TheFreeDictionary definition of hack:
- a. To alter (a computer program): hacked her text editor to read HTML.
- b. To gain access to (a computer file or network) illegally or without authorization: hacked the firm’s personnel database.
- a. To write or refine computer programs skillfully.
- b. To use one’s skill in computer programming to gain illegal or unauthorized access to a file or network: hacked into the company’s intranet.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary Definition of HACK
a. To write or refine computer programs skillfully.
Since it is infinitely easy to look back in time and imagine up a hypothesis that explains observed events, I’ll refrain from doing so. Still, you can see the abrupt emergence of “hacker”, or, “one who hacks”, as the most recent addition to the root word around the early 80’s. The use of the word “hack” is used more loosely by programmers, e.g., “hackathons” are literally coding and development marathons, which often result in new and innovative technologies. The Wikipedia page I just linked does a good job of documenting all the different types of hackathons, many of them being an academic event – some of them even aiming to help improve government transparency. The graph below illustrates the adoption and interest in the idea over the last several years.
I’ll set this down for now and see if I can encourage any discussion about this. Post a comment, contact me, or mention it on a forum. Honestly I was surprised when I first read about hackathons at my university. I thought “The faculty would never support something with that name!”