Themistocles's Reviews > Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution

Hackers by Steven Levy
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Aug 13, 2015

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bookshelves: history, computers
Read in January, 2009

I just finished reading this for the second time. I was somewhat disappointed.

A mixed bag of goods. This should've been a very interesting book, and it still is to some extent, but it hasn't aged well at all.

Part of that is because of its style, part because of the structure.

Regarding style, the writer is seemingly trying too much. Suffices to say that the phrase "hacker ethic" appears almost once per each. damned. page. Yeah, I actually counted it - 200 occurrences throughout the text. His effort to seemingly convince the reader of something becomes quite tiresome after a while.

Also, at least in the ebook edition I read, discovered hyperlinking. Woo-hoo! Now it looks like you're reading a web page, with links to all sorts of irrelevant stuff, like cars (!).

Structure is a bit weird, too; it all goes pretty well up until the middle of the book. What follows next, for a full third of the book until its end (the rest is actually notes) is a... short, interesting but much incomplete story of the early days of Sierra On-Line. Here the author is really clutching at straws making the most tenuous connections between the hackers of old and a budding games company (no idea why Sierra was chosen and given so much focus).

What's more, sometimes his history gets a bit sketchy - the Apple II is the most important computer of all times? Apple this, Apple that... Commodore and Radio Shack are given just a couple of mentions en passant and the PET is only mentioned once despite its huge success.

Well, it was worth the read, though at times withholding my cringing was difficult.
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