Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking

By E. Gabriella Coleman | Go to book overview
Save to active project

A Tale of Two Legal Regimes

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of
wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; […] it was the season of
Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it
was the winter of despair.

—Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

In 1981, journalist Tracy Kidder published The Soul of a New Machine, which earned a Pulitzer Prize for its incisive commentary on the heightened commercial turn in computing during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The book ends pessimistically with a programmer lamenting how managers at large computer firms robbed the “soul” of computing away from their makers: “It was a different game now. Clearly, the machine no longer belonged to its makers” (Kidder 1981, 291).

In 1984, a few years after the Soul of a New Machine hit bookstores, Stallman also spoke of the soulless state of computing when he lamented the tragic end to hacking in starkly cultural terms: “I am the last survivor of a dead culture. And I don’t really belong in the world anymore. And in some ways I feel like I ought to be dead,” Stallman said (quoted in Levy 1984, 427). Just when a handful of scholars and journalists first began to document the cultural mores of this subculture (Kidder 1981; Levy 1984; Turkle 1984; Weizenbaum 1976), Stallman declared its death, blaming it on the cloistering of source code.

While Stallman and others may have accurately described some of the economic and legal conditions transforming programming and hacking in the 1980s, hacking never actually died. Contrary to Stallman’s predictions, but in part because of his actions, hacking did not simply survive; it flourished, experiencing what we might even portray as a cultural renaissance whose defining feature is the control over the hackers’ means of production: software and source code. Between Stallman’s dramatic declaration of the


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 254

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?