The Life of the Hacker's Hacker: Richard Greenblatt

By michinf
  • Introduction To MIT

    Introduction To MIT
    Levy once again dives into the root of Greenblatt's childhood as his love for chess brought his to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Throughout his childhood he would visit the school to compete against students in chess games (60). From these experiences Richard made friends and discovered an inclination for mind puzzles, such as dissembling technology to build others.
  • It All Started with an Affinity for Chess

    It All Started with an Affinity for Chess
    Born in 1944, Richard Greenblatt was a bright young mind. Levy (60) tells of his great chess kills which brought him to be a strong competitor to many players double his age. His love for chess and his intellect at a young age are reflected later through his life within his various computer science achievements. These traits shaped his future projects and led him to form a great name in the world of "hackers".
  • Joining the Tech Model Railroad Club

    Joining the Tech Model Railroad Club
    1962 is the year that Greenblatt found his way to becoming an MIT student. The school he had played at for years as a child had now become his own place of education. Within his time at the institution he was automatically drawn to what was known as the Tech Model Railroad club. The club had started by working on model railroads and had evolved into the start of many young hackers including Greenblatt ("TMRC History"). (
  • Work With Bill Gosper

    Work With Bill Gosper
    In his time at MIT Greenblatt met mathematician and programmer Bill Gosper, who would become a colleague, friend, and co-founder of what would become known as a hacker ("Wolfram Community"). The two became close while students apart of the TMRC, and continued their work together beyond their time at MIT.
  • Grounding of The Hacker's Ethic

    Grounding of The Hacker's Ethic
    Greenblatt was firm in the mentality of what was known as the hacker's ethic. In his time at MIT and beyond he made it clear that he believed in the free software movement, and making source code available to all. This mentality lies at the basis of what we now recognize as the definition of "hacker".
  • Gone from MIT, beginning of legacy

    After a few years at the University, and many semester of struggling through classes, Greenblatt dropped out of MIT in 1965. Though he had left the school that initiated his career with computers, this was not the end of his programming work.
  • Work on LISP Compiler: PD-6

    Work on LISP Compiler: PD-6
    Some of the first pivotal work Greenblatt picked up outside of MIT was work on the LISP compiler. Greenblatt took the LISP compiler written for the PDP-1 computer, and altered it to work for the PDP-6 computer (Levy 73). Altering the LISP compiler for the PDP-6 was the first of a long line of work Greenblatt would do with the programming language.
  • Greenblatt's MacHack Chess Program

    Greenblatt's MacHack Chess Program
    Relating back to both his own affinity for chess and the work he had saw of Kotok, Greenblatt was inspired for his next developmental project. In 1967 he designed the MacHack Chess program, which was the first online chess program to be played in collaboration with humans and the PDP-6 computer ("IT History").
  • Building off of Alan Kotok

    Alan Kotok developed programming work that inspired the creation of the first online game, "Spacewar!" at MIT years prior to Greenblatt's enrollment ("Alan Kotok"). This work in artificial intelligence and online gaming would become the inspiration for Greenblatt's next venture. Greenblatt aimed to build off of what Kotok had established, and work towards even more digital advancement.
  • The Defense of Time-Sharing

    The Defense of Time-Sharing
    After discussions with fellow programmer Edward Fredkin, Greenblatt become adamant that the PDP-6 computer be switched to a time-sharing system. Though many were opposed to this conclusion, the team decided that switching the computer to a system that could be used by multiple users at once.
  • The Spread of MacHack

    The Spread of MacHack
    After the initial development of the MacHack chess program, the PDP-6 program took off. Greenblatt chose to enter the program into real chess tournmanents against humans. This was revolutionary for artifical intellgience technology as it reached the goals of competing face to face with humans (Hendrie 21).
  • Work on LISP Machine: Later Developments

    Richard Greenblatt became the founder of the official LISP machine, known by Levy as the "ultimate hacker computer" (8). Creating a hacking community within the work on these computers.
  • Founding of Symbolics

    The company Symbolics was established by Greenblatt in 1980, utilizing the corporation to create and spread the LISP programming language. The website domain for the company is actually known as the first "dot-com" to exist and can still be visited to this day ("The Surprising Story"). (
  • Recognition in Media

    Recognition in Media
    Initially much attention was brought the work of hackers alike Greenblatt due to the publication of the book, "Hackers: Heroes of The Computer Revolution" published in 1984. From there the reputation of the work of Richard Greenblatt has become iconic in the development of Artficial intelligence and the definition of hackerdom.
  • Lisp Machines/Symbolics Ceases Operations

    Lisp Machines/Symbolics Ceases Operations
    After the initial triumphs of Greenblatt's company, the programming language faded in popularity to it's competitors. LISP programming language did not keep up with the advancements of the times. In 1986, the company ceased operations, and later sold their domain to act as a historical online landmark.