I'm not a hacker, because I don't know any compiled languages... and certainly not assembler... what with Java, TCL, perl, and trendy new interpreted languages hitting the streets on a regular basis, I just might never have to learn. Hackers don't like databases, whereas the more I learn about databases, the cooler I think they are.

I'm not a hacker, because I don't love the process of hacking for its own sake. Sure I enjoy it, but mainly I'm interested in the end product. The content. I notice that many hackers are interested in the process. They'll create the coolest, sleekest, most feature rich tool imaginable... and then they don't know what to do with it. Maybe they'll slap some content onto it as an afterthought, or more often use it as a meta-tool to create other meta tools for other hackers to create still other meta-tools with. Meanwhile, I'm looking for ways to corrupt these tools, make them worldly. Use it to create content hackers don't care about but I do. I don't have a compulsion to do something just because it looks impossible and yet is theoretically possible. Unless it's useful. Useful defined as either paradigm shifting society in the direction I want or tangibly benefitting me personally. Sometimes I do theoretically possible, impossible-seeming things without even realizing it, though.

I'm not a hacker because I've spent maybe 30 hours of my life on RPGs total. I don't care about medieval and/or fantasy stuff, apart from being glad that the medieval period is over for most of the world, hopefully for good. I've gone to maybe three or four gaming/sci-fi cons in my life. I like to watch or read my science fiction... but I have no interest in collecting it or talking about it. I don't waste money on legos, nerf weapons, Spawn, or action figures. Whenever I feel the need to play with such things, I seek out the real hackers up on the fourth floor at my day job, hang out with them, and fiddle with the toys lying around on their desks until the urge goes away, as quickly as it came. I appreciate the innovation of many first person shooters, but I don't play. I prefer Civ... even Civ I in a pinch.

I'm not a hacker because to me techno is just pretty sounds to dance to, and the broad umbrella of alternative encompasses some good stuff (among the scads of painfully mediocre stuff), but the proper name for this stuff really should be punk, ska, and hardcore. I don't snowboard, skateboard, or do other "extreme sports" very much. It've tried some of them and they're fun, but I'd rather ski, shoot, boat, skate, or ballroom dance any day. Less crowded.

I'm not a hacker because though I use Linux a lot, I'm still holding out for a decent Netware client before Linux displaces Windows 98 as the default boot option on my laptop. I never was on a BBS, never used an Amiga or an Apple, and generally was indifferent to computers until college. My parents couldn't afford a decent TV, nevermind a computer. In college, I learned only enough about them to write papers. Only when I got a job babysitting a computer cluster, with hours of nothing to do but play with a computer... only then did I really start learning about computers... all so I could download more games to play.

I'm not a hacker because I don't write my own software. I guess I'd do it if I had to, but I don't. There is already so much stuff that real hackers have done, why duplicate their already excellent effort? I've gotten to be pretty good at finding stuff. Need something proprietary? Use gnutella. Know the name and version number of something? Find it's official homepage through Google. Can't get something to work? Again, search some list archives, and maybe Deja. Need source? Sourceforge. Need RPM's? One of the RedHat mirrors. Need Solaris packages? Sunfreeware.com Need perl modules? CPAN. Want to read more about how to be a good web-searcher? Well, I don't know the current URL, but search for +Fravia or some permutation thereof, and you'll eventually find the wisdom you seek. And so on. If necessary, I'll tweak the stuff I download to suit my needs. Maybe send the author my bug fixes. But I never reinvent the wheel if I can avoid it, and so far I've been able to avoid it.

All in all, I am not a hacker because I'm lazy, impatient, stubborn, and not at all shy about standing on the shoulders of giants. Maybe I am a hacker after all. Who cares? It's just a word.
As a contrast to f1r3br4nd's post, I am not a hacker precisely BECAUSE I have few ties back to usefulness.

I am a computer scientist and mathematician. I become excited reading BNF tables and analyzing the latest in time complexity. I read "Communications of the ACM" for the articles, not the advertisements.

I have Windows 98 on my computer and not Linux because Win98 came with the box. Does it work for sending e-mail? Yes. Do I care at all what the operating system is? No. Operating systems and compilers are far too physical and crass to really get me excited.

I follow the teachings of a professor at my university. "But I proved that it will work. Why code it?" I am as at home working on a computer as instructing hypothetical monk's with index cards. It is the abstract system, the consideration of Alan Turing's hypothetical tape machine that is interesting, not the particular implementation that happens to be faddish today.

Yes, on occassion, I do write code. And I like writing code. It is a fun hobby. But I take no pride in writing assembler. Why would I want to write assembler? That's hard. Java, where all the garbage collection is handled for me. Runtime? Who cares about the pidly seconds and moments of runtime. I've demonstrated it is linearly expanding. It will finish soon enough. I do not wish to add the hard drive to the monitor and set it equal to the printer. Why do I need C++?

There is a heirarchy, as I see it, from physical to most abstract:

  • Accountant
  • Programmer
  • Hacker
  • Computer Scientist
  • Mathematician
I fall at rank four.
There were hackers before there were computers, as nellardo pointed out.

There is no one trait that defines a hacker, just as there is no one trait that defines a schizophrenic. It is false to assume that generalists can not be hackers - in fact, very few hackers care for nothing but code. Look at the best hackers: Larry Wall - he's into religion, chemistry, and linguistics. Or Eric Raymond: Libertarian politics, paganism, science fiction, and more! Jamie Zawinski is starting a nightclub. Richard Stallman likes obscure music, and cares about human rights and homelessness. Or look at the noder whizkid sometime.

That said, I don't feel comfortable about sticking the label "Hacker" on anyone who really doesn't want it. But I also don't feel comfortable being put in a box as small as some of the above folks want to make the word into.

The assembly language comment is especially bizzare. I wish I knew I could trade my knowledge of assembly for almost any other modern language. I wouldn't trade my knowledge of Perl for anything short of world peace, even if it weren't my meal ticket.

But, while we're on the subject of ridiculous definitions of hacker, I am not a hacker, because my company wouldn't let me put "hacker" as a job title on my business card. It's not fair - my dad's wife's company lets her put "Designer To The Stars" on her card...

I am not a hacker because the word has lost it's meaning and became totally deteriorated and ridiculous.

Surprisingly most of the "not hacker" posts here catch greatly with the genuine and respected meaning of it. They don't mention the lame modern hacker definition of a security breaker. They speak about a true attraction to hobbyist programming, spending endless hour into creative computer activities that might make no sense to the average joe. In that aspect, with my endless engagement into low level programming (even if it was irrelevant with the narrow scope of today's notion of what a hacker is) I would match some of these individuals described here for sure.

Yet, as I am totally disgusted to the wrong notion of the word, I declare that I deny calling myself a hacker.

The H-word has died for me.

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