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A.Word.A.Day--hacker

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hacker (HACK-uhr) noun

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.

3. A person capable of appreciating hack value.

4. A person who is good at programming quickly.

5. An expert at a particular program, or one who frequently does work using it or on it; as in `a Unix hacker'. (Definitions 1 through 5 are correlated, and people who fit them congregate.)

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.

[Originally, someone who makes furniture with an axe.]

"When Emmanuel Goldstein, who runs a hacker magazine called 2600, posted Johanssen's software on a website, eight media companies (including Time Warner, parent company of TIME) sued Goldstein ...." Lev Grossman, Digital Divisiveness, Time, Aug 28, 2000.

With the growing popularity of computers, the spread of the Internet and Web, and the success of Linux, terms from hacker jargon are increasingly going mainstream, though not always in the correct perspective.

The New Hacker's Dictionary is a fascinating compendium of words from the worlds of computing, computer networks, and the people who inhabit them. Last week's citation of Murphy's Law brought enthusiastic responses with requests for more examples from this book which is available here.

This week we have terms from this lexicon that give us glimpses of the hacker culture. Enjoy this geek-week and remember - hackers, though often maligned, are good guys, they are not crackers. -Anu

X-Bonus

It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well. -Rene Descartes (1596-1650)

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