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The New Hacker's Dictionary [Paperback]

Eric S. Raymond
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 11 1996 0262680920 978-0262680929 third edition
This new edition of the hacker's own phenomenally successful lexicon includes more than 100 new entries and updates or revises 200 more. Historically and etymologically richer than its predecessor, it supplies additional background on existing entries and clarifies the murky origins of several important jargon terms (overturning a few long-standing folk etymologies) while still retaining its high giggle value.

. . . .


:hacker: n. [originally, someone who makes furniture with an axe] 1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary. 2. One who programs enthusiastically (even obsessively) or who enjoys programming rather than just theorizing about programming. 3. A person capable of appreciating {hack value}. 4. A person who is good at programming quickly. 5. An expert at a particular program, or one who frequently does work using it or on it; as in `a UNIX hacker'. (Definitions 1 through 5 are correlated, and people who fit them congregate.) 6. An expert or enthusiast of any kind. One might be an astronomy hacker, for example. 7. One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations. 8. [deprecated] A malicious meddler who tries to discover sensitive information by poking around. Hence `password hacker', `network hacker'. The correct term is {cracker}.

The term `hacker' also tends to connote membership in the global community defined by the net (see {network, the} and {Internet address}). It also implies that the person described is seen to subscribe to some version of the hacker ethic (see {hacker ethic, the}).

It is better to be described as a hacker by others than to describe oneself that way. Hackers consider themselves something of an elite (a meritocracy based on ability), though one to which new members are gladly welcome. There is thus a certain ego satisfaction to be had in identifying yourself as a hacker (but if you claim to be one and are not, you'll quickly be labeled {bogus}). See also {wannabee}.

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This third edition of the tremendously popular Hacker's Dictionary adds 100 new entries and updates 200 entries. In case you aren't familiar with it, this is no snoozer dictionary of technical terms, although you'll certainly find accurate definitions for most techie jargon. It's the slang and secret language among computer jocks that offers the most fun. Don't know what the Infinite-Monkey Theorem is? Or the meaning of "rat dance?" It's all here. Most people don't sit down to read dictionaries for entertainment, but this is surely an exception.


"A sprightly lexicon." William Safire, New York Times Magazine

"For anyone who likes to have slippery, elastic fun with language, this is a time for celebration.... The New Hacker's Dictionary... is not only a useful guidebook to very much un-official technical terms and street tech slang, but also a de facto ethnography of the early years of the hacker culture." Mondo 2000

"My current favorite is `wave a dead chicken.' New to you? You've waved a dead chicken when you've gone through motions to satisfy onlookers (suits?), even when you're sure it's all futile. Raymond's book exhilarates.... The New Hacker's Dictionary, though, is not for skimming. Allot, each day, a half hour, severely timed if you hope to get any work done." Hugh Kenner, Byte

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Understand Your Fellow Hackers Oct. 26 2003
By FePe
"The New Hacker's Dictionary" is not an ordinary dictionary.Instead of a regular English dictionary, you get one that is the hacker's dream: a dictionary full of terms used by hackers all over the globe. Then you can really talk with your fellow geeks.
The dictionary is compiled by Eric S. Raymond, a well-known hacker, who is author of the popular book about open source, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar". He knows the hacker culture well, and that makes him a good compiler. The third edition of the dictionary adds more than 100 new entries to the already rich list. Among my favourite entries are "larval stage", "scrozzle", and "wave a dead chicken".
Other than the dictionary itself, this book contains two essays, "Confessions of a Happy Hacker" by Guy Steele and "Hacker in a Strange Land" by Eric Raymond, as well as a not-so-short introduction to hacker speech, hacker jargon, and the hacker file in particular. There are three appendices. The first contains some funny stories about hacking in various situations. The second tries to portrait "J. Random Hacker", the most typical hacker. And the last is a short article of how one can help the hacker culture grow.
If you have interacted with other hackers (in Usenet, RL (Real Life), or in other hacker-populated places in the universe), you may have found yourself unable to understand some terms. With "The New Hacker's Dictionary" you can learn all these useful, strange, or simply funny words and thereby become a full-fledged hacker.
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This isn't a dictionary, it's a thousand slices of hacker history, folklore, and culture aranged in alphabetical order. I've kept this book by my desk for the past decade and I still turn to it for a refreshing mind-spritz when the code is starting to look blurry...
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must-have for wanabees and the curious alike Dec 24 2002
This is one of my favorites: both informative and highly entertaining (perhaps more the latter).
Although the jargon file (from which the bulk of this book's content is taken) is freely available online, the forewords by GLS and ESR are interesting to read, and the Crunchly cartoons are real gems. Besides, it's nice to have the File in book form, especially when not at a computer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Worth having Aug. 13 2002
I would normally not consider buying something named "The New Hacker's Dictionary", as the first thing that comes to mind is "drivel for the stupid masses". However, I must say that I was wrong. The "dictionary" is actually by an author who is obviously familiar with the computing days of old - the definitions aren't idiotic new-age garbage, but rather words that most "hackers"/"computer nerds" will recognize - while the regular folk will not. The book doesn't discuss words like "click", "webpage" and any other "popular" computing terms - instead it's words like "foobar", "warez d00dz", "flipflop", etc...
If you're at all interested in classic computing culture, this book is something I feel every computer nerd should have (you fit the description if, among other things, you like monty python and your idea of the perfect evening is spending it at home programming, with occasional breaks to watch the X-Files).
If you're a soccermom, or a script/warez kiddie, this book is not for you. You probably won't understand it, and will certainly not appreciate it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Yeah you can get it free on the internet... Nov. 16 2001
It is really nice to be able to peruse this book in the flesh rather than on the computer screen and if you frequently are looking at the HTML version then you will not be dissapointed by this book. If you have never read this book then do a quick web search and check out the HTML version first.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, but fading relevance now Aug. 5 2001
Actually I owned the previous print edition and read it cover to cover, while I've only consulted this later version on line. The book has a lot of excellent information, and used to be the definitive reference for technobabble. And the comics include some classics and I'm fairly sure I've never seen them on the Web...
However, these days when I try to find the latest terms, too often--actually most often--they are not here. This seems to be a fundamental mechanical problem. This dictionary was originally compiled in a different era and using techniques that were appropriate to those times and to the available technologies. That meant mostly the newsgroups and email, and a volume of information that could be filtered by a few moderately dedicated volunteers. The main change now is just the explosion of new technical terms, and though many of these new candidate words are current among far more users than ever contributed to this dictionary, the old approaches just can't deal with it.
It's a very good book, and worth reading, but IMO mostly as a historical and etymological reference. Many important terms are definitely included, and even some of the obsolete terms have had influences on later terminology, but the book just isn't current enough or broad enough to capture the current scope of computer-related technologies.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amaze your hacker friends with this book! July 26 2001
This book gives some great insight into the mind of the hacker. And note hacker, NOT cracker! Hackers are unjustly maligned by the media as being evil types who just want to wreak havoc on big business and government computer systems, when in reality they view breaking in on security systems as a hobby and almost always alert the authorities to the system break-in.
This dictionary of hacker terms (which can be hilarious, informative, or esoteric depending on their meaning) gives an idea of the creativity and mentality of the hackers and their distrust of huge corporations (ie "Broken Windows" for Sun's "Open Windows," "Windoze" for Microsoft Windows, and so on). Reading though the definition of terms gives you an idea of how to "talk turkey" with said hackers, and even if I will always be just a "wannabe" hacker, it helps to be able to get an idea of the mindset of the hacker.
At the back of the book, there's even a brief compilation of hacker "folklore" and "legends," a portrait of a "typical hacker," and ways to help the hacker culture grow (like getting a free Unix system or contributing to organizations like the Free Software Foundation).
Books like this one, The Cathedral and the Bazaar, and Open Sources give an excellent view of the hacker culture.
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