In Turner’s Chapter 4 of Counterculture to Cyberculture, the author compares the invention and popularization of the personal computer to that of the goals of the 1960s and 70s counterculture. These new devices that “one could use to tear down bureaucracies and achieve individual intellectual freedom,” allowed for every person to provide themselves a space not unlike the communalist spaces created by the hippies in the Bay area. Further comparisons were made to the hippies such as “out of their body” experiences during computer games (specifically Spacewar) in comparison to the Merry Prankster Acid Tests in which people tried psychedelic drugs to “drop out” of society. This “space” would become known as “cyberspace.”
Turner goes on to explain two types of computer programmers and engineers at PARC and Resource Once: “hackers” and “planners.” “Hackers…were those who figured things out as they went and invented for pleasure…they were a mobile newfound elite, with its own apparatus, language and character, its own legends and humor.” “Planners,” on the other hand, were “those who pursued problems according to a set and less flexible strategy.” Turner states that planners were the bureaucrats, while hackers were cultural revolutionaries.
In Turner’s brief description of what the counterculture’s goals and intentions were, I assert that while the planners may have contributed to building the personal computer and Internet, the hackers were the true counterculture-ists. The definitions of the two groups alone are enough to show that the true “hippies” of computers were those that “invent for pleasure” and contribute to cultural revolution. Even more so, the “Hacker Ethic” portrays the counterculture’s values of decentralization, the mistrust of authority, freedom of access to information, and personal beauty. So while Turner may be correct in comparing the counterculture’s goals to that of the personal computer’s and Internet’s, I think that he could have gone one step further in classifying the “hacker” group of people as the true counterculture influences.
With these classifications, what might each group have been trying to accomplish? Where did their true intentions lie, and what was the ultimate separation between them? Finally, what legal regulation should now be in place, if any at all, for those that attempt to hack illegally, even in the pursuit of knowledge and information?