More about Eric S. Raymond...
Guess which kind you usually meet at 2600 meetings, on IRC channels with
names like #hack, on news groups such as alt.2600 and alt.hacker, and mail
lists with names like DC-stuff and HH-Chat? That is not to say that every
single person you will meet there is a lamer and a poser. But few real
hackers will put up with the flames, criminal mentality and ignorance of the
majority of folks you encounter there.
Where do you meet real hackers like Raymond? You might encounter a few of
them at the annual Def Con or Hope on Planet Earth conferences. (Raymond,
however, asserts this is "not likely.") You will, however, find real hackers
by the hundreds at the Usenix conferences
(see http://www.usenix.org/events/), or by the thousands in the free
Newbie note: How can you get involved in the free software movement and get
to know the hacker demigods? For starters, try GNU. GNU stands for "Gnu's
Not UN-IX." The GNU project is an international effort that is being run by
the Free Software Foundation. See http://www.gnu.org for more information.
Are you wondering, "Gnu's Not UN-IX? Whaddaya mean?" Be warned, real hackers
have a twisted sense of humor. GNU is a recursive acronym. When the mere
thought of a recursive acronym can throw you into gales of laughter, you
will know you are turning into a real hacker.
"The free software movement?" you ask. "How come no one ever, ever talks
about coding operating system kernels or new scripting languages on
alt.2600 or dc-stuff?" Yup, you guessed it, it's because the majority of
those folks just want to f*** things up. Real hackers aspire to create
software. Not just exploit code for f***ing up computers. But to create
serious, big time software.
The free software movement is where Raymond and his friends -- folks such
as Linus Torvalds (the fellow who launched and ran the Linux project that
created the operating system most widely used by hackers) and Larry Wall
(creator of Perl, one of the top two programming languages used by hackers)
Much of the software these hacker demigods write is copylefted. A copyleft
is -- yes, you are right, a copyleft is another example of twisted hacker
humor. But basically a copyleft says you have the right to reuse copylefted
code in your own software, and even sell it, and make money on it, with
only one condition. You must make the source code to your software
available for anyone else who may wish to use it in writing their own
Want to hang out with the hacker demigods? Have you learned to program
pretty well yet? If so, you may discover a warm welcome from the GNU folks
and others in the free software movement.
How did Raymond become one of the tribal elders of the hacker world? It
all started, he remembers, in 1968 when he was only 11. "My father worked
for Sperry Univac. On days off he would take me in to play with the 1108.
It was worth about $8 million -- in 1968 dollars!" Raymond remembers it
gigantic computer housed in an air-conditioned room.
Back then it was a major feat for anyone to get their hands on a computer.
Back then they were primitive, expensive and fragile. Raymond remembers
reading the ACM journal in 1974 and dreaming about how wonderful it would
be if he could ever get his hands on that new operating system they were
creating -- Unix. While in high school he did manage to get access -- via
teletype -- to a TTY (a verrry primitive terminal) at Ursinus College
(located in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania). With that TTY he was able to use
the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System computer. But it was mostly just good for
Raymond began college as a math and philosophy major. But in 1976 he got
his hands on an account with a DEC PDP-10 -- and a connection to ARPAnet,
the early form of today's Internet. "I was seduced by the computing side."
Raymond soon switched to computer science.
While on ARPAnet, visiting a computer at MIT, Raymond discovered the
Hacker Jargon File. Raymond was hooked. He decided he would become a
hacker. A real hacker.
In 1983 Raymond printed out the jargon file, bound it as a book, titled it
"Understanding Your Hacker," and presented it to his boss. His boss loved it.
Back in 1983, few people were afraid of those who called themselves
hackers. Back then people were aware that hackers were odd and brilliant
characters. But that was before crowds of vandals and criminals started
claiming they, too, were hackers. Journalists, at a loss as to what to call
that new breed of digital gang bangers, started calling them hackers, too.
Meanwhile, Raymond came to the realization that he not only had a talent
for programming -- he could write texts really well, too. In 1987 he
updated "DEC Wars" to create the immortal "Unix Wars," which will finally
see print for the first time in Carolyn Meinel's "Happy Hacker" book
(American Eagle Publications, in press, due out in late Feb. 1998).
In 1990 Raymond decided to spend a weekend updating the Hacker
Jargon File. When Monday morning rolled around, he had quadrupled the size
of the file. He contacted the folks who maintained it, who were delighted to
let him take it over. Not long afterward, he published it as "The New
So what is Raymond doing today? "I do most of my programming in C," he
tells us, "but I still think in Lisp." He works "the odd consulting job,
technical reviews of books for publishers like O'Reilly." Adds Raymond,
laughing, "They know I know where all the bodies are buried."
Where does Raymond see the hacker culture going? "It used to be hard to
acculturate, hard to find the hacker community. But now it's expanding
tremendously, thanks to the Linux phenomenon. Linux really made a
difference. Now we have a common goal, and a universal platform for people's
software projects. Perl has had a similar effect, providing us with a
cross-platform tool kit."
Raymond sees some hope even in the fast-growing, yet incredibly
destructive "cracker" scene (crackers are people who break into computers).
"People in the cracker community play awhile, then eventually the bright
ones end up coming over to the free software culture. Many of them write
to me." Raymond says he has communicated with many people who have gone
through a digital vandal stage, only to eventually wake up and realize they
wanted to feel good about themselves by making the world a better place.
So, how many future hacker demigods are reading this Guide? Maybe quite a
few. May the Source Code be with you if you should choose to quest for
hacker fame the Raymond way!
Where are those back issues of GTMHHs and Happy Hacker Digests? Check out
the official Happy Hacker Web page at http://www.happyhacker.org.
Us Happy Hacker folks are against computer crime. We support good,
old-fashioned hacking of the kind that led to the creation of the Internet
and a new era of freedom of information. So please don't email us about any
crimes you may have committed. We won't be impressed. We might even call the
cops on you!
© 1997 Carolyn P. Meinel <">>. These Guides to
(mostly) Harmless Hacking are, in the spirit of copyleft, free for anyone to
forward, post, print out and even make into books to sell -- just so long as
you keep this info attached to this Guide so your readers know where to go
to get free GTMHHs.
in 4th edition now!