Chapter 7. Life

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 lifestyle dedicated to productivity and PDP-6 passion. Art, science, and 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 ...

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