Book Review: Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy

by Khalid Hosein on June 22, 2010

Hackers by Steven Levy - book coverSteven Levy’s seminal historical and story-told book, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, has just received a 25th anniversary birthday present – a facelift and updates that include Facebook’s Mark Zukerberg, Bill Gates, Richard Stallman and the Woz, Steve Wozniak and a new publisher in O’Reilly Media.

If you consider yourself a computer geek, hacker, enthusiast, a wanna-be or just interested, then you absolutely need to read Hackers. It tells the story of how the original set of ‘hackers’ started off in various places such as MIT’s basements, garages, and bedrooms and evolved (sometimes) into companies, big and small that changed the way the world looked at and interacted with computers.

Kicking off in the late 50s, Hackers works its way through the 60s, 70s and into the early 80s (it was first published in 1984). Later editions, including this 2010 one, added shorter updates to cover time periods after ’84. Levy actually interviewed many of the individuals mentioned in the book.

And if you’ve ever wondered about the origin of the word ‘hacker’ or more importantly what it really means to the people who wear the moniker as a badge of honor, Hackers explains via way of storytelling. It also gives you great insight into what the ‘hacker ethic’ is all about and how passionate some of its adherents have been (and still are in some cases).

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Hackers reads like a story chock-filled with fascinating details, especially tales of hacking history. It’s entertaining and if you have even a bit of interest, you’ll find it hard to put down. It’s even worthy of a re-reading, which is why I highly recommend you buy your own copy. O’Reilly has done a nice job of repackaging the book – it has way more heft to it, better binding and page quality than my original paperback version.

Steven also wrote up a long article for Wired magazine that summarizes and discusses this latest edition. Wikipedia also has a nice summary of the book.

You can pick up Hackers on Amazon for under $15, (UK: £15).

(Disclaimer: Gizmos for Geeks received a complimentary review copy of this product.)