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Darth Vader a Hacker? by Jayesh Mehta

Terms get misused, misinterpreted, mistaken, and mis-something or another. It happens all the time. Gay used to mean happy, light-hearted. Now it’s synonymous with male homosexuals. Moot used to mean open to debate, but now used more commonly as irrelevant. Counterfeit used to mean legitimate copy. Brave meant cowardice (aka bravado). Is this a linguistics lesson? Well, maybe a little. The list can go on. In fact books have been based on the changing meanings of words over time. But this isn’t about just any word. It’s about the meaning of “hack” or “hackers”. They’re getting a bad rap (talk about words with changed meanings).

Hacker, in the traditional sense of the word, is someone with a strong interest in how things work, who likes to tinker and create and modify things for the enjoyment of doing so. Basically, someone who is inquisitive, wants to learn, and understand how things work. The Internet Users’ Glossary defines hacker as:

A person who delights in having an intimate understanding of the internal workings of a system, computers, and computer networks in particular. The term is often misused in a pejorative context where “cracker” would be the correct term.

The media has perverted the meaning to now mean someone who circumvents or breaks security measures for malicious intent. These two meanings do not relate at all. The “crackers” (no, not the derogatory version for a Caucasian) are the ones who willfully will go into a computer system and change code, or bring a site down, or purposefully create a virus. This is akin to calling Darth Vader a Jedi just because he uses the force. The only similarity between these two are that both will break into a system/computer/networks/websites. The difference is their intent. One wants to learn, the other destroy. Either we need to create a new term for the “Light” side of hacking, or start using the terminology correctly as to not damage the reputations of the people who just want to learn. Why? Because he said so.

Other Words with original meanings:

Zeal was originally a perjorative term (see: zealot)
Crafty was positive and enthusiasim was negative
Garble – sort out
Manufacture – made by hand
Obsequious – flexible
Notorious – famous
Amusing – pleasing to look at
Awful – deserving of awe (as the OP mentioned)
Artificial – full of skillful artifice
Egregious – eminent or admirable


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