Better living... through
(mostly) Harmless Hacking
Guide to (mostly) Harmless Hacking
Vol. 6 Real Hackers
No. 1: Eric S. Raymond
"Hackers built the Internet. Hackers made the UNIX operating system what
it is today. Hackers run Usenet. Hackers make the World Wide Web work. If
you are part of this culture, if you have contributed to it and other
people in it know who you are and call you a hacker, you're a hacker...
"There is another group of people who loudly call themselves hackers, but
aren't. These are people (mainly adolescent males) who get a kick out of
breaking into computers and phreaking the phone system. Real hackers call
these people `crackers' and want nothing to do with them. Real hackers
mostly think crackers are lazy, irresponsible, and not very bright, and
object that being able to break security doesn't make you a hacker any more
than being able to hotwire cars makes you an automotive engineer.
Unfortunately, many journalists and writers have been fooled into using the
word `hacker' to describe crackers; this irritates real hackers no end.
"The basic difference is this:
hackers build things, crackers break them...
Hackerdom's most revered demigods are people who have written large,
capable programs that met a widespread need and given them away, so that now
everyone uses them.
"If you want to be a hacker, keep reading. If you want to be a cracker, go
read the alt.2600 newsgroup and get ready to do five to ten in the slammer
after finding out you aren't as smart as you think you are. And that's all
I'm going to say about crackers." -- Eric S. Raymond,
Who are the real hackers? Who are the people we can admire and model our
lives upon? The Real Hackers series of these Guides introduces these people.
We start with Eric S. Raymond. He is well known in the hacker world. He
epitomizes all that a real hacker should be. He has wide ranging
programming experience: C, LISP, Pascal, APL, FORTRAN, Forth, Perl, and
Python; and is proficient in assembly language for the Z80, 80x86, and 680xx
CPUs. He also knows French, Spanish and Italian.
Raymond is one of the core developers of Linux, and a major force in the
ongoing evolution of the EMACS Lisp language. He maintains fetchmail, a
freeware utility for retrieving and forwarding mail from POP2/POP3/IMAP
But Raymond is perhaps most famous among real hackers as the man who
maintains the hacker jargon file. You can read it at
He also maintains numerous other well-regarded FAQ and HOWTO documents,
including the "Java-On-Linux HOWTO," the "Linux Distributions HOWTO," the
"PC-Clone UNIX Hardware Buyer's Guide," the "So You Want To Be A UNIX
Wizard? FAQ" (aka The Loginataka), and the "How To Become A Hacker FAQ" --
see http://locke.ccil.org/~esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html (quoted above).
Raymond also founded and runs the Chester County InterLink. This is a
501(c)3 nonprofit organization that gives free InterNet access to the
residents of Chester County, Pennsylvania. At last count, it had over two
thousand users and was gaining about fifty a week.
Raymond also has written the funniest hacker humor ever: "Unix Wars,"
which builds upon the really, really ancient hacker humor article, "DEC
Wars." You may read it at http://www.devnull.net/docs/unixwars.html.
Raymond is the author of many books. They include "The New Hackers
Dictionary," now in its 3rd edition (MIT Press 1996, ISBN 0-262-68092-0),
and "Learning GNU Emacs," (2nd edition, O'Reilly Associates, ISBN
0-937175-84-6). He was the principal researcher and author of "Portable C
and UNIX Systems Programming," (Prentice-Hall ISBN 0-13-686494-5) (the name
"J. E. Lapin" appearing on the cover was a corporate fiction). The advent of
the September 1996 fourth edition of "Portable C..." led to interviews with
Raymond in Wired magazine (August 1996) and People magazine (October 1996).
You can order Raymond's books from http://www.amazon.com.
"Wait, wait!" you say. "I'm on hacker IRC channels and hacker mail lists
all the time and I have never heard of Raymond! Why, he doesn't even have a
kewl handle like Mauve Knight or Ei8ht or DisordeR. Sheesh, Raymond isn't
even a member of some 31337 gang with a name like K-rad Doomsters of the
Welcome to the world of real hackers. As Raymond points out in his "How To
Become A Hacker FAQ," there are two kinds of hackers: real hackers who
aspire to learn and create, and the phonies who think crashing or breaking
into a computer proves they are geniuses.
More about Eric Raymond--->>
in 4th edition now!