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Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age [Paperback]

Paul Graham
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Jun 2010

"The computer world is like an intellectual Wild West, in which you can shoot anyone you wish with your ideas, if you're willing to risk the consequences. " --from Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age, by Paul Graham

We are living in the computer age, in a world increasingly designed and engineered by computer programmers and software designers, by people who call themselves hackers. Who are these people, what motivates them, and why should you care?

Consider these facts: Everything around us is turning into computers. Your typewriter is gone, replaced by a computer. Your phone has turned into a computer. So has your camera. Soon your TV will. Your car was not only designed on computers, but 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.

Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age, by Paul Graham, explains this world and the motivations of the people who occupy it. In clear, thoughtful prose that draws on illuminating historical examples, Graham takes readers on an unflinching exploration into what he calls "an intellectual Wild West."

The ideas discussed in this book will have a powerful and lasting impact on how we think, how we work, how we develop technology, and how we live. Topics include the importance of beauty in software design, how to make wealth, heresy and free speech, the programming language renaissance, the open-source movement, digital design, internet startups, and more.

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Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age + Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days (Recipes: a Problem-Solution Ap) + The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses
Price For All Three: £34.48

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (7 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1449389554
  • ISBN-13: 978-1449389550
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 21.3 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 143,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

From the Publisher

Written in clear, narrative style, Hackers & Painters examines issues such as the rightness of web-based applications, the programming language renaissance, spam filtering, the Open Source Movement, Internet startups and more. In each essay, Graham moves beyond widely held beliefs about the way that programmers work as he tells important stories about the kinds of people behind tech innovations, revealing distinctions about their characters and their craft. No hackers reading this book will fail to recognize themselves within these pages. No programmer will put it down without new thoughts actively percolating. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Paul Graham , designer of the new Arc language, was the creator of Yahoo Store, the first web-based application. His technique for spam filtering inspired most current filters. He has a PhD in Computer Science from Harvard and studied painting at RISD and the Accademia in Florence.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very diverse - but mostly good stuff 8 Nov 2006
Paul Graham is clearly a man with opinions. This collection of essays ranges from the trials of being a nerdy teenager (absolutely brilliant) to neo-liberal politics (definitely not my thing) to how to fix spam (interesting) to the merits of various programming languages (in case you're wondering, Lisp is the greatest...)

I'd recommend any programmer to read this book. He has a very different perspective to most modern writers and that's refreshing, though I don't always agree with his conclusions. He also writes very well and it's a good read.

Unfortunately I would guess that large sections of it are off limits to non-programmers: it's hard to buy a book when you're not going to get half of it. Even the supposedly non-techie chapters tend to throw in comments about (for example) static typing here and there.

Chapter 1 is a brilliantly insightful "nerd's eye" view into how secondary school culture works and everyone should read it (particularly anyone with an interest in teenage education).
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By A. I. Mackenzie VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Paul Graham has a lot to say in this book, and he says it very clearly.
When he confines himself to start-ups and programming he makes a lot of good points. He's undoubtedly an excellent programmer and his thoughts on start-ups and lisp (mainly) are interesting and backed up by experience. His essays on why nerds re unpopular is excellent.
However on essays such as `How to make Wealth' and `Mind the Gap' he demonstrates the shallowness of his thinking. His politics are libertarian, and he repeatedly justifies the idea that inequality doesn't matter and that the rich earn their money. Both of these are debatable at best, and he makes various howlers - such as the amount of dollars the US government creates has a top limit, programmers tend to be libertarians (maybe in the US but I've ever met one in Britain) etc. He has a point when he says differences in productivity should give rise to differences in wealth but it's very hard to believe that's what's happening in the top 1% of income.
So as long as you ignore this, it's an interesting read, note also that all of these essays are free on PG's website.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Stimulating read 1 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well worth a read even after all these years especially when you think this was written pre-Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Personal Favourite! 5 Dec 2011
By Sebster
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I absolutely loved reading this book. I didn't want it to end. The insights to many aspects of IT and life were very interesting to me. This is the kind of book you shouldn't read in bed because you'll never go to sleep! Anybody interested in IT and programming should read this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant, clear writing 4 Oct 2011
An intelligent, clear, well-written book. I give it 5 stars. No question. Theres nothing boring or ivory tower about this book. I really wish more authors had his gift for clear, brilliant thinking and really good writing.
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