Extracts from The Jargon File. Additional comments (in italics) by me.
‘Hacker’ is used in the correct sense of ‘tinkering techie, coder,
geek’ rather than ‘system cracker’ though we know the guys are be
Scruffy. Intense. Abstracted. Surprisingly for a sedentary profession, more
hackers run to skinny than fat; both extremes are more common than elsewhere.
Tans are rare.
vaguely post-hippie; T-shirts, jeans, running shoes, Birkenstocks (or bare
feet). Long hair, beards, and moustaches are common. High incidence of tie-dye
and intellectual or humorous `slogan' T-shirts.
substantial minority prefers `outdoorsy' clothing -- hiking boots ("in case
a mountain should suddenly spring up in the machine room", as one famous
parody put it), khakis, lumberjack or chamois shirts, and the like.
about 1995 hacker dress styles assimilated some influence from punk, gothic, and
rave subcultures. This was relatively mild and has manifested mostly as a
tendency to wear a lot of black, especially when `dressed up' to the limit of
formality. Other markers of those subcultures such as piercings, chains, and
dyed hair remain relatively uncommon. Hackers appear to wear black more because
it goes with everything and hides dirt than because they want to look like goths.
dress for comfort, function, and minimal maintenance hassles rather than for
but usually includes lots of science and science fiction. The typical hacker
household might subscribe to "Analog", "Scientific
American", "Whole-Earth Review", and "Smithsonian"
(And TLG presumably)
hobbies are widely shared and recognized as going with the culture: science
fiction, music, medievalism (in the active form practiced by the Society for
Creative Anachronism and similar organizations), chess, go, backgammon, wargames,
and intellectual games of all kinds. (Role-playing games such as Dungeons and
Dragons used to be extremely popular among hackers but they lost a bit of their
luster as they moved into the mainstream and became heavily commercialized. More
recently, "Magic: The Gathering" has been widely popular among
hackers.) Logic puzzles. Ham radio.
Of our guys, only gamer Langly seems to have any sort of hobby outside their work. I’d love to see the guys doing SCA thought LOL!
delight in techno-toys also tends to draw them towards hobbies with nifty
complicated equipment that they can tinker with.
(Well the guys do that a lot anyway during their work)
popularity of martial arts in the hacker culture deserves special mention.
usages in hacker slang un-ironically analogize programming to kung fu.
all hackers past their teens are either college-degreed or self-educated to an
areas from which people often gravitate into hackerdom include (besides the
obvious computer science and electrical engineering) physics, mathematics,
linguistics, and philosophy.
the works of Microsoft. Smurfs, Ewoks, and other forms of offensive cuteness.
Bureaucracies. Stupid people (Hence
the particular intolerance Langly and Frohike
has for Jimmy, Byers is the exception again).
(with occasional exceptions for cartoons, movies, and good SF like "Star
Trek" classic or Babylon 5).
Spicy. Oriental, esp. Chinese and most esp. Szechuan, Hunan, and Mandarin
prefer the exotic.
Thai food has
experienced flurries of popularity. Where available, high-quality Jewish
delicatessen food is much esteemed. A visible minority of Southwestern and
Pacific Coast hackers prefers Mexican.
all-night hacks, pizza and microwaved burritos are big. Interestingly, though
the mainstream culture has tended to think of hackers as incorrigible junk-food
junkies, many have at least mildly health-foodist attitudes and are fairly
discriminating about what they eat.
liberal-moderate, except for the strong libertarian contingent which rejects
conventional left-right politics entirely. The only safe generalization is that
hackers tend to be rather anti-authoritarian; thus, both conventional
conservatism and `hard' leftism are rare. Hackers are far more likely than most
non-hackers to either (a) be aggressively apolitical or (b) entertain peculiar
or idiosyncratic political ideas and actually try to live by them day-to-day.
hackers often have poor person-to-person communication skills, they are as a
rule quite sensitive to nuances of language and very precise in their use of it.
They are often better at writing than at speaking.
most obvious common `personality' characteristics of hackers are high
intelligence, consuming curiosity, and facility with intellectual abstractions.
Also, most hackers are 'neophiles', stimulated by and appreciative of novelty
(especially intellectual novelty). Most are also relatively individualistic and
high general intelligence is common among hackers, it is not the sine qua non
one might expect. Another trait is probably even more important: the ability to
mentally absorb, retain, and reference large amounts of `meaningless' detail,
trusting to later experience to give it context and meaning.
(The guys are definitely gfood at this one)
to stereotype, hackers are not usually intellectually narrow; they tend
to be interested in any subject that can provide mental stimulation, and can
often discourse knowledgeably and even interestingly on any number of obscure
subjects -- if you can get them to talk at all, as opposed to, say, going back
to their hacking. (And, yup they
know plenty about obscure subjects)
`control freaks' in a way that has nothing to do with the usual coercive or
authoritarian connotations of the term. In the same way that children delight in
making model trains go forward and back by moving a switch, hackers love making
complicated things like computers do nifty stuff for them. But it has to be their
nifty stuff. They don't like tedium, nondeterminism, or most of the fussy,
boring, ill-defined little tasks that go with maintaining a normal existence.
Accordingly, they tend to be careful and orderly in their intellectual lives and
chaotic elsewhere. Their code will be beautiful, even if their desks are buried
in 3 feet of crap. (The
state of the warehouse would seem to support that. Though I bet they know where every last item is.)
generally only very weakly motivated by conventional rewards such as social
approval or money (And just as well in the case of the guys). They tend
to be attracted by challenges and excited by interesting toys, and to judge the
interest of work or other activities in terms of the challenges offered and the
toys they get to play with.
In terms of
Myers-Briggs and equivalent psychometric systems, hackerdom appears to
concentrate the relatively rare INTJ and INTP types; that is, introverted,
intuitive, and thinker types (as opposed to the extroverted-sensate
personalities that predominate in the mainstream culture). ENT[JP] types are
also concentrated among hackers but are in a minority.
relatively little ability to identify emotionally with other people. This may be
because hackers generally aren't much like `other people'. Unsurprisingly,
hackers also tend towards self-absorption, intellectual arrogance, and
impatience with people and tasks perceived to be wasting their time.
cynical as hackers sometimes wax about the amount of idiocy in the world, they
tend by reflex to assume that everyone is as rational, `cool', and imaginative
as they consider themselves. This bias often contributes to weakness in
communication skills. Hackers tend to be especially poor at confrontation and
As a result
of all the above traits, many hackers have difficulty maintaining stable
relationships. At worst, they can produce the classic geek: withdrawn,
relationally incompetent, sexually frustrated, and desperately unhappy when not
submerged in his or her craft.
often monumentally disorganized and sloppy about dealing with the physical
world. Bills don't get paid on time, clutter piles up to incredible heights in
homes and offices, and minor maintenance tasks get deferred indefinitely.
drive incredibly decrepit heaps and forget to wash them. (Sounds like the minibus
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