Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution
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Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution

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4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  2,598 ratings  ·  163 reviews
A mere fifteen years ago, computer nerds were seen as marginal weirdos, outsiders whose world would never resonate with the mainstream. That was before one pioneering work documented the underground computer revolution that was about to change our world forever. With groundbreaking profiles of Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, MIT's Tech Model Railroad Club, and more, Steven Levy...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by Penguin Books (first published 1984)
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Steve Jobs by Walter IsaacsonHackers by Steven LevyGhost in the Wires by Kevin D. MitnickThe Cuckoo's Egg by Clifford StolliWoz by Steve Wozniak
Silicon Valley
2nd out of 200 books — 217 voters
Hackers by Steven LevyMasters of Doom by David KushnerGhost in the Wires by Kevin D. MitnickThe Ultimate History of Video Games by Steven L. KentJust for Fun by Linus Torvalds
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Elaine Nelson
I'm still sort of processing this book a week later. All the status updates I posted are notes I wrote on paper while I was reading, alas I ran out of scraps while sick in bed, somewhere around pg 350. (the goodreads entry says this has more pages than the copy I have, btw.)

Note: this is a really long and somewhat rambling review.

A few themes stick out, notably West coast vs East coast. No, seriously. The first section is all MIT hackers, the other two are west coast focused (hippie hackers and...more
Marc
I loved this book. It is a documentary about various aspects of computing. The first part is utterly excellent. It is about the birth of the "hacker ethic" around the DEC PDP machine in the MIT AI Lab. It is very funny and very inspiring. Some of the people in that section of the book have disappeared into obscurity, so the book is amazing for capturing this lost part of tech history. The second part is about the personal computer revolution. It covers the Altair machine, the Apple I / II and ot...more
Max Lybbert
Why didn't O'Reilly bother to edit out the unneeded phrases like "known to man" ("the best computer in the world known to man")? A decent editor could have cut 20% out of this book, and made it much better in the process.

Additionally, there are enough cases of deep confusion about technical terms and famous events that I had to research any stories I was not already familiar with to see if the details were correct.

The writing is terrible, punctuated with ridiculous narrative commentary. For inst...more
Craig Cecil
Let's get this out of the way up front—the term "hackers" here refers to the original ideology of the word from the earlier days of computing, when hackers blazed the trail of our modern hardware and software systems. These are not the modern day denizen hackers of destructive, malicious infamy. Based on this understanding, this book should be required reading for anyone connected with the computing profession. It serves as a rich history of the genesis of modern day computing, from the earliest...more
Ryan
This was a really interesting look at the history of computers as a DIY technology, stretching from the 1950s to the 1980s, when the first edition of it was published.

I find a lot of computer users look at the things like they're magic boxes, likely run by black magic and/or hamsters running in wheels; I confess to having moments where I've felt that way myself, but I'm trying to educate myself a bit more on how computers actually think and operate, and this book helped cement that understandin...more
Brian
Jun 25, 2012 Brian rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: goodreads
Shelves: grbpp
(4.0) The Hacker Pantheon

Really cool sketches of the hackers we know (or didn't) from early days at MIT up through the dawn of the personal computer. There were a few oddities (claiming brøderbund was Scandinavian for "brotherhood" (last I checked, Scandinavian wasn't a language...think maybe he meant Norwegian?), and that Bill Gates wrote DOS for the IBM PC (didn't he buy it from some guy for like $400?). The only other drawback for me was that some of the early chapters were a bit dull for me...more
Ryan
One of my absolute favorite tech-related books of all time. Read it a half-dozen times, at least.

It's somewhat better-written than most of Levy's books (like the painful "In the Plex"), though it bears the same biases that his other work does. I don't know if it's a long-form journalist tendency, but Levy's books and articles all seem to be written as if they're telling The Whole Story, though they are heavily skewed by the people who were most willing to be interviewed extensively. Any writer h...more
Nigel
This book was good at the outset, and the treatment of the freakish hacking pioneers was excellent, but I felt that the book lost its way somewhere beyond half-way through - it ended up being a paean to the good ship Apple Computers, and all who sail in her. Apart from making me suspicious of the writer's motives, this annoyed me because it was blinkered, ignoring so much else that was going on at the time. However, considering the year it was written and the ongoing nature of the subject matter...more
Brett Stevens
This is a book about the early age of hacking before computers controlled so much of our world that "hacking" became a science of exploitation. This is the original meaning of hacking, which is to squeeze extra performance out of equipment by bending the "proper" rules, which often have to do more with administrative control than technological limitations. I find this encouraging as an outlook as it is what all of us should always do to whatever limitations we find in life: work around the unrea...more
Larry
This book, the original version, changed my life when I read it in high school. It, along with "The Cuckoo's Egg", put me on the road to computer science in college.
Nick Black
F'n awesome, obviously. Everyone should have read this by now, or by several years ago rather.
Jim
OK. It's too long, and, in places, too long-winded, even semi-religious in its fervour.
Eric Shamow
Hackers is a classic work of computer journalism. In 1982-3, Steven Levy discovered what he termed the "Hacker Ethic" - a code of conduct around information sharing that is still entirely recognizable in today's IT circles - and began to delve deeply into its subculture, beginning with the TMRC at MIT in the late 50's and progressing up to RMS and the dawn of the FSF. Along the way we spend long periods of time around the early MIT hackers, observe their move to Stanford and the California hardw...more
Andrew Schultz
Some books, I just have to want, and other books, I need to sit and think about every 100 pages. These are rarer, but usually I need to do this because of how they brought up something from my own life. Hackers is the second type. In this case, it was about the story behind the BASIC programs I loved to read about and try to write as a kid.

I've noted that other reviewers mentioned that Levy is biased for Apple. This may be true, and unfortunately, I can't do diligence on that. What I can say is...more
Morgan
Hackers: The First Computer Revolution.

_*_

Note: There are a lot of players in this story, its history, so I'm not going to go into detail about the who's who that plays a part. Its probably pretty safe to say that if someone had some kind of major to moderate role during this time and was at MIT or at the companies that popped up later, then they are at least mentioned in here somewhere, at some point. It's also important to remember that this was written over twenty years ago so one has to keep...more
David
My heritage, in a way. It's weird how the book was written before I was born, and even back then, a lot of the exciting stuff in computing had already become history. (I had always assumed that computers didn't become a big thing until the 90s.) It made me nostalgic (as usual) for the good old days that were never mine. And now I need to go find out what happened to all these hackers and companies from back then.
Noah
This book is divided into three basic sections. The first, about MIT hackers in the 1950's and 1960's, is outstanding. The second, about homebrew hardware culture in the Bay Area in the 1960's and 1970's, is decent but bloated. The third, about game hackers and Sierra On-Line, is mostly worthless. I'd recommend reading the MIT section and then readily giving up on the book after that.
Chrissharp123
Excellent, one-of-a-kind history of "hacker" culture (not the bad kind) up to the mid 1980s. Includes the beginnings of both (what became) free/open source, including GNU and Richard Stallman, and proprietary software, including Microsoft and Apple. Great companion piece to The Cathedral and the Bazaar.
Vasil Kolev
This was somewhat mediocre. The book started ok, with the AI lab in MIT and the hackers there, but then got into some stuff which has nothing to do with hacking in any form, and the focus on Sierra On-line is unjustified.
All things considered, not a useful book beyond the first 100-150 pages.
Devin
This is a must read for anyone who loves computers. It is well written and full of interesting information.

Looking backwards helps me understand current technology better.
Jim
An interesting look at the early hackers & computers. Especially for those in the computer field, it's a fun look at history. Well written & engaging.
Mike
This is a great, great nonfiction book about the history of computers - it's for everyone, but certainly for the peeps in my industry, get this!
Justin Everett
While not the fastest paced of books it is very well researched and makes you very involved in how that generation grew with computers.
Ed Wagemann
Jun 05, 2014 Ed Wagemann marked it as to-read
The Internets affect on Mankind:
http://generation-add.blogspot.com/20...
Amar Pai
Started out strong but then I lost interest. Not that it's BAD... I just lost interest
Tim
I'm not ashamed I read this. Really.
Maya
I confess I couldn't finish it!
Rob
Executive Summary: Probably a must read for anyone who wants a deeper appreciation for the early days of the computer revolution.

Full Review
The less technical among you may be unaware that hacker as most people know/use it these days has been purloined from a group of men who apply a much different definition.

The original hackers may have ignored the rules, but they certainly would have never thought to steal passwords, bank accounts or write computer viruses. Then again, they also would put mu...more
Jared
The most recent edition of this book covers various important time periods in the history of personal computing (from the 50s to the 80s), along with two subsequent updates (the most recent one in 2010). The book covers the prominent people, significant events, and overall atmosphere. Note that specific technical details are not really covered in depth.

If you were alive and interested in computers during any of these periods, you will be fascinated by the detailed and personal stories captured i...more
Elin
I don't usually review before finishing but I'm not sure I'll get through this one so might as well.

It's a bloated and repetitive book that focuses on a very specific area and drags it out as far as you can conceivably take it.

The author seems to think the people in the book are extraordinarily interesting, with their petty neuroses and self-centred immaturity, but unfortunately, they are ...not.

Do yourself a favour and watch the excellent films Pirates of Silicon Valley and Micromen instead,...more
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Steven Levy (born 1951) is an American journalist who has written several books on computers, technology, cryptography, the Internet, cybersecurity, and privacy. Levy is chief technology writer and a senior editor for Newsweek, writing mainly in the "Science & Technology" section. He also writes the column "Random Access" in the monthly feature "Focus On Technology." Levy is also a contributor...more
More about Steven Levy...
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