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Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age PDF, ePub eBook “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 w “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.

30 review for Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age

  1. 5 out of 5

    Einar

    I had serious problems with this book. So Paul Graham is a successful Lisp hacker who made a lot of money from his start-up. Good for him. To be sure, this earns him some credibility in discussing languages and start-ups. Unfortunately, he takes it upon himself to extrapolate from this single data point to universal laws of what makes you successful. Moreover, he seems to think that his success as a geek entrepreneur somehow lends validity to whatever unsubstantiated thoughts, feelings and preju I had serious problems with this book. So Paul Graham is a successful Lisp hacker who made a lot of money from his start-up. Good for him. To be sure, this earns him some credibility in discussing languages and start-ups. Unfortunately, he takes it upon himself to extrapolate from this single data point to universal laws of what makes you successful. Moreover, he seems to think that his success as a geek entrepreneur somehow lends validity to whatever unsubstantiated thoughts, feelings and prejudices he may cook up, including some completely ridiculous views on the general superiority of geeks over regular people. The only reason so many of his readers seem to accept these views must be that he's preaching to the choir: certainly his geek audience would dearly like them to be true. His arcane and naive notions of art and aesthetics are too embarrassing to even discuss. Oh, and the smugness is just insufferable.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cody Django

    Meh. This started out promising. While it may provide inspirational fodder for young, technological entrepreneurs, everyone else might soon find the tone obnoxious and constant extrapolation tedious. Graham is at his best when he sticks to what he knows: programming and business technology. As such, the best chapter is "programming languages explained." This chapter held the most accessible explanation on language analytic that I've ever come across, and is a pleasure to read. Other chapters, su Meh. This started out promising. While it may provide inspirational fodder for young, technological entrepreneurs, everyone else might soon find the tone obnoxious and constant extrapolation tedious. Graham is at his best when he sticks to what he knows: programming and business technology. As such, the best chapter is "programming languages explained." This chapter held the most accessible explanation on language analytic that I've ever come across, and is a pleasure to read. Other chapters, such as "how to make wealth" might be of interest to someone with little understanding of economies of wealth, but to anyone else, it pretty much comes off as an Ayn Rand diatribe. The hacker/painter metaphor wears thin pretty fast; thankfully, he doesn't return to it. Not a waste of a book, but I expected more. Great for a first year comp sci/arts minor. It's easily possible to pick and choose what you would like to read, for this book is written as a collection of essays. If your looking for something in the same vein, but far more rewarding --> "godel escher bach."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Powe

    What I expected going in was interested parallels on the process of creating software versus other creative arts, and what Graham had learned across multiple disciplines. That I can dig. What I got is a string of thinly justified essays that are lionising The Uber1337 Hacker as a misunderstood maverick agent for changing that is only being kept back by The Man. Graham is a smart man - far smarter than me, and he's written a lot more software. But the tone of the book is grating, because: a) he keep What I expected going in was interested parallels on the process of creating software versus other creative arts, and what Graham had learned across multiple disciplines. That I can dig. What I got is a string of thinly justified essays that are lionising The Uber1337 Hacker as a misunderstood maverick agent for changing that is only being kept back by The Man. Graham is a smart man - far smarter than me, and he's written a lot more software. But the tone of the book is grating, because: a) he keeps coming back to that one point again and again b) he never stoops to justifying his claims with a backing argument. In Graham's view, the hacker is the central agent of change, of creating value, and while that may be true in his experience, it's a tremendously limited viewpoint, and he comes across as remarkably arrogant towards anything outside his experience. The biggest danger in this is people with half his intelligence justifying their own worldview via his writing. I'd be a lot less annoyed with this book if Graham did himself a giant favour and didn't introduce his views on how economics interacts with society. He's obviously entitled to a viewpoint, but it's a remarkably cloistered one, and without justifying his opinion, it just comes off as another rich white guy wondering why people are griping instead of getting out there and Making Stuff (go get 'em tiger!) The essays in here on programming and what he's learned from art are interesting - I'd love to read a whole book extrapolating on these points.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Vijay

    I am a fan of PG's essays, so I was looking forward to reading this book. Unfortunately, it is just a collection of essays he has published online. If you have read the essays available on his website, you can safely skip this book. In many of the essays, PG makes statements such as "The time to code a program depends mainly on its length.." which are ridiculous. I know he is trying to appeal to a wider audience, but staying stuff like this without anything to back it up is ridiculous. Some of hi I am a fan of PG's essays, so I was looking forward to reading this book. Unfortunately, it is just a collection of essays he has published online. If you have read the essays available on his website, you can safely skip this book. In many of the essays, PG makes statements such as "The time to code a program depends mainly on its length.." which are ridiculous. I know he is trying to appeal to a wider audience, but staying stuff like this without anything to back it up is ridiculous. Some of his arguments go like this: 1. Controversial statement 2. Because of #1, controversial statement #2 3. Because of #3, our conclusion! Viola!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Max Nova

    Full review and highlights at https://books.max-nova.com/hackers-and-painters/ I was looking at my highlights for Paul Graham's "Hackers and Painters" and it seems like I basically highlighted the entire book. It's that good. At its core, this is a book about how changes in technology (particularly computer tech) has changed economic and social realities... and the new breed of tech-savvy doers that these technological shifts have brought to the forefront of our society. Graham begins at the beginn Full review and highlights at https://books.max-nova.com/hackers-and-painters/ I was looking at my highlights for Paul Graham's "Hackers and Painters" and it seems like I basically highlighted the entire book. It's that good. At its core, this is a book about how changes in technology (particularly computer tech) has changed economic and social realities... and the new breed of tech-savvy doers that these technological shifts have brought to the forefront of our society. Graham begins at the beginning of the alpha-nerd's journey - middle school. He launches a withering salvo of criticism at the current educational system - a system which he fashions more of a prison than a temple of learning. He's a sharp critic of what he proclaims "the emptiness of school life" and he points out that "Misrule breeds rebellion" (in reference to troubled schools). Graham also contends that the total lack of real purpose in schools is the root of the crazy teenage drama that goes on in middle schools and high schools around the country. He moves on to discussing the role of "makers" in society - from the eponymous hackers to painters. He makes a great observation - which is that while both of these professions involve creating things, painting has a far longer tradition of training and educating its practitioners. Graham notes that almost all great programmers are self-taught, but the lack of a good training regimen for programmers means that society misses out on a lot of potentially great hackers. Graham touches on the often subversive, counter-authority, and contrarian culture of hackers - noting, "Whatever the reason, there seems a clear correlation between intelligence and willingness to consider shocking ideas." He goes on a bit of a (justified) rant against political correctness and moral fashions - noting that, "when people are bad at open mindedness, they don't know it. In fact they tend to think the opposite. Remember, it's the nature of fashion to be invisible. It wouldn't work otherwise" He also emphasizes how goddam patriotic it is to be a hacker: "There is such a thing as American-ness. There's nothing like living abroad to teach you that. And if you want to know whether something will nurture or squash this quality, it would be hard to find a better focus group than hackers, because they come closest of any group I know to embodying it." He pulls in a great Jefferson quote too: "When you read what the founding fathers had to say for themselves, they sound more like hackers. "The spirit of resistance to government," Jefferson wrote, "is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it always to be kept alive." Imagine an American president saying that today. Like the remarks of an outspoken old grandmother, the sayings of the the founding fathers have embarrassed generations of their less confident successors. They remind us where we come from. They remind us that it is the people who break rules that are the source of America's wealth and power." In the next section of the book, Graham discusses the nature of writing code itself. He emphasizes the design and complexity of software - "designing web-based software is like designing a city rather than a building: as well as buildings you need roads, street signs, utilities, police and fire departments, and plans for both growth and various kinds of disasters." He notes that, "with the rise of industrialization there are fewer and fewer craftsmen. One of the biggest remaining groups is computer programmers" Graham's next topic is on wealth creation - and why startups are so good at it. He claims that "I think every one who gets rich by their own efforts will be found to be in a situation with measurement and leverage. Everyone I can think of does: CEOs, movie stars, hedge fund managers, professional athletes. A good hint to the presence of leverage is the possibility of failure." He also puts forth some pretty bold historical analysis: "Understanding this may help to answer an important question: why Europe grew so powerful. Was it something about the geography of Europe? Was it that Europeans are somehow racially superior? Was it their religion? The answer (or at least the proximate cause) may be that the Europeans rode on the crest of a powerful new idea: allowing those who made a lot of money to keep it." He pulls out a few great examples of technology fundamentally reshaping society, noting "But it was not till the Industrial Revolution that wealth creation definitively replaced corruption as the best way to get rich. In England, at least, corruption only became unfashionable (and in fact only started to be called "corruption") when there started to be other, faster ways to get rich... Technology had made it possible to create wealth faster than you could steal it. The prototypical rich man of the nineteenth century was not a courtier but an industrialist." In regards to the increasing income gap, Graham says, "Will technology increase the gap between rich and poor? It will certainly increase the gap between the productive and the unproductive. That's the whole point of technology... Technology should increase the gap in income, but it seems to decrease other gaps. A hundred years ago, the rich led a different kind of life from ordinary people. They lived in houses full of servants, wore elaborately uncomfortable clothes, and travelled about in carriages drawn by teams of horses which themselves required their own houses and servants. Now, thanks to technology, the rich live more like the average person." A great money quote from Graham is, "It's absolute poverty you want to avoid, not relative poverty. If, as the evidence so far implies, you have to have one or the other in your society, take relative poverty. You need rich people in your society not so much because in spending their money they create jobs, but because of what they have to do to get rich. I'm not talking about the trickle-down effect here. I'm not saying that if you let Henry Ford get rich, he'll hire you as a waiter at his next party. I'm saying that he'll make you a tractor to replace your horse." The rest of the book is a rant on programming languages and a lot of love for the esoteric Lisp programming language. Probably not of general interest. Overall though, this book really blew me away. Everything he says seems obvious in retrospect, but that's because he's a genius. The way he approaches this immense topic is totally unique among all the stuff I've read and Graham certainly has the credentials to back it up. Required reading for citizens of the 21st century.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Viet Nguyen

    A collection of essays from Paul Graham, a programmer who strongly advocates LISP programming. This book provides deep insights into nerd's life, hacker, entrepreneurship, and, which I enjoy the most, programming language. Paul showed why LISP is "the most powerful programming language" by comparing it with many other programming language: C, Java, Perl, Python, Ruby. 4 star only because the info is somehow out of date. Here is my quick notes: Chap 1. Reading about nerds in school made something A collection of essays from Paul Graham, a programmer who strongly advocates LISP programming. This book provides deep insights into nerd's life, hacker, entrepreneurship, and, which I enjoy the most, programming language. Paul showed why LISP is "the most powerful programming language" by comparing it with many other programming language: C, Java, Perl, Python, Ruby. 4 star only because the info is somehow out of date. Here is my quick notes: Chap 1. Reading about nerds in school made something inside me resonate. Chap 2. Hackers and Painters - Hacking and Painting have a lot in common. - "Computer Science" is not a good term - mathematicians - people in between - hackers - Universities and research labs force hackers to be scientists, and companies force them to be engineers - One way to build great software is to start your own startup. but 2 problems: have to do so much besides write software, 2) not much overlap between the kind of software that makes money and the kind that's interesting to write. ex: hacking programming languages doesn't pay as well as figuring out how to connect some company's legacy database to their web server. --> Solution: day jobs. you have one kind of work you do for money, and another for love. - hackers learn to hack by doing - hackers start original, and get good, and scientists start good, and get original - hackers can learn to program by looking at good programs - not just what they do, but at the source code. - hackers should have empathy for users, readers. Chap 3. What you can't say Chap 4. Good Bad Attitude Chap 5. The Other Road Ahead Chap 6. How to make Wealth Chap 10. Programming Language Explained Chap 11. The Hundred-year Language Chap 12. Beating the Averages Chap 13. Revenge of the Nerds - All languages are not equivalent - Java, Perl, Python, Ruby - Lisp - an effort to define a more convenient alternative to the Turing machine - John McCarthy - 9 ideas of Lisp: + Conditionals + A function type + Recursion + Dynamic typing + Garbage-collection + Programs composed of expressions + A symbol type + A notation for code using trees of symbols and constants. + The whole language there all the time. Chap 14. The Dream Language - succintness is one place where statically typed language lose. Chap 15. Design and Research

  7. 4 out of 5

    Saad El

    This book is a collection of essays by Paul Graham(co-founder of Y Combinator), the essays are written in a really good style, the book is inspirational and thought provoking. It provide lots of insights on programming, startups, entrepreneurship, nerds, etc. The essays on programming languages are very interesting, Paul Graham clearly knows what he's talking about especially that he is co-creating a new Lisp dialect called Arc. But I didn't like it when he arguments on why Lisp is the most powe This book is a collection of essays by Paul Graham(co-founder of Y Combinator), the essays are written in a really good style, the book is inspirational and thought provoking. It provide lots of insights on programming, startups, entrepreneurship, nerds, etc. The essays on programming languages are very interesting, Paul Graham clearly knows what he's talking about especially that he is co-creating a new Lisp dialect called Arc. But I didn't like it when he arguments on why Lisp is the most powerful programming language every now and then, it is probably because the essays weren't written with the idea of compiling them afterwards in a book, so you find that a lot of ideas are repeated throughout the book. The essays that I like the most were the ones where he recounts how he started Viaweb with Robert Morris before it got bought by Yahoo! a few years later, the story of Viaweb is such an inspiration.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shane

    The hackers and painters link is tenuous at best, and I didn't find much of the stuff in here revolutionary, but it was published in 2004 and I tend to agree with most of it. It seems to be mostly geared toward inspiring nerds to make more conscious decisions in the career, be it starting a business or otherwise even if it does claim to be aimed at anyone interested in learning about software and software systems. All that said, Graham is a decent writer. He adopts an authoritative tone which pe The hackers and painters link is tenuous at best, and I didn't find much of the stuff in here revolutionary, but it was published in 2004 and I tend to agree with most of it. It seems to be mostly geared toward inspiring nerds to make more conscious decisions in the career, be it starting a business or otherwise even if it does claim to be aimed at anyone interested in learning about software and software systems. All that said, Graham is a decent writer. He adopts an authoritative tone which people might find annoying, but when it comes down to it these are opinion pieces and it's tough to expect otherwise.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    A fun-to-read mix of insight and ideology, Graham is someone we can learn from no matter which side of the box he's thinking on. His essay on nerds ("Why Nerds are Unpopular") is still a favorite, even while his essay on disparity of wealth ("Mind the Gap") is among the most unreflective apologies for anarcho-capitalism I've ever read. I was, at least, inspired enough while reading Graham to put a few more thoughts together; those interested can find them here.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Vignesh

    Starting from random opinionated views on how the world works, to interesting correlations about art and science ending with a strong evangelism on the programming language lisp, Paul forces us to put our thinking cap on.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ekaterina Kiseki

    Haven't finished the book. The man may be very good at his job, but he sucks at writing. The book looks like a compilation of cheap motivation posts with catchy titles. However it may amuse those who are completely unrelated to IT.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anusha Narasimhan

    A collection of essays that are thought provoking and insightful. Oh, and he makes nerds look super cool, so a big thumbs up from me. I recommend it to programmers and people interested in computer science.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ilya Ivanov

    Great book, not only for developers. You don't need to agree with all Paul's points (I certainly didn't) in order to appreciate courage and creativity of authors ideas.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Tran

    The articles on technology were decent (not great), but it was hard not to facepalm every couple of pages on his articles about social commentary.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ross Siegel

    Self indulgent, self-congratulatory, vague concepts expounding on platitudes & trivialities. Paul Graham is a badass, no doubt, but this book can be skipped.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Muriel

    All ideas are great. One about school struck me -- the school system was mostly used as an elaborate baby sitting system. Children do not have to inherently wait until age 18 to learn about calculus. Teenagers have been productive (even prolific) in production and creation, from apprentice to creative activities such as hacking, when they are unshackled from the school system's dictated pace. This idea shook me from the illusion people placed on doing well in school - which is set at learning pac All ideas are great. One about school struck me -- the school system was mostly used as an elaborate baby sitting system. Children do not have to inherently wait until age 18 to learn about calculus. Teenagers have been productive (even prolific) in production and creation, from apprentice to creative activities such as hacking, when they are unshackled from the school system's dictated pace. This idea shook me from the illusion people placed on doing well in school - which is set at learning paces for perhaps an imaginary medium learner but would not work for all. Instead of providing children opportunities to learn at their own paces, school is increasing becoming a rat race. Excel at the race and you are still a rat -- did not learn about your self, and did not create/produce original things. Regret not spending more time to focus on math, and being distracted by other subjects that school dictates. Required memorization about useless historic tidbit that certain event happened in certain year. Would not want this repeated for children and the future generations. Let everyone free to create/produce, learning by doing. If anyone is thinking about the socializing aspect of school - this could easily be incorporated into alternative create/produce group environment.

  17. 5 out of 5

    SWAROOP CHOUGULE

    Paul Graham is computer scientist, entrepreneur and a venture capitalist. He is famously known for his work on LISP, his former startup Viaweb, and co-founding the influential startup accelerator Y Combinator. In Hackers and Painters, what starts as a very general book with essays like Why nerds are unpopular?, Hackers & Painters, What you can't say, Good Bad attitude etc; turns highly technical towards the end. He advocates why LISP is a better language for programming softwares, what is th Paul Graham is computer scientist, entrepreneur and a venture capitalist. He is famously known for his work on LISP, his former startup Viaweb, and co-founding the influential startup accelerator Y Combinator. In Hackers and Painters, what starts as a very general book with essays like Why nerds are unpopular?, Hackers & Painters, What you can't say, Good Bad attitude etc; turns highly technical towards the end. He advocates why LISP is a better language for programming softwares, what is the right environment, blend of hardware and software etc. Favorite Quote from this one: "A painting is never finished. You just stop working on it."

  18. 4 out of 5

    Luboš

    A must read book for every developer. I love overlaps to other domains. As a non-native speaker, I have learnt a couple of new interesting words. At first sight, it does not look technical at all, but it does indeed. Very good insight to history of programming but also to the future. It contains several refrains such as Lisp, languages vary in power, ViaWeb, startup, renaissance and painting. It glues essays nice together.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Pedro Delfino

    One of the best books I have read. I wish I had read this book when I was 14 yrs old. Paul Graham is the favorite philosopher in the hacker community.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I read several of Paul Graham's essays years ago (Probably one of my favorites is still: Cities and Ambition), bought this book, and have been meaning to get to it for years. Well, I finally did. I still like Paul Graham's essays. It is exciting to read about how successful startups came to be. Some of the technical issues he talks about may be a bit dated now, but even when he seems to be talking about something specific and technical, he's really talking about bigger-picture issues, so I think I read several of Paul Graham's essays years ago (Probably one of my favorites is still: Cities and Ambition), bought this book, and have been meaning to get to it for years. Well, I finally did. I still like Paul Graham's essays. It is exciting to read about how successful startups came to be. Some of the technical issues he talks about may be a bit dated now, but even when he seems to be talking about something specific and technical, he's really talking about bigger-picture issues, so I think his ideas have staying power. However, I have cooled a bit to being impressed by his early successes. They are still great, but... he was lucky, too. All success is to some extent dependent on luck, and the successful are often the last to notice this. They are also the least likely to pay much attention to the real details of how "the other half" lives. I think, throughout his essays, Paul Graham's privilege shows. But maybe not to him? Interesting rebuttal: A response to Paul Graham's "How to Make Wealth"

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Karmel

    I really enjoy Paul Graham's writings. I think that everything in this book may be available on Graham's blog, but it's still worth checking out. The book is really a series of essays in disguise but frankly that makes it much better than many drawn out books that would have been better as essay. Graham writes in a direct manner that is very engaging. I recommend the following essay in particular: 3) What You Can't Say - In this essay Graham defines a procedure for identifying beliefs that you sh I really enjoy Paul Graham's writings. I think that everything in this book may be available on Graham's blog, but it's still worth checking out. The book is really a series of essays in disguise but frankly that makes it much better than many drawn out books that would have been better as essay. Graham writes in a direct manner that is very engaging. I recommend the following essay in particular: 3) What You Can't Say - In this essay Graham defines a procedure for identifying beliefs that you should probably questions. We don't often take the time to examine beliefs where the mere act of questioning them seems like it might have negative, but Graham makes a compelling case that it would be advantageous to do so. 6,7) How To Make Wealth/Mind the Gap - I put these together because they cover many of the same issues, about the generation of wealth in society. I think that parts of these essay should be required reading for who talk about inequality in outcome without considering the amazing differences of productivity of different people and how wealth is generated in the first place. These arguments are readily available elsewhere, various books of Friedman's come to mind, but Graham updates them in a clean and simple way for modern audiences. 12) There are a number of essays about programming languages. Not surprisingly Graham, (who wrote 2 books on LISP), is not shy about identify which languages are better and why. This one stands out to me for two connected reasons. Graham introduces an idea which he refers to as the Blurb paradox, the programmers understand the usefulness of powerful features in the language the program in but cannot understand why anyone would need to power available from languages that have even more powerful features. The reason is that once you get used tot thinking in a certain language you don't think about what you might make if you have more powerful features available to you. This seemed like a really interesting and insightful point. The other reason this idea stands out to me is that I felt it very much a few days later as I went to try out some programming challenges on projecteulter.com. I had been learning about closure in javascript and tried out a few challenges in javascript before moving back to python which I was much more familiar with. An hour later when trying to perform a reduce over a collection of objects, I realized I wanted to power of closure again. I moved back to javascript, and I can say with certainty that of 20 or so solutions I implemented most would not have occurred to me without having closure. If I had been doing it in Java I can't even imagine. There are several places in the books where Graham over-reaches, and I think his models of the world are often simplistic. However, they are simplistic in the best way, they simplistic models that illustrate aspects of the world that people don't spend enough time thinking about. I highly recommend this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ankush Chander

    I wish I picked this book in my first year undergrad(or any other book then for that matter :P). Glad to be reading it now nevertheless.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rajat Khanduja

    Paul Graham has some very interesting ideas on hacking. The perspective that draws a parallel between hackers and all creators makes a hacker feel great about himself/herself. Graham is open-minded. Moreover, his strength in inductive thinking cannot be ignored when he extends our disapproval of some prevalent ideas of the past to infer that the ideas that are ubiquitous today might also appear idiosyncratic in the future. Another similar idea is the parallel drawn between religion and programmi Paul Graham has some very interesting ideas on hacking. The perspective that draws a parallel between hackers and all creators makes a hacker feel great about himself/herself. Graham is open-minded. Moreover, his strength in inductive thinking cannot be ignored when he extends our disapproval of some prevalent ideas of the past to infer that the ideas that are ubiquitous today might also appear idiosyncratic in the future. Another similar idea is the parallel drawn between religion and programming languages used by programmers. However, he too sounds a little orthodox when he, quite repeatedly, concludes that Lisp is the most powerful among the languages. One, however, cannot ignore the various reasons he provides to support his claim with the most powerful being the fact that most languages are adopting features that have been in Lisp for a very long time. Paul Graham's understanding about the technical world leads him to make prescient statements like "(view spoiler)[ If Apple were to grow the iPod into a cell phone with a web browser, Microsoft would be in big trouble. (hide spoiler)] "

  24. 4 out of 5

    Du Nguyen

    Hackers and painters is a book written by Paul Graham who ran a startup in the 1990's which was later sold to Yahoo. He is now running Y Combinator. Hackers and painters is a book which reads like a collection of random essays. The first few chapters is about the start of computing and about childhood while later chapters are about both starting a startup and socioeconomic policies. The last chapters are about programming languages where he strongly argues for lisp. Anyone so have read one of his Hackers and painters is a book written by Paul Graham who ran a startup in the 1990's which was later sold to Yahoo. He is now running Y Combinator. Hackers and painters is a book which reads like a collection of random essays. The first few chapters is about the start of computing and about childhood while later chapters are about both starting a startup and socioeconomic policies. The last chapters are about programming languages where he strongly argues for lisp. Anyone so have read one of his essays know how well articulate Graham can be and the this book is no exception. The chapters themselves are really well written even though he sometimes argues unconvincingly. In the end I did not feel that this book was anything else than a collection of essays and while some are interesting, it does not save the entire book. A stronger focus and some narrative between the chapters would improve this book immensely.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alan Konyer

    I started with a bias to like this book, because programming was my passion in university in 1976 and I often wonder if I had stayed on that path, could my career path (and bank account) been richer for it? I don't have enough programming experience to comment on the various computer language comparison opinions, which other reviewers seem to value. I did think the author's insights into adolescent and high-school socialization and the reasons why small software start-ups can often run circles ar I started with a bias to like this book, because programming was my passion in university in 1976 and I often wonder if I had stayed on that path, could my career path (and bank account) been richer for it? I don't have enough programming experience to comment on the various computer language comparison opinions, which other reviewers seem to value. I did think the author's insights into adolescent and high-school socialization and the reasons why small software start-ups can often run circles around projects spawned by corporate behemoths made a lot of sense. I agree with others that Graham tends to extrapolate his personal experience and viewpoint rather wildly without corroborating evidence or caveats with respect to his unique lens. This is the reason I am only awarding 3 stars. Overall, I am finding the book to be a pleasant and inspiring read, one that I think many young programmers would find inspirational, if a little dated.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nachi Vpn

    Great read! Brimming with lots of valuable philosophical insights for hackers and startup people. I liked how he frequently looks back in time to understand humans, the evolution of problems and how they have been solved. PG makes a lot of great observations and talks about a lot of things - nerds, wealth, hacking, painting, history, people, religion etc. I especially enjoyed the prose on good design and the dream programming language. A good amount of content in the book concentrates on program Great read! Brimming with lots of valuable philosophical insights for hackers and startup people. I liked how he frequently looks back in time to understand humans, the evolution of problems and how they have been solved. PG makes a lot of great observations and talks about a lot of things - nerds, wealth, hacking, painting, history, people, religion etc. I especially enjoyed the prose on good design and the dream programming language. A good amount of content in the book concentrates on programming languages. I think most of these ideas can be applied to software in general. The author might be a bit hard on advocates of statically typed programming languages. Although, there are some great take away ideas in this book about programming languages (a bit biased maybe, but reasonable within the discussed context). In short, this book is a delight for open minded hackers and not so much for people who use words like "Software Engineering" and "Waterfall model".

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stefanie

    Paul Graham is an early web innovator (creating the first online store company, ViaWeb, which was later sold to Yahoo!) He clearly foresees technology trends (the iPhone and Cloud Computing) and is righteously opinionated - something important for creative, entrepreneurial people as he writes in one of the book's earliest essays. PG is a libertarian and sees the world through those lenses (it happens to be a lens I share to some degree, so it was a refreshing read.) If you dislike libertarian tho Paul Graham is an early web innovator (creating the first online store company, ViaWeb, which was later sold to Yahoo!) He clearly foresees technology trends (the iPhone and Cloud Computing) and is righteously opinionated - something important for creative, entrepreneurial people as he writes in one of the book's earliest essays. PG is a libertarian and sees the world through those lenses (it happens to be a lens I share to some degree, so it was a refreshing read.) If you dislike libertarian thought the book can be a challenge as that flavor permeates nearly every essay. I am scientist but not a computer programmer (I last programmed in both Basic and IDLE in the 80s.) PG's explanations of programming languages and the strength of LISP in particular were illuminating and enjoyable. It's inspired me to take a programming class at a local university this summer.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Heinen

    Easily THE most insightful book I have ever read. Paul Graham hits the nail on the head in every chapter. He does so by speaking from experience, his small 3 man startup was bought out by Yahoo! and then quickly went downhill as most things that are bought out by Yahoo! do... One of the best phrases from the book is talking about the concept of a 'job'. "Someone graduating from college thinks, and is told, they need to get a job, as if the more important thing were becoming yet another member of Easily THE most insightful book I have ever read. Paul Graham hits the nail on the head in every chapter. He does so by speaking from experience, his small 3 man startup was bought out by Yahoo! and then quickly went downhill as most things that are bought out by Yahoo! do... One of the best phrases from the book is talking about the concept of a 'job'. "Someone graduating from college thinks, and is told, they need to get a job, as if the more important thing were becoming yet another member of an institution. What you really need to do, is to start doing what people want. You don't need to join a company to do that. All a company is is a group of people working together to do something people want. It's doing something people want that matters, not joining the group." Use you software, all the time. If you don't love it, how can anyone else?

  29. 4 out of 5

    Himanshu

    The book is a compilation of essays published originally on Paul Graham's website. He is a vocal advocate of lisp and the book is filled with opinionated support for his favorite language revolving around anecdotes from his startup days. Apart from that he presents a few other essays on subjects like how to create wealth and write spam filters. The overarching theme of the book is that hacking revolves not around programming languages and other technicalities but the individual or the hacker who The book is a compilation of essays published originally on Paul Graham's website. He is a vocal advocate of lisp and the book is filled with opinionated support for his favorite language revolving around anecdotes from his startup days. Apart from that he presents a few other essays on subjects like how to create wealth and write spam filters. The overarching theme of the book is that hacking revolves not around programming languages and other technicalities but the individual or the hacker who is responsible for making these choices. This book is an enjoyable read and would make a good gift to the aspiring hacker. I would rate it 3.5 stars but since Goodreads does not have that I will give it a three!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sergey Teplyakov

    This is a good book based on popular essays written by Paul in the beginning of 2000th. Book is fun to read and it covers various topics, starting from challenges of being nerd to thought experiment of designing programming language for the future. One particular interesting aspect is related to Paul's thoughts on something that is known today as dev-ops. Basically, he did something like that at late 90th that predates this technique for more than a decade. I can't say that I've found too many insi This is a good book based on popular essays written by Paul in the beginning of 2000th. Book is fun to read and it covers various topics, starting from challenges of being nerd to thought experiment of designing programming language for the future. One particular interesting aspect is related to Paul's thoughts on something that is known today as dev-ops. Basically, he did something like that at late 90th that predates this technique for more than a decade. I can't say that I've found too many insights, but book is definitely worth it's time.

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