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Hackers by Steven Levy

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Chapter 2. The Hacker Ethic

Something new was coalescing around the TX-0: a new way of life with a philosophy, an ethic, and a dream.

There was no one moment when it started to dawn on the TX-0 hackers that by devoting their technical abilities to computing with a devotion rarely seen outside of monasteries, they were the vanguard of a daring symbiosis between man and machine. With a fervor like that of young hot-rodders fixated on souping up engines, they came to take their almost unique surroundings for granted. Even as the elements of a culture were forming, as legends began to accrue, as their mastery of programming started to surpass any previous recorded levels of skill, the dozen or so hackers were reluctant to acknowledge that their tiny society, on intimate terms with the TX-0, had been slowly and implicitly piecing together a body of concepts, beliefs, and mores.

The precepts of this revolutionary Hacker Ethic were not so much debated and discussed as silently agreed upon. No manifestos were issued. No missionaries tried to gather converts. The computer did the converting, and those who seemed to follow the Hacker Ethic most faithfully were people like Samson, Saunders, and Kotok, whose lives before MIT seemed to be mere preludes to that moment when they fulfilled themselves behind the console of the TX-0. Later there would come hackers who took the implicit Ethic even more seriously than the TX-0 hackers did, hackers like the legendary Greenblatt or Gosper, though it would ...

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