Over the past five weeks, I’ve learned countless facts and history about the hacking and open source culture of the computer world. From Steven Levy’s novel Hackers dictating the origins of hackers of the 1950s, to readings about how criminal hackers have changed our current world, I acquired knowledge of a culture that I hadn’t known too well prior to this course. Many of the topics and information I read about over the last few weeks were intriguing and thought-provoking as well.
Steven Levy’s Hackers goes into depth about the pioneers of the hacking world, as it describes how a few lucky MIT students got their hands on one of the first few computers ever built. The students of the Tech Model Railroad Club at the university were the first true computer enthusiasts, as Levy describes. From those days in the late 1950s, computer technology has advanced incredibly. In just a couple of short decades, the ginormous computers of yesteryear became small personal computers than anyone regardless of occupation and income could get their hands on. PCs such as the Apple II and the Commodore 64 took the technology industry over and created the personal computer bubble. However, many PCs like the Commodore 64 ended up biting the dust, leaving only the healthiest competition to prosper.
This was the time period when the hacker ethic was established. These were the very first guidelines created by the hacking community of the early 1980s, and the ones that paved the way for future generations of hackers. Although the hacker ethic may have became outdated and overshadowed by “criminal hackers”, it still serves its purpose today.
As someone who grew up in the 2000s, and 2010s, I knew only a broad synopsis of the hacker culture, just like an average person would know. However, taking this course gave me a deeper understanding of the original and classical hackers that originated the whole movement. Prior to this course, I had no idea that MIT students in the 1950s originated hacking. I also didn’t know that the original hackers didn’t have any criminal intent to breach into computer systems and confidential online databases. Being alive during this millennium as given me and society a false perception of these hackers and their purposes. With movies and the news skewing an evil insight into the term “hacker”, it is easy to understand why so many people think of Anonymous and Edward Snowden when they hear the word.
Additionally, I was able to get my hands on an interactive project that helped me visually and kinetically understand the original concept of the hacker culture. Their intents were to tinker around and create computer codes and programs that were innocent and harmless. With the experiment and conduction of my micro pirate radio station, I could see what these early computer enthusiasts had in mind when creating such projects. Although with my project there was a slight risk of getting into trouble with the FCC, the odds were very small that I would be caught transmitting an unlicensed station. Working on this project for the last few weeks made me realize why many hackers are so intrigued by working with code, and how such a tight-knit community can be so innovative and intelligent.
As this course comes to a close, I can definitely say I learned a remarkable amount of information in the past five weeks. What started out as a summer class to just get out of the way and raise my GPA in, became a class that gave me insightful and meaningful knowledge into a world that drives the technological forces of the globe. In this day and age, I feel like it is essential for all types of people to learn even the most basic computer code. Learning about HTML and open-source culture/coding is the way of the future, and will impact the way the world obtains and computes its information. I enjoyed this course well, and the information I learned will help me in the years to come.