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23 Feb

The definition of ‘Hack’

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Taken from The Original Hacker’s Dictionary (1988)

HACK n.
1. Originally a quick job that produces what is needed, but not well.
2. The result of that job.
3. NEAT HACK: A clever technique. Also, a brilliant practical joke, where neatness is correlated with cleverness, harmlessness, and surprise value. Example: the Caltech Rose Bowl card display switch circa 1961.
4. REAL HACK: A crock (occasionally affectionate). v.
5. With “together”, to throw something together so it will work.
6. To bear emotionally or physically. “I can’t hack this heat!”
7. To work on something (typically a program). In specific sense: “What are you doing?” “I’m hacking TECO.” In general sense: “What do you do around here?” “I hack TECO.” (The former is time-immediate, the latter time-extended.) More generally, “I hack x” is roughly equivalent to “x is my bag”. “I hack solid-state physics.”
8. To pull a prank on. See definition 3 and HACKER (def #6).
9. v.i. To waste time (as opposed to TOOL). “Watcha up to?” “Oh, just hacking.”
10. HACK UP (ON): To hack, but generally implies that the result is meanings 1-2.
11. HACK VALUE: Term used as the reason or motivation for expending effort toward a seemingly useless goal, the point being that the accomplished goal is a hack. For example, MacLISP has code to read and print roman numerals, which was installed purely for hack value. HAPPY HACKING: A farewell. HOW’S HACKING?: A friendly greeting among hackers. HACK HACK: A somewhat pointless but friendly comment, often used as a temporary farewell.
[The word HACK doesn’t really have 69 different meanings. In fact, HACK has only one meaning, an extremely subtle and profound one which defies articulation. Which connotation a given HACK-token has depends in similarly profound ways on the context. Similar comments apply to a couple other hacker jargon items, most notably RANDOM. – Agre]

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