[hackerspaces] Respect the Past, Examine the Present, Build the Future

Hellekin O. Wolf (/tmp/lab) hellekin at hackerspaces.org
Wed Aug 26 00:16:13 CEST 2009

Although I like the “waves” description of hackerspaces, I still think the
hacker history encompasses the whole history of computing, from early
prototypes of hackerspaces we can imagine as Leonardo’s Workshop in Firenze
to Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine and the later effort by John Von
Neumann, Alan Turing, George Boole, JCR Licklider, Douglas Engelbart, Robert
Taylor and Alan Kay, Ted Nelson… The whole history of the emergence of
graphical computing and the Internet is paved with the hacker spirit,
although the term only appears in the 1970s with MIT hobbyists and
soon-to-be free software advocates.

Hackerdom has roots in the Renaissance University, where knowledge was to be
transmitted for the benefit of all mankind. The main difference between
hackerdom and academics, IMO, is on the one hand the reliance on praxis, or
experimental science rather than theory, and on the other hand the deep
scientific connection of research for all: information wants to be free
kinda cyberpunk theme.

Thus hackerspaces share a long history of men and women (the first
programmer was a Lady*) seeking science and willing to share their knowledge
with the broadest possible audience. What Nick calls the Third Wave of
hackerspaces certainly share this public endeavor to make IT available to
all and spread the virus of learning and teaching and sharing knowledge and

To build upon the same train of thought, Industrialization brought and broke
communal workshops and mills, and otherwise shared production resources,
spaces and tools that existed since Renaissance. XIXth Century workshops
where one could come with bare metal and go back home with a lock and key,
were replaced by tightly controlled and organized factories where only the
boss could profit from the effort of all workers. Indeed, hackerspaces bring
back to front the idea of sharing resources to learn and make things
otherwise thought impossible to achieve for an individual.


* http://rheingold.com/texts/tft/2.html

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