back to article Hacking is not a crime – and the media should stop using 'hacker' as a pejorative

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  1. fnusnu

    Too late

    You can't control language. Deal with the accepted definition, or forever be shouting at pigeons in the park.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Too late

      Yup. That battle is well lost.

      My current annoyance is "gift" as a verb. No, the verb is "give". "Gift" refers to that which is given. I think it must be something to do with lack of confidence in using an irregular verb.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Too late

        "to gift" has a longer history than people might realise; there are instances of it from the 18th century. I think I hate it more today because of its commercial connotations or implications; you never hear ordinary people say it, it's only marketing or advertising where you read about "gift a generous donation", etc.

      2. John Miles

        Re: My current annoyance is "gift" as a verb

        Looking in the Oxford Dictionary on the shelf - Gift can be a verb and is 400 years old . I'd usually expect it something like "To Gift something to ..."

        I have usually seen it that way in legal documents

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My current annoyance is "gift" as a verb

          @"Looking in the Oxford Dictionary on the shelf " self proclaimed authority that only wishes they had any control of any version of English including the one currently spoken at Oxford Schools.

          For my part when they started adding school nmemonics for Latin as English words then they lost my support.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: My current annoyance is "gift" as a verb

            You, no doubt, would just ask Humpty for the definition.

          2. Dazed and Confused

            Re: My current annoyance is "gift" as a verb

            self proclaimed authority that only wishes they had any control of any version of English

            I don't think they've ever claimed to control anything, they see their job as documenting how the language is used. The don't want to be an Académie Française of the English language which is a b*****d of many parents and evolves constantly.

            1. MiguelC Silver badge

              Re: My current annoyance is "gift" as a verb

              In defense of french speakers, nobody gives a damn about the Académie Française's ideas on neologisms...

              Although I can't wait to see a reference to some "point d'enregistrement de wi-fi" (or even the more absurd "zone d'urgence migratoire de wi-fi")

              1. Golgafrinch

                Re: My current annoyance is "gift" as a verb

                Merci pour le lien - qui me rappelle Clemenceau lorsqu'il dit: "Donnez-moi quarante trous du cul et je vous fais une Académie française."

                Ce qui explique leur rejet des formules réussies, telles que "rançongiciel".

          3. Boothy

            Re: My current annoyance is "gift" as a verb

            You do understand OED documents the language, it doesn't define it?

            I've seen quite a few interviews with Oxford Dictionary staff over the years, written and TV interviews etc.

            Each time they've stated their job is to document the language, as used. It's the people that define the language, through usage, and English is a living constantly changing language (like many others in the World).

            The OED have quite a strict process for adding new words to the dictionary, anyone can submit new words, but they have to be in widespread use, in books, in newspapers etc. before they are actually added into the dictionary itself.

            You might not like some of the new words, but that's nothing to do with the OED itself.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

          4. John Sager

            Re: My current annoyance is "gift" as a verb

            OED isn't an Academie Française type prescriptive document. It's real job is to describe current and historical usage with contemporary examples. I should think the keepers of the OED shudder at some of the usages they do document but then all languages (including French despite the AF) change at varying speeds.

          5. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: My current annoyance is "gift" as a verb

            OED has never attempted to have control, they have always been descriptive, not prescriptive

            1. Irony Deficient

              Re: My current annoyance is “gift” as a verb

              That is my understanding as well, but on occasion the OED editorializes, e.g. on “-ise” vs. “-ize”:

              … Hence, some have used the spelling -ise in Eng., as in French, for all these words, and some prefer -ise in words formed in French or Eng. from L. elements, retaining -ize for those of Gr. composition. But the suffix itself, whatever the element to which it is added, is in its origin the Gr. -ιζειν, L. -izāre ; and, as the pronunciation is also with z, there is no reason why in English the special French spelling should be followed, in opposition to that which is at once etymological and phonetic. In this Dictionary the termination is uniformly written -ize.

              in the introductory paragraph of the -ize definition.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: My current annoyance is “gift” as a verb

                Regardless of one's personal ideology, the fact remains that -ize is clearly English, damn your French ise!;

              2. dajames

                Re: My current annoyance is “gift” as a verb

                That is my understanding as well, but on occasion the OED editorializes ...

                That's all part of the greater task of documenting the language. Such editorial comment, where it occurs, is descriptive (or occasionally proscriptive*) rather than prescriptive -- which is as it should be.

                * As, for example, when describing some words as "taboo".

          6. Jonathan Richards 1

            was Re: My current annoyance is "gift" as a verb

            > school nmemonics

            Pity they didn't work harder on the Greek. Mnemonic, pertaining to Mnemosyne, Greek goddess of memory.

            1. Psmo

              Re: was My current annoyance is "gift" as a verb

              Maybe they forgot?

        2. WanderingHaggis

          Re: My current annoyance is "gift" as a verb

          Mine is to speak into a situation -- I speak into telephones, microphones even ears sometimes I advise, suggest, discuss, inform but a situation does not have receptors or intelligence to receive ... But as others have said it is a lost cause.

        3. teknopaul

          Re: My current annoyance is "gift" as a verb

          My current annoyance is criminal as pejorative. Governments spit out 1000s of laws and Police apply those laws unfairly. Anyone who claims to abide by the law is lying, we have no hope of even knowing what correct legal action is from one moment to the next. Better to be an honest criminal.

      3. Cynic_999

        Re: Too late

        Unless used sarcastically or ironically, to "gift" someone something implies giving the person permanent possession of something beneficial for no charge. "To give" does not imply permanent possession, lack of compensation or that the item is wanted, so the two words are not interchangeable.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Too late

          Sure, give can mean to provide something unwanted or the like, but it's also perfectly acceptable for the definition you've provided for gift. I give people presents which I hope will be useful and certainly don't charge for. So in that sense, give works just fine to describe the action. Not only that, but most of the times gift is used as a verb it is by something that doesn't necessarily meet your definition. I've seen it used in legal contracts for a thing which was given but wasn't requested or in marketing to describe a new offering which isn't free or permanent. So, as usage goes, they do look a little interchangeable. At least give is completely suitable as a drop-in replacement for gift when they're verbs.

          1. teknopaul

            Re: Too late

            If someone says I will give you some money if you will give it back, its clear what they mean. And if someone says I will gift you some money if you will gift it back, its clear that they are talking about "tax efficiency" and or money laundering.

      4. rnturn

        Re: Too late

        For me it's using "ask" as a noun.

        1. this

          Re: Too late

          I always seems to be a big ask too. I've never seen a small one.

        2. Steve K

          Re: Too late

          Or chef TV shows where the dish they are cooking "eats well".


      5. jgarbo

        Re: Too late for U

        Gift is a good addition, implying giving of a useful or treasured object, combing two words - give + gift.

        Sorry linguistic dinosaur, it's called evolution. Oh, you don't like that either? (Old language teacher)

      6. FlamingDeath Silver badge

        Re: Too late

        The media and their crayons, always getting shit fundamentally wrong

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Too late

        My current annoyance is when visiting, for example, a cafe (yes, when that was possible) and seemingly more and more people will ask “Can I get a coffee”. It makes me shudder.

        I was in a Cornish bakery a couple of summers ago, and heard someone ask “Can I get a pasty”

        It’s getting used more, and more often, too.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Too late

          AC >>> "Can I get a coffee”. It makes me shudder.

          I'll take a coffee, please.

    2. Chris G

      Re: Too late

      Unfortunately, MSM is rarely concerned with accuracy, preferring to put views and profits way ahead of accuracy, then due to the prevalence of the public adoption of MSM attitudes and phrases such thing become the norm.

      Trying to change the public view of the word hacker to one with rather more cuddly connotations is like trying to push back the tide.

      I agree with the argument but it is way too late to douch about it, easier to invent a new word to describe cuddly hackers.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Too late

      Now that's a problem, I want hacker to keep its meaning (and lifehack arguably uses hack from the old meaning), but I'm not really bothered about master/slave, blacklist/whitelist, and others being replaced by new words.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Too late

        I'm sort of with you. But blacklist/whitelist goes back a couple of thousand years and has absolutely nothing to do with race, for example.

        Slave, I can sort of agree with. It has become a very loaded term. But it is hard to think of alternatives, in some cases, E.g. slaving a convoy of automated vehicles to the lead car.

      2. Getmo

        Re: Too late

        Blacklist / Whitelist is an odd one, and is still very popular and widely-used, I think my pi hole still uses it.

        It's very in-your-face terminology, when you're setting it up you can't really ignore the fact it's saying black represents "bad"/"reject" and white = "good"/"pass". I think it's harder to ignore than master/slave.

        If one day the labels all changed to "deny list" (not in your source code, Mozilla, just the visible labels) it wouldn't change any meaning, so who cares, why not change it? Or "Blocklist" which is just changing one letter.

        1. martinusher Silver badge

          Re: Too late

          Its not skin color that determined good or bad, the terms arose because old fashioned Westerns used to have the goodies wearing white hats and the baddies wearing black hats. (Redskins, Injuns or whatever Native Americans were called back then didn't wear hats unless it was an Apache feather or a full war bonnet. It didn't matter -- they'd get shot on sight unless they were Tontolike.)

          (For old TV western fans -- I'm writing this from what used to be "Gunsmoke". After this ersatz western town was finished with it became a surburban housing tract. Such is life....)

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Too late

            It probably goes back much further than that. Think about a small group of proto-humans a couple million years ago. Fearing the dark of night, because that's when the nocturnal predators hunted. The light of day brought relative safety. In other words "dark == bad, light == better" is embedded in our very genetics.

            And let's not forget that those first early humans were undoubtedly dark skinned. The entire concept of black vs white being a racist thing is laughable.

          2. big_D Silver badge

            Re: Too late

            I'm not sure they had films and TV in ancient Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Rome...

            But, yes, films and TVs did use different coloured hats to make fight scenes and tracking shots easier to follow in black and white films.

        2. InfoMaps

          Re: Too late

          What happens when they come for your “black badge” or want to reclaim “black hats” and “white hats”? Good guys always wear white, right?

    4. don't you hate it when you lose your account

      Splitting hairs

      Masturbation is not a crime, unless you do it in your local supermarket. It's the intent and circumstances of your actions that make it a crime. And good luck with trying to educate the standard journalist.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Splitting hairs

        > Masturbation is not a crime, unless you do it in your local supermarket.

        As with so many things it's not a crime unless you get caught. But in the case of masturbation it is the outrage associated with the getting caught which is the crime. There are plenty of websites devoted to selling devices to assist in masturbation some of which could quite legal be used in the supermarket or almost anywhere else you choose, without causing outrage.

    5. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Too late

      Maybe we should reserve the word computer for its correct usage too.

      The word "computer" dates to the 1640’s and referred to a human being who performed calculations. These human generated calculations would be compiled into things like navigation tables or interest rate tables.

      I, for one, am heartily sick of the dimwits who abuse the word, ignorantly believing that it refers to programmable calculating machines instead of a type of mathematician.

      Joke alert, because Poe's law.

      1. RobThBay

        Re: Too late

        I thought people that performed calculations were called "computors".

        1. MiguelC Silver badge
        2. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Too late

          Not in 1672.

          Now it is manifest, and most men likewise know, that the Calenders of these computers, and the accounts of these days are very different; the Greeks dissenting from the Latins, and the Latins from each other; the one observing the Julian or ancient account, as great Britain and part of Germany;
          Sir Thomas Browne (1646; 6th ed., 1672) Pseudodoxia Epidemica VI.iv (pp. 336-338)

    6. Scott 1

      Re: Too late

      "...or forever be shouting at pigeons in the park."

      You say this like it's a bad thing. Also, I propose we "verb-ivy" the word pigeon to mean engaging in that activity.

      Examples: "Mark and I were planning to *pigeon* in Central Park this evening. Care to join us?"

      "I saw the network administrator *pigeoning* about the idiots in upper management during my walk into work this morning."

    7. Alistair

      Re: Too late

      I think Tom Lehrer had a far far better idea about pigeons in parks.

    8. Dwarf

      Re: Too late

      Its a broken term as its also used to describe someone starting out in Electronics in microcontrollers or raspberry Pi's when they learned how to flash an LED or do other very basic things.

      Obviously something has gone wrong here.

      Perhaps we need a way of describing "someone with talent that can think differently about security or can break controls / protections built into electronic systems."

    9. Jonathan Richards 1

      Re: Too late

      Indeed, people tell me all the time to get over it, because language is a living thing. Thus, I speak of Donald Trump's fabulous and incredible win in the 2020 US Presidential election, and I get down-voted by progressive liberals with no background in etymology.

      1. Precordial thump Silver badge

        Re: Too late

        Fabulous, as something out of an instructive fairy-tale.

        Incredible, as something defying reasonable belief.

    10. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      It's Never Too Late when Ahead of the Curves in the Future.

      You can't control language. Deal with the accepted definition, or forever be shouting at pigeons in the park. ....... fnusnu

      A String of Words [aka language] creates, commands and controls and destroys worlds. Ignoring and misusing them is perilous, with consequences able to be both generally catastrophic and personally deadly.

      It is why GPT-3 Research, and that's a reasonably innocuous plain wrap for the vehicles testing the high ways and byways and underground channel tunnels of the human mind, is proving ..... well, let us just say challenging rather than controversial and lucrative and distressing. The field is a Bot SkunkworX and into XSSXXXX Guarantees of Future Success to Excess ..... Almighty Reward.

      That's what makes it so addictively attractive to the humble human being and gluttonous slave master/genius amateur and psychopathic professional alike.

      Language controls you, ..... sublimely and stealthily, and clearly supremely with powerful revelations advising and instructing one always best planted for seeding and sowing and growing in plain sight.

    11. jgarbo

      Re: Too late for the lazy

      Mangled definitions and merging of separate terms, eg hacking - cracking = "hacking" has become common due to semi-literate folk broadcasting their errors over the Net and TV. I used to teach TESOL to foreign students, and to boost their confidence showed them egregious mistakes made even by native speakers. Nevertheless, as Canute showed, you cannot hold back the tide.

    12. Kibble 2

      Re: Too late

      The argument against using the term hacking describing a criminal activity has been going on for many years now. It seems to be a cycle that someone brings this up.

      I see this as a greater argument against the media pushing partisan politics in general. I've reluctantly voted for Alyssa's argument, but would prefer it be expanded to large media's manipulation of the public in general. As it stands now this is an example of someone shouting on a soapbox in the park.

    13. ICPurvis47

      Re: Too late

      Similarly, the term "Engineer" should refer to someone who has spent 4 to 6 years or even longer studying for a Degree or Doctorate in an Engineering subject. I find it extremely irritating that the gas company insiste that they have 6000 "Gas Engineers" ready and waiting to come and service your boiler. NO they haven't. They may well have 6000 trained gas fitters available, but not one of them has any form of Higher Degree. It would seem that the great unwashed have been brainwashed into believing the anyone who gets his hands dirty is automatically and "Engineer". In some countries, including Germany and Canada, it is illegal to use the term "Engineer" unless you have the correct qualifications, why not here? I C Purvis MSc.

  2. disgruntled yank

    I sympathize

    But usage eventually wears everyone down and wins. Obligatory XKCD: .

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I sympathize

      Did Randall write about it on his Blag?

    2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: I sympathize

      Plus ça change...

      They will in their turn grow old and hate some atrocity inflicted on the language by their own grandchildren.

  3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Ever since I heard it four decades ago, "hacker" has always sounded to me to be somebody to "hacks" away at something instead of thinking through, planning, and structuring something. I don't want software that's been "hacked" together, I want it to be written properly. So, "hacker" to me means more like "unprofessional" than "without permission".

    1. TonyWilk

      The quick hack

      To hack, often 'a quick hack', is employed by engineers with enough skill to know better. They describe the 95% solution to a problem implemented in 5% of the time as a 'hack' to show they know the code is of dubious quality and they fully intend to re-implement the modification properly sometime later.

      Which never happens.

      1. Naselus

        Re: The quick hack

        The (TMRC-correct) parlance for that would be a kludge.

        1. Fred Dibnah

          Re: The quick hack

          To me that's a bodge.

          1. Getmo

            Re: The quick hack

            "Duct tape programmers", but I've been told that title is for those who know how to do it right, but also know how to implement a quick fix that probably won't cause horrible problems down the line

          2. marcellothearcane

            Re: The quick hack

            Interestingly enough, "bodgers" were once upon a time highly skilled wood turners.

            Since they were always making components rather than finished articles, the term "bodge" came to mean someone that doesn't finish a job, and from there onto someone who does something poorly.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: The quick hack

              The way I understand it (with a little help from my OED), the noun "bodger" is local dialect for a guy who turned chair legs and stretchers in the High Wycombe area of Buckinghamshire (possibly from the German word "Böttcher", which means cooper [now you know where the word "water butt" came from]).

              However, the verb "bodge" is an Australian variation on "botch".

              Two completely separate etymologies. Ain't English grand?

              1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

                Re: The quick hack

                Yep, it's very definitely a local term there. Still in use in places too.

      2. Fading

        Re: The quick hack

        Nothing is as permanent as a temporary fix....

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: The quick hack

          Except for a temporary tax hike.

      3. coconuthead

        Re: The quick hack

        It's a "good hack" if you can't later clearly state a reason why it should be replaced by something done "the right way".

        The ".." in Unix paths (as in, there was originally an actual directory entry with string "..") was a "good hack" because it is hard to argue that anyone would actually want to create a file called "..".

      4. handle handle

        Re: The quick hack

        ... and in turn is later cracked.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      The big book of what "hacker" means

      There have been far too many definitions of hack and hacker. Here's an inexhaustive list, just to show how completely pointless any effort to force a single meaning would be.

      1. Someone who breaks into computer systems. "The criminal hacked the database and dumped the password hashes on the internet."

      2. Someone who builds things ignoring the conventional way. As seen in the article.

      3. Someone who builds things in a quick and ugly way. As seen in the comment I replied to.

      4. Someone who builds things in any way. "We need some hackers to get this app idea off the ground."

      5. Someone who tries to improve on the accepted way. "Here are some suggested hacks which can speed up your work."

      6. Someone who enjoys playing with computer systems. "I hacked this locked-down firmware so it supports more modern networks."

      7. Someone who enjoys building computer systems. "I hacked together a bunch of components I cannibalized from some stuff being thrown away and built this cool proof of concept."

      8. Someone who doesn't enjoy playing with or building computer systems but does so anyway because people are willing to pay them to do it.

      9. Someone who uses an axe or other sharp tool to damage or destroy a physical object. "I hacked through the wall because the door was too strong to break through."

      10. Someone who cuts a large object into smaller pieces. "I hacked apart this big chunk of chocolate so I could more easily melt it."

      11. Someone who does not put effort into their work. "The writer is clearly a hack who doesn't understand how to do consistent characterization."

      It's a losing battle. If we want a nice sympathetic term for something in this list, we'd better find a new word and start using that.

      1. marcellothearcane

        Re: The big book of what "hacker" means

        Yes, alternatively we can stop trying to put all the context into one word and use "hack" to mean "criminally break into computer systems" and "do something clever" and let the context guide meaning.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: The big book of what "hacker" means

          On the other hand, we can use the word Hack as it was intended in the computer/network context, and also use the term Crack as it was intended in the computer/network context.

          Yes, one could over-load one word to have two different meanings, but Shirley it makes much more sense to use two separate words so as not to risk confusion? Especially two separate words that we all already (mostly) agree on the meaning of?

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: The big book of what "hacker" means

        12. To ride a horse for leisure.

        13. A horse maintained for the purpose of 12.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: The big book of what "hacker" means

          If you want to go that route, a "hack" is another name for a Journalist, so they simply must be using it right!

          It's also a term for a worn out, tired, should be retired but isn't, horse. If you are old enough, your milkman or coalman's horse was probably a hack.

          Tomorrow, I think I'll take the side-hack over to our Petaluma barn and hack one of the horses up the hill to where I'm hacking a Red Tail hawk ...

          If you are hacking, it might be pollen at this time of year, the mustard and stone-fruit trees are blooming like mad. However, you'd best get tested just in case, perhaps you're coming down with Covid19.

      3. Intractable Potsherd

        Re: The big book of what "hacker" means

        I don't know how common it is, but a fairly common meaning around my original bit of Yorkshire was to be really annoyed, for example, "[$person] really hacks me off".

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: The big book of what "hacker" means

          That is a fairly common use in most of the US, too.

          So I guess we could say "It's really hacking me off that mist media hacks are misusing the term "hacker" in the context of computers and networking".

      4. handle handle

        Re: The big book of what "hacker" means

        ... someone with a hacking cough (predates computational microprocessors entirely, I believe).

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      Hacking, to go out for a ride on a horse around the bridleways and country roads.

    4. dajames

      ... "hacker" to me means more like "unprofessional" than "without permission".


      I first came across the term "hacker" in the context of chemical research. One of my fellow research students described another -- let's call him Jim -- as "a bit of a hacker", and I asked what he meant by that.

      He replied that Jim got good results, but was untidy, broke more than the usual amount of glassware, and never put anything away or did his own washing up.

    5. HorseflySteve

      Hack!, Hack!,Hack!

      The term comes from the sound a teletype makes when you're typing. Certainly, the Data Dynamics ones I used at college in the '70s did.

      1. WanderingHaggis

        Re: Hack!, Hack!,Hack!

        It can be a bad cough as well -- a hacking cough. By the way does anyone have some aspirin?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Barn doors

    Sadly "hack" has insinuated itself into common language; magazines talk about "10 Life Hacks to Improve Your Fitness", so the concept of hacking as making a change to something, even if it's with somebody else's toolkit, is ingrained now. People used to talk about "cracking" computer systems, vs "hacking", but that seems to have fallen by the wayside.

    1. MisterHappy

      Re: Barn doors

      However many, many years ago my mum's Woman's Own used to include "Reader's Tips". I suppose that now it would be "10 Life Hacks you would never believe!!!!!"

    2. Chronos

      Re: Barn doors

      That's an argument for the proposal. In this context, the "hack" is a useful shortcut or novel way of doing something to achieve a desired end. That, to my mind, is evolution of the original definition.

  5. Spoobistle

    Bad picture

    Sorry but I don't like the picture on the stories page - if you're going to get your face that close to something you're using clippers on, for goodness sake wear eye protection. Wire ends can flirt a surprising distance in unexpected directions.

    Obvious Icon!

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: Bad picture

      Came here to say exactly that.

    2. David Nash

      Re: Bad picture

      Wire ends can flirt?

    3. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Bad picture

      Correct, although you probably shouldn't be using that type of side cutter to snip surplus wire off the back of a circuit board (there's a type designed for the task that's got a clamp to catch the wire end and stop it flying off, its also designed to leave virtually no 'tag' at the back of the board).

      The picture is probably the only one in existence that has those three elements (girl, circuit board and tool) in it. Very PC these days, although a bit silly since ladies have been doing electronic assembly and rework since the beginning, wiring up telephone exchanges, WW2 aircraft, computers and so on. These days they're more likely to be doing inspection, rework and maybe assembly of parts that can't be soldered in an oven. They're still relatively uncommon as engineers (but not unknown). They're more likely to be programmers or systems anaylists but not necessarily hackers.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Bad picture

        Indeed, in the days when I worked in electronics manufacturing the by hand population of pcbs and the hand soldering was done in the “wireshop” entirely by women.

  6. SsiethAnabuki

    Linguistic drift

    I guess echoing what a lot of folks here have already said. Language is gonna language and fighting it is as productive as standing on the beach and shouting at the tide....

    Except... I've personally observed something of a drift towards "cybercriminal" as a term rather than "hacker", at least in broadsheets and their online equivalents so maybe the use of "hacker" is now relegated to the red-tops?

    On the flip side, there's also been something of a move away from referring to hardware hackers for folks who mess with stuff physically, using terms like "maker" so maybe the term "hacker" is being abandoned by the educated mainstream for both it's orginal and cybercriminal meanings?

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Linguistic drift

      It's rather ear-opening listening to/reading songs and novels from the 1920s or so that talk about eg "making love in the park". Back then it meant more like "courting".

      Oh, go ask your parents.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Linguistic drift

        Or the old novels where we read that the hero "ran after the thief and ejaculated loudly", meaning he made a loud noise... Why, what did you think it meant?

  7. Huw D

    I have a problem with people using "I've been hacked" as an excuse when what they mean is "I gave away the credentials myself".

    If you still have your car keys and your car has been stolen, your insurance company will be ok. If you don't have your car because you gave the keys to someone else?

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Still maybe

      If you gave the keys so they could give a lift to a foreign prince who {insert long story here}, then according to current usage, yes, you could say you were hacked.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The technical equivalent of a bodger?

    1. Roger Greenwood

      Re: Todger?

      You may find that already used elsewhere but please run it up the flagpole and see who salutes....

  9. DenonDJ DN-2500F

    I'm so old that

    a hacker was someone who could skilfully build something physical or code something using a quick and dirty method (big ball of mud programming?) that worked whereas a cracker was someone intent on breaking into a system for nefarious gain, information gathering or showing off to other crackers. A former colleague was one of the original phone-phreakers in Italy. In modern parlance, he would be described as a hacker.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    English is definded by it's users

    English is very much a language of stolen words, concepts and common ignorance, there are people who claim to be authorities on English but since these self proclaimed authorities are vastly outnumbered by those who "misuse" the language then there is always going to be misunderstandings and conflicts about meanings simply because, with English, everyone is equally able to define the language.

    If you want to change a word's definition then just including your definition in brackets after the word is typically enough, if enough people agree with you then that definition will be added to the psuedo authority's lists of English. It won't stop future misuse or confusion but that is just how it is, English is whatever people agree it is and every English conversation is a negociation.

    So rather than bitching about definitions it would be better to recognise the fact that the language is not static, there are no real authorities on English just surveys of common opinion.

    I agree that during my lifetime many words have annoyingly changed their "agreed" definitions sometimes through intentional political manipulation in order to make what was popularly seen as bad more palatable, sometimes because those without vocabulary find that their normal "swearword as replacement for vocabulary" method is not getting the message across and sometimes because the English breaker wants to be special. So via mangling some word or language convention they do know inorder to "communicate". This is not novel and hence you should not be surprising.

    So in reply, yes, it is annoying that as you get older and start wishing things would stop changing so fast you find that those new people are talking gibberish, this has always been the case and it is just you who has stopped changing with the times. On the plus side "those new people" are going to be bitching just like you sometime in the future if they live long enough and so the cycle continues

    1. Captain Hogwash

      Re: English is definded by it's users

      I am not surprising. I wear psuedo pshoes.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: English is definded by it's users

      Is the apostrophe in the headline an example of that?

      1. Vometia Munro Silver badge

        Re: English is definded by it's users

        Apostrophe's are defined by there* user's?

        * yes I know; my comment probably didn't really require any more argh, but "more is more" and all that.

    3. RobThBay

      Re: English is definded by it's users

      Definded? Did you mean defined?

      1. David Nash

        Re: English is definded by it's users

        and as well as the two examples in previous replies, I add

        "you should not be surprising"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: English is definded by it's users

          And yet for all the language nazi sneering in reality the "bad" structure, words order, misspellings you name it doesn't actually stop the message getting through communication achieved!

          Assuming that you actually got the message what with the distraction of all those insults to your beloved bastard (of many fathers) of a language.

          Thus the primise (see what I did there) of turning the English language clock back just shouts how out of touch you are with what is important and what is not, please enjoy your nitpicking whilst crossing a busy road next time

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: English is definded by it's users

            "it doesn't actually stop the message getting through communication achieved!"

            Yes. Yes it does. Daily!

            Most often it's the dear public but all to often it's a colleague. Particularly bad when it's technical documentation and I have to go into primary legislation to see WTF they meant. I have lost *days* of my life to ****holes that can't write proper! </Rant>

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: English is definded by it's users

              @" Particularly bad when it's technical documentation and I have to go into primary legislation to see WTF they meant." now that is interesting, I never had any problems with technical documentation no matter the English a quick scan to confirm how their thinking and next, mind you standards are dropping all over.

              Just out of interest do you insist upon reading instructions for say ikea items as well? before actually looking at the item to be assembled?

            2. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: English is definded by it's users

              How much of that documentation problem is due to people disagreeing about what a word means, I.E. gift, speak into, hack, or any of the other such things mentioned here, and how much is because they didn't bother writing it well? I have had problems with documentation, but never because I couldn't understand something they said, instead always because they didn't say something they should. "The function foo takes the identifier as a parameter", for example, is a perfectly clear bit of prose but doesn't tell me what the identifier is or how I get one. That's the problem I have. Never had confusion over a definition ruin otherwise well-written documentation.

          2. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: English is definded by it's users

            And yet for all the language nazi sneering

            One of the worst abominations in the English language is trying to equate people who prefer standardised grammar with a genocidal murderous fascist ideology.

            English was once a set of building blocks that could be used in anyway to create communication, and any spelling that could be phonetically understood worked. Then Caxton happened. Later the Empire happened and a structure that could be more easily learned as a second language was required.

            To this day, language is taught according to the rules and messing with them just make life difficult for folks who are learning the language. And teachers are exasperated by Faecebook thickos normalising “of” for “have” because GCSE examiners haven’t caught up.

            And finally, “to reach out” makes me puke instantly. Someone is going to get a STFU one day for that one. Unless you are one of The Four Tops, don’t.

    4. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: English is definded by it's users

      My first girlfriend was Gay, she got a little hassle is school but changed her name when "gay" became sexuality, not just fun. When we were together she loved telling everyone that she was Gay and being a fun nice person was always her greatest pleasue - and we are still friends.

      1. WanderingHaggis

        Re: English is definded by it's users

        A bit like when I told my American friends I was a hooker at school and supported by a couple of friends -- originally though I was the loose head prop.

  11. Scoured Frisbee


    I am mostly interested in how many people change their mind during a debate, not how many there absolutely are. The comments here are a good example why: apparently lots of the readership has given up on the term, and presumably thought so before reading the article - it would be interesting to see if anyone went from against to for, though. Surely the readers of this esteemed organ could handle six or seven options (unsure/unsure in addition to the conclusive 6).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Metrics

      Article is just click bait for those who already had an opinion, some people will of course always complain about change but clicking either options here is not actually going to change anything otherthan a percentage of people feeling smug that they matched with higher percentage of anonymous responders who are proberbly just as blinkered and small minded as them.

  12. Captain Obvious

    Funny - the original hacker meaning

    Was people who tinkered with things to try to understand how things work. For EXAMPLE, I found ways to increase AND use additional memory on the Amiga 1000, which is clearly what hackers did back then. This applies to ANYTHING - software, hardware, your car, your phone, etc.

  13. big_D Silver badge

    I've long been a hacker...

    When I was growing up, a hacker was someone who pushed technology to its limits, found new ways of doing things and generally pushed frontiers.

    I did all that. I was only minor league and never did anything that famously pushed the boundaries we know today, although my first hour in college received a, "wow, I didn't know you could do that with a computer!" From my computer programming lecturer!

    Being a hacker was something to be proud of. I still use the term that way today. I hate that it is so misused and abused in the press and society in general.

  14. Blackjack Silver badge

    In Japan it is

    As least for anything involving videogames, even making a backup of your save data.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: In Japan it is

      All of this because Nintendo still haven't managed to properly sign game save files.

  15. theOtherJT Silver badge

    In the immortal words of Sully O'Sullivan...

    "We can't undo the damage that's been done to that word. It's too late."

  16. Dave White

    Hacker is also a name

    My SO's surname is Hacker. It is a fairly common Germanic name. Hacker-Pschorr beer, anyone?

    Aside: My surname is White. Our door has White Hacker on it.

  17. HammerOn1024

    A long, long, long time ago...

    We used to us 'cracker', as in bank robber, for the black hats and 'hacker' for the white hats.

    But the hacking community couldn't stand that for some twisted reason and demanded all be called "Hackers". The cracker community loved it because it gave them another cloak to throw on so they remained silent. Now hot air is once again being blown over this whiners delight. Quite frankly, my only response to this can be "Go away kid, you bother me."

    Whining then and whining now, now that you have exactly what you wanted, is of no value to me in any way shape or form.

    1. handle handle

      Re: A long, long, long time ago...

      Dude - didn’t you get the memo? We’re most certainly not allowed to use black/white adjectives in this fashion any longer. Catch up, Boomer.

  18. DutchBasterd

    Pretty much the same story with "karate kicks"

  19. David Nash

    Troll too

    'nuff said.

  20. wub


    Did anybody proofread this one prior to posting?

    From the intro: "... the argument against will be published on Friday."

    From the graphic caption: "...wait until you see the against argument later today."

    Um, I'm all confused now. I do like to hear both sides before I try and make up my mind...

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Proofread?

      In addition to that inconsistency, it might be better to post both sides together and maybe even have the two writers ask each other questions. That way, there would be an actual debate more than what we're doing here.

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge


      Yes, we did proofread it and sometimes things slip through just like bugs slip through into production.

      The bit at the end was boilerplate from a previous debate, and it's now fixed.

      As is clear from the opening and the debate page, the second piece is going live on Friday, and the results on Tuesday. We space them out to give people a chance to read and vote -- most people read us a few times a week, not multiple times a day.

      Also, please don't forget to email if you spot anything wrong.


  21. Steven Guenther

    fuller definition

    The definition of Hacker I grew up with was: Someone who comes up with a unique solution to a problem, usually faster to implement and run. It only solves the immediate problem, not the whole class of problems. They also do not document what they did.

    So Hacker has been an insult for a long time. Adding criminal aspect was from looking at the code.

  22. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    The wrong answer

    We lost the "cracker" "debate" about fifteen years. I voted "against" because of the pigeoning.

    That said, I think that we do need an alternate term. But we need to pick a winner. I observe that "phishing" is on the edge of breaking through. I suggest that "haxxor" or "haXXor" has a much better chance today than "cracker" ever did. (For script kiddies, I would use "H4xx0r", but then, I read MegaTokyo.)

  23. Cynic_999

    It is not perjorative to me

    "Hacker" is only a perjorative if used in the context of doing something for an illegal or immoral purpose. If someone is decribed as a "hacker" with no context, my first thought is that it is a clever and innovative person - someone who achieves a goal (good or bad) via unconventional methods. . Perhaps someone who comes up with satisfactory way of opening bottles of wine when there is no corkscrew available, for example.

    A "computer hacker" might be doing something bad, but might just as well be someone who cobbles some code together to do something the computer or OS was not originally designed to do. Only if the context is that of hacking someone else's computer or code without their permission or circumventing security features would I assume that it is probably a "bad" person.

  24. tiggity Silver badge

    Did not vote

    .. as it needed JavaScript enabled, FFS

    Surely a poll could be done via a nice simple submit, with no need for JS?

    As JS on webpages is my main risk of malware attack (plain text emails for the safety win) I only enable JS if its really important (a poll vote is not something to risk my security for)

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    hackers stole 3 million health records

    just like Google and Palantir?

  26. Joe Gurman

    This horse, like the proverbial parrot, is long dead

    There's no use beating it. I've been hearing these arguments since the 1980s.

    The media will do what they want to do, and using lazy metaphors is part of their modus operandi.

  27. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    I when did

    my apprenticeship in the dim and distant past, the word 'hack' and 'hacker' were defined as someone who uses a short cut or a well thought out cheat to achieve engineering goodness(if only for a moment)

    Now we use the words 'bodge' and 'bodger' to state the same thing such as "I used the mig welder to bodge the claws on the robot... hopefully it will last long enough to get the job done, but its only a bodge", or "Had to bodge the code to get the bug fix in" 40 yrs ago I would might have used hack instead of bodge.

    The point is... English is a living and evolving language, new words come in and little used words leave and theres no central authority to say what is the right use of a word and the wrong use of a word.

    So I stand with the proposer because in 40 yrs time hack and hacker could mean something different all together(unless they drop out)

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: I when did

      I'm probably a similar age to you, but from being knee-high to a cricket, the word 'hack' and 'hacker' were defined as someone who used a *badly* thought out cheat to *bodge* something together. If it was well thought out and achieved engineering goodness, it was - by definition - *not* a hack or hacking.


      Hack a bit off this timber. Saw a bit off this timber.

      Hack your way through the undergrowth. Clear your way through the undergrowth.

  28. I code for the bacon


    IMHO, the best option will be to coin another term and use it for the kind of specialists called by now 'ethical hackers'. Creating a new term and getting people to use it is hard, but trying to change the meaning that is usually given to another is way, way, harder. Absurdidly hard.

  29. Justin Clements

    I'll bite. You should be in jail.

    If the definition of a hacker is someone gaining entry into another persons computer (as opposed to other uses of the verb) then yes and you need to be in jail. You have entered a system where you had no privilege to be there. That makes your actions criminal and you a criminal.

    It doesn't matter if you guessed a password, the password was not yours to use. You have fraudulently presented yourself to the system. In the same way knowing a PIN number on someones debit card does not give you the right to their money, knowing a password does not give you permission to enter the system.

    Finding a weakness does not automatically give you immunity. If you break into my house by cutting a hole in my roof, the onus isn't on me to show that you entered my dwelling illegally, and why is it on me to repair my roof. The roof was perfectly good until you climbed through it. Same goes with the servers I run. They were perfectly happy until some s-o-b gets onto them, and then we spend yet more time and money fixing things.

    And the moment you open a single file of mine, that is akin to you creeping around my house looking at my things, so criminal trespassing at the very least.

    However, in these examples people like you pretend that they have a right to break into my house or my servers, because you tell everyone "it's not secure", like you're innocent for some reason. It was secure before you ram raided it.

    You also complain that you shouldn't be held responsible for owning hacker tools, merely owning the tools shows no intent you say. But we've already done this in law - you wander round with tools for house or car breaking, and the police will prosecute you for owning such tools. But because you went to college, for some reason, you feel you're above this level of scrutiny.

    No, you are a common criminal, and sysadmins like me, have to deal with people with less honorable intentions than you all day long. But in my book, you're a criminal, just like those trying to get into my systems because frankly - I can't tell you apart, and you both cost me time, money and aggravation.

    If people like you were serving 10 stretches, you'd make things a whole lot easier.

    And yes, removing videos about how to hack systems is a good thing. Because these people you're training don't have "good intentions" like you, they have bad intentions. Watch a hacker one day execute an fsck on a production server and tell me with a straight face that you are a good thing for the industry.

    You are one of the cockroaches of the internet that working sysadmins have to endure every day of the week, and who cost our employers money by being shaken down to buy yet more and more security products.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: I'll bite. You should be in jail.

      "If the definition of a hacker is someone gaining entry into another persons computer"

      That would be a cracker, not a hacker.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: I'll bite. You should be in jail.

      Way to simplify things to the point of incorrectness. Of course people who access the system without authorization are committing a crime. That is not the only definition and by equating everything else using the term, you are yelling at plenty of people who never broke into your or anyone else's systems without authorization.

      "You also complain that you shouldn't be held responsible for owning hacker tools, merely owning the tools shows no intent you say. But we've already done this in law - you wander round with tools for house or car breaking, and the police will prosecute you for owning such tools. But because you went to college, for some reason, you feel you're above this level of scrutiny."

      Wrong. If you have a tool whose only purpose is to commit a crime, then possession can be illegal. However, most of the tools concerned are not single-purpose. I am allowed to walk about with my toolbox even though I could use most of the stuff in there to break into your house. Until I do, the tools do not incriminate me.

      Software useful for breaking into things has many legitimate uses. I use it to perform security scans, with permission, or to do network discovery, or to investigate what things I own are sending over their network connections. I have the right to do any and all of those things, and the tools are what I need to do them.

      "And yes, removing videos about how to hack systems is a good thing. Because these people you're training don't have "good intentions" like you, they have bad intentions. Watch a hacker one day execute an fsck on a production server and tell me with a straight face that you are a good thing for the industry."

      Posting information about how systems can be compromised is education. If people learn those things, they know how to test to see if they are vulnerable and secure themselves if it turns out they are. True, it can also show people how to commit the crimes, but they can figure that out anyway. For example, there are videos showing how people often break into houses so people setting up security systems know how to protect or at least monitor those typical things. Even if someone gets an idea about how to break into something by watching that, the author doesn't get the guilt for the crime. The person doing it does.

      I think the primary problem leading to these incorrect statements is this:

      "However, in these examples people like you pretend that they have a right to break into my house or my servers, because you tell everyone "it's not secure", like you're innocent for some reason. It was secure before you ram raided it."

      All but the last sentence is correct. They found a way in, and using that is a crime. They committed a crime and deserve to get penalized for that. It is incorrect however to say that it was secure before people attacked it. No, it wasn't, because they did and succeeded. It would have been secure if they tried and failed. The major problem with that though is that not everyone who knows how to break into something is breaking into something. I did not attack your servers, though I am trained in security and know how to probe and test them. I am not guilty. I have broken into things, but all were either A) my own things or B) owned by people who specifically requested I break into them. For the same reason that a locksmith isn't a criminal, most security people aren't either.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'll bite. You should be in jail.

      Yes, of course, criminal behavior is criminal. Also, I would be very unhappy with anybody, for any reason, invading my system.

      However, there happens to be an entire industry centered around "hackers" testing defenses to find security holes, and only after the holes are found, informing the the sites owners about them. Like cleaner fish.

      There's also cases of people (especially young people) just testing their ability, without any intent to cause damage, just to show off. What happens after that is more far important than simply breaking in.

      It's not good to break in - but there are degrees of bad behavior. As it is, the common person is already invaded with all kinds of tracking and monitoring.

      The world is not black and white, so it certainly isn't all black either.

      1. Justin Clements

        Re: I'll bite. You should be in jail.

        I listened to a talk by a big retro YouTuber the other night. Weird guy at the best of times.

        In his speech he talked about phreaking and when he was a kid how he and his friends copied games. His justification was "how else would we stay in contact" with the phreaking and "we weren't going to buy the game anyway so we weren't depriving the writers of revenue" for copying the game.

        That's how far we've come these days. He felt long distance charges were too much so he felt justified in phreaking, and he would benefit from someone's work when copying a game, but didn't feel the need to compensate the writer for that. Zero remorse. We simply write off "our" criminal behaviour as a bit of a laugh.

        But if I was to use his car one evening, and return it the following morning, would he really be quite so agreeable? I mean, I returned it, I might even fill it up with fuel, and I might only have driven a couple of miles slowly so it won't have any real wear, and I didn't deprive him of his vehicle because he was asleep at home. Or would it be grand theft auto?

        If someone wants to hack their own system, I don't have a problem with that. But it's the sanctimonious way hackers think that they are somehow honorable and call themselves "white hat hackers". Then blackmail the company "we found a hack, pay us to fix it", which is extortion. And also criminal. Or how they find holes in things, and go on to document the hole, and sell the fix, and again, describe themselves as the "good guy".

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: I'll bite. You should be in jail.

          As a former phone phreak, most of us were more interested in figuring out how the system worked than saving money on our phone bills. Frankly, many of the phreaks had nobody that they wanted to talk to within their local town, much less a long distance call away!

          By the mid 70s, most of us (in the Bay Area, anyway) had grown bored with $TELCO (let's face it, there wasn't really all that much to learn) and had drifted into building home computers and (if enrolled at a local Uni) hacking the new-fangled NCP network ... and a little later fiddling about with computers connected with UUCP and then TCP/IP, both often with dial-up UNIX shell accounts begged from Stanford and Berkeley through contacts at the Homebrew Computer Club.

          The rest, as they say, is history ...

          I never understood the fascination with computer gaming ... to me, the computer and network itself was the game. Somebody else can address that part of it, if they care.

          However, I will point out that stealing a car is physically removing a rather large piece of somebody's net worth ... copying code does not. I don't condone illegally copying code, mind you, but it's not the same level of theft, no matter how you look at it.

        2. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: I'll bite. You should be in jail.

          That's not what normally happens, nor is it a problem in my mind.

          "Then blackmail the company "we found a hack, pay us to fix it", which is extortion."

          That is not extortion. Now there are people who will do the extortion, which looks like "We found a hack, pay us or we'll use it", but there are many who won't do that. Those who do not use it aren't committing a crime unless they have done so to find the hack in the first place.

          "Or how they find holes in things, and go on to document the hole, and sell the fix, and again, describe themselves as the "good guy"."

          In this case, they are probably the good guy. If your thing is flawed, and you're selling it, you are the bad guy because you're selling something shoddy and putting your customers at risk. A worse guy could come along and abuse your shoddy thing to deliberately cause harm. Someone who identifies where you failed is protecting themselves and others. As long as they don't do something to your systems to figure it out, then they haven't done anything wrong. Probing your system is a grey area. Actively entering them without permission is wrong. Reading the client-side code you sent, testing a product they purchased from you using their own systems, or entering information into fields you have sent them to enter information in are perfectly normal things they have the right to do. If they find a problem, they may try to sell a fix to you. You are under no obligation to buy it. You could find it yourself and fix it. You could have done that before you sold it too. Quite often, the ethical security researchers wait until either you have fixed the problem or you have indicated you're not going to bother before they disclose. If it's the former, then you're patched and have no problem. If it's the latter, it's a fair warning that all us customers want to know before we give money to someone who builds dangerous products and refuses to fix them.

  30. jake Silver badge

    RFC-1392 clearly defines the meaning of the word "hacker" in this context.

    You can read RFC-1392 for yourself here, but I'll paste what it says below, for the terminally lazy among you. That's from January of 1993, BTW, and pretty much represents the consensus of computer/network/Internet folks of the era.

    Sadly, however, AOL had launched their Windows software a couple months earlier, and then unleashed the GreatUnwashed on Usenet in September. The Internet would never be the same ... and the journalists of the Mass Media struggled to report on this new phenomenon, corrupting, bastardizing and perverting an already well-established lingua franca in their wake. Marketing completed the corruption.

    Hackers are people who know how to take apart systems, from hardware to firmware to running code, and then put it back together again so it works properly/better (or for pranks). They are the people who gave us modern computing.

    Crackers are the criminals who use info learned and shared by hackers for their own nefarious reasons. Crackers rarely have any actual ability to hack. This is the term that journalists should usually be using when they use the word "hacker".

    Skiddies blindly run code created by hackers and crackers in order to attempt to look kewl among their peers. This is the word to describe teenagers on 4chan and the like.

    Here's what RFC-1292 has to say:

    "hacker: A person who delights in having an intimate understanding of the internal workings of a system, computers and computer networks in particular. The term is often misused in a pejorative context, where "cracker" would be the correct term. See also: cracker."

    "cracker: A cracker is an individual who attempts to access computer systems without authorization. These individuals are often malicious, as opposed to hackers, and have many means at their disposal for breaking into a system. See also: hacker, Computer Emergency Response Team, Trojan Horse, virus, worm."

    Skiddy: This term wasn't in widespread use before AOL did it's bull in a china shop routine.

  31. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    Don't say hacked

    I was a volunteer at the library, and they complained one of their printers wasn't printing. They had called support and it would be some time before the tech arrived from downtown. I walked over to the printer, went through the menu, and saw the IP address was blank. So I typed in the IP address from the label on the front of the printer, and it sprang to life. Let's not ponder the cost of an onsite visit for such a fix. They asked me how I fixed it, and I jokingly said "I hacked it in". I had to go to a meeting, at which they read me the riot act and told me I couldn't be a volunteer any more. The shame! Fired as a volunteer!

    Now I use the word MacGuyver. Everybody loves MacGuyver! Doubles as a verb, too. MacGuyver's hacks were carefully designed to not do anything, in case kids were tempted to try them at home. But I don't think librarians can figure that part out, so MacGuyver is good.

  32. Tam Lin

    I recall this argument in print almost 50 years ago, around the time the new Altair computer kit was featured in Popular Electronics. Like "irony", it's dead. Long dead.

    There IS still time to save some more recent thefts, e.g., "begs the question" and "due diligence", but they won't survive either. Idiots need "new" words to impress each other.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      In print, you can go in to Smiths and buy Hackspace or Hackaday. Both monthly mags.

  33. Big_Boomer

    Gay Hacker!

    My Grandad was the gayest man I've ever known. He was almost always happy and smiling. He especially enjoyed getting his machete out and hacking back the spring undergrowth in his garden. He was a gay hacker. No, gay didn't always mean homosexual, and hacker has several meanings. The meaning of some words change with time and societal changes. You can either choose to move with the times, or whine about them.

  34. William Higinbotham

    Where are the kid's safety glasses?

    I saw the photo assiciated with the article. The photo got me more concerned than the article itself:-)

  35. Martin

    Just another thought...

    Hacker just SOUNDS pejorative. It's no wonder people tend to have a negative attitude towards hackers.

    If I have a piece of fragile equipment that needs to be repaired or modified, do I want someone who will meticulously unscrew everything and neatly prise off the side before carefully investigating, or do I want someone who is just going to hack into it?

    Exactly. Why should software be any different?

  36. aelfheld

    Not much concerned

    about the 'feelz' of someone committing criminal trespass, virtual or otherwise.

  37. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Oh, surely not? Although Global Operating Devices do Work in Mysterious Ways and Means and Memes

    -- most people read us a few times a week, not multiple times a day. .... diodesign

    I wonder how many sharing commentary here then would be classified as amongst the Few? And would any of them be worthy of the moniker and deny it? :-)

  38. Binraider Silver badge

    The guy that refills the vending machine isn’t an Engineer either (at least I hope that’s not how bad job competition has got); though his job title probably says engineer.

    Fortunately, there are other differentiators in society for professional engineers from technicians.

    Hacking is no different. I’ve legitimately broken into off network work PC’s to regain access to things left nowhere else. (God bless you Nt4 for being so easy to break into!) That action can only be described as hacking at a lay level; though to us it would probably be better described as a strictly amateur script kiddie job.

    There’s no official institute of English that gets to decide what words and phrases mean, only common usage. Sic.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bloody ignorant media types....

    > "Hacked LinkedIn post puts further pressure on Salesforce over attitudes to race in the workplace"

    1. dca1

      Re: Bloody ignorant media types....

      I came here to say the same thing

  40. clickbg

    Language is made by the people

    And 'gay' used to mean happy, this boat has sailed long time ago. Hacker means bad, no matter how many people try to swing the meaning.

  41. FlamingDeath Silver badge


    Anyone who disagrees with someone, is obviously a troll

  42. Anonymous Coward

    Most journalists are functionally illiterate and very thick

    Most (not here of course) tech sections and articles in the media are written by zero hours arts grads who would struggle to get dressed in the morning without parental help. Many journalists (not here of course) now seem to be functionally illiterate, relying on copying Twitter and corporate press releases verbatim, with no questioning or research or even an opinion.

    For example: I used to read the Independent and recently went back for a visit; its “tech” section is so amusingly inaccurate and badly written that I assume it is manned by the person who came in to fix the office coffee machine some years back and couldn’t then find his way out of the building. It really is that bad. The Guardian is little better.

  43. zonardave

    Hacking at MIT

    I can't vouch for the 1950s, but by the 60s when I was at MIT, a "hack" (N) and "hacking around" (V) both referred to ingenious and relatively harmless tricks, always involving technology, which occupied our "idle" time. NOTE: We didn't really have time to have idle time, so hacking was in lieu of the many "important" things we were supposed to be doing, effectively avoiding real work; but since it had a technical design and implementation character, we could justify it as being as educationally useful as the real work.

  44. cdilla

    The vote tally is all you need to see

    As an aside it speaks volumes about the bias of most folk who post.

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