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Hackers by Steven Levy

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Appendix C. Afterword: 2010

“It’s funny,” says Bill Gates. “When I was young, I didn’t know any old people. When we did the microprocessor revolution, there was nobody old, nobody. They didn’t make us meet with journalists who were old people. I didn’t deal with people in their 30s. Now there’s people in their 50s and 60s. And now I’m old and I have to put up with it. It’s weird how old this industry has become. When I was young I met with you, and now I’m old, I meet with you. Jesus!”

The Microsoft cofounder and I, a couple of fifty-something codgers, are following up on the interview I conducted for Hackers with a tousle-headed Gates more than a quarter century ago. I was trying to capture what I thought was the red-hot core of the then-burgeoning computer revolution—the scarily obsessive, absurdly brainy, and endlessly inventive people known as hackers. Gates was only beginning to reap the rewards of his deal to supply his DOS operating system to IBM, which would position Microsoft to dominate PC desktops for decades. His name was not yet a household word. Word was not yet a household word. I would subsequently interview Gates many times, but that first interview was special. I saw his passion for computers as a matter of historical import. Gates found my interest in things like his “Letter to Hobbyists” as an intriguing novelty. But by then I was convinced that my project was indeed a record of a movement that would affect everybody.

My editor had urged me to be ambitious, and ...

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