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Book details of 'Hackers : Heroes of the computer revolution'

Cover of Hackers : Heroes of the computer revolution
TitleHackers : Heroes of the computer revolution
Author(s)Steven Levy
PublishedFebruary 1994
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Back to shelf Computer history/fun

Score: score: 4.0 ****-  Vote for this book

The Virtual Bookcase Reviews of 'Hackers : Heroes of the computer revolution':

Reviewer Rob Slade wrote:
The title covers more than the book actually examines. The hacker culture is not viewed as a whole, but only isolated, though admittedly important, pockets. The first part of the book deals with the early days of the MIT lab, the second with the Homebrew Computer Club and the growth of the microcomputer industry. Even within these limited confines, the book concentrates on specific individuals within the groups rather than communities as a whole. The third part is even more limited, dealing with a single game company and basically two principals. The material gathered and presented here is a lot of fun, and contains a great deal of anecdotal information. A great deal of background is included, such as a possible origin for the term, "hacker," itself. Other stories, however, are startling in their absence. The TX-0 and Digital Equipment Corporation were very central to the Technical Model Railroad Club and the AI lab at MIT; it would have been nice to get more coverage, there. Levy approves of the hackers. This approval is remarkably uncritical. Although the more egregious of the various communities' faults are noted, there is very little analysis in the course of the book. This unquestioning acceptance extends to the language of the book as well. Certain phrases, such as "information is free", "The Right Thing" and "Hands-On Imperative" become litanies in the book and then, since nothing really supports the use or meaning, die away. While not a work of scholarship, the book *is* vastly entertaining. The stories, while following little logic or thread, do flow, almost seamlessly, one into another: Levy's writing style is very readable. The computer folklore literate will find not only the known, but esoteric bits of trivia, as well. Those who have never had anything to do with computers need not fear being left out because of technical detail: there isn't any. The stories of these technical wizards and objects deal exclusively with the human side. The neophyte in the technical world will, however, have the stereotypical concept of the hacker abundantly confirmed. Levy seems to select for the bizarre and the useless. There is, here, no Grace Hopper, no Jim Bacchus, not even a Ken Olson. The personalities and projects presented are the odd or the playful. Those, indeed, who do have a concept of utility or service receive little sympathy in the book. The reader without other sources will undoubtedly fix on the idea of hackers as ephemeral game players of no value whatsoever. For anyone with any interest in technology this will be a pleasurable read: a number of those with no technical interests may find it entertaining, as well. Social scientists may prefer the "New Hacker's Dictionary".

Reviewer Koos van den Hout wrote:
The history of the computer hackers making the first computer programs, the first AI, the first timesharing systems and the first games. Tales of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. Great book.

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