Tacking Technology

Posted by alan8373 on Jul 22, 2004 9:19 AM EDT
LXer; By Alan Snyder
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I'd like to propose a new term be added to the vernacular of geeks and techies alike ... "Tacking" - a combination of "Technology" and "Hacking". What's most interesting is the similarities between my proposed usage of tacking in IT circles, and how it's currently used in the sport of sailing - manipulating your sail and zig-zagging up-wind to get to your destination.

The following is a copy of my most recent blog post...

I'd like to offer my view of a new term I'd like to introduce into the realm of us techy folks ... "Tacking".

What is tacking? Well, it's "Technology" + "Hacking" = "Tacking". There are 3 reasons why I offer this new term. First, the term "Hacking" and "Hackers" doesn't float too well to non-techy people. It's equated with stealing, breaking into networks, and other illegal activities. Us on the up and up know this just ain't so, but the general population sees this term in a bad light. Secondly, Hacking is usually equated with software. However, I love to hack anything - software, hardware, mechanical things - anything. So, the scope of all technology that can be hacked can be summarized by the term 'Tacking'. Finally, hacking, to lay folks, has a sort of wild, unbridled, and tazmanian devil-ish connotation. As if to say it has no direction, but only a start and an end. In reality, hacking is usually focused, directed, and deliberate. The means and methods of getting to an end are definitely wild, unbridled, and tazmanian devil-ish, but the goal of hacking is to have something that is useful or funny or original. There is a goal to hacking. There is also usefulness at the end of hacking.

With that said, I'd like to see if we can brand tacking as a term that's more socially acceptable and more identifiable with what actually happens than hacking does. In my mind's eye, I see tacking as kind of like decorating an apartment. You have a goal, a set of tools, a fixed set of constraints, and knowledge. Using these things, you want to decorate your apartment to whatever suits your tastes and requirements. Hacking technologies follows these principles as well - you have a goal, tools, constraints, and knowledge (probably can be classified as a tool though).

Current Uses of Tacking Wow!! -- I just google'd for 'tacking' and found that the term is used already extensively in a few different manners - in sailing, and upholstery especially.

I'm going to investigate more in the areas of upholstery later on. For now, I'll look at sailing. In sailing, tacking essentially means that in order for a sailboat to get from point A to B, with the wind flowing opposite (from B to A), a sailboat must zig-zag against the wind and change direction of its sail to navigate to B. The link above, and this one provides a great visual reference for what tacking is about in sailing. I like this analogy in the IT industry as well. When we "tack" software and hardware, a lot of times we are going against the "wind" - forces of conventional thinking, and the way things are accepted. It takes a lot of zig-zagging to get to our goal - between technology issues, time constraints, physical constraints, monetary constraints, the list goes on. In this way, I believe that tacking is a very suitable term to associate to the IT industry - especially considering how it's used in sailing.

I'll have more thoughts on this later. I'd love to know what everyone thinks.

For now, I gotta get back to tacking...

verb: tack, tacking, tacked
noun: tacker, one who tacks

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