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25th Anniversary of Hackers

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the glad-he-didn't-have-that-time-machine dept.

Books 149

theodp writes "Sharks gotta swim; bats gotta fly; hackers gotta hack. On the 25th anniversary of Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, author Steven Levy has penned an interesting where-are-they-now follow up on the original digital revolutionaries for Wired. 'Some of my original subjects,' writes Levy, 'are now rich, famous, and powerful. They thrived in the movement's transition from insular subculture to multibillion-dollar industry, even if it meant rejecting some of the core hacker tenets. Others, unwilling or unable to adapt to a world that had discovered and exploited their passion — or else just unlucky — toiled in obscurity and fought to stave off bitterness. I also found a third group: the present-day heirs to the hacker legacy, who grew up in a world where commerce and hacking were never seen as opposing values. They are bringing their worldview into fertile new territories and, in doing so, are molding the future of the movement.' Here's hoping Google reads this and gets inspired to let Andy Hertzfeld ship whatever the hell he wants!" Glyn Moody pulls out one poignant detail from Levy's account: rms's thoughts of suicide.

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25 years? (5, Funny)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#31913996)

How old was Angelina Jolie when she made that movie?

The Amazon link is showing a different cover than what I usually see.

Why is everyone looking at me that way?

Re:25 years? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31914042)

How old was Angelina Jolie when she made that movie?

The Amazon link is showing a different cover than what I usually see.

Why is everyone looking at me that way?

19/20. The movie [imdb.com] was released in 1995 while Angelina Jolie [imdb.com] was released in 1975.

Re:25 years? (1)

eln (21727) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914046)

I've seen that movie at least 10 times and never realized the chick in it was Angelina Jolie until 2 minutes ago. Wild.

Re:25 years? (2, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914094)

She is easily mistaken for an anorexic elf, so the confusion is understandable.

Re:25 years? (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914268)

Lorraine Bracco, the actress who played the shrink on The Sopranos, too. Never realized that until I checked out that IMDB link just now.

Re:25 years? (2, Insightful)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 3 years ago | (#31916020)

The Amazon link is showing a different cover than what I usually see.

If I recall right that was the original cover.

Falcon

Not fair to run down the black/grey hat hackers (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914016)

The word hacker entered the popular lexicon, although its meaning has changed: In the mid-'80s, following a rash of computer break-ins by teenagers with personal computers, true hackers stood by in horror as the general public began to equate the word -- their word -- with people who used computers not as instruments of innovation and creation but as tools of thievery and surveillance. The kind of hacker I wrote about was motivated by the desire to learn and build, not steal and destroy.

Based on my humble experience, most of the hackers doing black and grey hat stuff like phreaking/cracking/etc. weren't doing it to "steal and destroy" (even the phreakers stealing phone service were often only motivated by the desire to be able to dial long distance BBS's that they wouldn't have otherwise been able to afford). In their own way, they too were motivated by a desire to learn and with the thrill of accomplishment (over defeating a security system, finding a way to make a system behave in a way it wasn't intended, etc.). They were as much a part of the hacker culture as the guy sitting down and figuring out a new sorting algorithm or the guy finding a way to make a mainframe do something it was never designed for (like playing a videogame). And many of these crackers and phreakers were quite talented and actually went on with successful programming careers (especially if they were lucky/good enough not to have been caught).

Re:Not fair to run down the black/grey hat hackers (-1, Troll)

Natural Join (1711970) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914124)

"most of the hackers ... weren't doing it to "steal and destroy" ... phreakers stealing phone service were often only motivated by the desire to be able to dial long distance BBS's ... they too were motivated by ... the thrill of accomplishment (over defeating a security system, finding a way to make a system behave in a way it wasn't intended, etc.).

Stealing phone service, for whatever reason, is stealing. Defeating someone else's security system, or making someone else's systems behave in a way they don't want them to is a kind of destruction. Those sorts of people belong in jail.

Re:Not fair to run down the black/grey hat hackers (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31914176)

Clearly you're one of the "new generation of hackers" (read: Hopped on teh intarwebs bandwagon in 1999 and now consider yourself an authority on geek culture).

Re:Not fair to run down the black/grey hat hackers (2, Insightful)

Thiez (1281866) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914236)

I think his point is that they weren't scamming people for millions of dollars, it's more like they were commiting petty theft. Yeah, it's wrong, and probably illegal (although there may not have been many laws about this stuff back then). But it's not 'nazi-wrong'.

Re:Not fair to run down the black/grey hat hackers (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914318)

I think it is more to the problem. That someone who steals $1000 worth of phone service will get in just as much trouble for a guy who scammed people out of millions of dollars. At least for the hacking bit. Hacking really isn't in one box of evil. Some are equivalent of shoplifting and others are like bank robbery.

Re:Not fair to run down the black/grey hat hackers (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914488)

Some not even that bad. They used idle hardware that cost the same idle or in use to gain services they couldn't have paid for anyway. It's like someone who downloads a music collection they can't afford to pay for, nobody actually lost anything.

Re:Not fair to run down the black/grey hat hackers (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#31915414)

No you are missing the point...

Oh I can't afford it so Ill take it because I want it. Is still wrong.

If you can't afford it and you want it you have options...
1. Find a way to get more money.
2. Save your money by giving up something else you want.
3. Don't get it.

Out of those thousand files how many would have bought CDs for if you couldn't get those files. Your argument is like if you shop lift a store you should only be responsible for the at cost value of the product.

Now your argument would be better if you were getting songs that you couldn't get elsewhere legally. Kinda like the Abandon-ware issue. At least if you want the material that is the only method you can get it.

Re:Not fair to run down the black/grey hat hackers (2, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#31915798)

No, I didn't miss the point. I stated that when a property crime doesn't actually cost the victim anything it is properly less serious than when it does.

It's a simple extension of the well established legal principle behind the distinction between grand theft and petty theft.

My argument, BTW is more or like if you wander into an unlocked store after hours but don't take anything you might be guilty of something but it's not theft. (In fact, it's simple trespassing).

Re:Not fair to run down the black/grey hat hackers (3, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#31915934)

If I take something from you, but you still have the same amount you had, have I really taken something from you? You don't have any less of it, how can you claim I harmed you? You are lumping exclusionary and non-exclusionary goods together into the same category when they are fundamentally different. If you shoplift at a store, the store has less of what you just took.

Let me tell you a little story. A beggar went into a market and bought a piece of bread. He then went to the sausage vendor's stand and held the bread over the smoke, to flavor it. The sausage vendor became irate and demanded payment for the flavor of his sausages. All the townsfolk gathered round and took sides in the ensuing argument, some thought the beggar should pay, others thought the sausage vendor was being ridiculous. Then someone had a bright idle: "Let's ask the fool!" and the whole town thought this would be a fair way to settle things: let the fool decide. The fool asked the beggar if he had any coin left, and he did, so the beggar bounced the coin on the table and said, "There. It's settled. He's paid for the flavor of your sausage with the sound of his money."

And morally, that is the most we should be obliged to pay for something that someone else is letting go to waste, or for anything we can take without there being any less of it.

Re:Not fair to run down the black/grey hat hackers (0, Troll)

jimthehorsegod (1210220) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914256)

I honestly cannot imagine how you ended up on Slashdot, let alone as registered user. Really now, we consider that someone 'stealing' (there are enough off-topic threads on that definition already) phone service is meriting jail? Troll or idiot, I can't decide, but I don't much like the idea of either...

Re:Not fair to run down the black/grey hat hackers (1)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914874)

NO! When a nerd does it, it is good and ethical and moral because everything a nerd does is right.

People trying to get money in exchange for services are the people committing the crimes, man.

Re:Not fair to run down the black/grey hat hackers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31915988)

Stealing phone service, for whatever reason, is stealing. Defeating someone else's security system, or making someone else's systems behave in a way they don't want them to is a kind of destruction. Those sorts of people belong in jail.

I'm not sure which it is... but you either just destroyed or stole 5 minutes of my life.

Re:Not fair to run down the black/grey hat hackers (2, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914324)

They were often the same people, too, e.g. Woz was both varieties of hacker (which weren't that strongly differentiated anyway).

Re:Not fair to run down the black/grey hat hackers (4, Informative)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914484)

They were often the same people, too, e.g. Woz was both varieties of hacker (which weren't that strongly differentiated anyway).

That's true. Wozniac and Jobs got their start in the tech industry building and selling blue boxes. While neither one of them denies that, they generally don't make a point of bringing it up either. Of course, the devices hadn't yet been outlawed at that point.

(For you youngsters out there, a blue box was a device that allowed you to control a telco's electronic long-distance circuit switches to your advantage.)

Re:Not fair to run down the black/grey hat hackers (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914448)

So, to use a car analogy, they stole the car, but only to see how fast it would go?

Re:Not fair to run down the black/grey hat hackers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31914718)

More like they "borrowed" a rowboat to get to an island for a picnic and then put it back, without being stupid and damaging it.

Re:Not fair to run down the black/grey hat hackers (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 3 years ago | (#31916130)

So, to use a car analogy, they stole the car, but only to see how fast it would go?

This is one case where the car analogy doesn't work. A stolen car deprives the owner of the car, unless of course the robber forces the owner to go too. The use of a blue, or black or red, box does not deprive the phone company anything.

Falcon

Re:Not fair to run down the black/grey hat hackers (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#31916266)

That's a rather magical view of maintenance there.

Tom Lehrer +1 (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914060)

Nice to see /. getting its' Tom Lehrer on...

Sharks gotta swim, and bats gotta fly, I gotta love one woman till I die. To Ed or Dick or Bob She may be just a slob, But to me, well, She's my girl. In winter the bedroom is one large ice cube, And she squeezes the toothpaste from the middle of the tube. Her hairs in the sink Have driven me to drink, But she's my girl, she's my girl, she's my girl, And I love her. The girl that I lament for, The girl my money's spent for, The girl my back is bent for, The girl I owe the rent for, The girl I gave up Lent for Is the girl that heaven meant for me. So though for breakfast she makes coffee that tastes like shampoo, I come home for dinner and get peanut butter stew, Or if I'm in luck, It's broiled hockey puck, But, oh well, what the hell, She's my girl, And I love her.

Re:Tom Lehrer +1 (4, Funny)

edittard (805475) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914108)

I wonder what the holy bastard fuck "its'" is supposed to be. Is it perhaps the possessive of the plural of an it?

Re:Tom Lehrer +1 (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914924)

I wonder what the holy bastard fuck "its'" is supposed to be. Is it perhaps the possessive of the plural of an it?

Gerunds require the possessive, so the construct make sense. But not much.

Re:Tom Lehrer +1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31915046)

isn't "its" MIT's OS?

If you haven't read the book... (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914076)

Do so.

Really, I'm not going to tell you why, just do it.

Re:If you haven't read the book... (2, Funny)

Labcoat Samurai (1517479) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914110)

Hmmm..... you do make a compelling case.

Re:If you haven't read the book... (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914174)

I could go on and on on why geeks should read that book. Or I can just tell people to do so, and if they decide to heed my advice they will likely not regret it.

Feel free to let me know if I was wrong once you read the book. ;)

Re:If you haven't read the book... (1)

Labcoat Samurai (1517479) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914216)

Refusing to expound on its merits creates an air of mystery about it. If nothing else, you'll succeed in getting me to research it :)

Re:If you haven't read the book... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914186)

Indeed, really speaks to the large "grew up in a totalitarian society where you did what you were told by a faceless voice without question" segment of the slashdot population. Those slashdotters who grew up in north korea? Totally reading the book right now.

Re:If you haven't read the book... (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914508)

Indeed, really speaks to the large "grew up in a totalitarian society where you did what you were told by a faceless voice without question"

"You vill read dis book now, jah? Nein? Vell, ve haf vays of making you read it..."

Re:If you haven't read the book... (1)

Vanders (110092) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914198)

What he said. While you're there, read "Where Wizards Stay Up Late", too.

Re:If you haven't read the book... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31916454)

Hackers don't look kindly upon unreasoned authority.

Commerce and Hacking... (1)

bit trollent (824666) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914104)

I used to stay up late programming for fun.

Now I stay up late so that some company I don't care about can turn a profit on my services... And of course so I can afford all the cool stuff that I've grown so fond of.

It's a vicious cycle, and I could use a vacation. I can't really imagine doing anything else though...

Re:Commerce and Hacking... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31914304)

I used to stay up late programming for fun as well.

Now I stay up late spending time with a girl who in response to my timid "I like role-playing games." did not respond with "You D&D dorks are pathetic." but instead she responded with "Would you like me dress up as a school girl and spank me with a ruler?"

Oh well, we all make sacrifices.

Re:Commerce and Hacking... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31914392)

Your sister sounds like she's into some kinky shit.

Re:Commerce and Hacking... (1)

bFusion (1433853) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914394)

So instead of staying up late on the computer programming, you stay up late on the computer pretending to be in those videos you always watch?

The RMS quote is very sad! (5, Insightful)

onionman (975962) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914122)

Regardless of your opinion of the FSF and the (L)GPL, the Stallman quote is very sad!

Hey, RMS, if you're reading this, then just know that I'm glad you're here!!! Stick around, buddy! You've touched many lives in a good way.

Re:The RMS quote is very sad! (4, Insightful)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914196)

"In our original interview, Stallman said, "I'm the last survivor of a dead culture. And I don't really belong in the world anymore. And in some ways I feel I ought to be dead." Now, meeting over Chinese food, he reaffirms this. "I have certainly wished I had killed myself when I was born," he says. "In terms of effect on the world, it's very good that I've lived. And so I guess, if I could go back in time and prevent my birth, I wouldn't do it. But I sure wish I hadn't had so much pain."

Unreal. Genius (and as much as I disagree with a lot of what he has to say, he is a genius) is often tortured. And arrogant.

Re:The RMS quote is very sad! (4, Funny)

jimbobborg (128330) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914408)

Genius (and as much as I disagree with a lot of what he has to say, he is a genius) is often tortured. And arrogant.

Yes, we are.

Re:The RMS quote is very sad! (2, Funny)

mindbrane (1548037) | more than 3 years ago | (#31915234)

Genius (and as much as I disagree with a lot of what he has to say, he is a genius) is often tortured. And arrogant.

Yes, we are.

Hi! Well, that truly was most arrogant. My name's Bob and I'll be your torturer today.

Re:The RMS quote is very sad! (2, Funny)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914446)

The above post is not a troll post, stupid moderator.

Heres a troll post:

The reason RMS can't go back in time after building a time machine to kill lil' baby Stallman is because A) he'd then be forced to release the code to the masses for free and he'd also be removing the very thing he created, his massively enlarged EGO.

See, moderator, that's a troll. Or Flamebait. Either way, you suck and I hope your software never amounts to anything.

Re:The RMS quote is very sad! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31915622)

Arrogant? Knowing his style, I read

In terms of effect on the world, it's very good that I've lived.

as similar to pretty much everything else he says: the unadorned truth. A style that is effective at communicating, as long as the listener doesn't allow themself to get bogged down in red herrings.

Re:The RMS quote is very sad! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31914346)

Hey, RMS, if you're reading this, then just know that I'm glad you're here!!! Stick around, buddy! You've touched many lives in a good way.

And if you redistribute that sentiment, you must also include the source code

Re:The RMS quote is very sad! (5, Insightful)

jmtpi (17834) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914428)

Sad indeed (to the point where I feel guilty for using xemacs....). But it doesn't strike me as something that somebody would say because they haven't been appreciated enough. Rather, it sounds like he's clinically depressed. When you're that sad, it's not for a logical reason....

Re:The RMS quote is very sad! (3, Insightful)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914700)

I believe Stallman is medically manic-depressive (I recall reading this somewhere). If he's not actually diagnosed he probably should be. I mean realistically I can't see what he's experienced that has been all that painful (outside of normal run of life's little tragedy's that all of us experience). He's got a reasonably comfortable life doing work that he enjoys and considers important. It's more than most of us get. The fact that he hasn't completely succeeded in freeing all software is as much attributable to the unrealistic nature of a goal as to any personal failing of his (not that he doesn't have them). He has succeeded in helping to build a thriving Free and Open Source software infrastructure with numerous standout projects used by millions of people.

Personally I think the man is a fanatic, and I don't actually like him much, but I can respect his success. I can't see how he can consider what he has accomplished as anything other than "success". He's taken on some of the biggest players in the industry and come out with his hide intact and a large and thriving community embracing varying degrees of his philosophy.

Re:The RMS quote is very sad! (2, Informative)

Jorl17 (1716772) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914544)

And fortunately, you are not the only one. I may be against many of his arguments and crazy thought and I've personally changed emails with him trying to get some sense out of what he thinks, but I know that nearly everything I fight for in my town -- the Free Software Movement, Take 2 -- I owe to him. And if I'm asked who was the greatest & most important figure of our Software days, I'd gladly say that Stallman is the man. But, what the hell, I'm just a sixteen teen.

Re:The RMS quote is very sad! (1)

Smauler (915644) | more than 3 years ago | (#31915204)

“In terms of effect on the world, it’s very good that I’ve lived. And so I guess, if I could go back in time and prevent my birth, I wouldn’t do it. But I sure wish I hadn’t had so much pain.”

To be honest, this quote strikes me as something that a self-important emo would say. All I can think when reading it is that he's relatively well off, he's relatively well respected, and he's moaning like fuck about it. I feel a hell of a lot more sympathy for those with his talent who have been ground down and not managed to obtain what he has.

I not denigrating what he has done here, it's just the way it comes across to me.

Is RMS really the Last Hacker? (2, Interesting)

joeflies (529536) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914220)

The book makes the case that RMS is the last hacker, and he even says so again in the article. Yet the book never defined hacker as being a pure-non profit hacker, since both Apple & Microsoft are both prominently featured in the book. The book also mentions the LISP wars that emerged between the various companies emerging from MIT. There's been subsequent great companies started from MIT - RSA being one example. There's been other successful projects that emerged from academics, such as Linux and Google. So where does "the last hacker" designation come from?

Re:Is RMS really the Last Hacker? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31914436)

Hackers of today are a breed apart from the hackers of yesteryear... There will always be hackers, today and well into the future. Hardware hackers, software hackers, maybe even biological hackers, if you can believe that. But they will be hackers in the current sense of the word, and less of what they were in the early days. RMS may be the last of a dying breed... of the yesteryear hackers. Hopefully their spirit will not extinguish, and the last breath of what they were, what they stand for, carries them into the future.

--Relic

Re:Is RMS really the Last Hacker? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31915548)

Well, let's qualify it differently, to mean the kind of hacker he would have grown up around: the last prominent MIT AI Lab graduate not interested in for-profit ventures. ... actually that would leave out esr.

I prefer the ORIGINAL definition of "Hacker" (4, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914322)

Hackers that come to mind for me aren't these people that do digital break-ins. They don't even have to apply to computers whatsoever. Dictionary.com doesn't even have the correct original definition:

1. a person or thing that hacks.
2. Slang. a person who engages in an activity without talent or skill: weekend hackers on the golf course.
3. Computer Slang.
  a. a computer enthusiast.
  b. a microcomputer user who attempts to gain unauthorized access to proprietary computer systems.

First there were hackers. Then there was a new subset, called "computer hackers". Now the former are known as "hardware hackers" and the latter simply as "hackers". (and with only the negative connotations)

When *I* think of "hacker", I think of MacGyver. and Scotty. and Junkyard Showdown. And in the best modern tradition, Robot Wars [wikipedia.org]. It's a real shame that I can't declare myself a "hacker" nowadays without people getting all the wrong ideas. In my book, a "hacker" is anyone that can do more with less than the average individual. I think I'd even have to call Red Green a good redneck hacker - anyone that can solve that many problems with Duct Tape has got to be a hacker.

I suspect the original definition evolved from "A person that hacks away at a problem using primitive tools not designed for the purpose, to create an acceptable and sometimes elegant solution."

Re:I prefer the ORIGINAL definition of "Hacker" (1)

Turzyx (1462339) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914562)

Language evolves, get over it. I see people cringing when someone says 'queer' to describe an unusual situation, or 'gay' to describe an overtly jolly individual.

I guess all this drama could have been avoided if the author had just used the term 'cracker'. Oh well. 20:20 hindsight and all that...

Re:I prefer the ORIGINAL definition of "Hacker" (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914612)

I suspect the original definition evolved from "A person that hacks away at a problem using primitive tools not designed for the purpose, to create an acceptable and sometimes elegant solution."

Good guess, but no.

Here's the best definition available: hacker (from the Jargon file) [catb.org]

Originally, the term meant to someone who creates furniture with an axe. The definition in the Jargon file is probably the closest available to the "orginal definition" in modern use.

Re:I prefer the ORIGINAL definition of "Hacker" (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914964)

Well, creating furniture with an axe seems like they're using a crude tool to make a potentially elegant solution to a problem. The modern seems to just be generalized from the older definition.

Re:I prefer the ORIGINAL definition of "Hacker" (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914972)

I like that link.

7. One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations.

I think that's my favorite definition of the term. But it starts to put a negative spin on things because most would initially interpret "limitations" as limits placed to protect something. When I think "limits" in this connotation I am more thinking of the limits of what a system is capable of. Making a barcode reading pen on an Apple II for example. Expanding what's possible. Exceeding the limits of the original system's abilities.

Though definitions 1 and 6 are more in with my line of general thinking. 1 is good but is too specific, 6 is too general.

1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary. RFC1392, the Internet Users' Glossary, usefully amplifies this as: A person who delights in having an intimate understanding of the internal workings of a system, computers and computer networks in particular. ...
6. An expert or enthusiast of any kind. One might be an astronomy hacker, for example.

Re:I prefer the ORIGINAL definition of "Hacker" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31916136)

I have let the word go. Its meaning has bent to much to be of any use. I like the term maker though. That works decently enough these days...

First there were hackers. (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 3 years ago | (#31916370)

Then there was a new subset, called "computer hackers". Now the former are known as "hardware hackers" and the latter simply as "hackers". (and with only the negative connotations)

Hack [etymonline.com] goes further back than that.

When *I* think of "hacker", I think of MacGyver. and Scotty. and Junkyard Showdown.

MacGyver yes, Scotty not so much, and Junkyard Showdown I've never heard of. However there's Harry Broderick [imdb.com].

Falcon

Beam me up Scotty!

GNU and Linux, not Sierra (3, Insightful)

ceswiedler (165311) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914370)

As I recall, the book had three sections:

1. Original hackers in the 60s on early mainframes and minicomputers like PDPs
2. Homebrew hardware hackers in the 70s putting together their own microcomputers
3. Sierra game programmers in the 80s writing King's Quest

When I read it, my reaction to the third section was: wha? Sierra programmers were pretty cool and the stories are neat (especially the stuff about the partying and the (unsuccessful) effort by Ken Williams to try to get one of his programmers laid) but didn't rank anywhere near the top of the "cool hackers of the world" list. It was obvious in retrospect that he should have waited until the open source hacking community really took off; GNU and Linux are the obvious third generation of hackers. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and the book is nonetheless excellent.

Re:GNU and Linux, not Sierra (1)

JoeWalsh (32530) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914614)

That's true. In 1984, though, he could easily have written about the kids in their bedrooms learning how to program using their Commodores, Ataris, TIs, Apples, etc. rather than about Sierra, a commercial enterprise that turns out to be of little historical significance. While it just so happens that those kids in their bedrooms grew up to dominate the world of computing...

Re:GNU and Linux, not Sierra (3, Insightful)

greg1104 (461138) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914878)

Sierra, a commercial enterprise that turns out to be of little historical significance

Uh, what? Sierra [wikipedia.org] reinvented the entire adventure game genre with graphics starting with "Mystery House" , in the process providing a model for how to build a gaming business from plastic bag distribution to giant company. And their Sierra On-line modem-based gaming service was one of the very first places you could play the sort of graphical multi-player games that everyone now takes for granted. Oh, and since "Hackers" was released, they invented the internet MMORPG [wikipedia.org] too. And then there's the whole saga around the IBM PCjr and King's Quest...

Re:GNU and Linux, not Sierra (1)

JoeWalsh (32530) | more than 3 years ago | (#31915418)

I'm aware of what Sierra accomplished, but it doesn't change the fact that all of it is of little historical significance.

Re:GNU and Linux, not Sierra (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31915628)

On the other hand, while Sierra itself fizzled out, along with other early game companies it was the seed of what would turn into a multi-billion $ industry. Besides EA, how many of those early game companies are still around?

When did you read it? (1)

wiredog (43288) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914702)

Because Sierra was considered pretty hackish, by the general public anyway, in 1984.

Re:GNU and Linux, not Sierra (3, Insightful)

HappyEngineer (888000) | more than 3 years ago | (#31915442)

When I read the book I felt the same way. They were interesting stories, but they didn't seem particularly important compared to the first two sections which discussed people who really made a big difference. However, the book seemed to have an arc which started out with super obsessives at MIT who made little/no money from their work then progressed to super obsessed hardware hackers who often made gobs of money and in some ways departed from a pure hacker ethic. Then it jumped to game programmers, some of whom had the hacker ethic, but mostly they were just in it for the money. The book ended with RMS and his talking about the loss of the true hacker culture at MIT due to most of the originals leaving for a lisp computer company.

I have to say that that book gives me the best impression of RMS that I've ever had.

By the end of the book I found myself really disliking Ken Williams. He sounds like a real jerk. It seems like the best games made at Sierra were the result of hackers who were devoted to making the best game possible, yet Ken seemed like he was happy to produce cheap crap as long as it produced money. That only works in the short term. If there are better alternatives out there then eventually users catch on and stop buying your crap.

FWIW, King's Quest isn't mentioned in the book. The book talks about their work on the Apple II and Atari 800 computers. I don't think King's Quest ever ran on the Apple II.

RMS was one of my inspirations (1)

KDN (3283) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914402)

Like open source programs in general, many people have influenced who I am today. I knew of RMS when I discovered Unix in the 80's. I greatly admired him when I read Steven Levy's "Hackers" the first time over a weekend. I do not agree with all of his ideas. But I would say society is much better off that he was here.

This book defined me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31914424)

I remember reading this book when I was a wee lad, newly arrived at junior high. It was to shape my very being. It forged my core. I envied the exploits and playfulness of the early hackers. The hidden mazes they traversed. The new frontiers they explored. So With all this in focus, I neglected all my studies, and fiddled around with junk, not really learning any of it, just exploring. I soon found myself in college, and I mean definitely NOT MIT like I thought I'd go. I had no idea I actually had to study to get into MIT. So, I spent a few years in college changing my majors (my favorite major was my second major: undecided), and then I dropped out. I then ended up in military intelligence with nothing else to show for it. I'm basically do the work of a janitor for intel. CURSE YOU LEVY!!! I stayed drug free for this??!?!?

its as exciting now as in the 1970s (4, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914440)

I was at the fringe of that world: I hung around the MIT and Stanford A.I. labs of the 1970s; I attended the Homebrew computer club meetings in the mid 1970s where the two Steve's introduced their funky wooden computer named after Beatle music. And I've attended many user and hobbyist groups since and now. The technology ebbs and flows. The the excitement and opportunity to make money, to build a company in your dorm room or "garage" is as great now as it was then. Right now we have Facebook, Twitter, and phone apps breaking out of the stalls. I cant see any real barrier to this ending for another 30 years other than people running out of imagination.

Re:its as exciting now as in the 1970s (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31915762)

Facebook and Twitter are lame, we had BBS's once that served much the same purpose. I'm afraid that I don't see any innovation or major improvement on that front. Web development has become an unskilled job and I'm less and less impressed with any of it.

Not even desktop applications excite me, anything worthwhile has a 6 month learning curve. I can learn a new programming language in less time and (if GUI toolkits weren't so clunky) be half way to writing my own version of whatever app interests me.

Perhaps I'm jaded but I find the direction of computing and the internet to be rather boring. Where is all this new and exciting stuff that I haven't seen so-so-many times before?

the real thing (3, Interesting)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914538)

A better read and possibly a much better movie(if they ever get around to making it) is "Masters of Destruction"

A true story about hackers and crackers that ended up in a flame war that brought down the East coast phone network. It's an amazing story from the standpoint of the phone company knowing about it from the onset. Their noob mentality was "Let's see what happens."

Boy did they find out.

Sharks gotta swim; bats gotta fly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31914556)

Sharks gotta swim; bats gotta fly

o/~ I gotta love one woman till I die... o/~

Ah, Tom Lehrer, how we adore you.

My name.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31914824)

is The Plague.

Bill Gates best coder ever? (1)

boudie2 (1134233) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914978)

The article in Wired states that Bill Gates is considered one of the best coders ever? Wouldn't it be closer to the truth that he was maybe the luckiest son of a bitch ever to walk the face of the earth? The man could have been the smartest person in the world, but if his greatest claim to fame was writing DOS, how does he end up the richest? He may be the greediest or luckiest but like most great American success stories, it's mostly bullshit.

Re:Bill Gates best coder ever? (2, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#31915112)

Bill Gates didn't even write DOS. He bought it from some guy who had written it as a clone of CP/M. That's two degrees of separation from the actual innovation. The only noteworthy thing that Gates himself actually coded was Microsoft BASIC. Just goes to show that it doesn't matter what you know, or what you do, just what you're willing to do to get where you want to go.

Re:Bill Gates best coder ever? (1)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 3 years ago | (#31916110)

He did one really incredible thing. He started a company, and got it to grow really, really big. That sort of success is more common now (although still very rare), but back then it was almost unheard of.

Sure, he had some great luck and cheerfully violated business law to get Microsoft to where it is. However, it never fell apart.

I've been with a software company with a truly great product that died because it handled growth badly. I can respect Gates for being able to avoid that.

Re:Bill Gates best coder ever? (1)

boudie2 (1134233) | more than 3 years ago | (#31916416)

According to Forbes Magazine, in 1989 Pablo Escobar was worth $25 billion and was the 7th richest man in the world. Every comment you make about Bill applies to Pablo. And although that may seem like apples and oranges or totally off the wall, it's hard to even write a job resume without M$ Word. Anyone who can charge people hundreds of dollars for something like that which is 80-90% profit, I agree deserves a certain grudging respect.

Another era -- Gates & RMS (3, Insightful)

Jonathan (5011) | more than 3 years ago | (#31914992)

What was interesting about the book was that it was written at a time when microcomputers were just beginning to be big business and not just geek toys. Bill Gates was seen as a geek who made it big -- sort of like Sergey Brin today -- not the "villain" that he was seen as being in the 1990s. And RMS was seen as a hopeless romantic, trying to recapture the spirit of 1970s MIT -- while Levy respected RMS, it was clear that he thought that the idea of Free Software and the GNU project were just hippie fantasies that were going nowhere.

Old systems don't want to go on the cart yet! (1)

Suzuran (163234) | more than 3 years ago | (#31915142)

At this very moment, I am trying to get a CADR talking to an ITS via Chaosnet. The ITS is on the internet and has been for the past several weeks, with a few of my friends poking around at it. (BTW, I hacked the SMTP listener to only accept mail for itself, so it's mostly safe.)

where are they now (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31915510)

Well, captain crunch aka john draper, featured in the video at the bottom of the wired article (guy w/ wild hair missing teeth) I know where he is. Took hive camoing in octiber to a northern cali festaval "symbiosis". Insanely brilliant but mostly just insane. Craziest muther Ive ever went anywhere with.

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