Hacker Culture


Before you let your imagination run wild, READ UP. No, we not going to make immoral citizens out of you?:-). Hacking is the art of mastering and modifying any activity for the sheer fun and challenges that pop up. Hacking is often misunderstood to be the act of breaking and entering computer networks for financial and destructive purposes. This is CRACKING. A hacker in a general sense could be anyone who takes immense interest in what he does and derives pleasure out of it. It could be your plumber, carpenter or even your postman. A hacker need not be a computer programmer although this article will refer to the computer hacker.

The “Hacker Culture” is actually a loosely networked collection of subcultures that is nevertheless conscious of some important shared experiences, shared roots, and shared values. It has its own myths, heroes, villains, epics, taboos, and dreams. Because hackers as a group are particularly creative people who define themselves partly by rejection of `normal’ values and working habits, it has unusually rich and conscious traditions for an intentional culture less than 40 years old.
The hacker tribe is an l33t (read ‘elite’ to the uninitiated) group of “Computer Enthusiasts” who excel in programming skills. So are all hackers “Linux” geeks? Well.. not exactly. But it does help. The Unix operating environment promotes open source which are the main stay of a hacker. What is open source? Open source software refers to those softwares whose licenses allow it’s source code to be freely distributed and modified. I could go on and on about this but I will save it for another article.
It is important to know that Linux did not initiate the open source dream, but rather the other way around. Linux was born out of the hacker spirit in Linus Torvalds. He started a pet project and put it out on the Internet asking for people to help him develop his project. That was the humble start of the now ubiquitous Linux operating system. Linux has a fellow mate in BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution), another open operating system based on UNIX and initiated by the traditional hacker center at University of California, Berkeley.
The Laboratories of MIT is also a breeding ground of Hackers. Famous hackers like Richard M Stallman (The founder of Free Software Foundation and initiator of the GNU movement) had his origins there. The MIT hackers have the distinction of designing the first ever computer game(SpaceWar), the LISP engine, LIFE program and much much more.
Linus Torvalds says that our motivations fall into 3 categories “survival”, “social life” and “entertainment”. The true hacker hardly cares for the first 2 (while not completely ignoring it). He (she too, women make fine hackers… looking forward to this?:p) programs for entertainment. This might be hard to digest initially, but the land of hackers have many surprises in store.

What does it take to be a hacker? Excellent, Now that you have asked me this questions you are half way there. Apart from exceptional programming and debugging skills (gcc and gdb in the Linux world), you will also need to be proficient in some soft skills on using the Internet to your benefit. First and foremost is the ability to search and locate the “answer”. The book “Google Hacks” is a must read. you will also need to correspond with fellow hacker mates, for which USENET, an online bulleting board service is widely used. http://groups.google.com is the place to start off. Hackers also infest the irc.freenode.net server using IRC (Internet Relay Chat). IRC has a number of channels (or chat rooms) where hackers meet and collaborate to exchange information.
A good place on how to be a hacker is Eric S Raymond’s essay at http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html. Another book to read could be “Hacker Heroes of the computer revolution” by Stephen Levy.

by prashmohan [at] gmail [dot] com

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