>>>  Laatst gewijzigd: 16 augustus 2017  
Ik

Woorden en Beelden

Filosofie en de waan van de dag

Start Glossen Weblog Boeken Denkwerk

Geschiedenis van de computertechniek

Voorkant Levy 'Hackers' editie 2010 Steven LEVY
Hackers - Heroes of the computer revolution
Sebastopol, etc.: O'Reilly Media, 2010; 500 blzn.; voor het eerst verschenen in 1984 bij Penguin Books
ISBN-13: 978 14 4938 8393

[Ik heb de eerste editie van 1984 ooit gevonden bij De Slegte. Ik was bij hoofdstuk 8 toen ik zag dat er net een soort van 25-jaar-jubileum-editie is verschenen bij O'Reilly. Er is een 'Afterword: 2010' van 14 bladzijden aan toegevoegd. De achterflap zegt "With updated material from noteworthy hackers such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Stallmann, and Steve Wozniak."]

[Maar dat is zo op het eerste gezicht dus dat 'Afterword'. Ik heb niet de indruk dat er iets veranderd is aan de oorspronkelijke tekst. Ik volg hier verder dan maar de recente editie. Ik heb de paginering aangepast aan de laatste editie.]

Levy schrijft over technologie. Hij deed dat bijvoorbeeld in Newsweek en doet dat voor Wired. Dit boek is geschreven op basis van interviews met allerlei hoofdrolspelers vanaf de 50-er jaren tot en met de 80-er jaren.

(ix) Preface

"I was first drawn to writing about hackers - those computer programmers and designers who regard computing as the most important thing in the world - because they were such fascinating people. Though some in the field used the term 'hacker' as a form of derision, implying that hackers were either nerdy social outcasts or 'unprofessional' programmers who wrote dirty, 'nonstandard' computer code, I found them quite different. Beneath their often unimposing exteriors, they were adventurers, visionaries, risk-takers, artists ... and the ones who most clearly saw why the computer was a truly revolutionary tool. (...)

As I talked to these digital explorers, ranging from those who tamed multimillion-dollar machines in the 1950s to contemporary young wizards who mastered computers in their suburban bedrooms, I found a common element, a common philosophy which seemed tied to the elegantly flowing logic of the computer itself. It was a philosophy of sharing, openness, decentralization, and getting your hands on machines at any cost to improve the machines, and to improve the world. This Hacker Ethic is their gift to us: something with value even to those of us with no interest at all in computers."(ix)

[Ik zal hieronder duidelijk maken dat Levy een nogal geromantiseerde en oppervlakkige kijk heeft op die 'Hacker Ethic'.]

(xi) Who's who - The wizards and their machines

Somt in zes bladzijden alle belangrijke personen op met in het kort hun wapenfeiten.

Part One - True hackers - Cambridge: The fifties and sixties

(3) 1 - The Tech Model Railroad Club

In de 50-er jaren hadden nog maar weinig mensen met eigen ogen een computer gezien. Maar wel was er bij een aantal mensen sprake van een grote liefde voor elektronica, voor de logica in de circuits. Zo bij Peter Samson. Jonge mensen met dat soort belangstelling [en met het nodige geld op de achtergrond, I might add] gingen in de V.S. vaak aan het Massachussets Institute of Technology (MIT) studeren. Het MIT had toen al een IBM704 staan. Een programma voor zo'n computer bestond nog uit een stapel ponskaarten die als 'batch' werden ingelezen door een 'reader' (de 407).



"The IBM 704 cost several million dollars, took up an entire room, needed constant attention from a cadre of professional machine operators, and required special air-conditioning so that the glowing vacuum tubes inside it would not heat up to data-destroying temperatures. When the air-conditioning broke down - a fairly common occurrence - a loud gong would sound, and three engineers would spring from a nearby office to frantically take covers off the machine so its innards wouldn't melt. All these people in charge of punching cards, feeding them into readers, and pressing buttons and switches on the machine were what was commonly called a Priesthood, and those privileged enough to submit data to those most holy priests were the official acolytes. It was an almost ritualistic exchange. (...) As a general rule, even these most privileged of acolytes were not allowed direct access to the machine itself, and they would not be able to see for hours, sometimes for days, the results of the machine's ingestion of their 'batch' of cards."(5)

Samson was lid van de Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC) aan het MIT vanaf 1958. De elektronische aansturing van het systeem van modeltreinen in het clubgebouw vond hij fascinerend. Met de groep 'Signals and Power' van TMRC - die een heel eigen jargon ontwikkelden - verzon hij steeds ingenieuzer manieren om alles te laten werken. Iemand die een goede 'hack' voor het systeem verzon dwong respect af.

"This latter term may have been suggested by ancient MIT lingo - the word 'hack' had long been used to describe the elaborate college pranks that MIT students would regularly devise, such as covering the dome that overlooked the campus with reflecting foil. But as the TMRC people used the word, there was serious respect implied. While someone might call a clever connection between relays a 'mere hack', it would be understood that, to qualify as a hack, the feat must be imbued with innovation, style, and technical virtuosity. Even though one might self-deprecatingly say he was 'hacking away at The System' (much as an axe-wielder hacks at logs), the artistry with which one hacked was recognized to be considerable.

The most productive people working on Signals and Power called themselves 'hackers' with great pride. Within the confines of the clubroom in Building 20, and of the 'Tool Room' (where some study and many techno bull sessions took place), they had unilaterally endowed themselves with the heroic attributes of Icelandic legend."(10)

In 1959 begon John McCarthy - de wiskundige die de term 'artificial intelligence' in de wereld heeft gezet - aan het MIT les te geven in het programmeren van computers met de programmeertaal LISP. Samson, Kotok en anderen van de TMRC namen deel. Al werd de IBM704 al gauw vervangen door de IBM709 etc., de beperkingen van de toenmalige apparaten dwong tot zeer efficiënt programmeren. Het werd een sport om de computer iets te laten doen door zo min mogelijk instructies te gebruiken ('program bumming').

De IBM-machine werd goed afgeschermd voor al te gretige studenten. Met de schenking door Lincoln Lab - een "military development laboratory affiliated with the Institute"(14) van een TX-0 veranderde dat. De TX-0 was een van de eerste transistor-gestuurde computers. Hij werkte zonder ponskaarten en kon tamelijk interactief en direct bediend worden via de Flexowriter. De TMRC-hackers kregen de kans om er mee te werken:

"There was no way in hell that Kotok, Saunders, Samson, and the others were going to be kept away from that machine. Fortunately, there didn't seem to be the kind of bureaucracy surrounding the TX-0 that there was around the IBM 704. No cadre of officious priests. The technician in charge was a canny white-haired Scotsman named John McKenzie. While he made sure that graduate students and those working on funded projects - Officially Sanctioned Users - maintained access to the machine, McKenzie tolerated the crew of TMRC madmen who began to hang out in the RLE lab, where the TX-0 stood.

Samson, Kotok, Saunders, and a freshman named Bob Wagner soon figured out that the best time of all to hang out in Building 26 was at night, when no person in his right mind would have signed up for an hour-long session on the piece of paper posted every Friday beside the air conditioner in the RLE lab."(16)

Met de systeemprogramma's die de beheerders Jack Dennis en Tom Stockton hadden gemaakt (een assembler, een debugger) konden de TMRC-hackers een nieuwe directe stijl van het programmeren van een computer ontwikkelen.

(27) 2 - The Hacker Ethic

De uitgangspunten waarover deze hackers het met elkaar eens waren - al werd dat nergens vastgelegd - worden hier beschreven.

"Access to computers - and anything which might teach you something about the way the world works - should be unlimited and total. Always yield to the Hands-On Imperative! (...)

This is especially true when a hacker wants to fix something that (from his point of view) is broken or needs improvement. Imperfect systems infuriate hackers, whose primal instinct is to debug them. This is one reason why hackers generally hate driving cars - the system of randomly programmed red lights and oddly laid out one-way streets causes delays which are so goddamned unnecessary that the impulse is to rearrange signs, open up traffic-light control boxes ... redesign the entire system."(28)

[Nogal een egotrip! Het is niet meer dan 'Ik wil mijn gang kunnen gaan wanneer ik een apparaat tegenkom'. Wat is daar 'ethisch' aan? Je meent dus het recht te hebben elk apparaat of technisch systeem uit elkaar te halen en eventueel aan te passen wanneer iets eraan jou niet bevalt. En als je iets nodig hebt dan pak je het gewoon, maar dat noemen we dan niet 'stelen'.]

[Wat anderen daar van vinden is blijkbaar niet interessant. En wat leert je dat dan over 'hoe de wereld werkt'? Wat is dat? Leert het je iets over emoties, over sociaal gedrag, over de samenleving? Leert het je iets over de planeten, over DNA? Wat belachelijk kortzichtig.]

"All information should be free."(28)

[In feite betreft dit alleen maar het idee dat je je kennis en ervaringen met anderen moet delen, zodat niet iedereen steeds het wiel opnieuw hoeft uit te vinden en iedereen elkaar kan aanvullen en verbeteren. Dat is in feite ook de basis van het hele idee 'open source'. Software moest ook vrij zijn in de betekenis van gratis, je moest er niet voor hoeven betalen.]

[Maar kijk eens naar de formulering! Die is eindeloos algemeen en vaag. Daarmee zegt het principe heel andere dingen dan wat men er eigenlijk mee bedoelde. En wel heel gemakkelijk wordt programmatuur gelijk gesteld met informatie. De gevolgen van die vaagheid blijken dan ook later, wanneer beveiliging een belangrijk onderwerp wordt in multi-user-omgevingen en time-sharing: niets mag van de hackers privé zijn, bestanden niet, maar ook geen wachtwoorden. Ook dat is kortzichtig.]

"Mistrust Authority - Promote Decentralization. (...)

The best way to promote this free exchange of information is to have an open system, something which presents no boundaries between a hacker and a piece of information or an item of equipment that he needs in his quest for knowledge, improvement, and time on-line. The last thing you need is a bureaucracy. Bureaucracies, whether corporate, government, or university, are flawed systems, dangerous in that they cannot accommodate the exploratory impulse of true hackers. Bureaucrats hide behind arbitrary rules (as opposed to the logical algorithms by which machines and computer programs operate): they invoke those rules to consolidate power, and perceive the constructive impulse of hackers as a threat."(29)

[Hier is de regel helderder dan de uitleg erna. Die uitleg bevat een zwart-wit-tegenstelling waarvan je je kunt afvragen hoe zinvol die is. Elke nuancering ontbreekt. Niet iedereen die verantwoordelijk is voor een systeem is een bureaucraat - wat precies de reden was dat deze hackers toegang kregen tot de TX-0. En niet elke hacker is een engel die zinvolle grenzen wil respecteren.]

"All you had to do was look at someone in the IBM world, and note the button-down white shirt, the neatly pinned black tie, the hair carefully held in place, and the tray of punch cards in hand. You could wander into the Computation Center, where the 704, the 709, and later the 7090 were stored the best IBM had to offer and see the stifling orderliness, down to the roped-off areas beyond which non-authorized people could not venture. And you could compare that to the extremely informal atmosphere around the TX-0, where grungy clothes were the norm and almost anyone could wander in."(30)

[Dit citaat maakt duidelijker waar het in de praktijk om ging. In de praktijk was er verschil tussen subculturen die met computers te maken hadden. Degenen die stricte regels hanteerden voor het gebruik en de macht hadden anderen daar aan te houden. En degenen die wilden experimenteren met de mogelijkheden en daarom niet wilden horen dat ze iets niet mochten.]

"Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position."(31)

[Het woord 'meritocratie' valt. Je moet iemand alleen beoordelen op zijn verdiensten, niet op zijn uiterlijk. Dat is een interessante norm. Maar wanneer de verdiensten niet verder gaan dan 'goed zijn in hacken' zegt die tegelijkertijd niet heel veel. Het is gemakkelijk om een hiërarchie te baseren op meer meetbare prestaties, maar wanneer het om heel andere vaardigheden en verdiensten gaat ligt dat niet zo eenvoudig. Levy's verhaal laat op allelei plaatsen zien dat de hackers alleen maar keken naar prestaties in programmeren, niet naar andere verdiensten.]

"You can create art and beauty on a computer."(31)

[Dat is geen norm, maar een beschrijving met vage termen. Code kan op zichzelf al mooi zijn, maar de vraag is dan wel welke normen worden aangelegd voor 'mooi'? En elkaar de loef af proberen te steken door een print routine te maken met zo min mogelijk instructies is dan de weg? Uit de voorbeelden blijkt dat de groep over code praat alsof het objectief duidelijk is wat goede en slechte, lelijke en goede code is. Maar, nogmaals, welke criteria worden gehanteerd in de oordelen hierover? En worden ze open of gesloten, flexibel of dogmatisch gehanteerd?]

"Computers can change your life for the better."(34)

[Meer geformuleerd als een waardeoordeel dan als een norm voor hoe je je hoort te gedragen. Je kunt je weer afvragen naar welke normen en criteria het leven 'beter' zou worden? In onderstaand citaat komen alle vaagheden terug. Maar bovendien wordt de grens overschreden van een computersysteem naar een samenlevingssysteem: computers zouden mensen kunnen leren hoe ze moeten leven? Ik kan me niet voorstellen dat een zo slecht uitgewerkte hackerethiek zo veel zou bijdragen aan een samenleving.]

"Everyone could gain something by the use of thinking computers in an intellectually automated world. And wouldn't everyone benefit even more by approaching the world with the same inquisitive intensity, skepticism toward bureaucracy, openness to creativity, unselfishness in sharing accomplishments, urge to make improvements, and desire to build as those who followed the Hacker Ethic? By accepting others on the same unprejudiced basis by which computers accepted anyone who entered code into a Flexowriter? Wouldn't we benefit if we learned from computers the means of creating a perfect system, and set about emulating that perfection in a human system? If everyone could interact with computers with the same innocent, productive, creative impulse that hackers did, the Hacker Ethic might spread through society like a benevolent ripple, and computers would indeed change the world for the better. "(37)

(39) 3 - Spacewar

De TMRC-hackers waren ook bijzonder geïnteresserd in telefoonsystemen - en netwerken en exploreerden de mogelijkheden ervan door ze in kaart te brengen ('network fingerprinting').

In de zomer van 1961 werd DEC's eerste minicomputer, de PDP-1, aan het MIT geleverd. Het was een donatie [van $120.000,--, je kunt je afvragen wat daar achter zat]. De TMRC-hackers schreven er nieuwe systeemprogramma's voor, omdat de meegeleverde programma's voor hun gevoel de mogelijkheden van de machine niet goed genoeg gebruikten.

"By sheer dint of hacking, the TX-0 - no, the PDP-1 hackers - had turned out a program in a weekend that it would have taken the computer industry weeks, maybe even months to pull off. It was a project that would probably not be undertaken by the computer industry without a long and tedious process of requisitions, studies, meetings, and executive vacillating, most likely with considerable compromise along the way. It might never have been done at all. The project was a triumph for the Hacker Ethic."(44)

Uiteraard kregen ze na dat wapenfeit nog meer toegang tot de PDP-1 dan tot de TX-0 en konden ze naar hartelust van alles programmeren. De programma's mochten door iedereen gebruikt worden, het idee 'royalties' kwam niet in hun op.

Naast de TMRC-hackers waren er ook steeds meer andere hackers actief op de PDP-1. Bijvoorbeeld Steve ('Slug') Russell en anderen die de colleges van John McCarthy en Marvin Minsky over AI volgden. Het idee was om het 'display' (het beeldscherm) meer te gebruiken. Minsky had daar al leuke 'hacks' voor verzonnen.

"Minsky was more outgoing than his fellow AI guru, and more willing to get into the hacker mode of activity. He was a man with very big ideas about the future of computing - he really believed that one day machines would be able to think, and he would often create a big stir by publicly calling human brains 'meat machines', implying that machines not made of meat would do as well some day. An elfish man with twinkling eyes behind thick glasses, a starkly bald head, and an omnipresent turtleneck sweater, Minsky would say this with his usual dry style, geared simultaneously to maximize provocation and to leave just a hint that it was all some cosmic goof - of course machines can't think, heh-heh. Marvin was the real thing; the PDP-1 hackers would often sit in on his course, Intro to AI 6.544, because not only was Minsky a good theoretician, but he knew his stuff. By the early 1960s, Minsky was beginning to organize what would come to be the world's first laboratory in artificial intelligence; and he knew that, to do what he wanted, he would need programming geniuses as his foot soldiers - so he encouraged hackerism in any way he could."(48)

Op basis van ideeën over de aansturen van het beeldscherm maakte Slug Russell het eerste populaire computerspel Spacewar.

[Dat is ook meteen zo typisch: het eerste spelletje is een oorlogsspelletje, een schietspelletje, waarbij indringers uit de ruimte de aarde bedreigen etc.etc. Waar komt zoiets vandaan? Welke waarden en normen liggen daar aan ten grondslag? Is het typisch voor mannen om zoiets te bedenken? Is het typisch iets voor Amerikanen om zoiets te bedenken? Waarom dit soort fantasieloze keuzes?]

De hackermentaliteit begon zich te verspreiden naarmate de mensen van het MIT elders gingen werken of studeren. Ook de AI ontwikkelde zich zoals de oorspronkelijke 'planners' hadden geroepen.

"In the next couple of years many of the TX-0 and PDP-1 joyriders departed the Institute. Saunders would take a job in industry at Santa Monica (where he would later write a Spacewar for the PDP-7 he used at work). Bob Wagner went off to the Rand Corporation. Peter Deutsch went to Berkeley, to begin his freshman year of college. Kotok took a part-time job which developed into an important designing position at DEC (though he managed to hang around TMRC and the PDP-1 for years afterward). In a development which was to have considerable impact on spreading MIT-style hackerism outside of Cambridge, John McCarthy left the Institute to begin a new artificial intelligence lab on the West Coast, at Stanford University. Slug Russell, ever McCarthy's LISP-writing coolie, tagged along."(56)

"Some of the planners envisioned a day when artificially intelligent computers would relieve man's mental burdens, much as industrial machinery had already partially lifted his physical yoke. McCarthy and Minsky were the vanguard of this school of thought, and both had participated in a 1956 Dartmouth conference that established a foundation for research in this field. McCarthy's work in the higher-level language LISP was directed toward this end, and was sufficiently intriguing to rouse hackers like Slug Russell, Peter Deutsch, Peter Samson, and others into working with LISP. Minsky seemed interested in artificial intelligence with a more theoretical basis: a gleeful, bald-headed Johnny Apple-seed in the field, he would spread his seeds, each one a thought capable of blooming into a veritable apple tree of useful AI techniques and projects. "(57)

Het aanschaffen en gebruiken van computers werd door deze mensen steeds gestimuleerd.

"If more people used computers, more expert programmers and theoreticians would emerge, and the science of computing - yes, these aggressive planners were calling it a science - could only benefit by that new talent. But there was something else involved in this. It was something any hacker could understand - the belief that computing, in and of itself, was positive. John McCarthy illustrated that belief when he said that the natural state of man was to be online to a computer all the time. 'What the user wants is a computer that he can have continuously at his beck and call for long periods of time.'

The man of the future. Hands on a keyboard, eyes on a CRT, in touch with the body of information and thought that the world had been storing since history began. It would all be accessible to Computational Man."(58)

Het simuleerde het multi-user-idee van 'time-sharing'. Het MIT kreeg er een 'grant' voor:

"The Department of Defense, especially through its Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), had been supporting computers since the war, mindful of their eventual applications toward military use. So by the early sixties, MIT had obtained a long-range grant for its time-sharing project, which would be named Project MAC (the initials stood for two things: Multiple Access Computing, and Machine Aided Cognition). Uncle Sam would cough up three million dollars a year."(58-59)

Het project werd bemenst door het aloude type hacker, maar de context was AI en ze werkten aan andere zaken dan voorheen:

"Instead of space simulations, the hackers who did the scut work at Project MAC would be tackling larger systems robotic arms, vision projects, mathematical conundrums, and labyrinthine time-sharing systems that boggled the imagination. Fortunately, the classes that entered MIT in the early sixties were to provide some of the most devoted and brilliant hackers who ever sat at a console. And none of them so fully fit the title 'hacker' as Richard Greenblatt."(59)

(61) 4 - Greenblatt and Gosper

Ricky Greenblatt studeerde vanaf 1962 aan het MIT, werd lid van de TMRC en werkte eveneens met de PDP-1 (hij schreef er een FORTRAN-compiler voor). In 1963 kwam er een tweede PDP-1 en het Project MAC verhuisde - met Greenblatt - naar 'Tech Square', een nieuw gebouw op de campus.

"The ninth floor of this building, where the computers were, would be home to a generation of hackers, and none would spend as much time there as Greenblatt."(65)

Greenblatt werkte intensief aan code voor de PDP-1 en kon de concentratie lang volhouden door een bepaalde leefstijl:

"To hold that concentration for a long period of time, he lived, as did several of his peers, the thirty-hour day. It was conducive to intense hacking, since you had an extended block of waking hours to get going on a program, and, once you were really rolling, little annoyances like sleep need not bother you. The idea was to burn away for thirty hours, reach total exhaustion, then go home and collapse for twelve hours. An alternative would be to collapse right there in the lab. A minor drawback of this sort of schedule was that it put you at odds with the routines which everyone else in the world used to do things like keep appointments, eat, and go to classes."(65)

[Een 'minor drawback'? Het is waarschijnlijk humoristisch bedoeld, maar wanneer je er over nadenkt zie je monomaan gedrag waarin volkomen voorbijgegaan wordt aan sociale codes. Is dat nu zo geweldig? Met alle respect, maar is monomanie nu de enige manier om zo vernieuwend bezig te zijn?]

Bill Gosper startte in 1961 aan het MIT, was heel goed in wiskunde, deed ook de PDP-1 (vooral algoritmes) en Project MAC.

"Gosper and Greenblatt represented two kinds of hacking around TMRC and the PDP-1: Greenblatt focused on pragmatic systems building, and Gosper on mathematical exploration. Each respected the other's forte, and both would participate in projects, often collaborative ones, that exploited their best abilities. More than that, both were major contributors to the still nascent culture that was beginning to flower in its fullest form on the ninth floor of Tech Square. For various reasons, it would be in this technological hothouse that the culture would grow most lushly, taking the Hacker Ethic to its extreme."(68-69)

Daar - en in de 'Tool Room' - werd via intensieve discussies gezocht naar 'The Right Thing' in een oplossing.

"The Right Thing implied that to any problem, whether a programming dilemma, a hardware interface mismatch, or a question of software architecture, a solution existed that was just ... it. The perfect algorithm. You'd have hacked right into the sweet spot, and anyone with half a brain would see that the straight line between two points had been drawn, and there was no sense trying to top it."(69)

[Over normatief gesproken :-) Maar de vraag blijft of zelfs technische zaken zo veel objectiviteit kennen.]

De komst van DEC's PDP-6 leidde een nieuwe golf van 'hacking' en discussies in.

"The Tool Room discussions and arguments would often be carried over to dinner, and the cuisine of choice was almost always Chinese food. It was cheap, plentiful, and best of all available late at night."(71-72)

-

"This could go on for a whole meal. It is telling, though, to note the things that the hackers did not talk about. They did not spend much time discussing the social and political implications of computers in society (except maybe to mention how utterly wrong and naive the popular conception of computers was). They did not talk sports. They generally kept their own emotional and personal lives - as far as they had any - to themselves. And for a group of healthy college-age males, there was remarkably little discussion of a topic which commonly obsesses groups of that composition. Females.

Though some hackers led somewhat active social lives, the key figures in TMRC-PDP hacking had locked themselves into what would be called 'bachelor mode.' It was easy to fall into - for one thing, many of the hackers were loners to begin with, socially uncomfortable. It was the predictability and controllability of a computer system - as opposed to the hopelessly random problems in a human relationship - which made hacking particularly attractive. But an even weightier factor was the hackers' impression that computing was much more important than getting involved in a romantic relationship. It was a question of priorities.

Hacking had replaced sex in their lives."(74-75)

"Maybe it would have been different if there had been more women around TMRC and the ninth floor - the few that did hang around paired off with hackers. (..) There were not too many of these women, since outsiders, male or female, were often put off by the group: the hackers talked strangely, they had bizarre hours, they ate weird food and they spent all their time thinking about computers.

And they formed an exclusively male culture. The sad fact was that there never was a star-quality female hacker. No one knows why. There were women programmers and some of them were good, but none seemed to take hacking as a holy calling the way Greenblatt, Gosper, and the others did. Even the substantial cultural bias against women getting into serious computing does not explain the utter lack of female hackers."(75-76)

[Ik heb zo uitgebreid geciteerd, omdat hier de waarden en normen van de groep zichtbaar worden. Weer die asociale monomanie voor computers. Uiteraard hadden vrouwen geen zin om zo te worden. Ik zou wel eens willen weten of die vrouwen die bekend stonden als 'goede programmeurs' niet net zo vernieuwend bezig waren als de groep van mannelijke 'hackers'. Is er onderzoek naar gedaan? Bijvoorbeeld door vrouwen in het kader van vrouwenstudies? Wordt die groep van mannelijke hackers niet voortdurend geïdealiseerd? Wordt deze vorm van 'hacken' niet de hele tijd geromantiseerd? En zijn het niet vooral mannen / mannelijke schrijvers die dat doen? Maken wereldvreemde mensen geen wereldvreemde producten? Is AI daarom zo vaak gekomen met volkomen wereldvreemde theorieën? Je kunt er een heleboel vragen bij stellen.]

Greenblatt was de meest extreme hacker. Hij schreef in het kader van Project MAC een LISP-compiler voor de PDP-6 en werkte tot 1965 aan een schaakprogramma.

In 1965 verscheen Herbert / Hubert Dreyfus kritiek op AI Alchemy and Artificial Intelligence. Naast principiële kritiek voorspelde hij daarin ook dat een computer nooit een spelletje schaak zou kunnen spelen dat het niveau zou overstijgen van een 10-jarig kind. Hij zelf kon echter niet winnen van Greenblatt's schaakprogramma MacHack.

[Het is zo jammer dat critici als Dreyfus zich niet houden bij principiële vaststellingen over computers en zich wagen aan concrete voorspellingen erover. Uiteraard zullen computers sommige dingen - waarvoor ze gemaakt zijn - steeds beter en sneller kunnen. Maar dat betekent principieel gezien nooit dat ze kunnen 'denken', 'intelligent zijn', of andere menselijke eigenschappen hebben. Omdat Dreyfus zich door zijn domme voorspelling over schaakcomputers belachelijk maakte, werd er door hackers dus ook niet meer nagedacht over zijn principiële standpunten over AI.]

(83) 5 - The Midnight Computer Wiring Society

Over Stewart ('Stew') Nelson die in 1964 naar het MIT kwam en vooral iets had met elektronica-hardware en met telefonie. En Ed Fredkin, een vriend van Marvin Minsky, en een groot bewonderaar van de hacker-groep. Ook over 'lock hacking':

"To a hacker, a closed door is an insult, and a locked door is an outrage. Just as information should be clearly and elegantly transported within a computer, and just as software should be freely disseminated, hackers believed people should be allowed access to files or tools which might promote the hacker quest to find out and improve the way the world works. When a hacker needed something to help him create, explore, or fix, he did not bother with such ridiculous concepts as property rights."(95)

[Uit de gegeven anecdotes blijkt akelig weinig respect van hackers voor anderen en voor hun behoeften aan orde, veiligheid en privacy. Het gaat niet om de eigendommen die zonder toestemming gebruikt werden, maar om het niet aanvoelen van de grenzen die een ander nodig heeft. Het is allemaal erg egocentrisch.]

[En je ziet in al die voorvallen ook geen enkel;e neiging mensen te helpen bijvoorbeeld door dingen uit te leggen of voor te doen. Wanneer iemand het niet meteen zo snapt als de hackers zelf, krijgen ze meteen het etiket 'loser' opgeplakt en worden ze met veel leedvermaak gepest en uitgelachen. De rol van Minsky is ook bepaald dubbelzinnig: hij liet al dat soort dingen gebeuren, omdat hij wat de hackers deden goed kon gebruiken in zijn plannen voor AI.]

(101) 6 - Winners and losers

Over David Silver, als 14-jarige sinds 1966 op het MIT, en vooral geïnteresseerd in robotica.

"Hackers loved robots for much the same reasons that David Silver did. Controlling a robot was a step beyond computer programming in controlling the system that was the real world."(102)

Serieuze graduate-studenten hadden niet veel op met de hackers. En andersom natuurlijk.

"The hackers had a word to describe those graduate students. It was the same word they used to describe almost anyone who pretended to know something about computers and could not back it up with hacker-level expertise. The word was 'loser'. The hackers were 'winners'. It was a binary distinction: people around the AI lab were one or the other. The sole criterion was hacking ability. So intense was the quest to improve the world by understanding and building systems that almost all other human traits were disregarded. You could be fourteen years old and dyslexic, and be a winner. Or you could be bright, sensitive, and willing to learn, and still be considered a loser."(109)

[Niet bepaald volwassen allemaal. Gelukkig waren er uitzonderingen:]

"A sensitive hacker named Brian Harvey was particularly upset at the drastically enforced standard. () Harvey did not like it when other people were fingered as losers, treated like pariahs simply because they were not brilliant. Harvey thought that Marvin Minsky had a lot to do with promulgating that attitude."(110)

"The biggest losers of all, in the eyes of the hackers, were those who so lacked that ability that they were incapable of realizing what the true best machine was, or the true best computer language, or the true best way to use a computer. And no system of using a computer earned the hackers' contempt as much as the time-sharing systems which, since they were a major part of Project MAC, were also based on the ninth floor of Tech Square. The first one, which was operating since the mid-sixties, was the Compatible Time-sharing System (CTSS). The other, long in preparation and high in expense, was called Multics, and was so offensive that its mere existence was an outrage. "(112)

Multi-user, time-sharing systemen als de CTSS werken met wachtwoorden.

"In other words, CTSS discouraged hacking. Add to this the fact that it was run on a two-million-dollar IBM machine that the hackers thought was much inferior to their PDP-6, and you had one loser system. No one was asking the hackers to use CTSS, but it was there, and sometimes you just have to do some hacking on what's available. When a hacker would try to use it, and a message would come on-screen saying that you couldn't log on without the proper password, he would be compelled to retaliate. Because to hackers, passwords were even more odious than locked doors. What could be worse than someone telling you that you weren't authorized to use his computer? "(113)

"But the worst thing about Multics was the heavy security and the system of charging the user for the time. Multics took the attitude that the user paid down to the last nickel; it charged some for the memory you used, some more for the disk space, more for the time. Meanwhile the Multics planners, in the hacker view, were making proclamations about how this was the only way that utilities could work. The system totally turned the Hacker Ethic around - instead of encouraging more time on the computer (the only good thing about time-sharing as far as most hackers were concerned), it urged you to spend less time - and to use less of the computer's facilities once you were on! The Multics philosophy was a disaster."(114)

Beide systemen werden dan ook gekraakt en belaagd door de hackers. Time-sharing betekent immers ook dat je nooit de controle over de totale machine hebt en dat vonden hackers vervelend. Dus gingen ze mensen pesten en zaken in de soep laten lopen van anderen. Minsky sanctioneerde dit gedrag - het zou allerlei mensen van slechte plannen afhouden, zei hij.

Zijn opvolger Fredkin zat echter met de problemen. Hij moest politiek laveren tussen de wensen van de 'planners' en die van de hackers. Hij loste een en ander op door de machines 's nachts zonder time-sharing en passwords te laten werken speciaal voor de hackers: de Incompatible Time-sharing System (ITS) ontstond.

"The planners did not regard systems hacking with similar esteem. The planners were concerned with applications using computers to go beyond computing, to create useful concepts and tools to benefit humanity. To the hackers, the system was an end in itself."(120)

[Dat zegt het wel zo'n beetje, vind ik. Misschien was er iets moois gebeurd wanneer de hackers zich met al hun energie, monomanie, concentratie etc. gestart hadden op de inzet van het middel computer voor humane doeleinden. Maar nee, ze waren alleen geïnteresseerd in het middel zelf. Dat heeft naar mijn smaak enorme gevolgen gehad en een volkomen verkeerde kijk op computers veroorzaakt.]

(123) 7 - Life

Dit hoofdstuk begin met een korte evaluatie.

"They would later call it a Golden Age of hacking, this marvelous existence on the ninth floor of Tech Square. Spending their time in the drab machine room and the cluttered offices nearby, gathered closely around terminals where rows and rows of green characters of code would scroll past them, marking up printouts with pencils retrieved from shirt pockets, and chatting in their peculiar jargon over this infinite loop or that losing subroutine, the cluster of technological monks who populated the lab was as close to paradise as they would ever be. A benevolently anarchistic life-style dedicated to productivity and PDP-6 passion. Art, science, an1d play had merged into the magical activity of programming, with every hacker an omnipotent master of the flow of information within the machine. The debugged life in all its glory.

But as much as the hackers attempted to live the hacker dream without interference from the pathetically warped systems of the 'Real World', it could not be done. Greenblatt and Knight's failure to convince outsiders of the natural superiority of the Incompatible Time-sharing System was only one indication that the total immersion of a small group of people into hackerism might not bring about change on the massive scale that all the hackers assumed was inevitable. It was true that, in the decade since the TX-0 was first delivered to MIT, the general public and certainly the other students on campus had become more aware of computers in general. But they did not regard computers with the same respect and fascination as did the hackers. And they did not necessarily regard the hackers' intentions as benign and idealistic."(123-124)

We hebben het hier over de zestiger jaren, de periode waarin op grote schaal tegen regeringen werd geprotesteerd, bv. vanwege de Vietnam-oorlog, vanwege het militair-industrieel complex. Veel mensen - zowel studenten als arbeiders - zagen computers in handen van de rijken en machtigen misbruikt worden ten koste van de armen en machtelozen, ze zagen de dehumaniserende invloed ervan. En niemand kon ontkennen dat vrijwel alles aan onderzoek rondom computers en AI werd betaald door het Ministerie van Defensie (Department of Defense - DoD):

"Everything, from the Incompatible Time-sharing System to Peter Samson's subway hack, was paid for by the same Department of Defense that was killing Vietnamese and drafting American boys to die overseas.

The general AI lab response to that charge was that the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), which funded the lab, never asked anyone to come up with specific military applications for the computer research engaged in by hackers and planners. ARPA had been run by computer scientists; its goal had been the advancement of pure research. During the late 1960s a planner named Robert Taylor was in charge of ARPA funding, and he later admitted to diverting funds from military, 'mission-oriented' projects to projects that would advance pure computer science. It was only the rarest hacker who called the ARPA funding 'dirty money'.

Almost everyone else, even people who opposed the war, recognized that ARPA money was the lifeblood of the hacking way of life. When someone pointed out the obvious - that the Defense Department might not have asked for specific military applications for the Artificial Intelligence and systems work being done, but still expected a bonanza of military applications to come from the work (who was to say that all that "interesting" work in vision and robotics would not result in more efficient bombing raids?) - the hackers would either deny the obvious (Greenblatt: "Though our money was coming from the Department of Defense, it was not military") or talk like Marvin Minsky: "There's nothing illegal about a Defense Department funding research. It's certainly better than a Commerce Department or Education Department funding research ... because that would lead to thought control. I would much rather have the military in charge of that ... the military people make no bones about what they want, so we're not under any subtle pressures. It's clear what's going on. The case of ARPA was unique, because they felt that what this country needed was people good in defense technology. In case we ever needed it, we'd have it.

Planners thought they were advancing true science. Hackers were blithely formulating their tidy, new-age philosophy based on free flow of information, decentralization, and computer democracy. But the anti-military protesters thought it was a sham, since all that so-called idealism would ultimately benefit the War Machine that was the Defense Department."(125-126)

[Dit is stevige kritiek van de maatschappijkritische beweging en die lijkt mij heel terecht. Je ziet aan de hele kwestie hoe maatschappelijk naïef de meeste hackers waren. Je ziet ook hoe gemakkelijk ze zich daarmee voor het karretje lieten spannen van het militair-industrieel complex die ze alle vrijheid gaf om 'hackertje' te spelen, maar intussen op afstand goed in de gaten hield wat het allemaal kon opleveren. Je ziet ook weer hoe kwalijk de rol van Minsky op dat punt is. Het kleurt het karakter van de AI in die tijd aanzienlijk, denk ik.]

Het solipsisme van de hackers [mooi woord voor zelfingenomen egocentrisme, in dit geval] werd door Joseph Weizenbaum - die zelf op het MIT aan het computerprogramma ELIZA gewerkt had - als het ware van binnenuit bekritiseerd.

[Zie ook mijn samenvatting van Computer Power and Human Reason.]

Alle kritiek leidde niet tot zelfonderzoek bij de hackers. Ze waren het niet gewend na te denken over sociale of persoonlijke kanten aan wat ze deden. Zelfs grote persoonlijke problemen, drugsmisbruik, etc. van anderen in hun groep negeerden ze. Volgens Fredkin was er echter ook vriendschap en warmte tussen de mensen in de groep.

[Je mag je hier afvragen wat vriendschap en warmte dan betekenen.]

Na de zestiger jaren verspreidde de hackercultuur zich over de rest van de V.S., bv. naar de universiteiten Carnegie-Mellon en Stanford (het Stanford AI Lab - SAIL) of naar computerfirma's. Vaak ook omdat hackers van het MIT daar ging werken.

"In many respects SAIL was a mirror image of MIT's operation, distorted only by the California haze that would sometimes drift from the Pacific Ocean to the peninsula. But the California distortion was a significant one demonstrating how even the closest thing to the MIT hacker community was only an approximation of the ideal; the hothouse MIT style of hackerism was destined to travel, but when exposed to things like California sunlight it faded a bit in intensity."(134-35)

Het SAIL was de plek van Donald Knuth en andere computerwetenschappers. Bij SAIL werd er o.a. gewerkt aan spellen - de zogenoemde 'adventures' -, maar ook aan dezelfde zaken (bv. robotica) als waaraan het MIT AI-Lab werkte. De mentaliteit was inderdaad niet zo heel anders daar:

"SAIL hackers also lived by the Hacker Ethic. The time-sharing system on the SAIL machine, like ITS, did not require passwords, but, at John McCarthy's insistence, a user had the option to keep his files private. The SAIL hackers wrote a program to identify these people, and proceeded to unlock the files, which they would read with special interest. "Anybody that's asking for privacy must be doing something interesting," SAIL hacker Don Woods would later explain."(137)

[Wat ethisch, zeg ...]

De centra werden in de zeventiger jaren met elkaar verbonden door het hert eerste computernetwerk: ARPAnet. In 1970 begon Bill Gosper met het spel LIFE, een computer simulatie ontwikkeld door de Britse wiskundige John Conway. De situatie begon te veranderen, het einde van een tijdperk was nabij.

"The defection of Silver and the other MIT hackers did not cripple the lab. New hackers came to replace them. Greenblatt and Gosper remained, as did Knight and some other canonical hackers. But the terrifically optimistic energy that came with the opening explosion of AI research, of setting up new software systems, seemed to have dissipated. Some scientists were complaining that the boasts of early AI planners were not fulfilled. Within the hacker community itself, the fervid habits and weird patterns established in the past decade seemed to have solidified. Were they ossified as well?"(139)

"While the mastery of the hackers had indeed made computer programming a spiritual pursuit, a magical art, and while the culture of the lab was developed to the point of a technological Walden Pond, something was essentially lacking. The world. As much as the hackers tried to make their own world on the ninth floor, it could not be done. The movement of key people was inevitable. And the harsh realities of funding hit Tech Square in the seventies .."(146)

Part two - Hardware hackers - Northern California: The seventies

(151) 8 - Revolt in 2100

Over naar een andere context dus. Hier gaat het over Lee Felsenstein en het Community Memory Project. Het moment: augustus 1973, een tijd dus waarin het wantrouwen tegenover computers groot was omdat ze als middel van het 'establishment werden gezien. Deze groep wilde computers juist inzetten als een maatschappijkritisch middel, "taking the Hacker Ethic to the streets"(153)

"The idea was to speed the flow of information in a decentralized, nonbureaucratic system. An idea born from computers, an idea executable only by computers, in this case a time-shared XDS-940 mainframe machine in the basement of a warehouse in San Francisco. By opening a hands-on computer facility to let people reach each other, a living metaphor would be created, a testament to the way computer technology could be used as guerrilla warfare for people against bureaucracies."(152)

De groep bestond o.a. uit Jude Milhon, een vrouwelijke programmeur, Peter Deutsch, en Efrem Lipkin.

"Community Memory was not the only ongoing attempt to bring computers to the people. All over the Bay Area, the engineers and programmers who loved computers and had become politicized during the antiwar movement were thinking of combining their two activities. One place in particular seemed to combine an easygoing, counterculture irreverence with an evangelical drive to expose people, especially kids, to computers. This was the People’s Computer Company."(165)

Bob Albrecht was de oprichter van die groep én de oprichter van het blad People's Computer Company (eind 1972) waarmee computers werden gepopulariseerd. De redactiebijeenkomsten op Menlo Park werden langzamerhand clubbijeenkomsten van de PCC op Menalto Avenue waar iedereen met interesse voor computers - variëerend van huisvrouwen met kinderen tot aan zakenlieden die koersen wilden berekenen - binnen kon komen vallen en dingen uit kon proberen. Een van de bezoekers was Ted Nelson, de schrijver van Computer Lib.

Men had op de club de beschikking over terminals naar een PDP-8 minicomputer. Je ziet ook meteen de tweedeling van mensen met een idealistische visie op computers en mensen die computers als machine fascinerend vinden en verder niets.

"It would not take many hours before the hackers slipped away to the clattering terminals, leaving the activists engaged in heated conversation about this development or that."(173)

(179) 9 - Every man a god

Felsenstein bleef streven naar 'computers voor het volk'. Hij had weinig op met het elitaire gedoe met de MIT-hackers:

" "Anyone who’s been around artificial intelligence is likely to be a hopeless case,"” he’d later explain. "They’re so far removed from reality that they cannot deal with the real world. When they start saying, 'Well, essentially all you need to do is dot dot dot,' I just glaze over and say, 'OK, buddy, but that’s the easy part. Where we do our work is the rest of that.'" (...)

Sitting in the big, wooden, warehouse-like structure that housed Systems Concepts, Lee felt that these guys were not as interested in getting computer technology out to the people as they were in elegant, mind-blowing computer pyrotechnics. To Lee, they were technological Jesuits. He was unconcerned about the high magic they could produce and the exalted pantheon of canonical wizards they revered. What about the people?"(180)

Met alle uitvindingen van de eerste helft 70-er jaren in Silicon Valley - de transistor, het 'integrated circuit', de microprocessor - ontstond er een andere weg naar 'computers voor het volk'. Deze uitvindingen leidden tot 'hardware hacking' door allerlei elektronica-hobyisten die in 'dumpstores' onderdelen bij elkaar zochten en iets in elkaar soldeerden dat 'iets moest doen'.

Met Bob Marsh ontwierp Felsenstein de 'Tom Swift Terminal', maar nog voordat daamee iets gedaan kon worden was er in januari 1975 de publicatie in Popular Electronics over de MITS Altair 8800 van Ed Roberts waarmee de geschiedenis van de persoonlijke computer begon.

Het enthousiasme voor die computer - eigenlijk niet meer dan een bouwpakket - was enorm. Het gevoel dat je je eigen computer zou kunnen bouwen leidde tot een golf van 'hardware hacking'. Bijvoorbeeld bij Steve Dompier, Fred Moore en Gordon French.

"The Altair was for sale, people were going crazy, it was time to get together, and there was no way to do it. So French and Moore decided to start up a group of people interested in building computers. Their own hardware group, and it would be full of good computer talk, shared electronic technique, and maybe a demonstration or two of the latest stuff you could buy. Just a bunch of hardware hackers seeing what might come of a somewhat more than random meeting."(199)

En zo werd op 5 maart 1975 de Homebrew Computer Club in het leven geroepen.

(201) 10 - The Homebrew Computer Club

Het aantal mensen dat de bijeenkomsten van de HCC bezocht groeide snel. Maar het idealisme, het inzetten van computertechniek om de samenleving te verbeteren, maakte al snel plaats voor een puur technische oriëntatie.

"Fred Moore was very excited about the energy the gathering generated. It seemed to him that he had put something in motion. He did not realize at the time that the source of the intellectual heat was not a planner-like contemplation of the social changes possible by mass computing, but the white-hot hacker fascination with technology. Buoyed by the willingness everyone seemed to have to work together, Moore suggested the group meet every fortnight."(202-203)

"Fred [Moore] was always harping on applications. Every so often in the early meetings he would urge the members of this basically anarchistic group to get together and do something, though he was usually vague on what that something might be. Maybe using computers to aid handicapped people, maybe compiling mailing lists for draft resistance. Moore might have been correct in perceiving that the thrust of the club was in some way political, but his view seemed at odds with the reality that hackers do not generally set about to create social change—hackers act like hackers.(..)

Meanwhile, most of the club members would be turning to the back of the newsletter to study the schematics in the contribution called 'Arbitrary Logic Function Generation Via Digital Multiplexers'. That was the way to change the world, and a lot more fun than a cake sale."(214-215)

"So Fred was unhappy at how blindly people accepted technology. Someone had told Fred about the cheap female labor in Malaysia and other Asian countries who physically assembled those magical chips. He heard how the Asian women were paid pitiful wages, worked in unsafe factories, and were unable to return to their villages, since they never had a chance to learn the traditional modes of cooking or raising a family. He felt he should tell the club about it, force the issue, but by then he realized that it was not the kind of issue that the Homebrew Club was meant to address."(217-218)

[Je ziet hier opnieuw dat maatschappelijke visies over het doel van techniek het gemakkelijk afleggen tegen de behoefte een technisch middel helemaal te leren kennen en doelloos te kunnen manipuleren. Je ziet hier heel concreet dat het 'knoeien' met computers mensen zo afleidt dat van het nastreven van maatschappelijke idealen al gauw geen sprake meer is. Wat wel nog bleef was de uitwisseling, het elkaar helpen met dingen, de synergie.]

"Synergy. The increasing number of Homebrew members who were designing or giving away new products, from game joysticks to boards for the Altair, used the club as a source of ideas and early orders, and for beta-testing of the prototypes. Whenever a product was done you would bring it to the club and get the most expert criticism available. Then you’d distribute the technical specifications and the schematics—if it involved software, you would distribute the source code. Everybody could learn from it, and improve on it if they cared to and were good enough."(220-221)

Desondanks: het ging wel alleen over de techniek als middel. Niet alleen Moore trok zich terug. Ook mensen als Ted Nelson, Bob Albrecht, Jude Milhon.

"Some planners would visit Homebrew and be turned off by the technical ferocity of the discussions, the intense flame that burned brightest when people directed themselves to the hacker pursuit of building. Ted Nelson, author of Computer Lib, came to a meeting and was confused by all of it, later calling the scruffily dressed and largely uncombed Homebrew people "chip-monks, people obsessed with chips. It was like going to a meeting of people who love hammers." Bob Albrecht rarely attended, later explaining that "I could understand only about every fourth word those guys were saying... they were hackers." Jude Milhon, the woman with whom Lee [Felsenstein] remained friends after their meeting through the Barb and their involvement in Community Memory, dropped in once and was repelled by the concentration on sheer technology, exploration, and control for the sake of control. She noted the lack of female hardware hackers, and was enraged at the male hacker obsession with technological play and power. She summed up her feelings with the epithet 'the boys and their toys', and like Fred Moore worried that the love affair with technology might blindly lead to abuse of that technology."(222)

Desondanks: de HCC bleef groeien. En één ideaal werd in ieder geval wel gehaald: door de verspreiding van de persoonlijke computer was er sprake van decentralisatie van computers. En de synergie bleef bestaan, zelfs toen er allerlei bedrijfjes ontstonden.

(227) 11 - Tiny Basic

Over de eerste tekenen van commercialisering die haaks zou komen te staan op het idee van 'vrije stroom van infomatie' waarover de hackers het hadden. Het begin daarvan: de BASIC-programmeertaal die Bill Gates en Paul Allen schreven voor de Altair 8800.

"The difference between the Gates-Allen software library and the software library in the drawer by the PDP-6 or the Homebrew Club library was that the former was for sale only. Neither Bill Gates nor Ed Roberts believed that software was any kind of sanctified material, meant to be passed around as if it were too holy to pay for. It represented work, just as hardware did, and Altair BASIC was listed in the MITS catalog like anything else it sold."(230)

Vanaf het begin was er meteen discussie over de hoge prijs van de BASIC-software, te meer omdat het er op leek dat de software onwikkeld was op computers waarvoor de belastingbetaler in feite betaalde. De hackers kopieerden en verspreidden dus de software zoals ze gewend waren.

Gates en Allen waren niet blij toen bleek dat de tape met hun BASIC-programma werd gekopieerd en verspreid zonder dat men er voor betaalde. Gates schreef verontwaardigd de 'Open Letter to Hobbyists' waarin hij het over 'diefstal' had. Argumenten: voor hardware moet je ook betalen, je kunt geen beroep maken van programmeren wanneer je er niets mee kunt verdienen, je kunt de programa's niet bugvrij maken of er documentatie voor schrijven als een (bv. slechte) versie meteen doorgekopieerd wordt en aangepast wordt door anderen.

"People around the Homebrew Computer Club tried to ease into this new era, in which software had commercial value, without losing the hacker ideals. One way to do that was by writing programs with the specific idea of distributing them in the informal, though quasi-legal, manner by which Altair BASIC was distributed—through a branching, give-it-to-your-friends scheme. So software could continue being an organic process, with the original author launching the program code on a journey that would see an endless round of improvements."(234)

Het voorbeeld daarvan: Tiny Basic.

(249) 12 - Woz

Over Steve Wozniak, ook een deelnemer van de HCC-bijeenkomsten. Steve Wozniak ontwierp een elegante computer, die door zijn vriend Steve Jobs al gauw 'the Apple' werd genoemd. Jobs bouwde een bedrijfje dat die computer verkocht. De naam: Apple.

Wozniak bouwde inmiddels door aan de Apple II, een computer die een kast kreeg die er speciaal voor ontworpen was en die legendarisch werd. En ook de binnenkant was prachtig van ontwerp. De computer werd gepresenteerd op de Jim Warren georganiseerde West Coast Computer Faire van april 1977.

"It wasn’t only the Apple that people were excited about. It was the triumph of the hardware hackers in making their passion into an industry. You could see the excitement as people looked around disbelievingly at their sheer numbers—all these people?—and there was a huge roar when Jim Warren got on the public-address system and announced the attendance—the weekend’s total was almost thirteen thousand. He was immediately followed by Computer Lib author Ted Nelson, feeling no doubt like a once lonesome guru who in one fell swoop was united with a sea of disciples. "This is Captain Kirk", Nelson said. "Prepare for blastoff!"  (...)

The first Computer Faire was to the hardware hackers an event comparable to Woodstock in the movement of the sixties. Like the concert at Max Yasgur’s farm, this was both a cultural vindication and a signal that the movement had gotten so big that it no longer belonged to its progenitors."(273)

(275) 13 - Secrets

Van 1975-1977 groeide de industrie van persoonlijke computers op ongekende wijze. Het draaide voortaan om geld.

"No longer was it a struggle, a learning process, to make computers. So the pioneers of Homebrew, many of whom had switched from building computers to manufacturing computers, had not a common bond, but competition to maintain market share. It retarded Homebrew’s time-honored practice of sharing all techniques, of refusing to recognize secrets, and of keeping information going in an unencumbered flow. When it was Bill Gates’ Altair BASIC that was under consideration, it was easy to maintain the Hacker Ethic. Now, as major shareholders of companies supporting hundreds of employees, the hackers found things not so simple. All of a sudden, they had secrets to keep."(276)

Het bezoeken van de HCC-bijeenkomsten was geen prioriteit meer en het aantal bezoeken nam af. Er ontstonden clubs per type computer. Nu er kant en klare computers geleverd werden, nam 'hardware hacking' af en 'software hacking' toe.

"Lee Felsenstein and the hardware hackers had helped make the transition from the world of the MIT hacker, where the Hacker Ethic could flourish only within the limited, monastic communities around the machine, to a world where the machines were everywhere. Now, millions of computers were being made, each one an invitation to program, to explore, to mythologize in machine language, to change the world. Computers were rolling off assembly lines as blank slates; a new generation of hackers would be seduced by the power to fill the slates; and the software they created would be presented to a world which saw computers in quite a different way than it had a decade before."(286)

Part Three - Game hackers - The Sierras: The eighties

(289) 14 - The wizard and the princess

Dit deel gaat over de 'games' die men begon te maken. Het begint met Ken en Roberta Williams, de oprichters (1980) van de Sierra On-Line Company waar in 1982 al 70 mensen werkten, vaak top programmeurs die wel aangeduid werden met 'Software Superstars.

"They were the apogee of a Third Generation of hackers who had learned their programming artistry on small computers, who had never bootstrapped themselves up by way of a community. Who dreamed not only of the ultimate hack, but of fame, and big royalty checks.(...) The Hacker Ethic had met the marketplace."(292-293)

[Yeah, right ... Je kunt je afvragen wat er nog over is van die hackerethiek wanneer mensen uit zijn op rijkdom en succes. Als het ooit al wat was ..]

(313) 15 - The Brotherhood

"The Hacker Ethic was changing, even as it spread throughout the country. Its emissaries were the small, low-cost computers sold by Apple, Radio Shack, Commodore (the PET), and Atari.(...) The Hacker Ethic, microcomputer-style, no longer necessarily implied that information was free."(313)

[Je ziet ook in dit hoofdstuk weer hoe vaag Levy omgaat met dat begrip 'hackerethiek'. 'Informatie is vrij' gold al lang niet meer. 'Computers veranderen je leven' betekent niet veel meer dan dat je er als programmeur rijker door wordt en als consument een nieuwe tijdsbesteding kunt hebben. Wat is daar nu allemaal ethisch aan? De enige constante is dat er mensen zijn die goed zijn in het programmeren van computers en er heel hard aan werken om dat apparaat te controleren. Maar dat heeft niets met ethiek te maken.]

(325) 16 - The Third Generation

Over John Harris die voor Atari Pac-Man programmeerde en later voor Siera On-Line Jawbraker. Over de juridische gechillen tussen beide bedrijven over 'copyright'-kwesties.

(345) 17 - Summer Camp

Meer over Sierra On-Line. Veel van de programmeurs van spellen waren erg jong. De werkomgeving was bijzonder los vergeleken met andere bedrijfstakken. Ook de stijl van leidinggeven was heel anders. Vandaar: het leek net een 'summer camp'. Over weer andere programmeurs en spellen.

(365) 18 - Frogger

De gevolgen van de steeds verdergaande commercialisering, die versterkt werd doordat IBM eindelijk begreep dat er een hoop geld te verdienen viel met persoonlijke computers en in 1981 de 'PC' in de markt zette. Die had een open ontwerp en iedereen kon er dus hardware voor maken. En dat kon weer allemaal geprogrammeerd worden.

"At first, the artistic goals of the hacker coincided neatly with the marketplace, because the marketplace had no expectations, and the hackers could blithely create the games they wanted to play, and adorn business programs with the nifty features that displayed their artistry.

But as more nontechnical people bought computers, the things that impressed hackers were not as essential. While the programs themselves had to maintain a certain standard of quality, it was quite possible that the most exacting standards—those applied by a hacker who wanted to add one more feature, or wouldn’t let go of a project until it was demonstrably faster than anything else around—were probably counterproductive. What seemed more important was marketing.(...)

The Hacker Ethic, of course, held that every program should be as good as you could make it (or better), infinitely flexible, admired for its brilliance of concept and execution, and designed to extend the user’s powers. Selling computer programs like toothpaste was heresy. But it was happening."(366)

In 1982 trok Sierra On-Line als manager Dick Sutherland aan met het doel er een echt bedrijf van te maken. Daarmee veranderde de aanpak en de programmeurs waren daar meestal niet blij mee. Ze vertrokken naar andere bedrijven als Brøderbund of Electronic Arts waar ze beter konden verdienen.

(389) 19 - Applefest

"The Third Generation lived with compromises in the Hacker Ethic that would have caused the likes of Greenblatt and Gosper to recoil in horror. It all stemmed from money. The bottom line of programming was ineluctably tied to the bottom line on a publisher’s ledger sheet. Elegance, innovation, and coding pyrotechnics were much admired, but a new criterion for hacker stardom had crept into the equation: awesome sales figures. Early hackers might have regarded this as heresy: all software—all information—should be free, they’d argue, and pride should be invested in how many people use your program and how much they are impressed with it. But the Third-Generation hackers never had the sense of community of their predecessors, and early on they came to see healthy sales figures as essential to becoming winners."(389)

De competitie tussen bedrijven was groot. Bedrijven beschermden hun bezit dus steeds meer. En daarmee deed de kopieerbeveiliging zijn intrede. Piraterij was daarmee meteen een dagelijks terugkerend probleem, omdat er allerlei hackers waren die die beveiliging probeerden te omzeilen of te breken.

"To hackers, breaking copy protection was as natural as breathing. Hackers hated the fact that copy-protected disks could not be altered. You couldn’t even look at the code, admire tricks and learn from them, modify a subroutine that offended you, insert your own subroutine . . . You couldn’t keep working on a program until it was perfect. This was unconscionable. To hackers, a program was an organic entity that had a life independent from that of its author. Anyone who could contribute to the betterment of that machine-language organism should be welcome to try. If you felt that the missiles in Threshold were too slow, you should be welcome to peruse the code and go deep into the system to improve on it. Copy protection was like some authority figure telling you not to go into a safe which contains machine-language goodies... things you absolutely need to improve your programs, your life, and the world at large. Copy-protect was a fascist goon saying, 'Hands off'. As a matter of principle, if nothing else, copy-protected disks must therefore be 'broken'. Just as the MIT hackers felt compelled to compromise 'security' on the CTSS machine, or engaged in lock hacking to liberate tools. Obviously, defeating the fascist goon copy-protect was a sacred calling and would be lots of fun."(391)

[Wat er nu gebeurt is dit. De programmeurs in de bedrijven worden 'hackers' genoemd. De programmeurs die kopieerbeveiliging kraken worden 'hackers' genoemd. Daarmee betekent de term inderdaad niets meer dan: kunnen programmeren. Er is helemaal geen hackerethiek. Er zijn verschillende groepen programmeurs met verschillende waarden en normen. Dat is alles.]

(413) 20 - Wizard vs. Wizards

Dat gaat over een TV-programma waarin spelprogrammeurs elkaars spellen speelden en van elkaar probeerden te winnen.

Part Four - The last of the true hackers - Cambridge: 1983

(437) The last of the true hackers

Over Richard Stallman, die in 1970 naar het MIT kwam en in 1983 werd geïnterviewd. Hij wil graag aangeduid worden met RMS. Hij programmeerde het programma EMACS. RMS hield niet van wachtwoorden of van 'copyright notices' en commercialisering of van 'proprietary software' die niet gedeeld werd met anderen. Bij het MIT was er echter ook steeds meer sprake van dat soort zaken.

"Richard Stallman did leave MIT, but he left with a plan: to write a version of the popular proprietary computer operating system called UNIX and give it away to anyone who wanted it. Working on this GNU (which stood for 'Gnu’s Not Unix') program meant that he could 'continue to use computers without violating [his] principles.' Having seen that the Hacker Ethic could not survive in the unadulterated form in which it had formerly thrived at MIT, he realized that numerous small acts like his would keep the Ethic alive in the outside world."(450)

(455) Afterword: Ten Years After [van 1993]

Over de popularisering van het woord 'hacker' door de media, maar dan met een volkomen negatieve beeldvorming door associaties met inbraken in computers en netwerken. Door het toenemend gebruik van computers en van computernetwerken lijkt men weer wat positiever over 'hackers'te worden, aldus Levy:

"Finally, true hackers became cool. Under the rubric of 'cyberpunk', a term appropriated from the futuristic noir novels of smart new science fiction writers like William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and Rudy Rucker, a new cultural movement emerged in the early 1990s. When the flagship publication of the movement, Mondo 2000 (a name change from Reality Hackers) began to elucidate cyberpunk principles, it turned out that the majority of them originated in the Hacker Ethic. The implicit beliefs of MIT’s Tech Model Railroad Club (Information Should Be Free, Access to Computers Should Be Unlimited and Total, Mistrust Authority . . .) have been shuffled to the top of the stack.

By the time cyberpunk hit the zeitgeist, the media was ready to embrace a broader, more positive view of hacking. There were entire publications whose point of view ran parallel to hacker principles: Mondo 2000, and Wired, and loads of fanzines with names like Intertek and Boing Boing. There was an active computer trade press written by journalists who knew that their industry owed its existence to hackers. Even more significant, the concepts of hackerism were embraced by journalists at the same traditional publications whose cluelessness had tainted hackerism to begin with."(458)

"Best of all, these ideas began to flow beyond the computer industry and into the culture at large. As I learned while writing Hackers, the ideals of my subject could apply to almost any activity one pursued with passion. Burrell Smith, the designer of the Macintosh computer, said it as well as anyone in one of the sessions at the first Hacker Conference: "Hackers can do almost anything and be a hacker. You can be a hacker carpenter. It’s not necessarily high tech. I think it has to do with craftsmanship and caring about what you’re doing."  "(459)

[Waarmee de term op zo veel verschillende dingen slaat, dat je je kunt afvragen waarom hij nog gebruikt wordt.]

(463) Afterword: 2010

"When I embarked on my project, I thought of hackers as little more than an interesting subculture. But as my research progressed, I discovered their playfulness, as well as their blithe disregard of what others said couldn’t be done, led to the breakthroughs that determined how billions of people used computers. The MIT hackers helped hatch video games and word processing. The Homebrew Computer Club alchemized the hard math of Moore’s Law into something that wound up on all our desktops, in spite of the prevailing wisdom that no one would ever need or want a personal computer. And most of these hackers did it simply for the joy of pulling off an awesome trick.

Behind the inventiveness, I discovered something even more marvelous—real hackers, no matter when or where they arose, shared a set of values that turned out to be a credo for the information age. I attempted to codify this unspoken code into a series of principles I called The Hacker Ethic. I hoped that these ideas—particularly the hacker belief that “Information Should Be Free”—would make people view hackers in a different light."(464)

Voor de gelegenheid heeft Levy een aantal mensen van voorheen opnieuw geïnterviewd. Dit stuk bevat dan ook veel alinea's met verhalen over hoe het tegenwoordig gaat met ... Bill Gates bijvoorbeeld. En Richard Greenblatt.

"When Greenblatt looks at the current state of hacking, he sees a fallen world. Even the word itself has lost its meaning. When I ask him the state of hacking today, his reply is instant and heartfelt. "They stole our word," he says, "and it’s irretrievably gone."  "(471)

Veel geïnterviewden zien de teloorgang van de oude idealen door de commercialisering. De andere kant is dat mensen als Stallman juist veel bereikt hebben richting van die idealen, bijvoorbeeld met de Free Software Foundation, met GNU. Ook Linux is een voorbeeld van de aloude hackermentaliteit.

Maar de commercialisering is er ook nog steeds.

"A new generation of hackers has emerged, techies who don’t see business as an enemy but the means through which their ideas and innovations can find the broadest audience. Take Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has drawn four hundred million users to share their personal lives online."(475)

"A previous generation of hackers—and I—worried that the world of commerce would choke off innovation and stymie a burgeoning cultural movement. But hackerism has survived and thrived, a testament to its flexibility and its power."(476)

Start  ||   Glossen  ||   Weblog  ||   Boeken  ||   Denkwerk