Hacking is a term used to describe the activity of modifying a product or procedure to alter its normal function, or to fix a problem. The term purportedly originated in the 1960s, when it was used to describe the activities of certain MIT model train enthusiasts who modified the operation of their model trains. They discovered ways to change certain functions without re-engineering the entire device.
These curious individuals went on to work with early computer systems where they applied their curiosity and resourcefulness to learning and changing the computer code that was used in early programs. Some of their hacks became so successful they outlived the original product, such as the UNIX operating system, developed as a hack by Dennis Ritchie and Keith Thompson of Bell Labs. To the general public a “hack” became known as a clever way to fix a problem with a product, or an easy way to improve its function.
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