The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'hackers'


In his Jargon File, Eric S. Raymond argues that using the word "hacker" to mean "someone who breaks into computers" as opposed to "intellectually curious tinkerer" is deprecated and factually incorrect. Someone named Raven Black has a good rant about why ESR is wrong:

The Jargon File talks absolute bollocks about the word hacker. It claims that using it as a synonym of cracker is deprecated. No it's bloody not, Mr Jargon File, it's common usage, quite the opposite. What you mean is you, like Mr How To Become A Hacker, want it to be deprecated because you want your precious word back, just like wiccans claim that witch means wiccan even though it's fucking obvious that common usage has it meaning the green evil warty cauldron broomstick variety. Claiming that the common usage is deprecated just gets those people you'd have call themselves hackers (or witches) into trouble when they do so in non-wanker company and are misunderstood.

Mr. Black proposes a new word (akin to "wiccan" for "witch") to be used for the benign meaning of "hacker". The word proposed, however, is "phrenic", which sounds (a) about as daft as atheists calling themselves "Brights", and (b) like a plausible abbreviation for "schizophrenic" (much in the way that "tard" is used as a derogatory term for the mentally challenged). Chances are if tinkerers started calling themselves "phrenics", the word would devolve to become a slang term for "weird and/or crazy person" in popular usage, applying to everybody from the mumbling, long-bearded programmer in the back office to the mumbling, dishevelled itinerant on the street corner.

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Tonight I went to a screening of In the Realm of the Hackers, a documentary about various hackers/crackers from Melbourne in the late 1980s (apparently not just another BBS/h4x0d-d00d scene, but one of the major hacker nexuses in the world); in particular, about a young man calling himself Electron and his friends, who apparently broke into machines like nobody else. It was pretty interesting; the details, connecting the mundanity of suburban Melbourne with the international computer networks of the time, were fascinating, and the reconstructed Commodore 64/Apple II screens (rebuilt from police phone intercept transcripts) were apparently the most authentic in the genre. (I half-remember various of the names seen on the hacker BBS message boards, from print-outs I saw many years ago. Of course, I never was k3wl enough to actually do any of that hacking shit myself.) Anyway, it does one proud to see that Australia can lead the world in something other than cricket.

The film was based on the book Underground, by Suelette Dreyfus, which is now online in freely downloadable form. It sounds like it's well worth a read.

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An interesting article about the next generation of female hackers, and how they are challenging stereotypes (like the ones which say that they don't exist, or that they're all web designers or somesuch):

Gweeds, one of Marcelo's male hacker friends, confirms this. He wants to see more women hackers, and he tells me excitedly about an all-female-authored distribution of the operating system Linux called Cervix. "I like the idea of Cervix, because it says that girls can do this," he added. "It's like an all-girl band."


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