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Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age

Paul Graham · 1 HN points · 14 HN comments
HN Books has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention "Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age" by Paul Graham.
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Amazon Summary
"The computer world is like an intellectual Wild West, in which you can shoot anyone you wish with your ideas, if you're willing to risk the consequences. " --from Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age, by Paul Graham We are living in the computer age, in a world increasingly designed and engineered by computer programmers and software designers, by people who call themselves hackers. Who are these people, what motivates them, and why should you care? Consider these facts: Everything around us is turning into computers. Your typewriter is gone, replaced by a computer. Your phone has turned into a computer. So has your camera. Soon your TV will. Your car was not only designed on computers, but has more processing power in it than a room-sized mainframe did in 1970. Letters, encyclopedias, newspapers, and even your local store are being replaced by the Internet. Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age, by Paul Graham, explains this world and the motivations of the people who occupy it. In clear, thoughtful prose that draws on illuminating historical examples, Graham takes readers on an unflinching exploration into what he calls "an intellectual Wild West." The ideas discussed in this book will have a powerful and lasting impact on how we think, how we work, how we develop technology, and how we live. Topics include the importance of beauty in software design, how to make wealth, heresy and free speech, the programming language renaissance, the open-source movement, digital design, internet startups, and more.
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Hacker News Stories and Comments

All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this book.
I'm surprised no one in this thread has mentioned Hacker & Painters:

This is the book that really got me into programing. I'd tried programming before, and had even studied a C++ textbook and written some simple programs. But it really hadn't clicked. Graham's points about the fundamental expressiveness of different programming languages really blew my mind. This started a chain of "learn language X and try to build Y" for different values of X and Y.

Part of what I realized is how much I had been hampered by how difficult C++ is to pick up (especially with the IDEs of the early 2000s, which would give you an "empty" project with a couple hundred lines of code in it). When I realized that to write a Perl script, all I needed to do was open Notepad and start from an empty file, it was just so unbelievably liberating. That and also, obviously, just how much easier dynamic languages are to work with in general. Of course I eventually came back to C++, but that was the spark which kicked off a journey that lead to me flying through CS in college and eventually ending up in a PhD program.

Edit: Fixed link. Note also that the essays are available online for free, though you have to reverse engineer the reading order from the table of contents.

Paul Graham's essays aren't just "kind of" a book, they are a book. (A very good one BTW)

Of course, the original comparison between coders and artists was made by Paul Graham in Hackers and Painters:

And then there was this:

Thanks for that, good find. Pretty eye opening.
Sorry if I'm going too far on a tangent here, but has anyone bought his book Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age [0]?

It has been on my wishlist for quite a while now. The reviews are quite positive.


Jan 20, 2014 · 1 points, 1 comments · submitted by justinzollars
Loved this book.
She might find inspiration in Paul Graham's "Hackers and Painters"

Apr 21, 2012 · dpkendal on This Is 2016 Not 2012
"The computer world is like an intellectual Wild West, in which you can shoot anyone you wish with your ideas, if you're willing to risk the consequences."

I'm not much of a butt-licker, but Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age from PG is a classic.
+1 for Cryptonomicon. It isn't the easiest book to get through, but it's very worthwhile.

Another couple of possibilities might be:

The Soul of a New Machine - Tracy Kidder

The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage - Clifford Stoll

Hackers & Painters - Paul Graham (yes, that Paul Graham)

That's for the kindle version, but the paperback edition is $11 [1].


So you save a whole dollar and 51 cents. Big deal. I'd just as soon order it from Amazon, who in general has much better prices than direct from O'Reilly.
I would rather order it from anyone but Amazon, who has been started removing "offensive" books from the Kindle store left and right.
Two blog posts from affected authors:

This first one was on HN:


Interesting links, thanks.
Direct link to the book, skipping the tweet

Or at for $12.23

I posted the tweet because it contains the discount code.
FYI the kindle edition is always $9.99 and available at the Amazon link above.
yeah, that's what I was thinking too. I already have a Kindle, and it makes more sense for me to do long form reading on my Kindle.
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