What Is a Hacker?

Good question.

Unfortunately, a lot of people confuse the terms "hacker" and "cracker". There are a number of reasons for this. The two big reasons are:

This is infinitely annoying.

Eric Raymond (yes, that Eric Raymond) does an excellent job of answering the question "What Is A Hacker?" in his How To Become A Hacker FAQ. In it, he concludes:

The basic difference is this: hackers build things, crackers break them.

So How Do I Learn More?

To learn more about what hackers are really about, and some of the things that hackers have built, see the following.


How To Become A Hacker
Eric Raymond discusses such essentials as the Hacker Attitude, Basic Hacking Skills, and Status in the Hacker Culture.
A Brief History of Hackerdom
A companion to the above, this includes good pointers to information about the history of hacking and of hackers.
The Jargon File, a.k.a. The New Hacker's Dictionary
If there was ever an official document about hackers and hackerdom, this would be it.


The software that runs the Internet was written by hackers, in the hacker style. The Internet could not exist without the hacks they've perpetrated. What follows is a small sampling of what hackers have produced.
It's not just a text editor. It's the ultimate hacker environment. It edits text, it fontifies and pretty prints source code, it reads and sends mail, it reads and posts netnews, it surfs the web, it slices, it dices, it's programmable in Lisp!
The Mother of All Text Whackers has grown up. There's more than one way to do it, and Perl will let you do it any way you want.
Runs more Internet web sites than all other servers combined.
The Gimp
The GNU Image Manipulation Program. If you work with graphics, you need The Gimp.
Berkely Internet Name Dæmon
BIND is the most popular (i.e., I can't think of any others) implementation of the Internet Domain Name Service. This allows us to use names for machines like instead of an IP address like
USENET is your friend. INN makes it possible.
If you've ever sent Internet email, it almost certainly got to its destination thanks to sendmail.
My favorite operating system. You can't buy better stuff than this. Closely related to both OpenBSD and NetBSD.
A cousin of the BSD descendants, Linux is an extremely popular alternative to Microsoft's (broken) offerings. It's since grown beyond the realm of a personal computer OS, and is now available on a variety of hardware platforms, including x86, Alpha, and SPARC.

corporate | research | news | people | projects | publications | services | feedback | legal

Matt Curtin
Last modified: Wed Mar 1 10:49:09 EST 2000