Hacker is a person who breaks into computers, usually by gaining access to administrative controls. The subculture that has evolved around hackers is often referred to as the computer underground. Proponents claim to be motivated by artistic and political ends, and are often unconcerned about the use of criminal means to achieve them. The Jargon File, a compendium of hacker slang, defines hacker as "A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary." [1] The Request for Comments (RFC) 1392, the Internet Users' Glossary, amplifies this meaning as "A person who delights in having an intimate understanding of the internal workings of a system, computers and computer networks in particular." [2] These hackers are disappointed by the mass media and mainstream public's usage of the word hacker to refer to security breakers, calling them "crackers" instead. The difference between hackers and crackers is that where hackers use their skills and knowledge to learn more about how systems and networks work, crackers will use the same skills to author harmful software (like viruses, trojans, etc.) and illegally infiltrate secure systems with the intention of doing harm to the system. True hackers don't participate in these activities and generally frown upon them. Over time, the academic hacker subculture has tended to become more conscious, more cohesive, and better organized. The most important consciousness-raising moments have included the composition of the first Jargon File in 1973, the promulgation of the GNU Manifesto in 1985, and the publication of The Cathedral and the Bazaar in 1997. Correlated with this has been the gradual election of a set of shared culture heroes: Bill Joy, Donald Knuth, Dennis Ritchie, Alan Kay, Ken Thompson, Richard M. Stallman, Linus Torvalds, and Larry Wall, among others. The concentration of academic hacker subculture has paralleled and partly been driven by the commoditization of computer and networking technology, and has in turn accelerated that process. In 1975, hackerdom was scattered across several different families of operating systems and disparate networks; today it is largely a Unix and TCP/IP phenomenon, and is concentrated around various operating systems based on free software and open-source software development.
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