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Hackers by Steven Levy

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Chapter 18. Frogger

As 1982 progressed and the second anniversary of his company rolled around, Ken Williams was beginning to lose patience with John Harris and with young hackers in general. He no longer had the time or the inclination to give hours of technical assistance to his hackers. He began to regard the questions his programmers would ask him (How can I put this on the screen without flicker? How can I scroll objects horizontally? How do I get rid of this bug?) as distractions from what was becoming his main activity: hacking On-Line Systems as it grew in logarithmic leaps and bounds. Until now, when a programmer would call Ken and frantically howl that he was stuck in some subroutine, Ken would go over, cry with him, and fiddle with the program, doing whatever it took to make his hacker happy. Those days were ending.

Ken did not see the shift in attitude as making his company any less idealistic. He still believed that On-Line was changing lives through the computer, both the lives of its workers and the lives of its customers. It was the beginning of a computer millennium. But Ken Williams was not sure that the hacker would be the central figure in this golden age. Especially a hacker like John Harris.

The split between Ken Williams and John Harris symbolized something occurring all over the home computer software industry. At first, the artistic goals of the hacker coincided neatly with the marketplace, because the marketplace had no expectations, and the hackers could ...

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