Silicon Valley As I Found It

(Rudy Rucker is a guestblogger. His latest novel, Hylozoic, describes a postsingular world in which everything is alive.)

This has been an exciting---and exhausting---two weeks, guestblogging for Boing. I don't see how the regular Boing bloggers get anything else done.

As a parting offering, I'd like to share some of my reminiscenses about Silicon Valley as I found it when I moved here in 1986.

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[Me in 1985, photo by David Abrams. I don't remember exactly why I drew the line on the photo...something about distinguishing between the two halves of the brain, that is, the writer side vs. the programmer side.]

A little background. Over the last year I've been working on a memoir called Nested Scrolls, and I'm hoping to find a publisher for it soon.

The memoir's title has to do with two things: (a) my favorite kinds of cellular automata rules make seething scroll-like patterns that nest together like layers of scrolls, and (b) you can think of writings as being scrolls, and to the extent that a multilevel written work refers to other works, it's a nested scroll.

What I'm posting here is Chapter 10 of Nested Scrolls, called "Hacker"---and this particular chapter is about diving into the Bay Areas scene of yore. Here's an excerpt:

In 1987 I attended an annual event called the Hackers Conference. Remember—hacker was still a good word, so these guys were Silicon Valley programmers and hardware tweakers. Some of them were even fans of my books. The fact that I’d written a science fiction novel called Software had put me on the hackers’ radar.

I brought my computer with its CA axe [that is, its hand-made cellular automata accelerator card from Systems Concepts labs], and I stayed up all night with the hackers, drinking beer, smoking pot, and admiring our weird screens. Although Hollywood often depicts hackers as nerdy, inhibited types, that’s not generally accurate. It’s more common that hackers are like hippies or acid freaks or mad scientists or car mechanics.

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And with that I'm outta here. Rock on, y'all, and, if you liked my posts, come see me at Rudy's Blog.

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  1. Heh, some of the best programmers I’ve known have been liberal stoners. Glad to have someone else make that observation. The ones who lasted the longest were the ones who learned two age old bits of philosophy, “moderation in everything” except pizza and working late, and “choose your own poison wisely.”

  2. “Although Hollywood often depicts hackers as nerdy, inhibited types, that’s not generally accurate. It’s more common that hackers are like hippies or acid freaks or mad scientists or car mechanics.”

    So true, one of my best friends is the kind of guy one might consider a hacker, and I have to say he fits pretty much your description. Glad you’re telling the truth. Nice guestblogging too, see you around.

  3. thanks for guestblogging.

    boingboing was much better with your voice.

    they should add you permanently!

    Best of the guest bloggers!

    looking forward to the new book!

  4. Fun having you, Rudy. I really enjoyed the posts about your kids. What a neat family… Good luck to all of you!

  5. Thanks for sharing your time with us, Rudy. It’s been a treat. Now to go back to your other secret life: being Elvis Costello!

    (Seriously, everybody, look at that photo again. Now picture him with a hat and scarf.)

  6. I was a hacker before there was a word for it, US Navy Electronics Warfare.

    Our mission was to “hack” anti-shipping missile guidance, as the weapon approached the ship at up to mach 3.

    Ya’ll come back Rudy.

  7. Loved reading your posts, Rudy. I’m starting Postsingular this week and I’m RSS’d to your blog. Happy trails!

  8. Although Hollywood often depicts hackers as nerdy, inhibited types, that’s not generally accurate.

    Well said; “hackers” are uninhibited types (by definition even).

    Thanks for your contributions.

  9. Thank you, Rudy!
    I’ve had a lot of fun with a lot of your articles.
    Give our love to your charming family, and we’ll look forward to seeing you again some time.
    Troof

  10. Rudy,
    I just finished reading your chapter and I can hardly wait until your memoir is published. Thoroughly fascinating and readable! Thanks for sharing yourself with the BoingBoing community!

    long time reader,
    Russ “Cupcake Faerie” Van Rooy

  11. Rudy,
    I was a “hacker”, close to Silicon Valley. I was in the game during the ’70s into the ’90s, beginning on single PCs to company national presence on the Internet. “Cracker” was our term for those on-line with harmful or malicious intent. Too bad that term didn’t catch on.

    Enjoyed your “Ware” series; cool.

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