Eric Raymond on “how to become a hacker”

Eric S. Raymond, taken on 3-June-2005 at FISL ...
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I am about to stick a citation for Eric S. Raymond‘s The Art of Unix Programming into my MSc. project report.

I don’t think the book is a particularly good one, much of it is at the level of mumbo-jumbo to be frank, but it does make a few telling points about the Unix style of development: points which did influence me in the way I wrote software for the first part of the project.

But on the way there I also picked up my copy of his The Cathedral & the Bazaar and took a quick flick through it – it must be the best part of nine years since I actually read it.

The essay “How to become a hacker” suggests that the book might have been better called “The Cathedral of the Bizarre” instead (I have shortened the quote below a bit but I am not misquoting):

“There are some things you can do when you are not at a computer… many hackers do them, and feel they connect in some basic way with the essence of hacking …

I have got to say it … these look like a guide to become a typically poorly socialised male science or computing student, not how to be a hacker – what about, read up on mathematics, set theory and computability? Study natural languages? Understand how an operating system works (I have been genuinely surprised on my MSc course as to how poorly many good programmers actually understood how an OS worked) or get a better understanding of electronics?

Given that earlier he writes “attitude is no substitute for competence”, maybe he should have taken his own words to heart?

Yes, yes, I know having a pop at ESR is like shooting fish in a barrel, but still, it is rubbish.


One comment

  1. Thanks for the Art of Unix Programming Recommendation I will have to check it out. Computer science normally does convert young males into young males behind a computer desk at all hours of the day and night.

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