Hackers and Painters Book Summary - Hackers and Painters Book explained in key points

Hackers and Painters summary

Paul Graham

Big Ideas from the Computer Age

3.8 (38 ratings)
16 mins
Table of Contents

    Hackers and Painters
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    Morals are as fleeting as fashion; and nerds are unpopular because they’re unaware of both.

    What do you think fashion and morals have in common? At first glance, not much. But actually both phenomena are limited to a certain time and place.

    Obviously, fashion sense is tied to a specific time: take a look at photos from the 1990s and you’ll see how far tastes have come since then. And if you look at images from foreign places like Japan, for example, even today you may be astonished at what is currently in fashion there, too.

    It may be a surprise then to realize that morals are just as temporary and location-dependent. These moral fashions affect a whole spectrum of moral issues, including how you should treat other people and what values you cherish the most.

    An extreme example: the moral compass of many Germans during World War II was very different than from the values of citizens in modern Germany today.

    So, both clothing fashions and moral fashions are constantly changing. Can you think of any subgroup in society that is oblivious to these changes?

    Of course: nerds, or smart people who are not socially adept and so don’t try to fit in with their peers. Nerds use their time and energy to become smarter without bothering to adhere to fashionable conventions, because being fashionable isn’t a goal. This may be most apparent if someone you know wears a neon denim jacket every day for five years, but it also applies to moral fashions.

    The result is that nerds are not very likely to be popular among their peers, especially in high school. To be voted prom king or queen, a student usually has to be in tune with the current moral and clothing fashions.

    But thankfully after high school – in the real world – where being fashionable doesn’t matter much anymore, nerds seem to do just fine.

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    What is Hackers and Painters about?

    In Hackers and Painters, author Paul Graham examines the creative nature of computer programming and the programming languages that facilitate it, as well as how programmers can use their skills to potentially make a fortune.

    Best quote from Hackers and Painters

    To do good work, you need a brain that can go anywhere.

    —Paul Graham
    example alt text

    Who should read Hackers and Painters?

    • Hackers and anyone interested in computer programming
    • Entrepreneurs, CEOs and other business professionals
    • Programmers with a great idea who want to found a start-up

    About the Author

    Paul Graham is a British programmer and venture capitalist. He is the co-founder of start-up Viaweb that was sold in 1998 to Yahoo! and eventually became Yahoo! Store.

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