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How the Word 'Hacker' Got Corrupted

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Hacker: It sounds vicious and destructive, just like the malevolent electronic villains it is used to describe.

The more we rely on computers the more we fear attacks on those computers and it's hardly surprising that the news is full of hackers hacking into computer systems and generally disrupting the online world with their hacks.

Yet this sense of the term is surprisingly new and, what's more, is completely at odds with the original meaning that arose within computer science.

What is generally called "hacking" today was originally called "cracking" in technical circles - as in cracking a safe. Hacking, in its original meaning, has nothing to do with malicious behaviour.

Somewhere along the way the word "hacker" escaped into the wild but with its meaning twisted.

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