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Book review - Hackers - Heroes of the Computer Revolution

In Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, Steven Levy portrayed a tribe of people doing amazing exploration at the dawn of computing age. Incredibly brilliant, the genius from MIT students labs has discovered computer, which is a expensive commodity supposed to be sanctioned for academic research at the time. These hacker spend every hour exploring and advancing computer's capability, or sometimes just plain having fun. Their wizardry putting everyone in complete awe.

But hacker's contribution is not merely on technical front. They are rebels, social revolutionaries. The hacker's ethic is "information should be free". This run against usual the commercial interest that try to put a price on information, or to lock them up under secrecy or copyright protection. The hacker's efforts are bottom-up as oppose to top-down. It is little guys best big business to built incredible things. Today's open source software development and the like of Wikipedia have proven as tremendous force in generating creative and economic value. All these can be trace back to the hacker culture developing decades ago.

The story continues onto the 70s and 80s. It was a period I find lot more personal connection. It was the era of personal computer and it was the time I started to expose to computer. I have lay my hands on Apple II, all the role playing games, LodeRunner or even the copy protection cracker LockSmith. It is wonderful for Steven to cover the insiders story of the creators and how these things are created, often in an unorthodox way by some hobbyists. As a teenager then, I would not have imagined a game publisher like On Line System will be such a mad house!

In 2010, O'Reilly has acquired the right of "Hackers" and re-released a 25th Anniversary Edition. The story of hackers have never lose its relevance. In the afterword of this edition, Steven has interviewed some of the characters again, some 50 years after the earliest days in MIT. It gives a fascinating depth to the development of a long movement.

2010.10.04 [] - comments



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