Nerds and Hackers

From Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, we saw a portrayal of hackers who were young, ambitious, and anti-social kids at MIT who would program IBM computers for 30 hours at a time. In an essay from Hackers and Painters, Paul Graham portrays a hacker as a “maker” and a person who wants to be creative, an artist. These two views of hackers are actually similar in a lot of ways. Both definitions see hackers as people who believe in the hands-on-imperative and producing great hacks. Most of all hacking was a passion for these people, a true calling. They also believed in judging people by their hacking skills and not by trivial things like gender, social class, or race.

Paul Graham writes about how hackers are similar to painters and I think it is one of the most unique and interesting arguments. When I first read about this, it really changed the way I thought about hacking. For a while I looked at programming like most people do, a logical, procedural task, but Graham’s argument changed that. Now I view hackers as makers and do-ers. I see our work as an expression of ourselves through the medium that we are best at. Creativity and originality is at the heart of a true hacker and Graham argues that these traits are essential. I also liked how Graham mentions that computer science is really a combination of multiple different fields. Theres some computer scientists who are truly just mathematicians, while some are programmers. I think this leads to a misunderstanding of the modern day computer scientist because the term has become so general as the field grows.

Paul Graham also has arguments that I disagree with, including his portrayal of the modern hacker as being a nerd. While this is somewhat true, I think that as computer science is growing it is attracting a more and more diverse demographic. In the past decade we have seen further rise of the superstar hackers and innovators. The world continually is realizing the power of computers and praising those who can harness their power. Computer Science hackers are more than just nerds now, its more socially diverse now.

I do not really identify with Paul Grahams portrayal of the modern day hacker. I was never really a true geek in school and I spent most of my time playing sports and socializing. I think his view of hackers can be off putting because it I feel like it makes others think that in order to be a hacker you have to be a geek. I think hackers can come from any social class. I really had very little interest in computers and programming until college and don’t see myself as a geek, but I still think I embody of a lot of the hacker beliefs.

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