|Ooh, this makes me cross.|
What Is a Hacker?The Jargon File talks absolute bollocks about the word hacker. It claims that using it as a synonym of cracker is deprecated. No it's bloody not, Mr Jargon File, it's common usage, quite the opposite. What you mean is you, like Mr How To Become A Hacker, want it to be deprecated because you want your precious word back, just like wiccans claim that witch means wiccan even though it's fucking obvious that common usage has it meaning the green evil warty cauldron broomstick variety. Claiming that the common usage is deprecated just gets those people you'd have call themselves hackers (or witches) into trouble when they do so in non-wanker company and are misunderstood.
The Jargon File contains a bunch of definitions of the term 'hacker', most having to do with technical adeptness and a delight in solving problems and overcoming limits. If you want to know how to become a hacker, though, only two are really relevant
There is a community, a shared culture, of expert programmers and networking wizards that traces its history back through decades to the first time-sharing minicomputers and the earliest ARPAnet experiments. The members of this culture originated the term 'hacker'. Hackers built the Internet....The term has since shifted into the popular perception with a different meaning, thanks to movies, so should no longer be used in its original manner if you wish to avoid causing possibly-dangerous confusion. (I skip a part of the document here)
The hacker mind-set is not confined to this software-hacker culture. There are people who apply the hacker attitude to other things, like electronics or music - actually, you can find it at the highest levels of any science or art. Software hackers recognize these kindred spirits elsewhere and may call them "hackers" tooNo they fucking don't. They just fucking don't. Okay, I concede that maybe one 'software hacker', one named 'Mr How To Become A Hacker', calls non-computer people hackers, but nobody else does. What a load of absolute toss that claim is. (I skip another bit)
There is another group of people who loudly call themselves hackers, but aren't. These are people (mainly adolescent males) who get a kick out of breaking into computers and phreaking the phone system. Real hackers call these people 'crackers' and want nothing to do with them.The general public and the media also call these people hackers, which means that's what the word means. Stop crying about it, let them have the word you whiny fucking pansy. "Mo-o-om, people who break into computers have stolen my word, make them give it back!" Here's a tip, chap - mom can't make them give the word back - language is a horribly democratic beast, and the people have cast their ephemeral votes to let the criminals have hacker. It's not yours any more. (I skip another bit)
Unfortunately, many journalists and writers have been fooled into using the word 'hacker' to describe crackers; this irritates real hackers no end.It irritates real wankers no end. They haven't been fooled. Journalists and writers generally (except, say, yourself, and the Register's Orlowski) use words to get their points across to their audience, and the audience will understand 'hacker' to mean its real meaning, not its outdated meaning. More of them than would understand 'cracker' that way, since that's more commonly a biscuit or derogatory slang for white-folk.
Why must 'hackers' and 'witches' insist on fighting a losing, nay, lost battle for these words? 'Witches' already have a working alternative - they can call themselves wiccans, and be done with it. As for hackers - come up with a new word for yourselves, or use an old word that fits the bill. If you don't want it to just be computer-related, how about 'eccentric'? That has mostly the right connotations. How about 'maverick'? That's rarely used for anything else, and it's a pretty sweet word too. Or how about, as you even used in the damn description, 'wizard'? With genre-prefixes that's already pretty much understood to be what you want - "computer wizard", "programming wizard", etc. I'm sure it would be understood if you said someone was a "golf wizard", too.
If you wanted to be a bit more inventive, you could take a different old word that nobody uses any more, something with a vaguely appropriate meaning, and steal it. How about calling yourself a "phrenic"? It sounds like a noun, but until now, it isn't. You'll have a better chance of fighting for a word to mean what you want if you start with a word that isn't already in common usage meaning something else.