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
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.
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
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
- Sharing – improvement of yours and others public
- 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
- 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.
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,
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.
Himanen, Pekka (2001). The Hacker Ethic
and the Spirit of the Information Age. New York: Random
Levy, Steven (2010). Hackers – Heroes of
the computer revolution. Sebastopol, Calif: O’Reilly Media.