Dictionary

A collection of words and phrases, and their meaning when I used them. The purpose of this list is partly to minimize misunderstandings of me and partly to clarify misconceptions in general.

brainfuck: A peculiar esoteric programming language consisting of only eight commands, in extreme minimalism. It's not sexual penetration of ones brain, although looking at the code might feel like it.

cracker: One who breaks security on a system. Coined ca. 1985 by hackers in defense against journalistic misuse of hacker (q.v., sense 8). While it is expected that any real hacker will have done some playful cracking and knows many of the basic techniques, anyone past larval stage is expected to have outgrown the desire to do so except for immediate, benign, practical reasons (for example, if it's necessary to get around some security in order to get some work done).

Thus, there is far less overlap between hackerdom and crackerdom than the mundane reader misled by sensationalistic journalism might expect. Crackers tend to gather in small, tight-knit, very secretive groups that have little overlap with the huge, open poly-culture this lexicon describes; though crackers often like to describe themselves as hackers, most true hackers consider them a separate and lower form of life. See jargon file

hacker: 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. RFC1392, the Internet Users' Glossary, usefully amplifies this as: A person who delights in having an intimate understanding of the internal workings of a system, computers and computer networks in particular. See jargon file

hacker ethic: The hacker ethic is centered around passion, hard work, creativity and joy of creating software (Himanen, 2001). Levy describes the following core principles to the hacker ethic:

  • Sharing — improvement of yours and others public creations.
  • Openness — all information should be free.
  • Decentralization — mistrust authority & promote decentralization. Hackers are encouraged to think critically and to challenge the status quo. Promoting decentralization dilutes the concentration of power and redistributes the power among the many.
  • Access to computers, and anything which might teach you something about the way the world works, should be unlimited and total. Always yield to the Hands-On Imperative!
  • World Improvement (foremost, upholding democracy and the fundamental laws we all live by, as a society)
  • Meritocracy — hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position
  • You can create art and beauty on a computer.
  • Computers can change your life for the better. (Levy, 2010)

The hacker ethic and its wider context can be associated with liberalism and anarchism.

meritocracy: A system in which advancement is based on individual ability or achievement. Inherent to the hacker ethic is a meritocratic system where superficiality is disregarded in esteem of skill, and "hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position" (Levy, 2010).

In hacker ethic meritocracy is not meant as a form of social system in which power goes to those with superior intellects, or the belief that rulers should be chosen for their superior abilities and not because of their wealth or birth.

References

Himanen, Pekka (2001). The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the Information Age. Floris Books. ISBN: 978-0-375-50566-9.

Levy, Steven (2010). Hackers – Heroes of the computer revolution. O’Reilly Media. ISBN: 978-1-449-38839-3.