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Etymology 3.

Although very plausible, my recollection is that this term came about simply because the 'cracker' gained access to software in the same way as a safe cracker gains access to a safe. Or possibly that they find the cracks in the security. Unless it can be proven one way or the other should there be a definite etymology entry at all? House 19:01, 20 October 2007 (UTC)

Yea, I also feel there's no evidence the use came about by blending criminal and hacker. There is nothing more distinctly criminal about a cracker as opposed to a hacker that would inspire that formation. If anything, a cracker is more mildly criminal than a hacker. This is a back-formed explanation, although clearly the term criminal may partly influence the term's use. I noticed that the computing sense was added redundantly a while back to Etymology 1, which as far as I'm concerned is fine as stemming from one sense of the verb "to crack" (like "crack a code").
On a wider note, Etymology 2 (which I just expanded) really stems from the verb "to crack" as well, so it's not really a new Etymology, but a deeper, more specific explanation. Should we add the pejorative sense to the main list, do away with the other etymologies, and copy Etymology 2 verbatim into a Usage Notes? -- Thisis0 21:13, 20 October 2007 (UTC)
I think you've ignored the etymological sequence here. Hacker had no negative connotation for the first couple decades it was used (and still doesn't in many/most contexts.) "Phreaking" came along in the early 80s, followed by "cracking" in the late 80s/early 90s. "Cracker" was coined as the antonym of "hacker" in this use. Are you suggesting smears campaign against the word "hacker" have been successful, to the point of revising the word's history? --Connel MacKenzie 06:31, 21 October 2007 (UTC)
I think your sequence is unfounded. What more negative connotation can be wrought upon a word when its original formation implies "hack"ing into something protected. Smear campaign. And there's clear evidence cracker was around first (code cracker, safe cracker). Incidentally, it's not even the life of "hacker" we're pursuing here, but that's all you've commented on. Now, back to combining cracker etymologies. Any ideas? -- Thisis0 17:29, 21 October 2007 (UTC)
I fear that among computer(-history) illiterates a "hacker" is only someone who can convince the zoning board's computers that your house is a landfill, make your email disappear, and make your computer erase your video tapes. Anyway, I'm with "cracker" being "one who cracks" as in "cracking a code/cipher/protective device". The jargon file discusses it a bit: [1]. Not everything is a blend. Cynewulf 07:56, 21 October 2007 (UTC)
All I can say with any certainty is that waaaay back in the early seventies people would try and 'crack' other people's passwords on university computers in the same way as safe crackers cracked a safe or code breakers cracked a code (although they were never known as 'crackers', then). When PC software makers started using codes to try and protect their programs people would try and crack those codes. There was talk of 'cracked software' and the 'crackers' who did it. The etymology listed here looks me to be a back construction created as a very plausible guess at how the word came about. If anyone can verify the genesis of the word that would be good but I don't think we should have an unconfirmed, disputed, etymology anymore than any other unconfirmed junk.
And "smears campaign"? Is that one of those stupid typos you were refering to on the shuttlecock article? House 08:07, 21 October 2007 (UTC)
No, but that might be "refering." The "s" at the end of "smear" was the "ALT-S" with the ALT key not registering, combined with a slow browser that didn't display the additional "s."
"Unknown" is a perfectly valid etymology. Since this came about during many of our lifetimes, that wouldn't be particularly accurate. Several are listed as unreferenced or disputed (probably dozens.) Since this is computer jargon, the jargon file link above (from Cynewulf) obviously belongs in the "references" section. How are you suggesting this should be reworded? --Connel MacKenzie 23:18, 21 October 2007 (UTC)
A very interesting question. Since there are two extremely plausible theories and no real way of determining which is correct, we could either a) have both, b) just say "disputed", c) say "disputed" and have both explanations.
The broader and more intereting question to come from this is: "Can a single word that means the same thing to most people actually have two equally valid etymologies? I can imagine that there is one group of people who use 'cracker' because it is someone who cracks, and another who use it because they believe the people to be "criminal hackers". (Plus, probably the majority who never knew or have forgotten why they use the term). Moglex 12:31, 22 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Whoa, waitasec. A hack reporter is way older than any of these theories. Likewise typewriters...e.g. "hacking" at the keys of a stiff manual typewriter. I think the theory presented above about hacking something to pieces, as with a hacksaw, comes much later than either of those. To suggest a negative connotation of "hacking" when "hacking" was coined for programming seems pretty silly to me, likewise that cracking (from the verb to crack) isn't an antonym. The reference given above does support the valid etymology. Unless that can be antedated (in the programming sense) showing your (theoritic) inverse origin, there is no justification for removing it. --Connel MacKenzie 04:48, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
This paragraphs seems very confused. And the use of the term "valid etymology" in the penultimate sentence is rather begging the question, isn't it?
My objection to the etymology given is that, whilst plausible, it is still more contrived than the alternate. In my scenario, the term 'cracker' flows completely naturally from code crackers who cracked the key or password of codes (e.g. in WWII) to those who crack keys or passwords on computer files or systems. (This itself flowed quite naturally from cracking a safe - either by violent physical action or determining the combination (opening code)). It did not even need to be specifically coined, the term already existed.
The idea that you are trying to defend is that although there was an extant term for people who cracked codes (both the mechanism and the password), the entire world was oblivious to this term and it required some individual to actively generate the word from two components. That seems quite preposterous! Moglex 10:47, 25 October 2007 (UTC)

Missing adjective?[edit]

I noticed this citation at Chrimbo. Is it an adjective? Does it mean "mad, crazy" (crackers) or "excellent, splendid" (cracking)? Equinox 21:59, 23 November 2016 (UTC)

  • 2001, Kevin Sampson, Outlaws
    The thing is, The Montrose is cracker on a Thursday night, never mind that the Chrimbo lunacy season has kicked off good and proper.