From maven to outlaw: evolution of 'Hacker'

Thursday, 2 October 2003, 2:41 PM EST

What is the difference between a "hacker" and a "cracker"?

A. Although the term "hacker" has taken on negative connotations, it was once a flattering label reserved for those who could appreciate, operate and program computers. References to hackers and hacking in the computer culture are thought to date from the 1960's.

As noted in the third edition of The New Hacker's Dictionary (M.I.T. Press, 1996), Eric S. Raymond's compilation of computer-related jargon, a hacker is "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."

The text also notes the original definition of the word: "someone who makes furniture with an ax."

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