With the rise of the brogrammer, the waning of Mark Zuckerberg's hacker way, and an influx of blue blooded rich kids running the show, we wondered if the traditional kid-in-basement Silicon Valley hacker nerd had disappeared, leaving Silicon Valley without its essence. But it looks like The New York Times's Brian X. Chen has found them. Or at least a monied-up Silicon Valley version of them, living in hacker hostels, "dreaming of future digital glory." These hackers aren't getting funds from daddy for their first successful start-up. Instead they are tinkering in what the Times basically calls tenement-style "cheap" living at $40 a night, which tallies to a not-so-cheap $1,200 a month in what look to us like above average group home arrangements something familiar to many 20-somethings these days. But even if it is a bourg-ier version of hacker life, these hubs sound like they still have the hacker essence. Or at least exhibit some important aspects of hacker culture, such as:
Like we said, these aren't some bros getting together to code between keggers, or some suave New York rich kids. The people described by Chen sound like bona fide computer nerds. If the photos of kids wearing button down short-sleeved plaid shirts and thick rimmed glasses don't say it, their attitudes about computers and learning say it all. "The intellectual stimulation you get from being here is unparalleled," Justin Carden, one such 28-year-old staying at these hostels, told Chen. Founder Jade Wang even admits that the houses attracts nerds, who like to stick together. "It’s not that nerds are necessarily socially awkward among normal people," Wang said. "If you have a large room of 99 percent nerds and you have that one normal person, they’d be the ones who are socially awkward."
2. Nerdy pastimes.
When they aren't working on the next big thing, they still do things a normal wouldn't consider fun. Even when doing normal group-house activities, like sitting around tables talking, the residents talk about their projects. One house has a journal club, that's like a book club for geeks, where members get together to talk scientific papers.
3. Coder eats.
Too attached to their computers to make regular food, coders tend to have interesting diets. Unlike the lux dining halls we hear about at the Google complex, when not getting homecooked meals from the house captains, these hackers eat like hackers. "On a recent afternoon, 23-year-old Steve El-Hage, who came here from Toronto in May, ate slices of ham straight out of the package," writes Chen. "As you can see, I was going to make a sandwich, but I didn’t get there," El-Hage added. Via the photos we also see a stash of hacker staples: Ramen and Oreos.
4. Hacker Hours
Not ones to stick to the 9-to-5, hackers stay up late in the night working. These guys, too: "Mr. Wu spent most of his days sitting on the living room futon and pounding away on his MacBook Air, often until 3 or 4 a.m," writes Chen.
Like we said, not all the living sounds as lowly as the Times makes it out to be, with residents getting homecooked meals, at times. But, there's a lot of the hacker way built into these people's lifestyles. And as far as innovation -- something the SoMoLo (social, mobile, local -- yes, we know, that acronym, ugh) obsessed Valley needs -- this forces the nerds to see other nerds' faces, something they might not otherwise do crammed in their parents basements, which sounds like it might lead to better ideas. "That’s how you learn," Wharton professor Ethan Mollick explains to Chen. "People always complain that academic study of computer science doesn’t do a lot for you as a programmer. What does are these sorts of environments."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.