arzumy md short notes on small discoveries

My Grandfather Was A Hacker

Circa 1988

My grandfather was a man of many talents. Everyone called him Cikgu (Teacher) because he’s a retired teacher. Back then teachers were well respected in the community. People tended to listen to what he said.

He was also a builder. He built the house we lived in. A grand 2-storey house at the bottom of the hill. In that sense, you could also call him a carpenter. Or a maker. Since he made stuff all the time.

Once in a while he’d be a hunter. He’d take a walk into the woods for few days and when he came back, we’d all have a feast. Sometimes he’d walk around and shoot squirrels trying to steal the fruits.

A bit later in life, I also knew him to be a businessman. He used to run a business with two or three branches. Making signboards or something like that.

But this is what I remember about him the most:

Kita yang buat dia, bukan dia buat kita.

(We made this, not the other way around.)

It was his favourite quote when he was facing a problem making or fixing stuff. He would say that and start finding different ways to fix it. Nobody needed manuals back then. When you didn’t know how something worked, you have to reverse engineer the damn thing and figure it out.

His quote will echo in my mind when I’m hacking on code. When I’m trying to make that piece of software behave the way I want it to act, not the way it was intended to be. A human being wrote this code, another human being can change it.

That is why, to me, my grandfather was a hacker.

arzumy md, CTO at Fave and BillPlz.