Here are some other books you can read to help you understand the
Gödel Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
Basic Books, 1979
This book reads like an intellectual Grand Tour of hacker
preoccupations. Music, mathematical logic, programming, speculations
on the nature of intelligence, biology, and Zen are woven into a
brilliant tapestry themed on the concept of encoded self-reference.
The perfect left-brain companion to "Illuminatus".
I. "The Eye in the Pyramid"
II. "The Golden Apple"
Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson
This work of alleged fiction is an incredible berserko-surrealist
rollercoaster of world-girdling conspiracies, intelligent dolphins,
the fall of Atlantis, who really killed JFK, sex, drugs, rock'n'roll,
and the Cosmic Giggle Factor. First published in three volumes, but
there is now a one-volume trade paperback, carried by most chain
bookstores under SF. The perfect right-brain companion to
Hofstadter's "Gödel, Escher, Bach". See Eris,
Discordianism, random numbers, Church of the SubGenius.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Pocket Books, 1981
This `Monty Python in Space' spoof of SF genre traditions has been
popular among hackers ever since the original British radio show.
Read it if only to learn about Vogons (see bogon) and the
significance of the number 42 (see random numbers) -- and why the
winningest chess program of 1990 was called `Deep Thought'.
The Tao of Programming
This gentle, funny spoof of the "Tao Te Ching" contains much that is
illuminating about the hacker way of thought. "When you have learned
to snatch the error code from the trap frame, it will be time for you
Levy's book is at its best in describing the early MIT hackers at the
Model Railroad Club and the early days of the microcomputer
revolution. He never understood Unix or the networks, though, and his
enshrinement of Richard Stallman as "the last true hacker" turns out
(thankfully) to have been quite misleading. Despite being a bit dated
and containing some minor errors (many fixed in the paperback
edition), this remains a useful and stimulating book that captures the
feel of several important hacker subcultures.
The Computer Contradictionary
MIT Press, 1995
This pastiche of Ambrose Bierce's famous work is similar in format to
the Jargon File (and quotes several entries from TNHD-2) but somewhat
different in tone and intent. It is more satirical and less
anthropological, and is largely a product of the author's literate and
quirky imagination. For example, it defines `computer science' as
"a study akin to numerology and astrology, but lacking the precision
of the former and the success of the latter" and `implementation'
as "The fruitless struggle by the talented and underpaid to fulfill
promises made by the rich and ignorant"; `flowchart' becomes "to
obfuscate a problem with esoteric cartoons". Revised and expanded
from "The Devil's DP Dictionary", McGraw-Hill 1981, ISBN
0-07-034022-6; that work had some stylistic influence on TNHD-1.
The Devouring Fungus: Tales from the Computer Age
The author of this pioneering compendium knits together a great deal
of computer- and hacker-related folklore with good writing and a few
well-chosen cartoons. She has a keen eye for the human aspects of the
lore and is very good at illuminating the psychology and evolution of
hackerdom. Unfortunately, a number of small errors and awkwardnesses
suggest that she didn't have the final manuscript checked over by a
native speaker; the glossary in the back is particularly embarrassing,
and at least one classic tale (the Magic Switch story, retold here
under A Story About Magic in Appendix A is given in
incomplete and badly mangled form. Nevertheless, this book is a win
overall and can be enjoyed by hacker and non-hacker alike.
The Soul of a New Machine
Little, Brown, 1981
(paperback: Avon, 1982
This book (a 1982 Pulitzer Prize winner) documents the adventure of
the design of a new Data General computer, the MV-8000 Eagle. It is
an amazingly well-done portrait of the hacker mindset -- although
largely the hardware hacker -- done by a complete outsider. It is a
bit thin in spots, but with enough technical information to be
entertaining to the serious hacker while providing non-technical
people a view of what day-to-day life can be like -- the fun, the
excitement, the disasters. During one period, when the microcode and
logic were glitching at the nanosecond level, one of the overworked
engineers departed the company, leaving behind a note on his terminal
as his letter of resignation: "I am going to a commune in Vermont and
will deal with no unit of time shorter than a season."
Life with UNIX: a Guide for Everyone
Don Libes and Sandy Ressler
The authors of this book set out to tell you all the things about Unix
that tutorials and technical books won't. The result is gossipy,
funny, opinionated, downright weird in spots, and invaluable. Along
the way they expose you to enough of Unix's history, folklore and
humor to qualify as a first-class source for these things. Because so
much of today's hackerdom is involved with Unix, this in turn
illuminates many of its in-jokes and preoccupations.
True Names ... and Other Dangers
Baen Books, 1987
Hacker demigod Richard Stallman used to say that the title story of
this book "expresses the spirit of hacking best". Until the subject
of the next entry came out, it was hard to even nominate another
contender. The other stories in this collection are also fine work by
an author who has since won multiple Hugos and is one of today's very
best practitioners of hard SF.
Stephenson's epic, comic cyberpunk novel is deeply knowing about the
hacker psychology and its foibles in a way no other author of fiction
has ever even approached. His imagination, his grasp of the relevant
technical details, and his ability to communicate the excitement of
hacking and its results are astonishing, delightful, and (so far)
Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier
Katie Hafner & John Markoff
Simon & Schuster 1991
This book gathers narratives about the careers of three notorious
crackers into a clear-eyed but sympathetic portrait of hackerdom's
dark side. The principals are Kevin Mitnick, "Pengo" and
"Hagbard" of the Chaos Computer Club, and Robert T. Morris (see
RTM, sense 2) . Markoff and Hafner focus as much on their
psychologies and motivations as on the details of their exploits, but
don't slight the latter. The result is a balanced and fascinating
account, particularly useful when read immediately before or after
Cliff Stoll's The Cuckoo's Egg. It is especially instructive to
compare RTM, a true hacker who blundered, with the sociopathic
phone-freak Mitnick and the alienated, drug-addled crackers who made
the Chaos Club notorious. The gulf between wizard and
wannabee has seldom been made more obvious.
MIT Press 1991
Barry's book takes a critical and humorous look at the `technobabble'
of acronyms, neologisms, hyperbole, and metaphor spawned by the
computer industry. Though he discusses some of the same mechanisms of
jargon formation that occur in hackish, most of what he chronicles is
actually suit-speak -- the obfuscatory language of press releases,
marketroids, and Silicon Valley CEOs rather than the playful jargon of
hackers (most of whom wouldn't be caught dead uttering the kind of
pompous, passive-voiced word salad he deplores).
The Cuckoo's Egg
Clifford Stoll's absorbing tale of how he tracked Markus Hess and the Chaos Club cracking ring nicely illustrates the difference between `hacker' and `cracker'. Stoll's portrait of himself, his lady Martha, and his friends at Berkeley and on the Internet paints a marvelously vivid picture of how hackers and the people around them like to live and how they think.
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