As an impressionable teenager my image of a hacker was of someone who could use a computer to do whatever they pleased. Not only in the sense that they didn't care for boundaries but also that the boundaries couldn't stop them.

Nothing epitomised this more than the ATM hack by John Conner in the film Terminator 2.

Countless films and TV series have portrayed the hacker in a similar light: Neo in The Matrix, David Lightman in War Games, and Chloe O'Brian in 24, which is why the controvertial statement by Paul Graham disappoints me so much:

No, the problem is these women are not by the time they get to 23... Like
Mark Zuckerberg starts programming, starts messing about with computers when
he's like 10 or whatever. By the time he's starting Facebook he's a hacker,
and so he looks at the world through hacker eyes.

Mark Zuckerberg made an incredible achievement by the age of 23, but a hacker?

Hackers work under the cover of anonymity, in the shadows and out of sight. When you're system has been compromised, it's too late, your only option is to panic. All you're left with is a cheeky pseudonym and a whole lot of trouble. Hackers don't start social networks and move to Silicon Valley. Or do they?

It seems that the definition for hacker has a new meaning, and I couldn't help but smile when I read it:

Hacker (noun)

  • Computer slang.
    • a computer enthusiast
    • a microcomputer user who attempts to gain unauthorized access to
      proprietary computer systems.
  • slang a person who engages in an activity without talent or skill:
    weekend hackers on the golf course

The allusion that modern day hackers aren't skilled or talented is of course nonsense. Modern day hackers just love to tinker, which makes most people I know a hacker, and that's somewhat less exciting.