Hackers & Painters

We live in the computer age, a world increasingly shaped by programmers. Who are they, what motivates them, and what impact will they have on the rest of us?

That impact is ever more visible. Everything around us is becoming computerized. Your typewriter is gone, replaced by a computer. Your phone has turned into a computer. So has your camera. Soon your TV and VCR will be components in a computer network. Your car has more processing power in it than a room-sized mainframe did in 1970. Letters, encyclopedias, newspapers, and even your local store are being replaced by the Internet. What's next?

Hackers & Painters examines the world of hackers and the motivations of the people who occupy it. In clear, thoughtful prose that draws on illuminating historical examples, Graham takes readers on a fast-moving tour of what he calls "an intellectual Wild West."

Why do kids who can't master high school end up as some of the most powerful people in the world? What makes a startup succeed? Will technology create a gap between those who understand it and those who don't? Will Microsoft take over the Internet? What to do about spam?

If you want to understand what hackers are up to, this book will tell you. And if you are a hacker, you'll probably recognize in it a portrait of yourself.

O'Reilly, 2004, 272 pages, hardcover. ISBN 0596006624.

Buy at Amazon.

"A delightful ping-pong around the brain of a really smart guy. The chapter that answers the key question of our age-- why are nerds unpopular?-- is worth the price of admission alone."

- Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, Wired

"Paul Graham takes on big ideas writing with a grace, clarity and humor rare not only among his sister and brother geeks, but among the best writers anywhere."

- David Weinberger, co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto

"Paul Graham has delivered final proof that he is a marvelous essayist."

- Slashdot Review

"I want everybody I know to read "How to Make Wealth" and "Mind the Gap" (chapters 6 and 7), which brilliantly articulate the most commonly, and frustratingly, misunderstood core economic principles of everyday life."

- Evan Williams, co-creator of Blogger

"Reading Paul's essays is like having a conversation with a genius who doesn't need to score any points by proving it to you, except that most geniuses aren't as articulate as he is. You get to share Paul's sense that the Universe is a fascinating place, and his knack for looking at it from an unusual angle."

- Eric Raymond, author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar

"This book will force you to re-think your ideas about the nature of computer programming."

- Robert Morris, MIT

"Society has yet to understand the beauty and brilliance that wraps the coder. Graham's clear and engaging book does, and will teach anyone willing to listen. And if we're not to lose something important soon, we as a society should listen."

- Larry Lessig, Stanford Law School, author of Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace

"Explains how [nerds] make so much money that they get dates despite their personalities."

- Book News

"Paul Graham's Hackers & Painters is one diverse book, but it doesn't matter if you're learning why nerds get beat up in high school, or the subtleties of language design and acceptance. Paul approaches each of his subjects with an entertaining insight that will make you smile and think. Highly recommended to anyone."

- Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda, Creator/Director, Slashdot

"Paul Graham writes about the human side of the often enigmatic world of computer programming. This book will help you remember the enjoyment you got from science class when science was a romp through the mud and woods, a class like art where making a mess is accepted as part of the process. Paul is a true hacker with a broad business experience, deep technical understanding, an uncontrollably inquisitive mind, and a wonderful writing style. His no-nonsense evaluation of the software industry may irritate some pundits and therefore is well worth reading."

- Mike Smith, Harvard University

"You won't agree with everything, but you'll be challenged and fascinated throughout. Even the footnotes are worth reading."

- Barnes & Noble

"Get Paul's book Hackers & Painters. Or just read, and listen, to everything he says. This guy is real good."

- Doc Searls, Senior Editor, Linux Journal

"What Paul does, and does very well, is to take ideas and concepts that are beautiful in the abstract, and brings them down to a real world level. That's a rare talent to find in writing these days."

- Jeff "hemos" Bates, Director, OSDN; Co-evolver, Slashdot

"Written in an engaging, grab-you-by-the-lapels style, and because he's studied it, a lot of the argument is conducted via the metaphor of painting. Overall this works, because he is putting the case for craftsmanship, discipline, and originality."

- Mantex Review

"Paul Graham is a hacker, a painter, and a terrific writer. His lucid, humorous prose is brimming with contrarian insight and practical wisdom on writing great code at the intersection of art, science and commerce. He may even make you want to start programming in Lisp."

- Andy Hertzfeld, co-creator of the Macintosh

"Paul Graham, like nobody else, tells us what it means to be a hacker."

- Matthias Felleisen, Northeastern University

"Since programmers create programs out of nothing, imagination is our only limitation. Thus, in the world of programming, the hero is the one who has great vision. Paul Graham is one of our contemporary heroes. He has the ability to embrace the vision, and to express it plainly. His works are my favorites, especially the ones describing language design. He explains secrets of programming, languages, and human nature that can only be learned from the hacker experience. This book shows you his great vision, and tells you the truth about the nature of hacking."

- Yukihiro "Matz" Matsumoto, creator of Ruby

"So wonderful that its biggest problem is its title.... How to Think Like a Computer Millionaire would, I suspect, be a more popular title. It would certainly be apt."

- Aaron Swartz

"Paul Graham tells it like it is, like it was, and like it will be. I learned much from reading Hackers & Painters. This high-tech guru's essays are a joy to read in content, style, and wit. His insider view of the entire process of a startup is rivetting, and his guide on how to do it should be required for all high-tech gamblers."

- Daniel P. Friedman, Indiana University

"A wonderful book and required reading. Paul helps others understand why I chose the name 'Software Arts' for the company Dan Bricklin and I started. Those who don't understand the language of software cannot consider themselves literate."

- Bob Frankston, co-founder, Software Arts

"As an introductory programming instructor, I'm always on the lookout for inspiring works to give to students. A high schooler, college freshman, or any motivated lay person, can read Hackers & Painters and find out what, spiritually, designing and building great programs is all about. Highly recommended."

- Brian M. Dennis, Northwestern University

"The language of programmers is rich in references to art and industrial design. Paul Graham, whose training and experience spans these areas, offers an illuminating tour of this relationship in essays peppered with trenchant observation, humor, and art (some visual, some parenthetical)."

- Shriram Krishnamurthi, Brown University

"Hackers and Painters e scritto da una persona che ha incarnato lo spirito hacker fin dalla sua giovane eta."

- Neural.it Review

Table of Contents


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All Consuming

OnLAMP Interview

Slashdot Review

Knowprose Review

Gunnerson Review

Wired News Review

Mantex Review

macCompanion Review

Aaron Swartz Review