed in 1985-1990. Includes 26.600 servers, thousands of era files, a collection of adventure games, a functional BASIC interpreter with a program library, simulated known era users, and more. There are also many logged in users, as you can register (if you want)


You can connect to it either via telnet (as before), or because you live in a modern age through a browser.

If you choose through the command prompt and the telnet service, because you just want to experience all the experience of that time, and you are running Windows, you must first activate the telnet service from the "Windows Features".

To do this go to Control Panel> Programs & Features> Enable or Disable Windows Features> and from there check “Telnet client program".

Telehack is also accessible via:

  • Telnet on ports 23 (the standard telnet port), 1337, 8080 and 31173
  • HTTPS on port 443 (the standard HTTPS port)
  • SSH on port 6668
  • FTP on port 21 (the standard ftp port) NOTE: The FTP server is compatible with RFC 959 and will probably not work with more modern FTP clients


Telehack is case sensitive. Commands are often capitalized to distinguish them from the text environment. Note that you do not need to capitalize the commands.

Those who are familiar with the Command Prompt will not find it difficult to work with it. For the rest the basic commands and manipulations are:

    • Enter help = It gives you a complete list of the programs it has or the help of each program
    • Press space = If you are presented with a large list that does not end on one screen, press space to move quickly
    • ctrl - C = With this combination you stop what you are doing and exit the subroutine you are running
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For a detailed help regarding each program offered go here


You can really live as if you were on an arpanet / usernet network, browsing books, running programs or playing basic. But since most people will be interested in the games of that time, here's what you can do:

Watch the first movie "Star Wars" in ascii format

Make your screen aquarium

The classic ping-pong game. You have a racket and you try to repel the ball.

An interactive fantasy game where with written commands to the hero of the game you try to explore the space and possibilities of the game. The language is English. Do not forget to ask for help by typing help

A really huge list of z-code games. The command to select a game is the zrun game

Registration, simulation and hacking

If you want to feel the feeling of the 80s then we suggest you register with the command newuser. Your username must be between two and nine characters long, starting with a lowercase letter.

After you register, check if you have an email. The e-mails of that time were far removed from the Gmail you were probably used to. They are all command line based without any GUI. You can see the whole process of how emails were sent in the 1980s on the following BBC special.

To check your first email, you must run the command email. This will display the mail version and the revision date, which is 1983! To open an email, use it read and after the email number.

By registering you have access to the system folders. Enter the command ls to see what the current folder contains. You will distinguish the four executable files: rootkit, wardial, porthack and xmodem. These will be your first tools for breaking into other arpanet servers.

One thing you may be interested in is checking who is online and comparing the scores. To see other users, you can run the command finger, which will show you all kinds of interesting information, such as username and status, which port it is on, when it last logged in and what it does, as well as where it is in the world.

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Hacking on the arpanet
You can connect to other computers on the arpanet. On the internet, you are used to navigating to any website or server you want, but this is not the case at arpanet. Instead, you can only access servers with those with whom you have direct access.

To access the host panel available to you, run the command netstat. The list of servers is different from the list of users and seems to be based on geographical location or random production.

In modern times, visitor access is disabled by default as it is considered a security risk, but in the good old days, it was considered polite to have visitor accounts on your computer for anyone who wanted to use it. It's one of those funny little quirks of the days that went by long, long ago when security was not a major concern in people's minds.

There are a few things to keep in mind when connecting to a new host. You may see a phone number that can be used to call and connect to the network using xmodem. But the most important thing for you, and in the context of hacking - game, is / etc / motd, which if enabled displays which user has rooted the host. To be clear, the root user is another player. One of your goals in the game should be to get as many root accounts as possible.

Use the command run porthack.exe or just the porthack, to run a buffer overflow, an attack where the porthack program starts writing to the boundary memory after exceeding the data capacity of a buffer, thus trying to execute code that will add you as a user. When (and if) you manage to gain root access and hack the computer you can "steal" things from it.

Go ahead and conquer the Telehack universe!

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Written by Dimitris

Dimitris hates on Mondays .....

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