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Yeah... author should read Hackers before writing another word about history of computing, there is hardly a correct sentence in that blog post - http://www.amazon.com/Hackers-Computer-Revolution-Anniversar...



I'm not sure that there's a correct sentence in "Hackers." It got enough details wrong that I used the book as a source of stories that I needed to look into to see if there was a kernel of truth to them (plus, the editor apparently didn't know how to edit). There is enough about Lisp Machines available, though:

* http://www.gnu.org/gnu/rms-lisp.en.html

* http://ergoemacs.org/misc/Daniel_Weinreb_rebuttal_to_stallma... (mirror of a blog post by Weinreb, made shortly after Weinreb died)

* http://www.dreamsongs.com/Files/Hopl2.pdf


I'm reading this book for a class right now and, personally, haven't enjoyed it so far. It treats these people as though the MIT hacker crowd as though these people are/were gods and I think does a lot to dehumanize them. It just reads like a fluff piece that skips over technical details in favor of what feels like blind infatuation.


The writing is so bad that it distracts from the story. It once mentions that somebody had access to "the best computer in the world known to man." How many computers exist that aren't known to man? I don't blame the writer in that particular case, but the editor really should have known better.

In another case, Levy tells a story about a chess program with a bug in it. If I remember correctly, the program was in check, and moved a knight that didn't get the program out of check. In other words, it took an illegal move. Levy says the programmers were in awe of this program; wondering if it was inventing new rules to increase its enjoyment of chess. I have a hard time believing the programmers truly thought they had created a self-aware program that would modify the rules of a game to increase its own enjoyment. I'm sure they knew a bug when they saw it. Levy, on the other hand, apparently did not, or thought that his audience would overlook such a silly statement. I do blame the writer for that one, and wonder why the editor didn't flag it as well.

There are good books on computer history. And there are good books about computers from the early days (written in the early days). "Hackers" is not one of those books.


P.J. Plauger had an article once about a co-worker who coded a chess program, which had two serious flaws: he got the search algorithm wrong, so that it was very easy to beat; and he didn't program it to lose, so that it would start to add pieces back in when it was about to. Plauger wrote, If you think kids enjoyed beating it, you should have seen their glee when got it to cheat.


> How many computers exist that aren't known to man?

That's a tough question to answer. The universe is a big place, so i'm going to go with a lot.

Although, I do understand your annoyance. The original phrasing with the "in the world" is stupid.




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