Hacker Culture Essay, Research Paper
Hacker Culture What are hackers? Webster’s Dictionary defines a hacker as an expert at programming and solving problems with a computer; or a person who illegally gains access to and sometimes tampers with information in a computer system. (Webster’s) There is a shared culture, of expert programmers and networking wizards that traces its history back through decades to the first time-sharing minicomputers. The members of this culture originated the term `hacker’. Hackers built the Internet, and have made the World Wide Web what it is today. There is another group of people who call themselves hackers, but aren’t. These are people (mainly adolescent males) who get a kick out of breaking into computers. These people are `crackers’. Hackers mostly think crackers are lazy, irresponsible, and not very bright. They object that being able to break security doesn’t make you a hacker any more than being able to hot-wire cars makes you an automotive engineer. Many journalists and writers have used the word `hacker’ to describe crackers because they don’t know the difference; this irritates hackers. The basic difference is this: hackers build things, crackers break them. Nearly all hackers past their teens either have college-degrees or are self-educated to an equivalent level. The self-taught hacker is often considered (at least by other hackers) to be better-motivated, and may be more respected, than his school-shaped counterpart. Academic areas from which people often gravitate into hacker culture include (besides the obvious computer science and electrical engineering) physics, mathematics, linguistics, and philosophy. The most obvious common `personality’ characteristics of hackers are high intelligence, consuming curiosity, and dexterity with intellectual thoughts. Most are also relatively individualistic and anti-conformist. Contrary to stereotype, hackers are not usually intellectually narrow; they tend to be interested in any subject that can provide mental stimulation, and can often converse knowledgeably and even interestingly on any number of obscure subjects. Hackers are `control freaks’ in a way that has nothing to do with the usual authoritarian implications of the term. In the same way that children delight in making model trains go forward and back by moving a switch, hackers love making complicated things like computers do ingenious stuff for them. But it has to be their ingenious stuff. They don’t like the fussy, boring little tasks that go with maintaining a normal existence. Therefore, they tend to be careful and orderly in their intellectual lives and chaotic elsewhere.
In terms of Myers-Briggs and equivalent psychometric systems, hacker culture appears to concentrate the relatively rare introverted, intuitive, and thinker types (as opposed to the extroverted-sensate personalities that predominate in the mainstream culture). Extroverted, intuitive, and thinker types are also concentrated among hackers but are in a minority. What does it take for someone to be a hacker? Like most cultures without a money economy, hacker culture runs on reputation. You’re trying to solve interesting problems, but how interesting they are, and whether your solutions are really good, is something that only your peers or superiors are normally worthy to judge. Therefore, when you play the hacker game, you learn to keep score primarily by what other hackers think of your skill (this is why you aren’t really a hacker until other hackers consistently call you one). This fact is obscured by the image of hacking as solitary work; also by a hacker-cultural taboo against admitting that ego or external validation are involved in one’s motivation at all. A hacker is simply someone who is intrigued by the capabilities of computers, and believes in the quest for knowledge. They are mainly of the younger generation of computer literates who choose not to attain a reputation through sports or academic standing, but by creating thing for the benefit of others. In my opinion, hackers are not our enemies, but the people who will lead us into the computer generation. If not for them, we would stumble forth blindly.
The Jargon File. http://www.it.com.au/jargon/>.Andrews, Paul. Hackers: Who Are These Guys? http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Heights/8582/art3.htm>. (19 May 1999)