There is no single and definitive definition of what hacking is. We all have different versions of similar ideas in our head, but depending on your background and area of enthusiasm, hacking means something different. While dictionary.com has many definitions of the word itself, none seem to cover what we see on a daily basis.
We set out to define “hacking” ourselves. We tossed around words like “modify”, “kludge”, “explore”, and “create”. Each time we committed an increasingly vague definition onto the page, we decided it was too narrow and tossed it in the proverbial trash. The variations were just too many.
What we do know is that “hacking” seems to breed advancement and innovation. Much like mutations in an evolutionary chain, each hack pushes the topic in a slightly new direction, inspiring others and thereby perpretuating the evolutary event. In a very short time we’ve witnessed hacking bring forth the evolution of wagons to cars, kites to airplanes, and the creation of the computer.
We at Hackaday would like to declaire August 11th to be “International Hack Day”. A day to celebrate hacking in all of its diverse forms. From soldering to sewing, coding to carbonating, knitting to knurling, we want you to keep on hacking. Take August 11th as a day to show pride in your hacking. Waive your hacker flag high and educate those around you.
We have asked many of our friends to contribute their personal definition of hacking. Here they are, in the order they were received.
Hacking is being completely obsessed with a puzzle that shares it’s solution with everyone once it’s solved.
— Limor “Ladyada” Fried, Adafruit
I don’t hacking is something you do, it’s a mindset, you look at the same world as everyone else, filled with the same things, things that are assumed to do just one thing or what we’re told they should do… but you constantly ask yourself “what else can I make this thing do?”.
— Phil Torrone: Adafruit, MAKE Magazine & Founder of Hack-a-day
hacking is the noble art of tricking hardware or software into doing something unexpected. — Leo LaPorte
Hacking’ is the process of exploring and understanding a system. A ‘hack’ is the application of that gained knowledge in a clever and novel way. — Andrew “Bunnie” Huang
I would say a “hack” is anytime you extend a know system beyond its intended functionality. Quite often this results in features a product might have had if its designers didn’t have to meet a ship date. —Benjamin Heckendorn
Taking what exists, learning what you can about it, improving upon it, and sharing it. — Mitch Altman
Repurpose, reuse, invent, and recycle.” Not just duct taping stuff together, it applies to code, ideas, whatever. — Ian Lesnet, Dangerous Prototypes
Hacking means building with less regard for the polished nature of the final project. Think MacGyver meets electronics. He was never building something to sell, he just had to get the job done. Whether we are deconstructing a device or building something new and completely wacky, hacking it means we don’t care what other people think of our methods, we’re more concerned about what people think of the outcome. — Nathan Seidle, Sparkfun
Hacking is technical dissection that leads to discovery of function and exploration of repurposed or enhanced usability. — Lindsey Levkoff, Education at Sparkfun
To me, “hacking” means that I can bend my environment to my liking. I have the understanding, will and ability to rearrange the world into something that is most palatable to me. Hacking is power. — Pete Doktor, Engineering at Sparkfun
Hacking is making a mess of a solution then refining it until someone else acknowledges that you have done something of interest. — Mikey Sklar
Hacking is many things to many people. To me, it’s about stirring things up, not accepting blindly whatever it is you’re told, seeking out the answers firsthand, and sharing what you discover with others so they can embark on their own journey. Note the absence of computers or even technology in this definition. They are not essential in being a hacker. If you look at every instance of exploration, creative expression, journalistic investigation, or even rebellion, you will find the basic components of hacking. The modern age simply gives us more tools with which to use them.
— Emmanuel Goldstein
We would love to see all of your definitions of hacking. Sure, many may be similar, but you’ll probably find that many are very different. Here are the current writer’s definitions:
To me, hacking is more of a mindset. When you’re just tearing into something headed toward some goal without the proper research and planning. There’s an excitement there, like you’re exploring. — Caleb Kraft
Use things in a way in which they were not originally intended. — Mike Szczys
Modifying something from it’s original use to do something that it was never intended to do. Although much (but not all) legal hacking is done for fun and not necessaryil profit, sometimes a device or technique is hit upon that changes society and hopefully brings the author the monetary reward he or she deserves. — Jeremy Cook
Hacking is all about learning. Gaining just enough knowledge to know how something works, and then using that knowledge to improve upon or just mess with it. To me, things start getting very interesting when simple tricks lead to things you aren’t supposed to know. — Jesse Congdon