In the past 48 hours I've read two different ACM
papers from two different eras. The first was an article from the most recent issue of the printed magazine Communications of the ACM about 'hacker attacks' on the hierarchical certification system used in the existing public key infrastructure. This paper is entitled "Is Hierarchical Public-Key Certification THE NEXT TARGET FOR HACKERS?".
The second paper was a seminal 1990 paper by Hanrahan and Lawson (Pixar) called "A Language for Shading and Lighting Calculations".
Both articles use the term 'hacker'. The 1990 paper, obviously, uses the term with its original meaning, which had a positive connotation. The 2004 paper abuses the term and should more accurately substitute the word criminal for hacker.
I say, what a difference 25 years makes, and shame on the ACM.
I worked for a time at an industrial/manufacturing facility in Edmonton, Canada. One of the interesting things I learned during that period was that other professions (ie. trades) have hackers as well. Generally, these would be highly skilled persons who would be unafraid to dive into a challenge, and find no problem unsolveable. Electricians, plumbers, construction workers. Modifying, improving, and patching existing physical infrastructure, including homes, office towers and industrial plants, requires the same ingenuity, in-situ problem solving and ad-hoc techniques that all levels of computering require. None of these folks are criminal unless they chose to be. They are not classified as criminal simply for their practical know-how. And neither should we be.
In some eastern philosophies they suggest that the mind is a mirror. In this case, the real criminals here are those who exploit the generalized fears of the populace to increase their readership, instead of attracting readers based on merit.
I have given a fair number of talks at software conferences, and among my favorites was "Hacking your way into a Windows application". Anyone who thinks that hackers are criminals has obviously never met one. I've met plenty of both, and one or two who were both. I guess it takes one to know one.