It is always good to see when talent is rewarded. So many of us began our careers very humbly. I started my career by building my own PC. [When I started, you were forced to solder them yourself. And most folks were using CP/M (from Digital Research).] Still others gained their notoriety by being public hackers (some more ethical than others).
Recently, the term “hacker” has been blurred with the term “geek” (not to be confused with the term “nerd”). There have been some fabulous hackers who are very dedicated to the platforms that they “expanded” (through their often unauthorized projects). I still remember many of the Windows Mobile geeks based upon their work on various “kitchens” (i.e., the collection of tools they used to “cook” their products). While I don’t remember any of their real names, their pseudonyms are still memorable.
Many of the early mobile hackers moved on to work for carriers or for handset vendors. They moved from their hacker lifestyle into their corporate lifestyle as effortlessly as changing a suit of clothing. Basically, they morphed from pop stars (in small circles) to anonymous contributors in a much larger lake.
But it is far harder to make those kinds of transitions into anonymity these days. First, the exceptional hackers are elevated to an elite (and very public) status. Today, the application of cred points is done by a community in a social media setting (e.g., Twitter, Google+, etc). And it is also far more difficult to fade away from your past. Today, every word you speak is recorded, parsed, analyzed and used in your next job interview.
Nevertheless, it is still possible to make the jump into mainstream.
A few weeks ago, Samsung hired Steve Kondik (aka, cyanogen). Now, Apple has hired Nicholas Allegra (aka, comex). While I am glad that big companies are looking beyond their own short-sighted misgivings to recognize real talent, I am even happier that exceptional talent will be put to exceptional use in the industry. Let’s welcome Steve and Nicholas to the next phase of their careers/lives.