Saturday, September 20, 2003

Pursuing the 17th-Century Origins of the Hacker's Grail

Pursuing the 17th-Century Origins of the Hacker's Grail "The hacker's dream is also Mr. Stephenson's novelistic terrain, and it has helped make him a cult figure among the digerati. In his 1992 cyberpunk novel, "Snow Crash," Mr. Stephenson imagined an ancient Sumerian "virus" composed of sound and image that, once resurrected, could disrupt not just computers, but also the workings of the human brain. Ideas of code and encryption were at the core of his best-selling 1999 book, "Cryptonomicon," which playfully leaped between World War II code breaking and contemporary code making.
Now, in "Quicksilver," (William Morrow) the first volume of a projected three-volume, 3,000-page historical epic — which is already among the top 30 best-selling books on even though it is still unavailable — Mr. Stephenson is seeking the origins of the hacker grail, the moments when the world first seemed an incarnation of number and information. In a narrative as crammed with detail as Waterhouse's stacks of cards, Mr. Stephenson's characters romp through the late 17th and early 18th centuries."

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