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Salon: The Free Software Project - Chapter 2, Part 2: Do-it-yourself giant brains!

Jun 22, 2000, 17:53 (1 Talkback[s])


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"Like many other aspiring electronics geeks in the immediate postwar era, Cramer and Fletcher's imaginations had been enticed by a book published in 1949 called "Giant Brains, or Machines That Think." Written by Edmund C. Berkeley, an expert in the then-infant field of computing, "Giant Brains" was both a primer and a manifesto."

"In 1952, Berkeley walked the walk. He built his own computer, Simon, considered by some historians to be the first "personal computer," and documented the process in a series of 13 articles for Radio Electronics magazine. Cramer and Fletcher, demonstrating a cavalier attitude towards proprietary information that would become a calling card for do-it-yourself hackers in generations to come, ripped the pages of schematics right out of copies of the magazines at their local library. (As Cramer noted shamefacedly, 50 years later, "We had no duplicators in those days!")"

"Dig under the surface of your average computer geek and you will find a person in love with the idea of having a Giant Brain of one's own to play with. ... From punch cards to Linux, hackers love to tinker and share. Even Bill Gates can't stop them. ... It doesn't matter whether the tools of their trade are piles of solenoids or copylefted compiler and debugger programs. Hackers will stop at nothing in their drive to play with their Giant Brains. If that means that along the way they'll build the Internet, unleash the personal computer industry and topple Microsoft, well, so be it: They just want to have fun."

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