Hacking Rhetoric

The Hacker Ethic post-Microsoft

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As described in the Levy reading, the hacker ethic is a meritocratic culture that emphasizes curiosity, experimentation, freedom of expression and  an open exchange of ideas. The formative effect this culture had on the field of computer science cannot be overstated, and the continuing struggle between this mode of thought and the “top-down” approach of Microsoft-esque bureaucracies is as contentious today as it has ever been. The living embodiment of the hacker ethic is the modern FOSS movement. Through the FOSS movement, such incredible creations as Linux, the Apache Webserver, BIND, and others, have been brought into the world and changed it forever. The culture and goals of the FOSS moment lie directly in conflict with the aims of Microsoft-esque monopolizing bureaucracies. The style of thought championed by Microsoft and friends can be likened to the IBM “batch” culture presented in the reading: Only the tie-wearers should be permitted to view the holy source code that runs your machine. Why should a peasant like yourself be allowed to view and understand the code that runs your systems? How do we benefit from letting the whole world audit the security and functionality of our software and provide improvements? It’s not you that owns your computer and the software running on it, it’s us. Personally, it’s obvious which culture generates superior software, but I’m not looking to convert anyone to Linux here. In this debate, you must make your own choice. Are you a Hacker, or a “User”?


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