How to Become a Hacker ...
Originally, a hacker was someone who makes furniture with an axe. In those days, nails were hard to come by (they had to be made, one by one, by a blacksmith), screws did not exist, and saws were only used to slice trees into beams and planks. A carpenter would use an axe to hack wood in to table legs or so, and to shape the parts in such a way that they could be joint together with glue. This takes quite some skill.
When I was working in Azerbaijan in 1997, there was a carpenter, Ali, who still worked that way, and the beds, tables and cabinets he made were better, stronger than those of his younger colleagues, who used more modern techniques. They also had a rough kind of beauty to them. Ali was a hacker.
It goes without saying that if a less skilled person would try to hack furniture with an axe, the result would be rather less impressive.
-- Ali --
Hacking is about skill, competence, excellence. The term 'hacker' got a new meaning when computer technology began to evolve. It dates back to the first time-sharing minicomputers and the earliest ARPAnet experiments. (The ARPAnet was the seed from which the internet grew.) Hackers built the Internet. Hackers made the Unix operating system what it is today. Hackers make the World Wide Web work.
In The Jargon File (entry:hacker) you can look up the meaning(s) of the words 'hacker' and 'hack'. You'll find things like
But in short : someone who enjoys doing something in a creative way and
is extremely good at it - the 'something' ideally being scientific,
But there's more to it. Being (or becoming) a hacker has also something to do with the hacker mind-set, hacker attitude, belonging to the hacker culture - and being acknowledged by other hackers.
Some insight in Hacker history, the hacker culture, its legends, its folklore, hacker ethics and so on can be found in these papers by Erik Brunvand, Department of Computer Science, University of Utah, SLC, Utah 84112.
And here is an exploration into the actual meaning of the word "hacking"
In his paper on How to Become a Hacker, Eric S. Raymond describes these aspects of hackerdom rather in detail. The main requirements to become a hacker are competence (skills), attitude and style.
Style matters. Not as much as competence though. In a way, your style is an expression of your personality, and as in any group of kindred spirits, hackers recognize certain personality traits. Apart from intelligence, the ability to learn, concentration, analytical thinking, hackers usually also show signs that they use both hemispheres of the brain, not just the left side, the logical, analytical mind. This ability allows them to dig in to the logic of a problem, then step out of it again to see the bigger picture or try a completely different, unexpected approach, or to intuitively know where to start.
Activities that show you may have this ability, and can help you to improve it, are
The more of these things you already do, the more likely it is that you are natural hacker material.
Hackers solve problems and build things, and they believe in freedom
and voluntary mutual help. Hacker Attitude has to do with finding
pleasure in solving problems and building things, looking for new
problems to solve rather than re-invent the wheel time and time again.
Hackers are open-minded, towards the problems they want to solve as well
as towards the world in general. Hackers avoid boredom and brain-dead
repetitive work (they rather invent a way to automate it instead). Most
important : they believe that attitude is no substitute for competence.
To be accepted as a hacker, you have to behave as though you have this kind of attitude yourself. And to behave as though you have the attitude, you have to really believe the attitude. But if you think of cultivating hacker attitudes as just a way to gain acceptance in the culture, you'll miss the point. Becoming the kind of person who believes these things is important for you -- for helping you learn and keeping you motivated. As with all creative arts, the most effective way to become a master is to imitate the mind-set of masters -- not just intellectually but emotionally as well.
Or, as the following modern Zen poem has it:
to follow the path,
look to the master,
follow the master,
walk with the master,
see through the master,
become the master.
(from How to Become a Hacker by Eric S. Raymond)
Style and Attitude are important, but can never be a substitute for competence. Attitude without competence means your posing. Attitude and style are things you develop in time. Hacker skills require intelligence, and hard work. The 'Library' part of this site is a collection of tutorials and other information that could be useful to acquire some of these skills.
There are hackers and hackers. Some hackers obviously are more well-known than others. Some Hackers' names are pronounced with reverence, also by other hackers. There is something like status in the hacker community : see How to Become a Hacker by Eric S. Raymond.
With knowledge comes power, and with power comes responsibility.
Many books have been written about ethics, many more will be written. I won't add to that discussion. Star Wars said it all : there are hackers, so there is also the temptation of The Dark Side.
If you think Star Wars childish, try Tao.