google.com, pub-6663105814926378, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 The Heroic Hacker Urban Legends 4289

The Heroic Hacker Urban Legends

The computer hacker is often depicted in the popular press as a socially maladjusted teenager whose goal is to wreak malicious havoc on unsuspecting computer users. In the culture of the computer programmer, however, the hacker takes on a different aspect. The true hacker admired by these insiders is raised to heroic status in tales of amazing feats of programming that are circulated through computer networks.


The best-known and most widely disseminated of these accounts is “The Story of Mel: A Real Programmer,” which began to circulate via computers in 1983. Although the author has been identified, the text is regarded as anonymous by many computer buffs, and it has several variations. Generally the story retains a sort of free-verse format, and it is always replete with highly technical jargon. “The Story of Mel” takes place at a time when “real programmers wrote in machine code,” that is, directly in the strings of ones and zeroes that form the binary language that is actually “read” by computers.

Mel’s incredible skills and defiant attitude toward “progress” amaze and inspire later generations of programmers “in this decadent era of light beer, hand calculators, and ‘user-friendly’ software.” The heroic story is alluded to in other hacker legends in which such a statement may appear as, “All I know is: Mel would have *loved* it!”

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