Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution

and a tendency to take offense at an inefficient, suboptimal way of doing things.

At one point a research firm was called in to do a study of the excessive, inescapable noise, and they concluded that the hum of the air conditioner was so bothersome because there weren’t enough competing noises — so they fixed the machines to make them give off a loud, continual hiss. In Greenblatt’s words, this change “was not a win,” and the constant hiss made the long hours on the ninth floor rather nerve-racking for some. Add

Because to hackers, passwords were even more odious than locked doors.

but by and large ITS proved that the best security was no security at all.

But mostly people hacked Tools to Make Tools. Or games. And they would come into computer stores to show off their hacks.

central tenets of the Hacker Ethic: the free flow of information, particularly information that helped fellow hackers understand, explore, and build systems.


Every problem has a better solution when you start thinking about it differently than the normal way.

From their point of view, it seemed to indicate another hacker sin — inefficiency.

Gosper had disdained NASA’s human-wave approach toward things. He had been adamant in defending the AI lab’s more individualistic form of hacker elegance in programming, and in computing style in general. But now he saw how the real world, when it got its mind made up, could have an astounding effect. NASA had not applied the Hacker Ethic, yet it had done something the lab, for all its pioneering, never could have done. Gosper realized that the ninth-floor hackers were in some sense deluding themselves, working on machines of relatively little power compared to the computers of the future — yet still trying to do it all, change the world right there in the lab. And

hackerese pejorative.

Hackers can do almost anything and be a hacker. You can be a hacker carpenter. It’s not necessarily high tech. I think it has to do with craftsmanship and caring about what you’re doing.

in keeping with the Hacker Ethic, no artificial boundaries were maintained.

In their view, hacking would be better served by using the best system possible.

It’s your life story if you’re a mathematician: every time you discover something neat, you discover that Gauss or Newton knew it in his crib.

It would be like trying to make love to your wife, knowing she was simultaneously making love to six other people!


She noted the lack of female hardware hackers, and was enraged at the male hacker obsession with technological play and power.

Systems are organic, living creations: if people stop working on them and improving them, they die.

the Hacker Ethic, which instructs you to keep working until your hack tops previous efforts.

— the new Atari firm was just beginning to put together a home setup to play that game, in which two people control “paddles” of light

There are fun programs with jokes in them, there are exciting programs which do The Right Thing, and there are sad programs which make valiant tries but don’t quite fly.

There is nothing more frustrating to a hacker than to see an extension to a system and not be able to keep hands-on.

There’s nothing illegal about a Defense Department funding research. It’s certainly better than a Commerce Department or Education Department funding research . . . because that would lead to thought control. I would much rather have the military in charge of that . . . the military people make no bones about what they want, so we’re not under any subtle pressures. It’s clear what’s going on. The case of ARPA was unique, because they felt that what this country needed was people good in defense technology. In case we ever needed it, we’d have it.

to absorb, explore, and expand the intricacies of those bewitching systems;

To hackers, a program was an organic entity that had a life independent from that of its author.

Women, even today, are considered grossly unpredictable,” one PDP-6 hacker noted, almost two decades later. “How can a hacker tolerate such an imperfect being?