The hacker culture is a subculture of individuals who enjoy—often in collective effort—the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming the limitations of software systems or electronic hardware (mostly digital electronics), to achieve novel and clever outcomes. The act of engaging in activities (such as programming or other media) in a spirit of playfulness and exploration is termed hacking. However, the defining characteristic of a hacker is not the activities performed themselves (e.g. programming), but how it is done and whether it is exciting and meaningful. Activities of playful cleverness can be said to have "hack value" and therefore the term "hacks" came about, with early examples including pranks at MIT done by students to demonstrate their technical aptitude and cleverness. The hacker culture originally emerged in academia in the 1960s around the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)'s Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC) and MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Hacking originally involved entering restricted areas in a clever way without causing any major damage. Some famous hacks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were placing of a campus police cruiser on the roof of the Great Dome and converting the Great Dome into R2-D2.
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Richard Stallman explains about hackers who program:
What they had in common was mainly love of excellence and programming. They wanted to make their programs that they used be as good as they could. They also wanted to make them do neat things. They wanted to be able to do something in a more exciting way than anyone believed possible and show "Look how wonderful this is. I bet you didn't believe this could be done."
Hackers from this subculture tend to emphatically differentiate themselves from what they pejoratively call "crackers"; those who are generally referred to by media and members of the general public using the term "hacker", and whose primary focus—be it to malign or for malevolent purposes—lies in exploiting weaknesses in computer security.