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IFX Group


Truth About Hacking

There was a point in time when all software of any significance, was written using a development method called hacking where one programmer would physically or virtually look over the shoulder of another programmer to see how their code worked. They all would hack parts of other programs to use in their own and in turn allow others to hack changes to improve things even more. This created a series of stepping stones where one hacker would build on the inspiration and progress of another.

Sadly, the term hacking has since taken on a different and more sinister connotation. But in a way, the core stepping stone method it describes still remains much the same.

All of the old school hackers have taken the same path at least once in their career. In this context the term stealing is taking someone else's code and calling it your own. Contrary to common belief, neither Apple nor Microsoft stole anything from Xerox. They did hack significant parts of the Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) project that created a windowed user interface with a mouse pointing method.

Up until now, very few people knew that even the IPAD-OS was originally built using the old school hacking method. The very first 1993 mock-up version of the IPAD-OS was largely built around an open source program called KA9Q. It served as a very nice proof of concept at the 1993 BBSCON and it took almost three full years for Phil Becker, Bob Hartman, Chris Blaise and sometimes JP Morgan to create brand new software following the designs and structures of that early mock-up version. This became the robust IPAD-OS we know today. Just so everyone is clear, there is absolutely no code from KA9Q inside the IPAD-OS.

I have very strong suspicions that every software house is still using the same old hacking methods, but I can't speak authoritatively. I can say that all of the IOA versions of the IPAD-OS are written using the old school hacking method. Today this means looking at lots of documentation, published standards, open source and public domain source code to see how others accomplished their specific tasks and implementing those ideas in the IPAD operating system. Since the IPAD-OS has a very different way of looking at life, very little if any of the outside source code can be used directly. This just means that the hacking is looking more for the ideas and concepts than the actual code.

As a way to repay the community for providing source code to help me learn how things worked and to help others interested in this time-tested method of learning how programs work, a large number of our programs in the download area also include fully commented source code. You are strongly encouraged to look at this source code, read the comments, even if you are not a programmer this is something you should see. If you find the thought of tinkering with programming or want to change something in any of the programs available on this site, this is your ticket into the wonderful world of hacking.

First published 2007-01-31. The last major review or update of this information was on 2007-01-31. Your feedback using the form below helps us correct errors and omissions on this page.