View Full Version : The state of hackerdom

March 21st, 2015, 10:50 AM
I've been thinking about that one for some time. How does hackerdom nowadays compare to what it was 15, 25, 50 years ago? Does it even still exist? I would say yes, but obviously it's form has changed quite drastically. It's bigger, perhaps more mainstream - and yet there are still very few people on the 'outside' who know what a real hacker is (i.e. who don't associate the term with crackers).

Linux is flourishing, we have big open-source companies and numerous communities devoted to different distros, programs, languages, etc. And yet I have seen relatively few writings about the culture itself that are newer than 10 years - unless I just haven't found the right sites yet. (The Jargon File hasn't been updated since 2004...)

What do people here think? I'd especially be interested in the views of the slightly older forum members who've been in the computing world for more than a decade.

March 21st, 2015, 12:50 PM
Search for "defcon" - there are groups of white-hat hackers around the world having meetings, groups, and conferences.
Search for "maker" - same thing. My metro area has 6 "maker-spaces" where people share how to build things. Electronic, software, sewing, machines, soldering, and welding "things."
Beagle-board, Arduino, Raspberry-Pi - these are all hacker toys too.
Do you CyanogenMod or dd-wrt or tomato or openwrt or pfsense?
Do you lock pick?
Do you have a 3-D printer?

I think there are more hackers these days than ever before.

In my mind, the culture is the same - learn and share how to use things in ways not intended or improved from what the original maker provided. Create your own stuff.

Seems like the internet has provided a way for niche groups to find each other, when in the old days we'd just go to the LUG. These days, python, java, perl, ruby, security, ham, openstack, .NET, C#, each have their own niche groups and don't tend to bother with the larger F/LOSS community.

In the old days, pre-internet, the only way to learn this stuff was to find someone who knew a little, discover his BBS, hang out there, download the FAQs (many are still alive), study the FAQs, which are like a master degree in some subjects, then ask questions hoping not to be told the RTFM or read the FAQ. For example, the model rocket FAQs are huge (14 parts http://www.ninfinger.org/rockets/rmrfaq.toc.html ) and explain thousands of details about flying and building successful model rockets. That's plenty of knowledge.

March 21st, 2015, 01:12 PM
"hacker" is a dinosaur of a term. It can mean many things. For the most part, in the computer science genre', it originally meant someone who is good working with hardware and software. Someone who was able to make modifications out of existing form factors in the dawn of the age of mini-micro computers. As time rolled along the 'hacker' term began to be applied to persons who could gain remote access into a main-frame computer. The hacker term became a highly popular association after the release of the movie "War Games" starring Matthew Broderick. It the original sense of the word hackers were the 'good guys' or 'white hats'. Someone that could make an improvement on existing hardware.

During the late 80's , early 1990's there were a few incidents of alleged and so called 'computer viruses', some of those being called 'the stoned virus' and the 'bouncing ball virus'. Other's were called trojans. worms and now, today, it is all generally catagorized as 'malware'.

During that time it happened by chance that some of the malware writers decided to call themselves 'hackers' in an attempt to scandalize hard working computer programmers and hackers who made modifications to hardware and software alike. It was like a phantom and a new lore' was born , to a point where people no longer looked at hackers as good guys, but , rather as criminals. If you research up on the likes of Eugene Kaperskey, John McAffee, Peter Norton, Frans Veldman, etc.. and go the the website MajorGeeks and other Windows malware/anti-malware sites you will see that their mottos are to "stop hackers now". This is a major superfluosity that has won these people billions of dollars of profit for unaware and computer illiterate end_users who have been installing these 'security' programs on their computers for the past 25 years, mostly destroying any semblance of the original install they had once had. It has been the thorn in Bill Gates side but it seems that people just keep throwing money at it.

By trade I am a hacker that wears a white hat. I have a computer virus named after me. This was done in response to an antithesis I had wrote in rebuttal of Dr. Peter Tippets, The Dynamics of Computer Virus Replication, called the Ramified Theory of Mathclanking Engines. The people involved in writing the said 'virus' invested $250,000 (origninaly called F-Prot-virotech) and forwarded it to Eugene Kapersky.. err. that was 1994 I believe, in an attempt to make it appear that I was actually a computer virus writer. Already knowing that I have been a hacker since 1963 where I started my TV Radio Service Repair aprenticeship, I was was now associated with the 'hacker' term of the mid 1990's an, unto this day. It has not been an easy ride as far as maintaining gainful employment to do what I love to do best (and was trained to do) -programming-- but I have found a home here on Ubuntuforums and I have freedom today to hack unity and other flavours of ubuntu in Development version to my content, and if I have added anything in my small contributions, to make it stronger and better.

I have been working with computers since 1975 when I received my Certified Pinball Machine Repair Technician Cert servicing and hacking all brands of pinball machines, video games and juke boxes.

We still need hackers today. The term is slowly reverting back to it's original meaning of- someone who makes an improvement- to a computing device. In ubuntu development version we have a few fine gems and many diamonds in the rough producing phenomenal hacks! :)

Hopes this helps in your research :)


March 21st, 2015, 01:18 PM
In the old days, pre-internet, the only way to learn this stuff was to find someone who knew a little, discover his BBS, hang out there...

Ahhh .. the good ole days :)

Bucky Ball
March 21st, 2015, 02:46 PM
For some, circuit-bending (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHDL9iGxDPM) is where they're at, also commonly known as hacking (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjbGSgCopNk). ;)

For mine, hacking has grown beyond applying only to code hacking. The philosophies of hacking and the hacker, if you will, are now applied in other areas. Rather than changed from one thing to another I believe 'hacking' has evolved to where it is now, which is diverse. As for 'code hackers' they are probably doing the same things, but in accordance with new available technology and possibly a much larger base of hackers with which to communicate, and more easily that previously.

(Warning: While hacking/circuit bending is great fun (http://www.anti-theory.com/soundart/circuitbend/) and can be done by anyone (grab an old toy that has a circuit and start hacking!), if you decide to try it use ONLY battery powered devices unless you absolutely know what you are doing or you're an electrician or electrical engineer! Hacking devices plugged into wall sockets risks serious injury or death.)

Just for fun. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-1u9mR-9gg)

March 21st, 2015, 06:21 PM
I believe the spirit if "hacking" is alive and gaining momentum again with all of the open hardware and cheap electronics available (as has been mentioned above).

March 23rd, 2015, 05:25 PM
These days, python, java, perl, ruby, security, ham, openstack, .NET, C#, each have their own niche groups and don't tend to bother with the larger F/LOSS community.

Do you think hackers nowadays feel less affiliation to the greater community than they used to? If so, why? Has the FOSS community become too large?

It is an interesting observation that hardware hacking is on the increase again. When personal computers first appeared, everybody had to be a bit of a hardware hacker - but as time went by, the equipment became too complicated for amateurs to really get a grip on. Now, with the Arduino, Pi, etc., that is changing again.

March 23rd, 2015, 06:50 PM
Officially, a "thing (http://hackaday.com/)" ;)