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The Glider Symbol

The content of this page is has been lifted from ERS' Hacker Emblem FAQ

What is the emblem?

The graphic at the top of the page is called a glider. It's a pattern from a mathematical simulation called the Game of Life. In this simulation, very simple rules about the behavior of dots on a grid give rise to wonderfully complex emergent phenomena. The glider is the simplest Life pattern that moves, and the most instantly recognizable of all Life patterns.

Why have an emblem at all?

To some hackers, having an emblem might smack too much of groupthink. But the hacker community is, in fact, a community, knit together by trust bonds over the Internet. One thing we've learned since 1991 is that visible emblems of community are just as valuable to hackers as they are to other kind of human beings. They help us recognize each other, help us affirm common values and cooperate more closely. They're useful social engineering.

Using this emblem means something a little different from just presenting yourself as a Linux fan, or a Perl-monger, or a member of any of the hacker subtribes that have become so successful since the mid-1990s. These are relatively recent developments in a tradition that goes back decades. Back to the homewbrew microcomputer experimenters of the early 1970s; the earliest Unix developers and ARPANET engineers in 1969; and to the SPACEWAR hackers at MIT in 1961.

The hackers, in the broadest sense, are the people who built the Internet, and Unix, and the World Wide Web; our dreams of freedom have changed the world everybody lives in. See How To Become A Hacker for an in-depth look at what that means. If you find yourself nodding in agreement as you read that document, you are one of the people who should be using this emblem.

Why this emblem?

The glider is an appropriate emblem on many levels. Start with history: the Game of Life was first publicly described in Scientific American in 1970. It was born at almost the same time as the Internet and Unix. It has fascinated hackers ever since.

In the Game of Life, simple rules of cooperation with what's nearby lead to unexpected, even startling complexities that you could not have predicted from the rules (emergent phenomena). This is a neat parallel to the way that startling and unexpected phenomena like open-source development emerge in the hacker community.

The glider fulfils the criteria for a good logo. It's simple, bold, hard to mistake for anything else, and easy to print on a mug or T-shirt. It could be varied, combined with other emblems, or modified and infinitely repeated for use as a background.

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Toni Cornelissen
1 januari 1970
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