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What is hacking?

It seems you can “Hack” just about anything nowadays, and “hacking” is buzz word all over the media.

You might have in your mind some stereo typical image of a shady computer geek working in a dark room for long hours over computer code, and for Hollywood that image works just fine. We immediately think of “hacking” or breaking a bank, the CIA, mobile phones, all where criminality is involved.

But what is hacking? According to the Oxford English Dictionary it literally means: “Cut with rough or heavy blows”. In computer terms it can mean just that. To “break” or “crack” an existing system or process in order to achieve a different end result, perhaps one it was never designed to do.

A hack for example could be to make to “hackingtosh” – what you say? To make an Apple operating system work on PC hardware (Isn’t that what they are now anyway I here you cry!). In days gone by OSX could not run on Intel/PC based hardware. The software was coded to only work on preparatory Apple hardware. And it’s because it could run on other hardware that people wanted to prove it could. So they “hacked” or cut apart the computers operating system and modified it to work on something else.

Today it is common to have a “hackathon” – could be computer related, could be to do with renewable energy, other technologies and or a problem. Groups of likeminded people get together and spend concerted effort in breaking apart the knowns, challenging the preconceptions of “can’t”, and prove you can make something new and better, may be even do what someone once said was impossible.

Think of it this way – if someone says “you will never learn to ride a bicycle, that’s impossible”, what do you do? You prove them wrong. You put in concerted effort to prove them wrong and break the misconception by proving you can ride a bike. That’s just human nature.

So hacking can have a negative connotation, and I am by no means condoning its criminal missuses or where it brings harm to fellow humans or society. But just may be that brainstorming session here and there, that striving for doing things a little better, challenging the status-quo, or a drive for innovation, then maybe it’s just the “hacker” in you trying to get out.

 

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