Monday, 20 November 2006

More about "hackers" versus the true hackers.

An english article this time. Most possibly, it will contain similar thoughts to my greek article about the stupid trend of "hacking", but in fewer words..

Another article I've found, that contains my confused thoughts on "hacking", presented in a much nicer, brief and entertaining way is: On hacking by Richard Stalman.

Some thoughts here. First of all, I am really curious to search back for the first time when the term was coined up and find out precisely at which points in history did the confusion/deviation from the original meaning occured. I need more evidence in historic reference and elements that show off changes in attitude/meaning of hacking through each era. I am more interested into researching that part in detail..

And yet another way to explain what I feel about the "hacking" matter:

When I started getting into coding, I was astonished by the demoscene community and the wild coding tricks that were required in order to present smooth and complex realtime graphic algorithms in my old 486. It was the time in my youth when I made a dream. That was to become a great programmer and imagine the most wild tricks to further optimize demo effects in oldschool machines! To impress with my code! To show to people that nothing is impossible really! Such stuff still astonish me and I find a great interest into thinking a new possible wild trick for optimizing parts of my algorithms. I've mostly felt this while coding assembly for my Amstrad CPC demo effects and I have several schemes of wild ideas on paper that are yet to be written in a working piece of code. I can't explain the astonishment of achieving something impossible, breaking off the limits, writting some clever unpredictable code that does things the machine was not supposed to do. It happens in the demoscene (Some say it mostly happened in the past but not much anymore with modern powerful hardware where you don't need to optimize much, but that's another story) and it totally amazes me how ingenious some of the coding tricks are! There is a hacker value in the demoscene, in the true sense of the term.

In Richard's book, hackers do not only exist in computers. Hacking doesn't have to do with a specific field, it's just a special way of thinking, analyzing, experimenting, doing something unpredictable, something that your tools were not supposed to do and enjoying the whole process/trick/cleverness of it. In my book I totally agree with that and I also want to say once again (even if Richard already pointed that out) that "hacking" as we know it today is a very strict definition that even isn't very close to the true meaning of it. At least the reason why it's so popular and why most people want to get into "hacking" is because of it's coolness, not because there is any true hacking spirit in it.

The coolness factor is the key in "hacking".

Sometimes I wonder why the demoscene doesn't get the fame it deserves. It lacks that special factor: COOLNESS.

As long as I started getting into democoding, being totally motivated by the technicall stuff and cleverness behind demos, "hacking" never touched my heart. People around me found out that I like programming and maybe I am good enough at it, and the first things they asked me after I have let them watch my demoworks was if I know "hacking" and if I could show them some cool "hacks" on the net. I giggle during such questions. They even dared to claim their dissapointment and asking me 'why am I not into "hacking" which is the true thing!'.

They could be more impressed by a kid making pranks in a nearby PC, using Netbus. Because the coolness factor would be way much bigger than some boring graphic demonstrations that are worse and less interesting than the videos from Starcraft :P

But that's the thing revolving around today's definition of "hacking". That's the thing that gathers most people's interest around "hacking" itself. The coolness factor!

And that's the thing the demoscene is missing. (Although, some of the latest stylish/designish demos might have their own coolness factor (artistically though), however that's not cool enough for mass media ;P). And the reason most of us sceners got into demomaking is because we were really pleased by the idea of coding something as clever as the most classic demos out there.

The reasons behind coding demos is truly to demonstrate the creator's abilities in making something visually impressive alone. And maybe showoff that even the older hardware is capable of more things if the coder is clever enough. While the starting reason for "hacking" is because it will make you look COOL no matter the means. At least that's where the so called "hacking" scene mainly revolves around today.

So, there wasn't any sense for me to be involved into "hacking", since I was already getting the true hacking feeling of achieving something clever and unique in the demoscene alone. I even don't find any motivation or astonishment by the idea of getting into that thing as it is supposed to be today. I've lost my respect about those "hackers". Even their acts of defacing websites, fighting some sort of "system", revolting to free some random "hacker", and then defacing websites again (or even spreading some stupid virii out there, ugh!), is not only so UNCOOL in my opinion, but can only be a senseless burden for the internet that leads to nothing. For me it's similar to "anarchists" who are into it for breaking stuff and beating people, feeling like they are revolting against something they don't even know what that is. Bogus!

P.s. I have used the quotes around the word hacking to diferrentiate the 'breaking security type of "hackers"' from the true hackers that have totally nothing to do with that and can be found in fields that would never feel "hackerish" enough. That's to not misunderstand me.

P.p.s. Richard has used the term cracker as an alternative for what I write as "hackers". Maybe my own way of defining them is bad, maybe I should find a diferrent sounding term, though I have a little objection to do that nobody seemed to argue before. I don't like the term cracker as Richard defines it.

Crackers are also the hackers who broke the copy protection of early software (usually games) and put a nice introductory screen (cracktro) before the pirated programm started. It usually had options for chosing infitive lives and similar shit in cracked games, if you recall from C64 or Amiga games. They even were the ancestors of the demoscene, who later started coding those graphical intro screens without any cracked software connected anymore (evolved into demos). I am not into the cracking scene either but I respect them as they were the ancestors of the community I am involved into. And their activity, while it maybe had another coolness factor in it (because of piracy), it involved a true coding challenge too (Studying clever copy protection schemes, reverse engineering, etc). Maybe one that is sometimes more tricky than demomaking itself.

That was before the term 'cracker' for the malicious "hackers" was found up imho. Some people put the old crackers and the new "crackers" (malicious "hackers") in the same category because they dislike both of them. It's all confused. But do the terms really matter or the whole confusion and stupid motives behind all these? Anyways, I can't do anything about that, now the term cracker has been set for the malicious "hackers", ignoring there is another definition for the software piracy crackers. Ugh!