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

Paul Graham
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)

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  • Print ISBN-10: 0596006624
  • Print ISBN-13: 978-0596006624
  • Edition: 1
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Book Description

"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.



Editorial Reviews

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.


Product Details

  • File Size: 978 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (July 14, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0026OR2NQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,908 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
123 of 130 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent essay writing on topical subjects August 8, 2004
Format:Hardcover
Paul Graham has delivered final proof that he is a marvelous essayist with his volume of fairly diverse writings, Hackers & Painters. I first came across his writing with his article, "A Plan For Spam," on using Bayesian filtering to block spam and found it a well written and informative technical article. I next came across him some time later when he wrote an essay on his web site entitled "Hackers & Painters," and once again it was well written, informative and (more importantly for an essayist) thought provoking. I was excited to hear he had published a volume of writing and pleased with the copy I received.

Literature has a long history of the essayist; since those famous theses on the church door at Wittenberg a well written and thought provoking essay on a topic has provided power and focus for important discussions. Graham has either learnt or discovered the important points in writing a good essay; brevity, quality writing and thought.

In this volume Graham covers a range of topics, though all are, understandably, centered on computers. Why nerds are unpopular at school, and what this demonstrates about our eduction system; why program in Lisp; the importance of "startups", programming languages and web development are all touched on. At the same time he covers topics less techno-centric such as heretical thinking and speech. wealth creation and unequal income distribution.

I found myself disagreeing with him often while reading the book, though every time I did I found his argument compelling. I agree with Andy Hertzfeld, quoted on the back cover of the book, "He may even make you want to start programming in Lisp." Graham is politically more conservative and right wing than me, he is also a fervent supporter of Lisp, while I'm a C and Perl advocate.
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59 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishingly good book of essays July 4, 2004
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an astonishingly good collection of essays. In lesser hands, any of the 15 essays here could have been a book by itself --- each packs more content than you can find in a typical one idea business book, or a typical one technology book for geeks. Yet his book is not dense or difficult: Graham's graceful style is a pleasure to read.
But what is it? Is it a business book, or a technical book? A bit of both actually, with a pinch of social criticism thrown in. There are essays on business --- particularly startups --- and essays on programming languages and how to combat spam, and one delightful one on the difficulty being a nerd in American public schools.
My favorite essay of the 15 --- and picking a favorite is itself a challenge --- is called "What you can't say". It is about heresy, not historical Middle Ages burned-at-the-stake heresy, but heresy today in 2004. And if you believe nothing is heretical today, that no idea today is so beyond the pale that it would provoke a purely emotional reaction to its very utterance, then read some of the other reviews. Graham's idea is not that all heresies are worth challenging publicly, or even that all heresies are wrong, but merely that there is value is being aware of what is heretical, so one can notice where the blind spots are.
Astonishingly good.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Various Sizes of Idea November 1, 2005
By David
Format:Hardcover
In "Hackers and Painters," Paul Graham presents 15 essays on topics that are variously related to computer programming. Graham has two major accomplishments to his name in the hacking world: He was one of the architects of Viaweb, an internet startup which ultimately became Yahoo Shops, and one of the first succesful hosted web applications. He was also one of the first to talk about applying Bayesian filtering to the spam problem; Bayesian filtering has arguably been the most successful technique for reducing spam in individual mailboxes.

I'd advise prospective readers of this book to skip chapters 1, 3, 6 and 7, at least until after you've read the rest of the book. These four essays are the weakest in the book, and having them clustered near the beginning almost made me put the book down and stop reading.

I'm glad I didn't stop, though. The chapters on software development are excellent; Graham provides some of the best insight I've seen into how programmers think. Programmers will find useful ideas that can be applied to their work; non-programmers may get an insight into how programmers think.

The last seven chapters are particularly well done; in these, Graham discusses the nitty-gritty details of program design, choice of programming languages, and design of programming languages. Graham is occasionally arrogant, but his arrogance here comes from experience and success; although not everyone may agree with his arguments about the superiority of LISP over every other programming language, one can at least recognize the thoroughness of the discussion and draw one's own conclusions.

The four essays I mentioned above, by contrast, are much more poorly edited.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this if you feel you're loosing the edge June 26, 2005
Format:Hardcover
I'm an experiensed software developer and to me reading this book was absolutely refreshing. It won't teach you anything in particular but it will feed your mind and curiosity great deal - just one needs after years of office work.

This book is a collection of assorted essays, each covering some more or less software-related topic, like history of arts (huh ?). Political correctness, design of things, nerds' life and simply ways of life made their way into this marvellous book.

Some author's points are controversial, while to some I couldn't agree more. The magic part is that the author's judgements are based on not just what he knows or believes, but also on what he feels for no particular reason, and this is the approach I fully appreciate. Only the best books make your mind feel free, and this is one of them.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much pontification and bombastic talk - turned me off ...
Too much pontification and bombastic talk - turned me off from the book. He needs more citations if he wants to make the claims he wants to make
Published 3 days ago by Steven I. Citron-Pousty
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book for hackers!
Published 2 months ago by Yang Weiliang
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic
Paul Graham's writing style is simple, to the point, and meaningful. He likes LISP probably more than anyone should, but other than that the principles were fantastic and... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Austen Allred
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Really good book!
Published 3 months ago by Guangning Tian
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book and a must-read for a developer a.k.a hacker or...
When I’m reading Kindle books I always highlight interesting sentences and paragraphs. I thought it would be good to have them in handy on a blog. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Azat Mardan
2.0 out of 5 stars What a waste.
Disappointing. Maybe if I was still 12 or 13 years old I would find these "big ideas" interesting. What a waste.
Published 4 months ago by R.J.
5.0 out of 5 stars great great book. must have for all entrepreneurs
excellent book. shaped a lot of really deep thinking and an appreciation for technology
Published 5 months ago by Johnson
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Didn't have a chance to read it over.
Published 5 months ago by Adam Yang
2.0 out of 5 stars Couldnt get past the beginning
As a long time open source software contributor, I really thought I'd like it. But the first chapter(s?) kept obsessing over the authors high school angst. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars new ideas + good writing = great book
H & P has one of the highest insights-per-page densities of any book I've read. Graham writes essays not to describe or sell ideas but to discover them. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Ben_Davidow
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