Subject: Re: Difference between LISP and C++
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 31 Oct 2002 21:26:01 +0000
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Geoffrey Summerhayes
| Well, it's fascinating to know that the programming community is using
| the words incorrectly since they are the ones that originally coined
| them.

  This is quite strongly incorrect.  The verb "hack" is very old.  Newer
  meanings include "to manage, deal with, carry out successfully", but
  usually used in the negative, as in "can't hack it".  A "hacker" is one
  who does precisely that -- manages, deals with, carries out successfully.
  Note that this was the meaning employed at MIT, which is credited with
  the coinage of the word "hacker".

| The meanings you are applying to the terms came from journalists misusing
| the terminology to give their pieces the "being one with the clique"
| atmosphere.

  In the writing business, which includes journalists, "hack" refers to bad
  writing, "a hack" is a writer who works on order or who aims solely for
  commercial success, a mercenary writer.  To a journalist, the meaning of
  a cab driver or unskilled player of golf, tennis, etc, may also be closer
  at hand than that of a skilled enthusiast.

| Of course they won the battle over dictionary definitions, the outside
| world was seeing us through their eyes, but a large number of us still
| stick to the original spec.

  You are wrong on this count, too.  An assortment of entries from my
  reference shelf:

Webster's New World College Dictionary, 4th ed (50th anniversary rev):
3 a) an adept or highly skilled computer enthusiast or programmer

Random House Webster's College Dictionary:
3 [slang] a. a computer enthusiast who is esp. proficient in programming

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed:
[informal] 1. One who is proficient at using or programming a computer; a
computer buff

The New Oxford American Dictionary:
1 [informal] an enthusiastic and skillful computer programmer or user

Random House Webster's Unabridged:
3 [computer slang] a. a computer enthusiast

Webster's Third New International Dictionary, unabridged, addendum:
an expert at programming and solving problems with a computer : computer

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary:
3 : an expert at programming and solving problems with a computer

  Since the animal with which some people are conversing is not American or
  likely to influenced by American traditions, the entries from the Oxford
  Reference Online are quite different from the above American dictionaries:

A Dictionary of Business:
An individual with a good understanding of the structure and operation of
computer networks, who deliberately breaks into confidential systems. [...]

A Dictionary of Accounting:
A person who uses a computer system without authorization, generally
gaining access by means of a telephone connection.

A Dictionary of the Internet:
1. Someone who uses a high degree of computer skill to carry out
unauthorized acts within a network: [...]
2. Someone who is possessed of a high degree of computer skills and who
employs them in a conventional, non-criminal way. Because of this duality
of meaning, hackers who are in the second category use the word CRACKER to
describe those in the first category. The second meaning predates the
  and also
dark side hacker A malicious HACKER, the implication here being that the
hacker community is dedicated to the overall good of the Internet.

A Dictionary of Computing:
1. A person who attempts to breach the security of a computer system by
access from a remote point, [...]
2. Originally, a person who had an instinctive knowledge enabling him or
her to develop software apparently by trial and error.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary:
3. use a computer to gain unauthorized access to data. 

  Apparently, the British have some problems with enthusiasts, which may
  account for the massive lack of British hackers to begin with.

Erik Naggum, Oslo, Norway

Act from reason, and failure makes you rethink and study harder.
Act from faith, and failure makes you blame someone and push harder.