I’ve been searching for a copy of Hackers and Painters for some time now. A free copy, mind you. I kept hoping that some generous soul would eventually upload a bootlegged ebook for me to download on Bittorrent. I feel like Paul Graham would have wanted it that way.
Well, I finally found a copy at the Santa Clara City Library.
One thing I learned is that hacking is more like painting than it is like software development. The programming done in a corporate environment requires an adherence to predefined specs. The programmer is effectively forced to color in a coloring book.
Hacking involves design. The code materializes as a rough sketch. It’s ugly and has not been fully thought out. The hacker gradually fills in contours, then details. He might deviate from the original plans. But he iterates and refines the design until it becomes something beautiful.
A painting is never finished. You just stop working on it.
It is the same with software.