[Ads-l] Earliest Clearcut Use of Computer "Hacker"

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sun Jul 24 02:36:52 UTC 2016

My understanding is that the earliest known uses of "hacker" in its now-prevalent sense are from 1959 (Tech Model Railroad Club dictionary, found by Jesse Sheidlower) and 1963 (MIT student newspaper, The Tech, found by me).  However, the first of these is a very general reference that is not restricted to a computer context, and the second refers to messing around with the telephone system.  The OED files' earliest explicit use of "hacker" referring to one who "hacks" with computers, I believe, is a 1971 citation from the MIT guide How to Get Around MIT, contributed by me.

I have now found what appears to be a 1969 explicit use of the computer sense of "hacker":

1969 _Tech Engineering News_ 51: 99 (Google Books)  Will be able to send a computer science major over to join a research team, a computer "hacker" to use a small DEC computer.

The text of the citation above is all I can see in the Google Books snippet.  I have not checked the original source.  It is possible that the Google Books snippet is misdated, but internal evidence makes 1969 a very likely accurate dating.

Presumably this is also an antedating of the specific word-combination "computer hacker."

Fred Shapiro, MIT '74

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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