Eric S. “ESR” Raymond, one of the elder statesmen of hackerdom (and aficionado of peanut butter cookies) is proposing that hackers get an emblem:
The Linux folks have their penguin and the BSDers their daemon. Perl’s got a camel, FSF fans have their gnu and OSI’s got an open-source logo. What we haven’t had, historically, is an emblem that represents the entire hacker community of which all these groups are parts. This is a proposal that we adopt one the glider pattern from the Game of Life.
Here’s the emblem, which might look familiar if you’ve ever been given Conway’s Game of Life as a school programming assignment:
Raymond reports that “About half the hackers this idea was alpha-tested on instantaneously said ‘Wow! Cool!’ without needing any further explanation.” I’m sure this will be true for the over-30 crowd like me; do any of you under-30s — especially those of you who still have to escape your teen years — recognize this pattern?
ESR’s set up a FAQ page, in which he answers the questions:
- What is the emblem?
- Why have an emblem?
- Why this emblem?
- Why the emblem should come from him
I think the emblem design’s great: it’s simple, recognizable on a couple of different levels, easy to draw even by hand — even by the least-artisically-gifted person, and can even be represented in text:
Or the binary version:
Or the decimal version of the above binary version, which is the sequence 217. Someone should be able to derive a gang sign from that.
(Yes, someone will derive a gang sign. If you don’t believe me, check out the DefCon conference, which features a distressingly large number of pasty white kids talking “street”.)
One more thing — allow me to recap the true definition of the work “hacker”, taken from the Jargon File:
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 for this sense is cracker.
The term ‘hacker’ also tends to connote membership in the global community defined by the net (see the network and Internet address). For discussion of some of the basics of this culture, see the How To Become A Hacker FAQ. It also implies that the person described is seen to subscribe to some version of the hacker ethic (see hacker ethic).
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.
This term seems to have been first adopted as a badge in the 1960s by the hacker culture surrounding TMRC and the MIT AI Lab. We have a report that it was used in a sense close to this entry’s by teenage radio hams and electronics tinkerers in the mid-1950s.
Perhaps the emblem could be used in the same way the “Jesus Fish” was — to separate the True Believers from the Heathen. To establish bona fides, an early Christian would draw one arc of the Jesus Fish, and only one who knew the secret would know to draw the other half. Perhaps hackers could identify each other by drawing the emblem with a couple of missing cells; only a 1337 H4X0R would know which ones to fill in.
I give the emblem a thumbs-up. Where can I get the T-shirt?
[Thanks to snowchyld for the link!]