Hacking Rhetoric

Blue Post James Pinkerton


 The conversation of what the term “hacking” actually refers to keeps getting brought up in class, so I thought I would go back to the source of my information, which was a collection of writings called The Jargon File. Upon hunting them down I had a good time rereading all the old stories of “hackish ingenuity” that students at Caltech and MIT played out during rival football games and other such events. The best definition I could find of what a hack was is that it is “an appropriate application of ingenuity,” a definition which includes all the internet rompings of people just trying to have a little fun and a little control, or the malicious attacks of people finding vulnerabilities in security systems, or the clever ways people change or use real life objects to better their daily activities. Another alternate definition presented that angled more towards the fiendish side was “a clever practical joke.” The Jargon File is an excellent resource for educated information about what hacking is and how it began, and it is chock full of apocryphal hacker folklore. The Jargon File maintains a distinction between the more proper use of the word hack in which it simply means working on programs, and the more loose or informal connotation of a clever workaround (with no distinction being made for the complexity of the solution) to a hurdle in any technological situation.


2 thoughts on “Blue Post James Pinkerton

  1. I came across the jargon file, too. It was very enjoyable to surf through. “An appropriate application of ingenuity” is probably the definition of hacking that resonates with me the most.

    … syd barrett visits his accountant…

  2. This post and our discussion really got me thinking of all of the nature of hacking and the different uses of hacking. Because there are so many types of “hacks” I agree that “an appropriate application of ingenuity” is a perfect definition of the word hacking because it is such a general term that covers so many topics. Something about the Jargon File that I really liked was the fact that there is an actual hacking culture that exists that I wasn’t familiar with at all until this class. Thank you both for the insight!

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