I don’t know how consciously or not, but now that I moved to San Mateo, I found myself listening to many audiobooks about the history of computing, videogames and the Silicon Valley, from the Jobs biography to the “classic” Hackers by Steven Levy, from “Console Wars” to “Bad Blood”.
All of these I’ve been enjoying, even if some need to be taken with more of a grain of salt than others, and from most I’ve gained one or two interesting perspectives.
Hackers, in particular, struck some chords that are dear to me. Besides the history and the various personalities, most of which I didn’t really know of, one thing resonated: the hands-on, pragmatic, a-political nature of early hacking.
And no, before we keep going, I don’t mean that we should not be political in our actions, today.
We are social animals and we should care about society and politics, in fact, it would seem to me that the only reason, at least if one is to take the book at its word, why early hacking was a-political is because hackers were fairly despicable a-social people.
But, it is interesting, because one could make the case that nowadays we live in a world where ideologies trump reality, and perhaps we should understand why and take a step back.
What did hackers want? Access to computing. Computers were fascinating, mesmerizing and scarce. It wasn’t a matter of software licenses, nobody cared about pieces of paper (or locked doors even), we wanted to be able to touch and tinker with the machine.