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Hackers by Steven Levy

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Appendix A. The Last of the True Hackers

Around the time of Ken Williams’ housewarming party, twenty-five years after the MIT Tech Model Railroad Club discovered the TX-0, a man who called himself the last true hacker sat in a room on the ninth floor of Tech Square—a room cluttered with printouts, manuals, a bedroll, and a blinking computer terminal connected to a direct descendant of the PDP-6, a DEC-20 computer. His name was Richard Stallman, and he spoke in a tense, high-pitched voice that did not attempt to veil the emotion with which he described, in his words, “the rape of the artificial intelligence lab.” He was thirty years old. His pale complexion and scraggly dark hair contrasted vividly with the intense luminescence of his deep green eyes. The eyes moistened as he described the decay of the Hacker Ethic at Tech Square.

Richard Stallman had come to MIT twelve years before, in 1971, and had experienced the epiphany that others had enjoyed when they discovered that pure hacker paradise, the Tech Square monastery where one lived to hack, and hacked to live. Stallman had been entranced with computers since high school. At camp one summer, he had amused himself with computer manuals borrowed from his counselors. In his native Manhattan, he found a computing center to exercise his new passion. By the time he entered Harvard he was an expert at assembly languages, operating systems, and text editors. He had also found that he had a deep affinity for the Hacker Ethic and was militant ...

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