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My experience with hackers:
Never met one 6%
I have known one 0%
I have known more than one, but less than five 6%
I have known more than five hackers 31%
I am a hacker 56%

Votes: 16

 Hackers: A Personal Perspective

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Dec 02, 2001
Much attention of late has been directed at the practice of hacking--the balance of which, I'm sorry to say, has been negative. We seem to be relying on old Hollywood-derived stereotypes of pasty-faced 15-year-olds hacking into the Pentagon, and that's not what hackers are about.

One of my best friends from college was a hacker, and I learned a great deal about the mindset of a typical hacker from observing him. I hope that my perspective can enlighten those who have never met a real-life hacker--and I additionally offer some sober advice to any hackers among us, as well.


More diaries by moriveth
What is Adequacy?
Review: Abstract Algebra, 2nd Edition
Hijackings, Anthrax, Arizona Diamondbacks
Classic Poetry--for our time
Taking the Internet to Lands Uncharted
The Ethics of Human Cloning
Tribute to Wank5est
Observations: Lord of the Rings
The Cold, Hard Facts of Geekdom
It's time to rise up, stand tall, and confess:
Adequacy is like sex
Rhyme of the Rabid Fanboy
My friend--we'll call him Eric--was not a normal student. For one, he majored in Computer Science and Mathematics rather than Business or Psychology or Biology. Now, I can almost understand Computer Science, as many otherwise sensible individuals were taken in by the Great Hi-Tech Scam of the 90's, but Mathematics was truly bizarre, adding nothing to his likely earnings potential. But that was like Eric--he didn't care what anyone else thought, he did his own thing.

While the rest of us were drinking or dating or attending university sporting events, Eric stayed far away. Yet he was not a homosexual--on the contrary, judging from his exquisite collection of hentai. Instead, Eric spent his spare time fiddling with a then-new operating system called GNU/Linux. It sure didn't do much, but he had fun getting it to, say, read a floppy disk, and that's what really counted for Eric.

All in all, despite occasionally trashing the campus network and an incident involving spamming racist emails under hacked accounts, Eric was a wonderful human being and terrific friend. Yet Eric's is a cautionary tale. Upon graduation, while the rest of us were going to Wall Street or law school, he took a job with an Internet startup.

Five years later, Eric, one of the most intelligent and capable people I've met, is without a job or a future. He is now broke, bled dry by the outrageous rents of Silicone Valley, stuck with a useless CS diploma in a world with a surfeit of programmers--and still a virgin, I gather. Never forced to develop his "people skills," Eric is still incapable of interacting with non-hackers except in the most structured of contexts. Meanwhile, I and his other college friends have moved on to successful careers in finance, management, law, and medicine.

Therefore, even as I call for tolerance of hackers, I must urge all hackers reading this entry to reassess your proud embrace of both their technical talents and social limitations. Not only for the sake of your family and friends, but for your own future. Take it from Eric--the secret to success doesn't lie in the GNU/Linux source code, nor is it found in the TCP/IP stack of a Department of Defense computer.

Get out of the basement. See the sunlight. Work out, play some sports. Develop your social skills, maybe even go on a date. Get an MBA, CPA, JD, or even a MD. But whatever you do, don't expect to make a living, as many hackers once did, as a system administrator or programmer.


Misplaced agression and FUD... (none / 0) (#1)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Dec 2nd, 2001 at 10:33:49 PM PST
That's Fear, Uncertainty, or Doubt.

You have got to be kidding me! Why do you feel that you should discourage people from majoring in Computer Science and Mathematics? Just because your friend was a "hacker" doesn't mean we should all run off and major in Business.

I'm all for people being well-rounded, and I agree that many Computer enthusiasts need to get out in the sun a bit more. However, I ask you this - do you think jobs writing computer programs are going to increase or decrease over the next 10 years? Most Computer Science majors become professional computer programmers. With the trends of electronics and computers being integrated into everything, the notion that someone should be ashamed for having interest in these things is ridiclous. And the notion that we should discourage people, especially our children, to not major in a technical field is ridiculous and immature.


Programmers are the new proletariat (none / 0) (#2)
by moriveth on Mon Dec 3rd, 2001 at 12:14:54 AM PST
Encouraged by High Tech companies eager to lower the "outrageous" wages paid to programmers, even many non-hackers moved into fields like Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, believing their job prospects to be bright.

Presently, these companies are either out of business or not hiring, and these graduates are not getting hired--not by software companies, at any rate, though the more socially skilled will move into other lines of work. And they are not likely to anytime soon. By then, even more hackers will have graduated with Computer Science degrees. And even more eager Indian immigrants will have arrived with their H1-B visas, fresh off the boat and eager to work for what freedom-loving Americans would regard as slave wages.

The truth hurts. Believe me, I wish there were some way for the Erics of the world, the brilliant but socially disfunctional, to earn a living doing something they love. But the truth is there is no future in programming--unless one is content with wages little better than that of a blue collar worker.

This is funny stuff (none / 0) (#3)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Dec 3rd, 2001 at 09:38:17 AM PST
Really it is. Your friend 'eric', just because he didn't do the same things you did in college, may not have the same 'social' retardness that you have but that doesn't mean his choice (HIS) was wrong.

If you didn't know it already, compsci and math usually go hand in hand and with the right skills (languages) and some experience he could get a job pretty much anywhere he likes. It's just a matter of looking around. The same goes for any career one might choose. Jobs in other fields are not more or less abundant than jobs in programming, they're all about the same.

Technology is the way of the future, and your friend 'eric' has learned a valuable lesson:
There is a difference in knowing the path, and walking the path.

He knows the path he wants to take, and now he must learn to walk that path. Instead of ragging on your "friend" 'eric' it would behoove you to assist him. Because next week your job might be in jeopardy, and will 'eric' rag on you because of your _poor_ choices in college?

Misplaced agression (none / 0) (#4)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Dec 3rd, 2001 at 09:44:09 AM PST
I'm sorry, but the notion that people with Computer Science degrees are less employable than someone with a Business degree is absurd.

CS Majors end up just like everyone else - in a cube farm somewhere, as a wage slave. Your major doesn't define how far you will go professionally.

To think otherwise is misdirecting your aggression towards things you obviously do not understand - namely computers and/or the internet - onto people.

It's pathetic, and speaks volumes about your character.


Interesting... (none / 0) (#5)
by JBMacer on Mon Dec 3rd, 2001 at 10:44:32 AM PST
I am currious as to why you think there are that many "Eric's" in the world. I am one of them, though I don't program in the usual C++ or Visual Basic. I am a FORTRAN and COBOL programmer, and I have been. And, I know that the company I work for still and constantly hires programmers and people from all wakes and degrees.

So, please read up before you say things, because right now the investment aspect isn't looking too hot either.

tell this to reggie (none / 0) (#6)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 03:57:31 PM PST
you should tell this to reginald whatever who wrote "Is Your Son A Computer Hacker?", what an ignorant fool/moron.


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