Hackers, originally, didn’t mean the young kid who breaks into a computer, but the raving geniuses who built the stuff that we take for granted today. Think “Dilbert”, think über-geek.

This leads to the question: what did all these folks become, 25 years after the computer revolution began? Wired answers the question:

But it was the hackers themselves who inspired a generation of programmers, thinkers, and entrepreneurs — and not just fellow techies. Everyone who has ever used a computer has benefited. The Internet itself exists thanks to hacker ideals — its expansion was lubricated by a design that enabled free access. The word hacker entered the popular lexicon, although its meaning has changed: In the mid-’80s, following a rash of computer break-ins by teenagers with personal computers, true hackers stood by in horror as the general public began to equate the word — their word — with people who used computers not as instruments of innovation and creation but as tools of thievery and surveillance. The kind of hacker I wrote about was motivated by the desire to learn and build, not steal and destroy. On the positive side of the ledger, this friendly hacker type has also become a cultural icon — the fuzzy, genial whiz kid who wields a keyboard to get Jack Bauer out of a jam, or the brainy billionaire in a T-shirt — even if today he’s more likely to be called a geek.

In the end, some of them became rich, some became famous, some are still hacking in relative obscurity… I feel really fortunate to have seen these very early days when 8 bits and 16K of memory were considered quite respectable.


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