Chapter 2-4 

Hackers, Heroes of the Computer Revolution


The best way to promote this free exchange of information is to
have an open system, something which presents no boundaries
between a hacker and a piece of information or an item of
equipment that he needs in his quest for knowledge, improvement,
and time on-line.  The last thing you need is a bureaucracy.
Bureaucracies, whether corporate, government, or university, are
flawed systems, dangerous in that they cannot accommodate the
exploratory impulse of true hackers.  Bureaucrats hide behind
arbitrary rules (as opposed to the logical algorithms by which
machines and computer programs operate):  they invoke those rules
to consolidate power, and perceive the constructive impulse of
hackers as a threat. 

The epitome of the bureaucratic world was to be found at a very
large company called International Business Machines--IBM.  The
reason its computers were batch-processed Hulking Giants was only
partially because of vacuum tube technology, The real reason was
that IBM was a clumsy, hulking company which did not understand
the hacking impulse.  If IBM had its way (so the TMRC hackers
thought), the world would be batch-processed, laid out on those
annoying little punch cards, and only the most privileged of
priests would be permitted to actually interact with the

All you had to do was look at someone in the IBM world, and note
the button-down white shirt, the neatly pinned black tie, the
hair carefully held in place, and the tray of punch cards in
hand.  You could wander into the Computation Center, where the
704, the 709, and later the 7090 were stored--the best IBM had to
offer--and see the stifling orderliness, down to the roped-off
areas beyond which non-authorized people could not venture.  And
you could compare that to the extremely informal atmosphere
around the TX-0, where grungy clothes were the norm and almost
anyone could wander in. 

Now, IBM had done and would continue to do many things to advance
computing.  By its sheer size and mighty influence, it had made
computers a permanent part of life in America.  To many people,
the words IBM and computer were virtually synonymous.  IBM's
machines were reliable workhorses, worthy of the trust that
businessmen and scientists invested in them.  This was due in
part to IBM's conservative approach: it would not make the most
technologically advanced machines, but would rely on proven
concepts and careful, aggressive marketing.  As IBM's dominance
of the computer field was established, the company became an
empire unto itself, secretive and smug. 

What really drove the hackers crazy was the attitude of the IBM
priests and sub-priests, who seemed to think that IBM had the
only "real" computers, and the rest were all trash.  You couldn't
talk to those people--they were beyond convincing.  They were
batch-processed people, and it showed not only in their
preference of machines, but in their idea about the way a
computation center, and a world, should be run.  Those people
could never understand the obvious superiority of a decentralized
system, with no one giving orders: a system where people could
follow their interests, and if along the way they discovered a
flaw in the system, they could embark on ambitious surgery.  No
need to get a requisition form.  just a need to get something

This antibureaucratic bent coincided neatly with the
personalities of many of the hackers, who since childhood had
grown accustomed to building science projects while the rest of
their classmates were banging their heads together and learning
social skills on the field of sport.  These young adults who were
once outcasts found the computer a fantastic equalizer,
experiencing a feeling, according to Peter Samson, "like you
opened the door and walked through this grand new universe . . ."
Once they passed through that door and sat behind the console of
a million-dollar computer, hackers had power.  So it was natural
to distrust any force which might try to limit the extent of that