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How to become a hacker

Nat Friedman has an interesting article on his blog, entitled “How to become a hacker” – and by hacker, he means computer programmer.

He lists the secret as this:

  1. Download the source code to the program you want to change
  2. Untar it on your hard drive
  3. Get it to build and run
  4. Open the source code in an editor
  5. Find the part of the code that you need to change to make the program do what you want it to do
  6. Make the changes you need to make to the code and test it to make sure it works
  7. Run the diff -u command and email the output to the mailing list

This he claims is a guaranteed recipe for hackerdom. The rest of the article is an interesting read, but I have to agree with him. My best programming skills (which are lame to poor as far as I am concerned) have come from taking someone else’s code and bending it to my will. Aside from the Inform game I helped my daughter write a while back, I probably haven’t written anything from “scratch” in 5+ years. I do feel that I have learned enough from some of my hackery that I could write code from scratch in PHP (used for my website) or VBScript (managing 750+ XP workstations with a crew of 4) now if I needed to, but haven’t felt the need to re-invent the wheel.

I do know that the advice above is a better way to pick up a new programming/scripting language than reading books or taking courses (as long as you have some programming experience to start with), and that’s a guarantee!

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