Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: March 27, 2021, 9:53 a.m. Humanist 34.302 - pubs: on Levy's Hackers (1984) & more

				                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 34, No. 302.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
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        Date: 2021-03-26 06:48:59+00:00
        From: thomas.haigh@gmail.com
        Subject: CACM essay about Levy's 1984 book _Hackers_

[Forwarded from SIGCIS, in case -- it's too good to miss. -WM]

CACM [Communications of the ACM] just published part two of my trilogy 
on classic accounts of IT work. This one considers Steven Levy’s 1984 
classic_ Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution_. It’s called 
“When Hackers Were Heroes” and is available at
https://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2021/4/251341-when-hackers-were-heroes/fulltext

The book is the source of the much-quoted “hacker ethic” but it’s
richer, stranger, and more deeply rooted in its time than you might
expect if all you’ve seen is the bullet point version.

The first part focused on Tracy Kidder’s _/The Soul of a New Machine/_
(https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3436249) while part 3, due out in the
summer, has the working title “Women’s Lives in Code.” It will explore
both Ellen Ullman’s wonderful _/Close the Machine/_ and the more recent
(but set in roughly the same era) TV series _/Halt and Catch Fire/_. In
case you are curious about that show, here’s a preview: you should watch
it but probably best to skip the first season, which is a misbegotten
attempt to make a _/Mad Men/_ derivative based around Jobs and Wozniak
archetypes (except they work at what’s basically Compaq and hire a
Lisbeth Salander type for gender balance). The show reboots for the
second seasons, improves dramatically, and finishes up, as critics have
noted, being more like _/Six Feet Under/_ than _/Mad Men/_.

While I am here, I should also point out another article of potential
interest in the current issue: “Roots of ‘Program’ Revisited” by
Lisebeth De Mol and Maarten Bullynck.
https://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2021/4/251342-roots-of-program-revisited/fulltext

Back in February, CACM published a condensed version of Donald Knuth’s
2014 talk “Let’s Not Dumb Down the History of Computer Science.”
https://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2021/2/250078-lets-not-dumb-down-the-history-of-
computer-science/fulltext
This gave me the feeling of being in a Christopher Nolan movie, as I’d
already responded to it in the same venue in 2015, as “The Tears of
Donald Knuth.”
https://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2015/1/181633-the-tears-of-donald-knuth/fulltext

Six years after the response, the original arrives.

Best wishes,


Tom


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