A hacker is anyone who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations, primarily in their fields of interest, namely programming or electrical engineering. As will be discussed below, there is a trend in the popular press to use the term to describe computer criminals, and others whose motivations are less pure than the traditional hacker, which trend greatly annoys many of those old-school computer/technology enthusiasts.

Notable Hackers

  • Richard Stallman — A hacker of the old school, Stallman walked in off the street and got a job at MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Lab in 1971. Stallman is a legendary hacker, the founder of the free software movement, a MacArthur “genius grant” recipient and a programmer capable of prodigious exploits.

  • Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie — The driving creative force behind Bell Labs’ legendary computer science operating group, Ritchie and Thompson created UNIX in 1969.

  • Steve Wozniak — The co-founder of Apple Computer got his start making devices for phone phreaking.

  • Linus Torvalds — Torvalds was a computer science student at the University of Helsinki when he wrote the Linux kernel in 1991.

  • Eric S. Raymond — He is one of the founder of the Open Source Initiative and he wrote the famous text The Cathedral and the Bazaar and many other essays. He also maintains the Jargon File for the Hacker culture, which was previously maintained by Guy L. Steele, Jr..

  • Larry Wall — The creator of the Perl programming language.

  • Johan Helsingius — Operated the world’s most popular anonymous remailer, the Penet remailer (called penet.fi), until he closed up shop in September 1996.

  • Tsutomu Shimomura — Shimomura outhacked and outsmarted Kevin Mitnick, the United States’s most infamous hacker, in early 1994.

Notable Crackers

Here are a few of the more famous crackers (many of whom have since turned to positive hacking):

  • Eric Corley (a.k.a Emmanuel Goldstein) — Long standing publisher of 2600 the Hacker Quarterly. He has been part of the hacker community since the late 70’s.

  • John Draper (a.k.a. Captain Crunch) — Figured out how to make free phone calls using a plastic prize whistle he found in a cereal box.

  • Mark Abene (a.k.a. Phiber Optik) — Inspired thousands of teenagers around the country to “study” the internal workings of the United States’s phone system. One of the founders of Masters of Deception.

  • Robert T. Morris — This Cornell University graduate student accidentally unleashed the first major Internet worm in 1988.

  • Kevin Mitnick — The first hacker to have his face immortalized on an FBI “Most Wanted” poster.

  • Kevin Poulsen — In 1990 Poulsen took over all telephone lines going into Los Angeles area radio station KIIS-FM to win a call-in contest.

  • Vladimir Levin — This mathematician allegedly masterminded the Russian hacker gang that tricked Citibank’s computers into spitting out $10 million.

Licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses materials from the Wikipedia.

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