Originally Published: Wednesday, 4 October 2000 Author: Tom Dominico, Jr.
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Linux: Love, Art, Hacking

Ah, the great figures of the Renaissance. People such as Michaelangelo, DaVinci, and Torvalds spring to mind. Yes, Torvalds. While you may not recall reading about him in your history classes, the fact is that people like Linus are responsible for a new Renaissance - a hacker renaissance, if you will.

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Ah, the great figures of the Renaissance. People such as Michaelangelo, DaVinci, and Torvalds spring to mind. Yes, Torvalds. While you may not recall reading about him in your history classes, the fact is that people like him are responsible for a new Renaissance - a hacker Renaissance, if you will. It is a revival of hacking as an art form, instead of a daily drudgery to be performed for some faceless company. It is the rebirth of the hacker as an artist, and it's a big part of the Linux revolution.

Hacking isn't just coding, either - it could be opening up the guts of your TiVo to find out how it works, chilling a 486 in the freezer to see how far it can be overclocked, or dissecting that annoying Furby and re-wiring it to do your evil bidding. Hacking is technical skill taken a step further, and combined with creativity. It can be as simple as the act of doing something, just to see if it can be done. At its purest sense, hacking is doing something for the love of it.

Believe it or not, there was a time when the hacker was an artist, not just a corporate cog. "An artist," you say. "I thought artists were people who painted, or acted, or sang..." Let's think about this, though. What is art? Art is about beauty, love, creativity, and perfection. Code can be beautiful. It can take on the same characteristics as fine prose. If you've ever read through artfully written code, there's something intangible and beautiful about it - the way it implements some algorithm in the least possible amount of space, or the artful way in which it flows. Artful coding requires creativity, such as when finding a new way to tackle a tough problem. It's also about the search for perfection. If you've ever sat there staring at a screenful of code, thinking to yourself, "But there must be a better way to do this," you know what I mean. That's the artist trying to break free. Why? Because you love what you're doing. You're a hacker, and you yearn to be free to express yourself.

Think back to the early days of people such as Dennis Ritchie, Larry Wall, or Steve Wozniak - Each a brilliant hacker in his chosen discipline. They exemplify the concept of hacking as an art form. No one can read through Ritchie's code, marvel at the Apple ][, or admire the functionality of Perl without acknowledging this as fact. Their work exemplifies the creativity and love for the job implied by the term "hacking."

Sadly, "creativity" and "love" are not often terms that come to mind when one thinks of working in corporate America today. When you're Employee #187686009, it's often hard to get excited about adding that new Sales Inquiry widget to your company's application. The motivation just isn't there, and hackers cease being artists. The creative spark is snuffed, and with no outlet for his or her talents, the hacker languishes. I mean, what are they going to do, go out and write their own operating system to compete with MegaSoft, a company with billions of dollars in sales?

Well, the outlet you've been searching for is here. Welcome to the Linux revolution, where's it's all about coding for the love of it. Have you ever stepped back and considered what would possess a man to begin writing a free Unix-like operating system, just so he could distribute it to the masses? That's all about love, my friend, and the desire to do something just because it can be done.

In Linux, we have witnessed a hacker renaissance on a level that has never before been seen. Linux is not just an operating system, but a community movement that wants your participation. Want to code for the sheer love of it? Fantastic, because we need you to help code. Want to just poke around in the guts of the kernel to find out how it works, and then make it do things that no one had yet imagined? Great, because the source code is freely available to anyone who wants it.

The Linux movement was built on the concept of doing things just for the love of it, and without love, there can be no art. We are witnesses to the rebirth of the hacker as an artist - a positive, creative force within society. No longer restrained by the chains of corporate society, you are free to practice the art of hacking.





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