The Norman Transcript

Breaking News

Local news

January 26, 2014

What is a ‘hacker’?

NORMAN — If you pay attention to the news, it seems like every time you turn around, here comes another news report about how some company has been “hacked” by “hackers.” “Hackers” steal credit card accounts from Target, Neiman Marcus gets “hacked,” the Yahoo website serves up “hacked” ads that infect computers with viruses, etc. What’s all this “hacking” stuff mean?

As near as anyone can tell, the term “hacker” was first used by members of the Tech Model Railroad Club at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1960s. This merry band of gadget freaks specialized in building sophisticated railroad and train models. They called themselves “hackers” as a way of describing their love for using and experimenting with technology in new and unusual ways.

The ability to use mechanical and electronic devices in ways for which they were not originally designed was highly regarded, and success at doing so was termed “a good hack.”

Early computer pioneers at MIT and around the country soon started to be called “hackers,” too. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were proud to be called hackers, as that included them with the leading tinkerers, experimenters and inventors of the day. Steven Levy’s book, “Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution,” documents this exciting time in history and is a wonderfully entertaining book.

With the advent of the Internet and the rise of Internet-related crime, the news media latched onto the term “hacker” and started using it as a name tag for people who committed computer crimes.

What had been worn for years by technology innovators as a badge of honor was turned by the news media into an ugly term associated with Internet criminals.

Many computer buffs are still resentful at this perversion of the word “hacker,” but its long-term misuse by the media has embedded its modern definition in the popular vernacular. Most people today, when asked to define “hacker,” would describe some sort of computer criminal.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local news
  • N7 Sooners come together to serve Native American youth

    Whitney Wofford has faced some tough competition as a part of the Oklahoma tennis team. However, on Wednesday, Wofford may have taken on her biggest and most rewarding competition yet at the Sooners For N7 event at the Oklahoma football ...

    April 10, 2014 3 Photos

  • Selling Norman is love at first sight

    Meeting planners who make a site visit to Norman tend to fall in love, convention and hospitality experts said this week. The staff of the Norman Convention and Visitors Bureau are commissioned with the job of promoting tourism and selling ...

    April 20, 2014

  • Green House is a homegrown business

    Nancy Muenzler was a banker in her previous life. That was before the Green House, 1708 SW 24th Street, became her passion....

    April 20, 2014

  • Conan’s martial arts moves downtown

    Conan’s Kickboxing, Karate, Boxing, Jujitsu, MMA Academy is celebrating the grand opening of a new facility right in the heart of downtown Norman at 310 E. Main St. Founded in 1996 by four-time World Kickboxing Champion Scott “Conan” ...

    April 20, 2014

  • Chamber welcomes new members

    The Norman Chamber of Commerce would like to thank all our sales volunteers and welcome our new Chamber members from our recent spring membership drive.  Suzanne McAuley was this year’s membership drive chair....

    April 20, 2014

  • It’s easier than ever to be your own movie producer

    Things have certainly come a long way since 1988, when the first stand-alone audio CD recorders outside of CD manufacturing plants started showing up. At that time, do-it-yourself CDs were the province of the rich and famous, as the ...

    April 20, 2014

  • Is Okla. backing off accountability?

    One by one, K-12 education reforms passed in previous years by Oklahoma lawmakers are being targeted for weakening or repeal....

    April 19, 2014

  • Hope Trunk travels to Norman

    The rustle of paper could be heard as students meticulously folded one crane, then another and another Friday afternoon. After reading the inspiring story, “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes,” Cleveland Elementary School fifth graders ...

    April 19, 2014

  • Congressman Cole reflects on recovery

    Congressman Tom Cole’s home in Moore was not hit by the May 20 tornado but it came pretty close. His wife has made it clear she wants a saferoom, he said. In a visit to the Transcript on Friday afternoon, Cole talked about tornado ...

    April 19, 2014

  • Gaylord to get $35,000 grant for poverty project

    A team from Gaylord College is among the first winners in a national competition to fund innovative news experiments that serve communities, the Online News Association has announced....

    April 19, 2014