Hackers, revisited

In the recent Wired Magazine article, writer Steven Levy has an interesting revisit to a book that I once just loved, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, which sought to document and profile those folks who sought to revolutionize the personal computer, mostly with the ideals that technology could eventually be put into the hands of many. In Wired, Levy tries to reconnect with some of the people he profiled in his book, including Steve Wozniak and Bill Gates.

It should be noted that Levy’s use of the word Hackers does not donate someone seeking to crack into a computer or software for malicious intent; Instead, a Hacker defined by Levy is someone who understands the underlying structure of a computer or network, and seeks to improve it or re-imagine it through skills and imagination.

What is striking is how Levy also shows how many of the ideals of that earlier generation have splintered into a couple of directions. Gates urged early on that his work be compensated (which caused an uproar in the technology community at the time) so that he could use the money to hire more engineers and make better products. Others, such as Lee Felsenstein, still held the line that technology should be adapted and used by as many people, and with as few hurdles as possible, which comes into conflict with the for-profit model.

For me, I was never nor will I ever be a Hacker, per se. I don’t have those skills. But when I was creating my webcomic, Boolean Squared, I used some of the ideas behind Levy’s profiles to inform the motivation and personalities of my two central characters — Boolean and Urth. These kids love to dive into the computer and make it work for them, not the other way around, and they are not afraid to yank the cover off anything. I wanted that adventuresome spirit from the beginning days of computer programming to come through with my characters.

Today, Levy notes, we have the continued development of the Open Source Movement — as shown by such companies as Mozilla and the various Linux offshoots — along with ad-driven companies such as Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook. Levy suggest that Zuckerman and his kin are the indirect offspring of those early days of hacking, although Zuckerman notes that he is less interested in the underlying “code” than the overall use of technology to connect people together as a social fabric. And my guess it that more than a few of the original hackers would be mortified by that association.

Check out the article on Wired.

Peace (in the wired world),

Boolean Squared: Get a job, kid!

During our last tumultuous here in Massachusetts (ie, Republican Scott Brown), our phone was overwhelmed with robo-calls. Every hour, it seemed, we were getting some recorded voice, touting the candidate. It got so bad that we didn’t even want to pick up the phone. My students were complaining about the robo-calls at their homes. It was nonsense.

Which makes it a good topic for my comic strip, as Boolean decides to enlist his cyborg, Cylene, in some daytime robo-calling to earn some extra scratch to buy a Saxophone Hero (hey, if guitarists and DJs can have their own Wii game, why not us saxophonists?).

Peace (in the calls),

Boolean Squared: Urth Inside

As I was developing this Boolean Squared story about the boys pulling a prank on Mr. Teach with his GPS unit, I realized that it might be fun to have Urth (who is inside the GPS) encounter a grumpy TomTom. And I figured TomTom could talk like Bob Dole, in the third person.

Peace (in the device),

Boolean Squared: Mr. Teach Declines

This is the last installment of my Children of the Screen sequence of comics for Boolean Squared. I thought it would be cool to add an Avatar reference to the strip today (you know, my characters are all over that) and how 3D movie making is not quite there yet.

Peace (in 3D),

Boolean Squared: Teachers as test subject

Here is another in this series of Children of the Screen comics with Boolean Squared. I thought it would be funny to have the boys use something they learned from Mr. Teach (the Scientific Method) for their project in creating a holographic e-reader. Mr. Teach doesn’t find it quite so funny.

Peace (in the method),

Boolean Squared: Labeling the Kids

This is the second in a series of new Boolean Squared comics about Screen Literacy and kids, which follows an article by Kevin Kelly that I read and blogged about the other day. Here, I was thinking how adults (particularly those in the media) always want to tag each cohort of kids with some label.

Peace (in the name),