[SIGCIS-Members] CACM essay about Levy's 1984 book _Hackers_

thomas.haigh at gmail.com thomas.haigh at gmail.com
Fri Mar 26 04:00:30 PST 2021


Hello SIGCIS,

 

CACM just published part two of my trilogy on classic accounts of IT work.
This once considers Steven Levy's 1984 classic_ Hackers: Heroes of the
Computer Revolution_. It's called "When Hackers Were Heroes" and is
available at
https://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2021/4/251341-when-hackers-were-heroes/fullte
xt. The book is the source of the much-quoted "hacker ethic" but it's
richer, stranger, and more deeply rooted in its time than you might expect
if all you've seen is the bullet point version.

 

The first part focused on Tracy Kidder's _The Soul of a New Machine_
(https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3436249) while part 3, due out in the
summer, has the working title "Women's Lives in Code." It will explore both
Ellen Ullman's wonderful _Close the Machine_ and the more recent (but set in
roughly the same era) TV series _Halt and Catch Fire_. In case you are
curious about that show, here's a preview: you should watch it but probably
best to skip the first season which is a misbegotten attempt to make a _Mad
Men_ derivative based around Jobs and Wozniak archetypes (except they work
at what's basically Compaq and hire a Lisbeth Salander type for gender
balance). The show reboots for the second seasons, improves dramatically,
and finishes up, as critics have noted, being more like _Six Feet Under_
than _Mad Men_.

 

While I am here, I should also point out another article of potential
interest in the current issue: "Roots of 'Program' Revisited" by Lisebeth De
Mol and Maarten Bullynck.
https://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2021/4/251342-roots-of-program-revisited/full
text 

 

Back in February, CACM published a condensed version of Donald Knuth's 2014
talk "Let's Not Dumb Down the History of Computer Science."
https://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2021/2/250078-lets-not-dumb-down-the-history-
of-computer-science/fulltext This gave me the feeling of being in a
Christopher Nolan movie, as I'd already responded to it in the same venue in
2015, as "The Tears of Donald Knuth."
https://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2015/1/181633-the-tears-of-donald-knuth/fullt
ext Six years after the response, the original arrives.

 

Best wishes,


Tom

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