Hackers: book review

Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution – 25th Anniversary Edition Steven Levy

The book provides an interesting view of the history and growth of computers, seeing through the eyes of the hackers; the somewhat elusive group of people that have never cared much for contention, have pushed the limits of both computing hardware and software, and have at the same time engage in headed and headstrong arguments about computers, hardware and software.

The book discusses three main groups of hackers, representing the early era’s of modern computing. The first were the group of mainframe hackers bases at MIT in the 50’s an 60’s, using computing time on the hulking mainframes, trying to get the monolithic batch-processing machines to bend to their will.

The second group were the so-called hardware hackers; a group of hardware junkies at Berkeley, figuring out how to assemble pieces hardware to create their own working computers in the 70’s. This was the days of Alteir, the beginning of Intel and Steve Wozniak (who created the original Apple and Apple II).

The final group focuses largely on computer games; an industry which sprung up in the 80’s with the proliferation of arcade games, and the mass movement of computers into people’s homes.

While the book is not specifically written for computer junkies, it is far more interesting for the hackers (or at least want-to-be hackers) out there. Somebody without a passionate interest in computers or programming would probably get a little board with the level of detail.

However, for those like me who work the field, it is a fascinating story of some eccentric people that literally shaped the computing world as we know it today. While there is a strong focus on the development of Apple, and the gaming world for the Apple (at least in the second half), there is very little mention of the IBM/Microsoft route, and the development of applications and games for the so-called PC world. This almost reflects the modern Apple/PC divide.

While at times I find the book little verbose, it is nonetheless a fascinating story. The edition I read was a 25’th anniversary edition of the book, which was originally published in 1985, a testimony to the longevity of the book. Well worth reading.

Thanks to the folks at O’Reilly for the review copy.

Make a name for yourself

Here is a great little book that I discovered – Make a name for yourself. 55 Strategies to Fast-Track Your Professional Prowess, by Scott Ginsberg.

The author, Scott Ginsberg is quite a remarkable person. He has been wearing a name badge for the last 7 years, and this has resulted in several books, and how is now a professional speaker, author and trainer.

Scott describes himself as “that guy who wears a nametag 24-7 to make people friendlier”. It started as an experiment over 7 years ago, and he has been doing so ever since. He has turned his idea of wearing a nametag all the time into a business, whereby he helps people to connect and to achieve professional success.

The book is very simply written, and it provides some wonderful ideas on how to understand who you are, and how to make the best use of your resource to achieve success.

“In 2002, unsure of how to approach starting my own company, I sought out as many success resources as possible. From reading books to scouring the Internet to interviewing; successful people, I was determined to learn the patterns that enabled so many others to make a name for themselves.”

I have no doubt that by following his ideas, you will make a difference to yourself. Some of his ideas are:

  • Get up an hour earlier
  • Keep daily appointments with yourself
  • More books, less TV
  • It’s not what you know
  • Speak up or get shut down

And my personal favorite – the Best Swimmers are always in the Pool. In this chapter, he speaks about learning by doing, and best of all – It was given to him by a Toastmaster (thanks for the punt)!

I was very interested to see that while he is selling the book, you can also get it for free. I would love to see what the response to this approach it (and yes, I have download the book and I am going to buy it, it really is a gem)

You can get the book in three ways:
1) buy it from Amazon
2) buy it from his website
3) download it for free from his website!