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Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution

Steven Levy, Steven Levy · 4 HN comments
HN Books has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention "Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution" by Steven Levy, Steven Levy.
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Amazon Summary
Interviews with the unconventional computer geniuses who were responsible for the computer revolution reveal the inside story and the shared ideals that motivated them. Reprint.
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Hacker News Stories and Comments

All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this book.
That is in fact the origin of the term. Check out the book Hackers, by Steven Levy ( and read up on how the Tech Model Railroad Club appreciated 'clever tricks' on how someone solved something, and it didn't necessarily have to be a 'technical hack' to warrant the phrase.

Another great text on the topic was written by Stallman:

"It didn't become easy—for practical purposes, using two chopsticks is completely superior. But precisely because using three in one hand is hard and ordinarily never thought of, it has 'hack value', as my lunch companions immediately recognized. Playfully doing something difficult, whether useful or not, that is hacking."

This article is so far off the mark. A better source is Richard Stallman's (often called the last hacker) on this: . An even better source is Steven Levy's Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution . Either way, it's clear that hacking is related to computers but one need not be using computers to hack. In fact, the word hacker comes from modifying the system at the MIT Tech Model Railroad Club. While hacking is widely associated with computers, I think it is better described as a playful attitude towards objects and materials which takes into account the "hacker ethic."
I don't necessarily know of any one book that meets all of your friends requirements, but...

Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine might be good for your friend.

Another good option might be Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold.

Or, how about Coders at Work?

Another one that I have (but haven't had time to read yet) is Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software by Scott Rosenberg. It might have something that your friend would find interesting.

Another one that may be inspirational, although it's more about personalities than computer science per-se, would be Steven Levy's Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution.

thanks for the references! i really appreciate you taking the time to reply to my question.

btw "Dreaming in Code" is the only one of those that I've read, and I don't think it's a good fit for my friend because it's basically the story of software project management gone awry ... hardly inspirational for someone aspiring to learn about the beauty of CS :)

Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, by Steven Levy

Stories from early in the personal computer era. This book inspired me greatly when I read it as a high school sophomore. After reading it, I taught myself Pascal (that dates me -- I guess this was in 1989) and started making little drawing programs on our old Fat Mac.

At this point it's an old book, but it's still in print, and the profiles in it are pretty timeless.

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