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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Hacking, not cracking

It says here that “the word the word ‘hack’ may be losing its negative connotations.” Duxbury High School engineering teacher Chris Connors is sponsoring a contest among his students to see who can come up with the best hack. Sounds like a good idea, as long as people don’t confuse hacking with cracking, as most do these days. Maybe it’s only we old-timers who remember the original — dare I say “authentic”? — meanings of the word “hacker”:
1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary. 2. One who programs enthusiastically (even obsessively) or who enjoys programming rather than just theorizing about programming... 6. An expert or enthusiast of any kind. One might be an astronomy hacker, for example. 7. One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations. 8. [deprecated] A malicious meddler who tries to discover sensitive information by poking around. Hence “password hacker”, “network hacker”. The correct term for this sense is “cracker”.

The term “hacker” also tends to connote membership in the global community defined by the net... Hackers consider themselves something of an elite (a meritocracy based on ability), though one to which new members are gladly welcome. There is thus a certain ego satisfaction to be had in identifying yourself as a hacker...
(from The New Hacker’s Dictionary)

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