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See Hack (game) for the Hack computer game.

Hack is jargon meaning either a kludge, or the opposite of a kludge -- a clever or elegant solution to a difficult problem. As a verb, it means creating or participating in a hack. The term word is commonly (but not exclusively) used in relation to computer programming; see hacker.

The context determines which of the two meanings is implied. Phrases such as "ugly hack" or "quick hack" generally refer to the former meaning; phrases such as "cool hack" or "neat hack" refer to the latter. The first meaning probably derives from the normal English usage of "hack", which means a person lacking talent or ability (e.g. "hack writer".) The second meaning comes from MIT.

In MIT lingo, a "hack" is an elaborate and flamboyant student prank. Past MIT hacks include:

  • Covering the university's signature "Great Dome" (which seems to be something of a magnet for hacks) with tin foil
  • Putting a fake (but convincing) MIT Campus Police cruiser on the Dome
  • Decorating the Dome as R2D2[?]
  • Hiding the university president's office by covering its entrance with a fake bulletin board
  • Inflating a huge balloon on the playing field during a Harvard-Yale football game

In a similar vein, a "hack" may refer to works outside of computer programming. For example, a math hack means a clever solution to a mathematical problem. The GNU General Public License has been described as a copyright hack.

See also: cruftmanship

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