Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution - 25th Anniversary Edition (Paperback)

Steven Levy




This 25th anniversary edition of Steven Levy's classic book traces the exploits of the computer revolution's original hackers -- those brilliant and eccentric nerds from the late 1950s through the early '80s who took risks, bent the rules, and pushed the world in a radical new direction. With updated material from noteworthy hackers such as Bill Gates, Mark Zukerberg, Richard Stallman, and Steve Wozniak, Hackers is a fascinating story that begins in early computer research labs and leads to the first home computers.

Levy profiles the imaginative brainiacs who found clever and unorthodox solutions to computer engineering problems. They had a shared sense of values, known as "the hacker ethic," that still thrives today. Hackers captures a seminal period in recent history when underground activities blazed a trail for today's digital world, from MIT students finagling access to clunky computer-card machines to the DIY culture that spawned the Altair and the Apple II.

Amazon.com Exclusive: The Rant Heard Round the World
By Steven Levy
Author Steven Levy
When I began researching Hackers--so many years ago that it’s scary--I thought I’d largely be chronicling the foibles of a sociologically weird cohort who escaped normal human interaction by retreating to the sterile confines of computers labs. Instead, I discovered a fascinating, funny cohort who wound up transforming human interaction, spreading a culture that affects our views about everything from politics to entertainment to business. The stories of those amazing people and what they did is the backbone of Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution.

But when I revisited the book recently to prepare the 25th Anniversary Edition of my first book, it was clear that I had luckily stumbled on the origin of a computer (and Internet) related controversy that still permeates the digital discussion. Throughout the book I write about something I called The Hacker Ethic, my interpretation of several principles implicitly shared by true hackers, no matter whether they were among the early pioneers from MIT’s Tech Model Railroad Club (the Mesopotamia of hacker culture), the hardware hackers of Silicon Valley’s Homebrew Computer Club (who invented the PC industry), or the slick kid programmers of commercial game software. One of those principles was “Information Should Be Free.” This wasn’t a justification of stealing, but an expression of the yearning to know more so one could hack more. The programs that early MIT hackers wrote for big computers were stored on paper tapes. The hackers would keep the tapes in a drawer by the computer so anyone could run the program, change it, and then cut a new tape for the next person to improve. The idea of ownership was alien.

This idea came under stress with the advent of personal computers. The Homebrew Club was made of fanatic engineers, along with a few social activists who were thrilled at the democratic possibilities of PCs. The first home computer they could get their hands on was 1975’s Altair, which came in a kit that required a fairly hairy assembly process. (Its inventor was Ed Roberts, an underappreciated pioneer who died earlier this year.) No software came with it. So it was a big deal when 19-year-old Harvard undergrad Bill Gates and his partner Paul Allen wrote a BASIC computer language for it. The Homebrew people were delighted with Altair BASIC, but unhappy that Gates and Allen charged real money for it. Some Homebrew people felt that their need for it outweighed their ability to pay. And after one of them got hold of a “borrowed” tape with the program, he showed up at a meeting with a box of copies (because it is so easy to make perfect copies in the digital age), and proceeded to distribute them to anyone who wanted one, gratis.

This didn’t sit well with Bill Gates, who wrote what was to become a famous “Letter to Hobbyists,” basically accusing them of stealing his property. It was the computer-age equivalent to Luther posting the Ninety-Five Theses on the Castle Church. Gate’s complaints would reverberate well into the Internet age, and variations on the controversy persist. Years later, when another undergrad named Shawn Fanning wrote a program called Napster that kicked off massive piracy of song files over the Internet, we saw a bloodier replay of the flap. Today, issues of cost, copying and control still rage--note Viacom’s continuing lawsuit against YouTube and Google. And in my own business—journalism--availability of free news is threatening more traditional, expensive new-gathering. Related issues that also spring from controversies in Hackers are debates over the “walled gardens” of Facebook and Apple’s iPad.

I ended the original Hackers with a portrait of Richard Stallman, an MIT hacker dedicated to the principle of free software. I recently revisited him while gathering new material for the 25th Anniversary Edition of Hackers, he was more hard core than ever. He even eschewed the Open Source movement for being insufficiently noncommercial.

When I spoke to Gates for the update, I asked him about his 1976 letter and the subsequent intellectual property wars. “Don’t call it war,” he said. “Thank God we have an incentive system. Striking the right balance of how this should work, you know, there's going to be tons of exploration.” Then he applied the controversy to my own situation as a journalism. “Things are in a crazy way for music and movies and books,” he said. “Maybe magazine writers will still get paid 20 years from now. Who knows? Maybe you'll have to cut hair during the day and just write articles at night.”

So Amazon.com readers, it’s up to you. Those who have not read Hackers,, have fun and be amazed at the tales of those who changed the world and had a hell of time doing it. Those who have previously read and loved Hackers, replace your beat-up copies, or the ones you loaned out and never got back, with this beautiful 25th Anniversary Edition from O’Reilly with new material about my subsequent visits with Gates, Stallman, and younger hacker figures like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. If you don’t I may have to buy a scissors--and the next bad haircut could be yours!

Read Bill Gates' letter to hobbyists


這本史蒂芬·列維(Steven Levy)的經典著作的25週年紀念版追溯了計算機革命的原始駭客的壯舉,這些聰明而古怪的書呆子從1950年代末到80年代初冒險,打破規則,並將世界推向一個全新的方向。《駭客》(Hackers)包含了比爾·蓋茨(Bill Gates)、馬克·祖克柏(Mark Zukerberg)、理查德·斯托曼(Richard Stallman)和史蒂夫·沃茲尼亞克(Steve Wozniak)等知名駭客的最新資料,是一個引人入勝的故事,從早期的計算機研究實驗室開始,一直到第一台家用電腦。





隨著個人電腦的出現,這個想法受到了壓力。Homebrew俱樂部由狂熱的工程師和一些對個人電腦的民主可能性感到興奮的社會活動家組成。他們能夠得到手頭上的第一台家用電腦是1975年的Altair,它是一個需要相當複雜組裝過程的套件。(它的發明者是埃德·羅伯茨(Ed Roberts),一位被低估的先驅,他在今年早些時候去世了。)它沒有附帶軟件。因此,當19歲的哈佛大學本科生比爾·蓋茨和他的合作夥伴保羅·艾倫為它編寫了一個BASIC計算機語言時,這是一件大事。Homebrew的人們對Altair BASIC感到高興,但不幸的是,這個想法在個人電腦的出現時受到了壓力。