||From what I understand of the word "hacker," it originally didn't have anything to do with computers at all, because they hadn't been invented yet. So "techie" might apply to other fields, but isn't that perfectly in keeping with the original label? And I've certainly heard the word "hacker" used by people who are attempting to sound more knowledgable than they actually are, or by people who merely fuss about with their computers without doing anything difficult. So "techie" and "hacker" are no different in that sense, either-- both can be abused. Techie, however, is never used to describe computer criminals.
The earliest reference to a computer hacker in the mainstream press that I've been able to dig up was on April 13, 1983, in the Wall Street Journal. It is reasonable to assume that the term was in use for some time before that, perhaps a year or so. What is notable is that in that first reference to computer hackers in the mainstream press, the term had already taken on the meaning of "one who breaks into computer systems." While articles later that year did, in fact, note the earlier, more benign meaning, no earlier reference can be found in which the word refers to innocent gadget enthusiasts, technical tinkerers, or backyard engineers.
There are, of course, earlier references in the mainstream press to amateurs called "hackers." Amateur golfers. Why shouldn't we restore this "original" meaning, rather than the one that computer hobbyists are so strangely attached to? Let "hackers" be an antiquated term for amateur golfers. Let "crackers" be an antiquated, derrogatory term for white people. Find a new term for computer criminals. And a new term for computer enthusiasts.
In telling me that I admit "hacker" once meant something positive, are you not yourself admitting that it now means something negative? Why can't you start there, and move on? How is your nostalgia for the benign electronics "hacker" of the 1950s any better than the nostalgia of a Republican for the "family values" of the same era?
You can claim that the word "hacker" is only used in a negative sense by computer enthusiasts when they wish to "clarify" something to "Joe Scmo [sic]," but I've heard it used negatively by computer professionals in other ways. I've heard it used to describe young programmers who display little skill or forethought, and I've heard it used to refer to people who break into systems, used in the company soley of people with considerable knowledge of computers. That these negative meanings persist even after "education" has taken place is rather telling. The fact that you don't acknowledge this in your post is also interesting.
There is another aspect of the problem, one that will not go away no matter how much a computer enthusiast might want it to. The fact of the matter is that people who are interested in committing computer crime, but not particularly interested in programming or otherwise devising systems, refer to themselves as hackers. You can call them "script kiddies" until you are blue in the face, but when they are interviewed, they will invariably describe themselves as "hackers."
If you really want to take back the term "hacker," then you will have to take it away from the criminals, not from the press. you must convince script kiddies to call themselves script kiddies. You must persuade the crackers to start calling themselves crackers. Frankly, I don't think this will ever happen.
Once criminals have a noble-sounding name for their activities, they'll never revert to a derrogatory word. The wise course, I think, will be to let the criminals have the word "hacker," and let that word gather an ever more negative image as innocent computer enthusiasts adopt a new term for themselves, such as "techie," or "computer enthusiast," or whatever else may come.
© 2002, RobotSlave. you may not reproduce this material, in whole or in part, without written permission of the author. Line-by-line rebuttal is expressly prohibited.
© 2002, RobotSlave. You may not reproduce this material, in whole or in part, without written permission of the owner.