Mineral extraction sites such as the Dolaucothi gold mine was probably first worked by the Roman army from c. 75, and at some later stage passed to civilian operators. The mine developed as a series of opencast workings, mainly by the use of hydraulic mining methods. They are described by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History in great detail. Essentially, water supplied by aqueducts was used to prospect for ore veins by stripping away soil to reveal the bedrock. If veins were present, they were attacked using fire-setting and the ore removed for crushing and comminution. The dust was washed in a small stream of water and the heavy gold dust and gold nuggets collected in riffles. The diagram at right shows how Dolaucothi developed from c. 75 through to the 1st century. When opencast work was no longer feasible, tunnels were driven to follow the veins. The evidence from the site shows advanced technology probably under the control of army engineers.
The Wealden ironworking zone, the lead and silver mines of the Mendip Hills and the tin mines of Cornwall seem to have been private enterprises leased from the government for a fee. Although mining had long been practised in Britain (see Grimes Graves), the Romans introduced new technical knowledge and large-scale industrial production to revolutionise the industry. It included hydraulic mining to prospect for ore by removing overburden as well as work alluvial deposits. The water needed for such large-scale operations was supplied by one or more aqueducts, those surviving at Dolaucothi being especially impressive. Many prospecting areas were in dangerous, upland country, and, although mineral exploitation was presumably one of the main reasons for the Roman invasion, it had to wait until these areas were subdued.
Although Roman designs were most popular, rural craftsmen still produced items derived from the Iron Age La Tne artistic traditions. Local pottery rarely attained the standards of the Gaulish industries although the Castor ware of the Nene Valley was able to withstand comparison with the imports. Most native pottery was unsophisticated however and intended only for local markets.
By the 3rd century, Britain's economy was diverse and well established, with commerce extending into the non-Romanised north. The design of Hadrian's Wall especially catered to the need for customs inspections of merchants' goods.
Today, mainstream usage of "hacker" mostly refers to computer criminals, due to the mass media usage of the word since the 1980s. This includes what hacker slang calls "script kiddies," people breaking into computers using programs written by others, with very little knowledge about the way they work. This usage has become so predominant that the general public is unaware that different meanings exist. While the self-designation of hobbyists as hackers is acknowledged by all three kinds of hackers, and the computer security hackers accept all uses of the word, people from the programmer subculture consider the computer intrusion related usage incorrect, and emphasize the difference between the two by calling security breakers "crackers" (analogous to a safecracker).
Currently, "hacker" is used in two main conflicting ways:
as someone who is able to subvert computer security; if doing so for malicious purposes, the person can also be called a cracker.
an adherent of the technology and programming subculture.
The controversy is usually based on the assumption that the term originally meant someone messing about with something in a positive sense, that is, using playful cleverness to achieve a goal. But then, it is supposed, the meaning of the term shifted over the decades since it first came into use in a computer context and came to refer to computer criminals.
As usage has spread more widely, the primary misunderstanding of newer users conflicts with the original primary emphasis. In popular usage and in the media, computer intruders or criminals is the exclusive meaning today, with associated pejorative connotations. (For example, "An Internet 'hacker' broke through state government security systems in March.") In the computing community, the primary meaning is a complimentary description for a particularly brilliant programmer or technical expert. (For example, "Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, is considered by some to be a hacker.") A large segment of the technical community insist the latter is the "correct" usage of the word (see the Jargon File definition below).
The mainstream media's current usage of the term may be traced back to the early 1980s. When the term was introduced to wider society by the mainstream media in 1983, even those in the computer community referred to computer intrusion as "hacking", although not as the exclusive use of that word. In reaction to the increasing media use of the term exclusively with the criminal connotation, the computer community began to differentiate their terminology. Alternative terms such as "cracker" were coined in an effort to distinguish between those adhering to the historical use of the term "hack" within the programmer community and those performing computer break-ins. Further terms such as "black hat", "white hat" and "gray hat" developed when laws against breaking into computers came into effect, to distinguish criminal activities and those activities which were legal.
However, since network news use of the term pertained primarily to the criminal activities despite this attempt by the technical community to preserve and distinguish the original meaning, the mainstream media and general public continue to describe computer criminals with all levels of technical sophistication as "hackers" and do not generally make use of the word in any of its non-criminal connotations. Members of the media sometimes seem unaware of the distinction, grouping legitimate "hackers" such as Linus Torvalds and Steve Wozniak along with criminal "crackers".
As a result of this difference, the definition is the subject of heated controversy. The wider dominance of the pejorative connotation is resented by many who object to the term being taken from their cultural jargon and used negatively, including those who have historically preferred to self-identify as hackers. Many advocate using the more recent and nuanced alternate terms when describing criminals and others who negatively take advantage of security flaws in software and hardware. Others prefer to follow common popular usage, arguing that the positive form is confusing and unlikely to become widespread in the general public. A minority still use the term in both original senses despite the controversy, leaving context to clarify (or leave ambiguous) which meaning is intended.
However, the positive definition of hacker was widely used as the predominant form for many years before the negative definition was popularized. "Hacker" can therefore be seen as a shibboleth, identifying those who use the technically oriented sense (as opposed to the exclusively intrusion-oriented sense) as members of the computing community. Due to the variety of industry a software designer may find themselves in many prefer not to be referred to as 'Hacker' as the word Hack holds a negative denotation in many of those industries.
A possible middle ground position has been suggested, based on the observation that "hacking" describes a collection of skills and tools which are used by hackers of both descriptions for differing reasons. The analogy is made to locksmithing, specifically picking locks, whichaside from its being a skill with a fairly high tropism to 'classic' hackingis a skill which can be used for good or evil. The primary weakness of this analogy is the inclusion of script kiddies in the popular usage of "hacker", despite the lack of an underlying skill and knowledge base. Sometimes, hacker also is simply used synonymous to geek: "A true hacker is not a group person. He's a person who loves to stay up all night, he and the machine in a love-hate relationship... They're kids who tended to be brilliant but not very interested in conventional goals[...] It's a term of derision and also the ultimate compliment."
Fred Shapiro thinks that "the common theory that 'hacker' originally was a benign term and the malicious connotations of the word were a later perversion is untrue." He found out that the malicious connotations were present at MIT in 1963 already (quoting The Tech, an MIT student newspaper) and then referred to unauthorized users of the telephone network, that is, the phreaker movement that developed into the computer security hacker subculture of today.