YO, HACKERS _ GET A LIFE!

YO, HACKERS _ GET A LIFE!

There are many things that I love about the Internet, but there's one particular thing I love so much that it alone would have been enough to make the Net worthwhile to me: calvin andhobbes.com.

Yep, for free, anyone can browse those adventures of this mischievous little boy and his definitely-not-stuffed tiger.He does things like build beautiful sand castles (March 8, 1986, strip), which he then gazes at with a happy, peaceful face.

Suddenly, his smile changes to a smirk and he announces ''Downtown Tokyo!'' and proceeds to demolish his delicate creation of sand. In the strip's final frame, the dusty, smirking Calvin looks straight at you and explains the motive for his mayhem with just one word, ''Godzilla.''

For those of us who loved it, Calivn and Hobbes was not a strip about a child. It was a strip about our inner child, and a powerful daily affirmation of our urges to break out of the inanity of our office cubicles and repetitive daily routines. Calvin was crushing his sand castles for the sake of our dreams.

But, at the same time, most of us (at least those of us who managed to stay outside of mental institutions) knew that Calvin's doings were the stuff of fantasy. We wouldn't dream of carrying them out ourselves.

There is now, however, a breed of person who can't seem to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. That person is what I call the Saturday Night Special hacker.

Yeah, I'm talking about the bozos who started assaulting major e-commerce sites this week, shutting down such destinations as Yahoo, eBay Buy.com, Amazon.com and CNN.com for hours at a time.

Of course this is far from the first time the Net has seen destructive hackers. But there's something that sets these hackers apart - their crudeness.

Legendary hackers are people who spend countless hours analyzing a computer system as if it were a giant puzzle and, through sheer genius and flair, find a way in. And a lot of great talent has bubbled to the top out of the hacker pool and turned into productive corporate citizens.

But the Saturday Night Special hackers aren't doing anything artful. They're just using the crude technique of bombarding sites' computers with information requests from all over the world.

It's the equivalent of setting up a speed-dial machine to constantly dial your friend's phone. In this situation, the chances of a normal caller - who dials with his or her fingers - getting through to you are near nil. It's called a denial-of-service attack.

The crudeness and artlessness of this reminds me very much of the cheap handgun known as the Saturday Night Special, but that's not the only reason I call these people Saturday Night Special hackers.

You have to wonder what kind of people would do this, and, frankly, it's hard to imagine anyone capable of getting a date on a Saturday night doing something like this. These people are likely men - or perhaps adolescent boys - who have adult-like bodies but Calvin-like brains. They think they're still playing in a sandbox. They're disgusting.

Or at least I hope they're just a bunch of emotionally immature individuals. It would be truly unsettling to think that they might be doing this in an insidious effort to manipulate stock prices, or out of some kind of twisted sense of anarchic, political protest.