Book - Hackers & Painters

A couple of days ago, I finished reading Paul Graham’s book of essays Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age, and thoroughly enjoyed the book. I had already read a few of these essays on his website, yet I still enjoyed re-reading them. The essays are very insightful, and I plan to re-read several essays & passages periodically.

My bookmarked copy

My bookmarked copy

Here are some of the essays that I particularly enjoyed:

Hackers & Painters: What does it mean to be a hacker? A great hacker? What is common between hackers and other makers? This essay explores all these ideas, and does so very well. Probably one of my favorites (though, it is hard to pick just one favorite).

Beating the averages: Very thought provoking essay, and really resonated with me as it argues something that I too have observed. Not all high-level programming languages are equally powerful. Some languages are more powerful than others. Programming languages fall on different points on the power continuum, and moving higher on this contiuum has allowed me to think and reason about programs in more powerful ways. In liguistics, this is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis:

The principle of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects the ways in which its respective speakers conceptualize their world, i.e. their world view, or otherwise influences their cognitive processes.

The hundred-year language: Another way to think about programming languages is to think them on an evolutionary tree. In this scenario, some fall on evolutionary dead-ends, and thus do not have any intellectual descendants. Once we start thinking about programming languages using this model, it becomes easier to see how languages might evolve, and predict the future evolution of programming languages.

How to make wealth: I had not read this essay before, and had not given any serious thought to the difference betweeen money and wealth. This essay explores the differences between the two, and really sold me on the idea “Wealth is what you want, not money”. Great read & very informative.