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The First Formal Definition of Hacker (June 1959)


In June 1959 Peter R. Samson, Public Relations Committee of the MIT Tech Model Railroad Club, defined the term "hack" in the Tech Model Railroad Club Dictionary as:

"1) an article or project without constructive end

"2) a project undertaken on bad self-advice

"3) an entropy booster

"4) to produce, or attempt to produce, a hack(3)."

Samson defined hacker as "one who hacks, or makes them."

Much of the Tech Model Railroad Club jargon was later incorporated into early computer culture. In 2005 Samson commented:

"I saw this as a term for an unconventional or unorthodox application of technology, typically deprecated for engineering reasons. There was no specific suggestion of malicious intent (or of benevolence, either). Indeed, the era of this dictionary saw some 'good hacks:' using a room-sized computer to play music, for instance; or, some would say, writing the dictionary itself" (http://www.gricer.com/tmrc/dictionary1959.html, accessed 06-01-2009).