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Hackers by Steven Levy

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Chapter 13. Secrets

Ted Nelson’s speech was not the crazed outburst of a planner overdosing on large-scale integration. The unforgettable next two years were indeed marked by unprecedented growth in the industry that was almost unwittingly started by the hardware hackers. The hackers in Homebrew either went into business, trotted off to one of the new companies forming in the opening stages of this microcomputer boom, or kept doing what they had always been doing: hacking. The planners, those who had seen the advent of the small computer as a means of spreading hacker spirit, generally did not pause to evaluate the situation: things were moving too fast for contemplation. Left by the wayside were purists like Fred Moore, who once wrote in a treatise entitled “Put Your Trust in People, Not Money” that money was “obsolete, valueless, antilife.” Money was the means by which computer power was beginning to spread, and the hackers who ignored that fact were destined to work in (perhaps blissful) solipsism, either in tight, ARPA-funded communities or in meager collectives where the term “hand-to-mouth” was a neat analogy for a “chip-to-machine” existence.

The West Coast Computer Faire had been the resounding first step of hardware hackers making their move from Silicon Valley garages into the bedrooms and dens of America. Before the end of 1977, the other shoe dropped. Megamillion-dollar companies introduced computer-terminal combinations requiring no assembly, computers to be sold like ...

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