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Is the Seeking of Lost Skills/Arts a Hacking Analog? 814

bigattichouse asks: "Having just finished my first batch of home-brew beer, I've been thinking about my attraction to 'lost arts', and collecting books on 'how to do stuff'. Some I try, some I just read: metalsmithing, sewing, baking bread, making soap, knot tying, brewing beer, woodcarving, yogurt and cheese.. there are so many skills 'lost' in the modern 'american' lifestyle... but I find my fellows tend to have books on these subjects lying around, too. Is this common in geekdom? Is this an expression of 'hacking' outside of machinery/engineering?"
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Is the Seeking of Lost Skills/Arts a Hacking Analog?

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  • SCA! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ignorant Aardvark ( 632408 ) * <> on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:33PM (#6019704) Homepage Journal
    I think this guy's right. If you really want to see a bunch of nerds going crazy with esoteric endeavors, look no further than the Society for Creative Anachronism []. They're pretty much the only people left in the world who make battle-quality chain mail, scale mail, and plate mail in the medieval style.
    • Re:SCA! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:38PM (#6019744)
      We are on watch lists with the FBI because of that also. They consider us a "paramilitary" training group even though the tactics we teach are not necessarily useful against modern weapons. It is a lot of fun though!
      Stephan Von Ardenwald
      Pirateship Beltis
      • Re:SCA! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Urban legend alert.....The SCA was on a watch list in the 70's but was dropped when it was realized that it was not real combat training.

        Although given the recent tenor of the Administration, it might be back on the list.
      • Re:SCA! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by BrokenHalo ( 565198 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @09:24PM (#6020473)
        It is a lot of fun though!

        I spent some ten years working as a blacksmith, and believe me, it's a lot more fun making those swords than fighting with them.

        And yes, a blacksmith can, too, be a geek. Just check out some of the literature and mailing lists on archaeometallurgy. There are much too many to list here, but Google will find some of them.

    • Re:SCA! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Xerithane ( 13482 ) <`gro.mrafdren' `ta' `enahtirex'> on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:58PM (#6019896) Homepage Journal
      They're pretty much the only people left in the world who make battle-quality chain mail, scale mail, and plate mail in the medieval style.

      Not to rain on the SCA parade, but the skills that these guys use isn't what we're talking about.

      Metalsmithing, perhaps. Making "battle ready" chain mail is nothing more than time consuming, and I seriously doubt that any of them (I know of a few, one who makes most the mail in the area) actually know how to make the rings. They know how to put them together quickly.

      Their swords are nothing in comparison to traditional Toledo steel (exclude The Factory, for those in the know.) or Japanese steel. It's really half-assed, industrialized-support endeavors. I've seen SCA steel, and it really isn't anything special.

      The last thing that I want given the unlikely circumstance of needing to know how to do things like make soap, distil water, survive without modern devices, is SCA members running around.

      I think the purpose of this ask Slashdot is not about people running around pretending their in a medieval bubble that is roughly supported by industrialization, but to just learn how worldly things work.
      • Re:SCA! (Score:5, Funny)

        by squidfood ( 149212 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @08:07PM (#6019957)
        ...things like make soap...

        That's not the first skill I'd associate with the SCA.

        • Re:SCA! (Score:3, Funny)

          by crow ( 16139 )
          Actually, we have some wonderful hand-made soap that a friend of ours in the SCA made. My wife bartered some caligraphy for it, along with some home-brewed mead.

          Of course, what you'll find in the SCA depends on where you are. When you have smaller groups, they tend to focus on fewer things (generally fighting). In areas like Boston, there are people doing all sorts of things.
        • Re:SCA! (Score:3, Interesting)

          ...things like make soap...

          That's not the first skill I'd associate with the SCA.

          Lotsa skills, including soapmaking, were exhibited at our recent A&S exhibit. At the risk of being slashdotted, []
          here's some pictures.

          Nobody is contending that digital photography nor simple HTML is a period skill...

          Oh, and as respects the CAR15 fanatic? 1000 rounds would not be enough at our Pennsic War. Maybe 4000 would be. Who said a sca fighter ONLY played with medieval toys, though?

          SCA: the largest pr

        • >> ..things like make soap...

          > That's not the first skill I'd associate with the > SCA.

          That's because you have to issue make clean as well:

          localhost$ make soap; make clean;

      • Re:SCA! (Score:3, Informative)

        by Mooncaller ( 669824 )
        You dont know a lot about the SCA, or at least what is was like 20 years ago. When I was in it you could find vinter, tailors, weavers, cooks, paper makers, glasiers, thatchers, bleachers, coopers, wheelwrights, leather workers, and yes even soap makers. Many of these could tell you the whole history of their art. I liked the SCA because I have a keen interest in the history of technolog. For me, history is all about how people lived and the tools they used. This is why I keep up with advances in the unders
      • Re:SCA! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @10:39PM (#6020876)
        I don't know who you know in the SCA, but the group I used to run around with in San Diego was nothing like that.

        The first thing you had to be able to do to be considered a "real" member was learn how to sew. Then, you had to learn some woodworking skills. Third you had to learn to cook. This was because everyone was expected to help out around camp and generally keep things going. We were very much about being self sufficient, but self sufficient within the level of being able to pick up tools and raw materials at Home Depot.

        We had a few projects we were well known for. We did things such as build a bridge, portable showers (heated, I might add), and our own trailers.

        No one I know in the SCA pretends that we're doing everything on our own. I joined the SCA because I wanted to learn how things work. In the process I learned how a lathe works (at the take it apart, put it together level), and machine tools in general. I learned how to judge a piece of wood and do some basic woodworking. I learned how to cold shape metal, how to cook, how to sew, and how to make and build a large number of small, simple devices. I learned the basics of brewing beer, making soap, and making cloth.

        Most of all I learned to appreciate the modern world and that it makes it so easy to do all those things.

        As far as steel goes, I never heard anyone in the SCA talk about making it, but I have that covered too. I'm working on a PhD in Materials Physics. (I agree with you on the chain mail thing... I don't see why anyone would WANT to do that)
    • Re:SCA! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Metasquares ( 555685 ) <> on Thursday May 22, 2003 @08:03PM (#6019940) Homepage
      That question is not whether the skills need to be used or not... it's whether the skills being used are like hacking (in the original sense of the word) in some way. I'd say that they are - it's a bunch of people tinkering with things most people don't really care too much about in order to see how they work and have some fun at the same time.
    • Chain mail (Score:5, Funny)

      by GQuon ( 643387 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @08:20PM (#6020052) Journal
      They're pretty much the only people left in the world who make battle-quality chain mail, scale mail, and plate mail in the medieval style.

      Hm, I wonder how medieval style chain mail would look like?

      "Hear ye! Hear ye!
      This chain letter was started by our saviour Jesus Christ the day he died for our sins. And you will be forever damned if you don't follow it's instructions, as it is the words of the Good Lord.

      You will all get rich because of your faithful devotion. You will earn one thousand shilling in just one year. Send one shilling to each of the people on the list. Then strike the name at the top of this list and your own name to the bottom of it. Then send copies of this letter to dozen of your friends and relatives, as Jesus had a dozen apostles.
      If you cannot aford the parchment, or at least a herald, you will just have to go read this message to them yourself. If you cannot read, just learn this letter by heart.
      You must do this within half a dozen moons, and keep the holy chain running, unless you want yourself and your house to be forever damned."

      And yes, I do know that we are really talking about body armor.
  • by captain_craptacular ( 580116 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:34PM (#6019706)
    Thats why their geeks. The thirst for knowledge need not be contained in any one discipline. I know I personally hop from new hobby to new hobby and become bored with things once I feel I have enough skill.
    • by maxpublic ( 450413 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:43PM (#6019787) Homepage
      I thought geeks did these sorts of things because they couldn't get laid....

    • by Tirs ( 195467 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:47PM (#6019824) Homepage
      Well, I moved from a downtown appartment to a countryhouse a couple of years ago, and I began to feel the urge to start doing things like this: beer homebrewing, fruits and vegetables preserving, bread baking, furniture repairing/building, even some basic masonry. Then one day I was sitting by the fireplace (wood cut by myself), smoking a pipe (my own mix of tobacco), and meditating about my life, and this question came to my mind: Why?

      After giving some thought to the issue, I think that the answer is quite simple: for the same reason why I go to FreshMeat to get the source code of the programs I use. I could download the binaries, but I don't; I prefer to go through the pain of ./configuring, making and make-installing, to say the least. In other words: I want to control the process of creation as much as possible. The same spirit of OpenSource which animates most geeks is present in each and every aspect of their lives, not only in computing.

      Self-made-making and Open Source are all about the same: to keep control of our own lives.

      • You nailed it. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PotatoHead ( 12771 ) <doug.opengeek@org> on Thursday May 22, 2003 @10:13PM (#6020720) Homepage Journal
        I do these things because I want to be in control. There is nothing worse than a stupid situation that you *know* you could get out of with some basic skill...

        This is one of the greatest attractions OSS currently holds for me. I know that anything I learn to do with OSS tools, I will continue to be able to do for a long time without getting permission, paying fees, or dealing with silly restrictions that only benefit companies who have enough already.

        On a personal level it makes sense as well. Taking the heat for something you are not directly responsible for sucks.

        Anyone willing to stick their neck out in order to champion some proprietary software is just gambling with their career. You think they really care?

        They don't, it is just about revenue and nothing more. If your problem is shared by many you can be safe in the knowing it will be addressed. You can even look like you are on the ball while advocating your marginal 'standard' in the box thinking. The real truth is you are more lucky if you stick with the crowd.

        This attitude promotes strong in the box thinking combined with a healthy and well refined finger pointing and blame shifing skills. Innovation? forget it. Competitive advantage comes down to how hard you can make your people work and how big of a ball buster you have for a purchasing agent. Boy, that sure makes me want to come to work early... (cough)

        I once worked in a shop where one of my job duties was to make sure that what I made was correct and within stated tolerances. This shop had a quality assurance department to help make sure this was true, but it was expected that you had tools, knowledge of the machine and the ability to read and understand the specifications because the quality people sometimes made mistakes too.

        Well, one batch of rather large and expensive parts was found to be defective one day. It was right after I had complted my stage of the work.

        I was found to be at fault for not making sure the guy before me did his job right. I was pissed at first, but thought about it and it made some good sense. Afterall I had the information and tools to evaluate the work done before --why not?

        I made damn sure afterword to have the skill and information needed to evaluate both my own work and those before me just to make sure I had the ability to deal with what I was responsible for.

        So take this ethic in the context of systems being sold and used today. It's scary.

        On one hand you have to trust the software is designed well and does what it says because you cannot actually see the work of others before you --even if you have the skill.

        On the other, the company that pays your way wants you to be held accountable for what those same systems do. You did ok the purchase right?

        The creator of the software takes almost all of your rights through the legal wrapper that comes with the package while you take the heat and have to deal with the issues.

        So you can evaluate basically nothing, must pay blood money for fixes and updates out of your control and take the heat for the fuckups of one of the most cash rich companies around?

        At least with Open Source you can examine what you are getting. You can learn how it works and why it does so. You can implement how you see fit and act in a responsible manner.

        I was called the fool for hosing up so many parts. I was asked why I worked so hard at doing the right job on parts that were wrong.

        Today when I see all the win32 problems I shake my head and wonder at the foolishness of it all. Who in their right mind would actually step up and take that kind of responsibility understanding that they are more or less powerless to act on it?

        I guess ignorance is really an excuse in IT. Can't find any other reason for it.

        Franky, the whole mess makes me sick.

        So, back to the skills. I like knowing that I can go into the woods and make fire, shelter weapons do just fine. Sometimes th
      • by refactored ( 260886 ) <(cyent) (at) (> on Thursday May 22, 2003 @11:20PM (#6021080) Homepage Journal
        Reasoning too fancy.

        Baking bread just plain smells nice. Yum!

    • by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) <> on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:51PM (#6019856) Homepage Journal
      Nail on the head. I have taken classes on carving stone, playing the Native American flute, and piano. I also dabble in water colors, writing, and am a licensed pilot. Next on the list is learning gardening and making a compost pile. After that I am leaning towards glass blowing and making my own hot sauce.

      My theory is that geeks have more imagination than the average bear. They look at lines of programming but see not only the code, but also the manipulation of the screen. If you think about it, all a computer really is is a device for changing pixel colors on a screen. Geeks see how the pixels ought to look.

      Its that same imagination that makes reading so popular within the geek community. They "see" what the words convey. That's also why SciFi and fantasy is so popular as well. Every piece of fiction written involves a choice by the author. For something like 90% of them, they choose to set their story in either the world we know or the world we knew. The remander toy with the setting. It is that, I think, which so appeals to the geeks. The boudries are no longer boudries.

      The point of all this, then, is that geeks like to use their imaginations. What better way to do that than to try a variety of different hobbies each of which provides a different sort of stimulous and memory? In so doing it also allows the imagination to be that much more real when it comes to dealing with any of the skill sets involved in the hobby.

    • An addendum: many of these 'old' techniques are knowable. You can understand most of brewing science. You can learn and master welding. How many people can master the intricacies of a modern, fuel-injected automobile?

      I used to laugh at people who complained about fuel-injected motorcycles with ABS. I've got one, but I've spent the past two evenings scouring eBay looking for parts to get my carburetted, 20 year old monster running as well.

      (There's also the fact that when the big EMPs start going off, the g
  • Soap? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:35PM (#6019715)
    making soap
    Tyler Durden? Is that you?
    • Re:Soap? (Score:5, Informative)

      by linuxwrangler ( 582055 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:44PM (#6019798)
      You know, the Simple Object Access Protocol?

      Seriously, I remember helping my dad (an electrical engineer) making a batch of soap. Of course this involved many side tracks like measuring the temperature changes when the lye was added to the water and testing various ways to improve the purity of the fat.

      In 5th grade a bunch of my class visited to learn how soap was made.

      My dad stopped when he realized that he had enough to last the rest of his life (it is quite hard unlike store-bought and each bar lasts quite a while).

      He still delivers a bag when he visits so it's the soap I still use as well.
      • Re:Soap? (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2003 @08:32PM (#6020126)
        GF: Mmm, honey, I love the way the back of your neck smells.. what kind of soap do you use??

        you: Purified animal fat mixed with lye. I get it from the butcher, he collects it for me over the course of a month or so.

        GF: Please go far away.
  • Wellll (Score:5, Funny)

    by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:36PM (#6019717)
    "Having just finished my first batch of home-brew beer, I've been thinking about my attraction to 'lost arts'

    Drinking a skinful of beer will put these thoughts in your head. I usually solve all the worlds problems after a few. Can never seem to remember the solutions the next day though
  • Absolutely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ReconRich ( 64368 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:36PM (#6019718) Homepage
    I've been hacking over 30 years. I also brew beer, distill whisky, hunt, grow food, etc. These are definitely all the same expression: to know how things work.

    -- Rich
    • Re:Absolutely (Score:3, Interesting)

      by GC ( 19160 )

      I've been hacking over 30 years. I also brew beer, distill whisky, hunt, grow food, etc. These are definitely all the same expression: to know how things work.

      Strange.. I have no such aspirations in other fields. I just like to work on systems and make them do cool stuff.

      • Re:Absolutely (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jayed_99 ( 267003 )
        Strange.. I have no such aspirations in other fields. I just like to work on systems and make them do cool stuff.

        Ahhh. But what do you define as a system? I, personally, am interested in almost all complex systems -- be it beer-making, groups of people, a person, cooking, computers, agriculture, languages, what-have-you.

        I define a complex system as a system with behaviors that I will never be able to 100% accurately predict for any random period of time.

        The more control I can exert over J. Random Co

    • Re:Absolutely (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ctar ( 211926 )
      I boil this down to the same exact thing...For some reason, I just want to know how things work! For me, this includes making my own beer, sake (now that I'm in Japan), bread, black and white photographs, computer and computer programs...Hmmm. Now that I think about it, it is just as much about self-reliance, and independence. This would cover a deep-seated desire to make my own food, energy, and even recycle my own shit. [] (I actually bought the dead-tree version of this book, and coincidentally was just rea
    • Re:Absolutely (Score:5, Interesting)

      by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @08:47PM (#6020204) Journal

      grow food, etc

      That's interesting. This is the first year that I've found the time to grow vegetables. I've got corn, pumpkins, and the one "conformist" crop that you must have where I live: tomatoes.

      I never thought of this small garden as a "geek" endevour, but I must admint, because this is my first attempt to grow more than just "decorative" corn, I went online and found out all kinds of stuff about it.

      A big part of the appeal for me in gardening is not to waste land, and not to get ripped off by people. The mentality that leads me to go the extra mile and grow pumpkins so I don't have to pay some ridiculous price in the Fall is a kin to the mentality that makes people edit arcane config files in Linux so they don't have to pay Bill Gates. Also, I think growing food on your land is somehow quintessentially American... OK, that's less of a geek thing, and more of a pride thing. Remember when pennies had the wheat on them, and America took pride in agriculture? OK... too much semiotics... at any rate, I've come to appreciate farmers. Don't let people tell you farmers are stupid. If they do, ask them about crop rotation and soil pH... put them in their place.

  • k5 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by anderiv ( 176875 )
    Just read k5 [].

    They seem to have it figured out...
  • by IO ERROR ( 128968 ) <error.ioerror@us> on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:37PM (#6019730) Homepage Journal
    We're all preparing for Y2038.
  • for e.g. a google query might look something like this:
    "how to fix a flat tire"
    I dont need to buy books for this.
  • by KDan ( 90353 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:39PM (#6019751) Homepage
    Hacking is just like being the One. No one can tell you you're hacking, you just do it.

  • How About.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:39PM (#6019754)
    Slashdot staff taking some time out to seek the lost art of a decent Slashdot article?
  • by mikerbob ( 107717 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:39PM (#6019756)
    Engineers love to tinker, find out how it all works, rip it apart and put it back together. Whether it's mechanical, chemical, or physical we want to understand. The only expression of the Renaissance Man left...
  • Definitely! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moryath ( 553296 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:40PM (#6019757)
    Isn't it obvious? Hacking is an expression of our inner need. And the inner need we are expressing is for Knowledge, pure and simple. The people who hack, today, are the people who would have been working on their cars 30 years ago. :)
    • Re:Definitely! (Score:3, Insightful)

      The people who hack, today, are the people who would have been working on their cars 30 years ago.

      So why is it that so many of the people I know who "hack" today can't change a sparkplug without electrocuting themselves? They can set up a home wireless Debian network routing first-run DIVX flicks through their toaster ovens on any given Wednesday and still have time for 'Enterprise' but are paralyzed if their car engine doesn't turn over on a cold morning.

      Are the people who "hack" today going to be as r
      • Re:Definitely! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anitra ( 99093 )
        "Hacking" your own car has gotten considerably more complicated in the past 30 years. Nowadays, you need special tools to do much other than changing your oil, tires, and spark plugs. My highschool Auto Tech class did most of our work on cars (or at least car parts) from the 70s and early 80s. I think we had carburators from the 60s. Our teacher would have loved to teach us about newer stuff, but it's all computer-regulated; it's harder to understand the underlying concepts.

        (Speaking of geeking on "how thi
  • I have a batch of Irish Ale in the carboy right now. A couple of nights ago I built my own force carbonator, pet bottles, some brass fittings and
    a bicycle emergency CO2 inflator. Now sure I could have went out and bought the stuff to force carbonate my beer, but what kind of hack value is in that. True hackers hack everything not just code. Now back to my java project....
  • hacking life style (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ( 664381 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:40PM (#6019760) Homepage
    Yes I would consider that part of the hacking life style . Trying to understand everything around you , maybe even doing it your self is part of the "life style" . Most hackers I know (traditional use) are very keen with not only computers and electronics , but chemistry (read explosives) , metalworking , and a few are interested in nature (they even go out while the "day star" is still outside). The hacking life style is really one about knowledge and understanding so any activity/tool (reasonable priced of course) you can expect a hacker to have at least a passing interest in (and some times more so than one) . That being said , is this worthy of a slashdot article?
    • Sure it's worthy of a slashdot article. "News for Nerds". I'm interested in gardening, cooking, home brewery, but now I'm getting to learn what hobbies other geeks pursue, and it's giving me ideas for what I may move on to next, what with my short attention span and all. I'd go so far as to say it's one of the better slashdot articles. Sometimes the best stuff doesn't come from "M$ suX0rz" articles, it comes from the more personal stuff, and the meta-chat. Some of the best stuff I've read on here has c
  • by John3 ( 85454 ) <(moc.sllenroc) (ta) (3nhoj)> on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:41PM (#6019768) Homepage Journal
    Yes, I think you're on to something there. Not only do I brew beer, but we also sell homebrew supplies in my hardware store []. My informal observations of the customers who shop for home brew supplies leads me to the conclusion that most hombrewers are geeks (That's a compliment!).

    Getting back to my subject, I've also discovered that my passion for pinball [] (started at MIT in 1977) is shared with numerous folks on the net and around the world, and there is definitely a connection between the lost art of pinball (face it, pinball is dying, especially electromechanical machines) and geeks. [] I own an old Faces EM pinball machine [] myself which I've been restoring to it's former glory, in between brewing batches of homebrew and playing Asheron's Call. :-)
  • Yeah, they like nice fancy new things, but they also like the old. The figuring out of where we've been, why a certain path of tech wasn't taken. I think it also has to, at least partly, deal with a want to escape. Most geeks are in front of tech that was unimaginable a few generations ago, and want to get away from it at times, clear the cobwebs and see something else.

    Am I this way? Of course. I love blending the old and the new, the modern with the retro. Hell, my ideal computer case design would be something that would look like it belongs in a victorian parlor. Geeks love the anachronism, because if something from the past Just Works, why not use it?

  • Curiosity (Score:2, Interesting)

    Well, for me, it's curiosity that prods me in learning unrelated stuff.

    I started learning how my car works because all that "moving stuff" is elegant and complex. It's the figuring out part that gives me satisfaction.

    I will never do metalsmithing, but Maxwell's demon [] may be my next experiment. Too wierd to be missed!

  • Curiosity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by luisdom ( 560067 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:42PM (#6019780)
    For me it is just an expression of curiosity. Of wanting to know "how does this thing work" or "how the hell do they make this".
    Computers are (for me) the uber-want-to-know. They are just more complex than every other thing in your direct environment, so we are attracted to them (like a moth to a bulb, if you ask me).
  • by TedTschopp ( 244839 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:43PM (#6019788) Homepage
    Tolkien thought that the further you got away from the earth and your ability to live off of it, the more and more you lost your ability to be a creative person. And the less magic you were able to see in the world.

    It is a loss of this self suffency which is going to cause the greatest problems in our society. Just think of much of our food today is preprocessed or transported from someplace else.

    What happens when the whole system breaks down. (When was the last time a complex system like the ones we have today didn't break down).

    I think it's our mentatility to think about these problems becuase we get to think about them every day when it comes to computer systems.

    I suspose I could ramble on about the philosophy and religious implications about subcreation and why good subcreators worry about this, but I think that the skills, determination, dedication, and ego that it takes to be a good programmer/sys admin/hacker are the same skills which cause us to worry about some of the more basic things in real life.

    Ted Tschopp
    • What happens when the whole system breaks down. (When was the last time a complex system like the ones we have today didn't break down).

    • Everyday magic. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ojQj ( 657924 )
      There's a certain truth in what you say.

      I see some people making disparaging comments about cities, but I don't think we need to succomb to that excuse. Even the smallest bits of nature bring their own magic with them, and there's plenty of room for just a little something here and there.

      I live in the city and have a little balcony garden. When I get home from work in the evening, I carefully water the plants that need it, remove the aphids from my chives by hand, fertilize the poppys, check if any of m

  • by AndurilSBA ( 656422 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:44PM (#6019799) Homepage
    I guess you could consider it related to hacking if one considers hackers to be just people who "thirst for knowledge." I know I rarely sit in one discipline for long and I want to know everything about anything. I don't consider that being a hacker, or part of a "hacker" nature though...I'm just nosy.
  • > Is this an expression of 'hacking' outside of machinery/engineering?"

    Beer, cheese, and bread weren't discovered, they was invented - they're the application of centuries of basic research in chemistry and microbiology. Ditto for techniques on how to work metals (structural engineering, metallurgy), wood (mathematics, physics, kinesthetics), soap (chemistry), knot-tying (mathematics), and so on.

    So to answer your question, "no". It's not an expression of "hacking" outside of machinery and engin

  • by Mononoke ( 88668 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:48PM (#6019828) Homepage Journal
    In my case I find that I have a voracious curiosity for things my parents didn't bother to teach me, either because their parents didn't teach them, or society (or advertising) was telling them that no one needed those things anymore.

    Just like many of us who weren't taught any social skills, we also weren't shown many of the other things that turned out to be very necessary in the real world.

    My favorite two 'works of written art' when I was a child were the Encyclopaedia and How Things Work.

  • by davidgrouchy ( 661051 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:48PM (#6019831) Homepage Journal
    That would be the guy that figured out the microwave signal he was working with could also warm his coffee. That is a classic hack. Non criminal, and using availiable materials in an unexpected way. What you're talking about is a return to traditions and historical culture. The very opposite of the convienence that usually comes with hacking. Brewing your own beer is doing it the hard way on purpose. Despite what benifits home brewing may do for your sence of accomplishment.
  • Everything you learn (Score:5, Interesting)

    by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <> on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:48PM (#6019835) Journal
    applies to something else, somehow.

    As a musician, I find that my aesthetic for music applies to many other things.

    Less is More.
    Know when to Stop.
    Look like you know what you're doing, and occasionally you will.
    Steal the good stuff.
    Do it for yourself.

    I could probably come up with a zillion more, but you get the idea. Boil it down to the important things in one area, and chances are you can apply the things you've learned to something else.

  • Um... (Score:2, Redundant)

    Do baking bread and brewing beer even qualify as lost arts?

    I know five people who make their own beer and wine (not to mention the multitude of microbrewery brands that have popped up in recent years), and a good third of an aisle at my grocery store is ready to bake mixtures for those home bread machines. I have one myself because they make the perfect sized loaf for lonely single guys like me.

    • Re:Um... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by anagama ( 611277 )
      The answer is yes and potentially.

      First off, instant bread in a bread machine doesn't count. The advantage of hippie parents: we grew our own wheat, ground it up on the back porch in small batches, (ok - so the mill was an electric "magic mill"), then kneaded and baked. The best bread ever, and completely irreproducable except by hand.

      As for beer, I brewed my first batch in 1986 and at that time, it was a practically lost art. Finding supplies was hard, but since Vertmont had just upped the drinking
  • there are so many skills 'lost' in the modern 'american' lifestyle... but I find my fellows tend to have books on these subjects lying around, too. Is this common in geekdom? Is this an expression of 'hacking' outside of machinery/engineering?"


    Of the 3 geeks we have at the office, we have a banjo maker and player, a beer brewer, a machinist with a lathe, a mill, and no CNC and another machinist with a lathe. We have a cabinetmaker. We have 2 skilled black and white photographers that do their own

  • by poity ( 465672 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @07:50PM (#6019844)
    ... that the Amish are the 31337est hackers?
  • Is the seeking of lost skills and arts a hacking analog? Well, I wouldn't say so. Hacking is about creating the means to an end oneself, independant of any official or sanctioned guidelines. Seeking lost skills and arts is simply undertaking a nostalgic quest, much like deciding to collect Christian Archie comics from 1973 or something. The process may involve some hacking, as "lost skills" no doubt have less than perfect handbooks for them... but there's nothing that necessarily makes it analogous to hacki
  • I am seeking for lost wisdoms. Modern civilization forgot many of them. One is to understand at the world around *AND* at that process to understand the way how you understand the world.

    We lost many wisdoms and we continue loosing them. AI in a big scale failed. Why? Software engineers don't want to work with knowledge: working with bytes is much simpler and mostly reflect the quality of American education. High order functions and high order logic is just too much for an average Joe-Programmer. The softw

  • I don't think that it is very unique to your situation, as I find myself trying all sorts of new things that don't relate to traditional hacking. my current passion being cooking, not just making food for myself for sustinence, but getting in the kitchen for about 4-6 hours, and making 6 course meals. Even though the only person in the house is my wife and son. Gardening is also quite fun these days, and my wife has discovered the art of making bread, all sorts of bread, sheepherder bread, sourdough, every
    • Re:Renaissance man. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Qrlx ( 258924 )
      One of the best theories I've heard to describe modern times is that we are living in a Dark Age. Of course we don't call it that overtly, but in a few hundred years the history books will describe it that way. For example, we've reduced the cost of manufacturing things so greatly that the major cost of many items is simply shipping. And, we've become so dependent on manufacturing these cheap things that we're deliberately designing them with a short lifespan to perpetuate the further manufacturing and s
      • Re:Renaissance man. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by BrokenHalo ( 565198 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @10:22PM (#6020757)
        but in a few hundred years the history books will .describe it that way

        In a few hundred years, few books from this century or the last will exist. Since about 1850, when paper made from wood-pulp was first produced, many books have simply disintegrated as a result of the acid content. I have a number of books from as recently as 1987 which are already disintegrating.

        That is what's going to make this a Dark Age.

  • Intrinsic value. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @08:03PM (#6019937)
    I often find myself asking very similar questions.
    • Why am I so fascinated by the old computers of generations gone by?
    • Why are those old mainframes that can do less than a PDA so fascinating?
    • Why would I rather save up money to buy a personally crafted writing table as opposed to a $50.00 one made out of particle board by machine?
    • What is so "magical" about UNIX-like operating systems?
    • Why is it fun to spend a weekend hiking in the desert, where there is no running water, freezing your butt off, sleeping in a tent with all kinds of weird things crawling on you?
    • Why is some really complex source code, script, configuration file, etc. so interesting?
    • Why does code, highly optimized beyond readability (especially assembly) have a "feel" to it?
    • Why is some PDP-11 with tape for storage so intriguing?
    • What is so interesting about Lord of the Rings?
    • Why is it so much fun to play games with words, making up double-meaning phrases and the like?
    The answer is a bit complex.

    First of all, things that are crafted together by skilled hands have an intrinsic value that doesn't exist in mass-marketed consumer products designed for an excessively consuming society. It all ties together. The way yogurt is made, the way beer is brewed, the way a unique muscle car is built, the way a particularly crafty piece of code is written (whether new or old), the way an oak writing desk is made, the way a 25 year old 4-bit computer can multiply 16-bit integers faster than the newest Pentium 4's, the way the computer on Voyager II can be reconfigured from a million billion miles away without crashing, the way your personally hacked Linux kernel does something nobody else has thought of... it all happens because of craftsmanship. Yeah, those old mainframes probably crashed more often than Windows does today, but there is some kind of value (for which I cannot find a word) that exists in things made by the truly skilled... by the wizards, the gurus, the master craftsmen.

    Secondly, there is something in the "hacker culture" (see the Jargon file) that draws people like us to the values that I'm describing in the paragraph above. It doesn't matter what your other hobbies are, whether they involve nature, ham radio, literature, etc. There is something about freedom, quality, beauty (even if it isn't physical beauty), correctness, practicality, craftiness, challenge... It's a way of thinking that people outside the hacker community have apparently forgotten.

  • mountain climbing (Score:3, Informative)

    by nounderscores ( 246517 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @08:10PM (#6019983)
    Climbers have always customised or made their own gear []. Perhaps because if it breaks they have to fix it while being snowed on and hanging next to a vertical cliff face. Or perhaps they are happy with taking risks.

    I don't know, as far as the gear that keeps me alive goes,(Eg harnesses and boots) I'm personally happy with getting OTS gear and breaking it in until it fits me. Cutting, stretching, or otherwise structurally altering it is only something that I'd pay somebody else to do, so there's somebody else's eyes on the job to tell me if my idea is suicide.

    On the other hand those modified zipper pulls are damn handy.
  • by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @08:11PM (#6019989)
    Once homebrewing became legal again (which happened in the 80s, if I remember correctly), the homebrew industry started to regain strength. At this point, I wouldn't say that brewing is by any means a lost art...I've brewed hundreds of gallons at this point. The stuff is like zucchini...if you produce it, you produce a LOT of it...and let me tell you, nothing moves your data mining requests to the front of the line faster than giving the DBAs lots of homebrew! :)
  • by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @08:13PM (#6020009)
    If you live in Wisconsin like I do, brewing your own beer is not a lost art it is required.
  • by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @08:23PM (#6020073) Homepage
    No, no. Building a Moog synthesizer [] is hacking analog.

    Brewing beer is an excuse to make your apartment smell horrible, making soap is an excuse to see how quickly various household items dissolve when exposed to lye, and metalsmithing is an excuse to pretend that you're Sauron.

  • Only in America (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hamfist ( 311248 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @08:35PM (#6020139)
    The amazing thing about it all is that in developed world, practicioners of the 'lost arts' make pretty decent money, whilst the artesans in the developing world make very little.

    In Chile one can buy a 4 foot high handmade, hand painted earthernware flowerpot for all of 50 bucks. That same flowerpot in the US would probably cost (if you could find it), 300 dollars or more; all this because the artesan is practicing a 'lost art'.

    Out in the country down here you can still find a 'smith' and a 'cooper'.

    Knot tying is not so big here, but ohhh the cheese :)
  • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @08:37PM (#6020151) Homepage
    You're trying to pull a "John Katz" type association, ala Columbine: "Geeks are oppressed. These kids were oppressed. Thus, these guys were oppressed geeks, like we are, and we must sympathize and condone what they did." No.

    Hacking is hacking - whether it's with computers, cars, or some other technical device. You're making things work better, improving on them.

    Learning "lost arts" of the likes of brewing, breadmaking, metalwork, etc. are not hacking. Doing so is simply seeking out knowledge. It is the self-enlightenment of the mind. It is the original concept of 'education' (as stated by the Greeks) fullfilled. Hacking might fall into this as a subset, but "hacking = learning" is a crock of katzism: an intellectual and logical farce.

    (Thank the Maker he's not around anymore, btw)
  • by reimda ( 42088 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @08:38PM (#6020158)
    of is "The Forgotten Arts and Crafts" by John Semour. [] has it and lets you look at lots of it online. Check it out.

    It's full of how to do "outdated" arts like thatching a house, making fences with hand built tools and materials gathered in the forest, and blacksmithing, in addition to household type crafts such as making cream and butter and soap. I bought it a couple months ago after finding an enormously positive review on the net somewhere. It is full of enough diagrams to satisfy the average geek.

    As for why seeking lost skills is an attraction to geeks, I think it comes down to problem solving. Problem solving is a trait universally desirable in geeks. It doesn't matter if the problem is how to get your program to run in less than x seconds or how to get information from here to there quickly over the phone system or how to make your own yogurt. It's all problem solving.

    Books like this appeal to geeks because they open a new (old) world of problems and give elegant solutions to them. The solutions are time-tested and have come from the collective mind of thousands and thousands of clever people. It is a natural geek thing to do to admire their elegant solutions to their problems.

    There's also a huge feeling of escape from the headaches of technology when you imagine life without computers, electricity, etc. I'm not sure about all of geekdom, but I enjoy understanding and imagining a technologically simple life that doesn't include depending on a keyboard and screen for a livelihood.
  • Ricky Jay (Score:3, Informative)

    by robson ( 60067 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @09:18PM (#6020438)
    Semi-tangential, magician Ricky Jay [] isn't just a performer; he's also a devoted student of the history of magic. He often talks about how important this historical knoweledge is to understanding his art, and his own place in the greater timeline of that art.

    It's a lesson that could probably be applied to most contemporary professions...
  • Self-reliance (Score:3, Insightful)

    by transient ( 232842 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @09:27PM (#6020491)

    For me, it's about self-reliance. I'm a do-it-yourself guy. People in modern society depend on a huge network of people, almost all of them strangers. We all learned in "Intro to Economics" that when two people specialize, they can produce more goods. However, it's satisfying to live by the fruits of your own labor, if only partially. In order to do so, you have to learn a lot of diverse, basic skills.

    I went through a phase where I took this idea to its logical conclusion. I wanted to learn everything necessary to survive by myself indefinitely. This is a daunting (and mildly insane) task, and it should come as no surprise that I backed away from it. But it's still fun ponder every now and then.

  • by gripdamage ( 529664 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @10:05PM (#6020687)
    People who hack have other hobbies. Big deal. Lots of people have lots of different hobbies, and hacking doesn't necessarily have to be one of them. Most total slackers I've known have been interested in things like "metalsmithing, sewing, baking bread, making soap, knot tying, brewing beer, woodcarving, yogurt and cheese." Those are the kinds of things they do instead of working.

    As to this going to the core of some essential geekness, I think that is just self-centered, elitist garbage. The human race is such a diverse set, that attempting to draw boundaries around groups based on many traits usually ends up being vapor.

    So now that the geeks have claimed interesting hobbies, does that mean the cool slackers will have to watch more television or something? Perhaps we could patent all these hobbies, and sue the slackers for infringing on our turf.

    I don't mean to be a party pooper. By all means, all of you go ahead. I just won't be participating in the circle jerk. I hope you don't revoke my membership to geekdom. Fleeing elitism and arrogance is what made me an outsider in the first place.
  • by Ryan Amos ( 16972 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @10:08PM (#6020705)
    I'm not trying to troll here or anything, but what does it matter? If you like doing it, keep doing it, it's basically the same with hacking (or any other hobby.) Some people like working in their yard, some people like doing weird science projects, some people like hacking. It's not the same thing, but they're both good hobbies.

    I do have to say though editors, can't we get some more relevant questions? I thought this site had "Stuff that matters."
  • by jabber01 ( 225154 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @10:37PM (#6020857)
    Computer hacking is just one way to reclaim self-sufficiency.

    It's been my experience that hackers are fiercely self-reliant. Not only do they resent being micro-managed at the office, they hate being "consumers". They hate depending on others, because they are, by nature, distrustful.

    All hackers I know embody the "if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself" mentality. This is why they learn to code, for when the system fails them. This is why they learn to defend themselves, for when the system fails them. This is why they learn to hunt/make food and basic essencials of life, for when the system fails them.

    Hackers are, in very many ways, survivalists, adapted for the "Information Age".
  • by WillWare ( 11935 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @11:56PM (#6021270) Homepage Journal
    there are so many skills 'lost' in the modern 'american' lifestyle... Is this common in geekdom?

    Years ago I did a yoga retreat, and learned enough of the history to discover that some millenia ago, yoga and meditation were the hot happening things that occupied the brainiest people then living, the then-equivalent of today's startups and stock options and IPOs. Interesting.

    This essay [] describes a historical cycle that takes place in Thailand, repeating every century or two. Somebody goes out into the forest and meditates like crazy, rediscovers the Buddha's original findings, and starts a monastic forest tradition. Then the local authorities re-domesticate Buddhism, harnessing it for nationalistic and social purposes. After a few generations the forest tradition burns out, leaving behind a state-endorsed religion that discards the investigative orientation on which the forest tradition thrived. A century or so later, somebody else starts the whole thing up again.

  • FOXFIRE! (Score:5, Informative)

    by gcondon ( 45047 ) on Friday May 23, 2003 @01:58AM (#6021784)
    I hope I'm not too late in this thread but I am surprised that nobody has mentioned the Foxfire books (at least I haven't seen anything modded up yet).

    The Foxfire Fund was established to preserve the vanishing folkways of Appalachia and, let me tell you, those people knew how to provide for themselves.

    There is an extensive series of books covering such diverse utilitarian topics as wood lore, blacksmithing, instrument making, weaving and so on.

    Check it out at The Foxfire Fund [].
  • by Brown Line ( 542536 ) on Friday May 23, 2003 @04:21AM (#6022150)
    The answer is yes, in my experience hackers tend to be the sort of people who do things like brew beer or garden or make their own furniture or play their own music.

    Why? Because hackers see themselves as artisans, not consumers.

    Artisanship is, in my experience, a strong influence in the makeup of many hackers. The best ones remind me of my father, who was a master calligrapher: in their love of making beautiful things, and in the scrupulousness with which they treat their "mystery". I dare say that hacking is the last bastion of artisanship left in our consumption-oriented McSociety.

  • by Lordofthestorm ( 675024 ) on Friday May 23, 2003 @11:04AM (#6023871)
    I've seen several articles bashing 'rediscovering' older techs at unneccessary but those people are missing a key point. Some of these 'older'concepts haven't been revisited in a while and could probably be improved by a creative insight with modern techniques.

    A significant portion of our technology is based off of early 1900's designs. For example, the way we generate electrical power (ie heat + water = steam >>> turns turbine > spins magnet > generates electricity) hasn't changed since it's discovery. There are some newer areas (solar cells, fuel cells) but for the most part we power 99% of our society this way.

    A lot of basic technology is still very fundamental to our culture and I'm glad to see people revisiting it - it's the only way to continually shock the technology base of an advanced civilization.

    These advances can come from anywhere, so what if the SCA are rebuilding medieval style armor? What if one of them comes up with a superior chainmail and merges it with Kevlar, reduces the weight and sells it to the military?

    How about new designs for soap? New styles of paper? Are the old ways the best? You'll never know until you research a couple. There were tons of expirements in radio control in the early 1900's many of which were abandoned because the technology wasn't there - how many of those could be useful now?

    Do the funamentals of our wireless transmitters remain the most efficient way to transmit information?

    And it's fun, did I mention it's fun? ;-)

FORTRAN is the language of Powerful Computers. -- Steven Feiner