Hacked_Modarri_toy_car_by_Colby_PhillipsAny word sounds funny after you repeat it a few times.  “Hack, hack, hack. Hack.”

Here at Modarri, we talk a lot about hacking our cars — modifying them with headlights or maybe a propeller as Colby Phillips did here…

But where did we get that term? Let’s take a quick spin down Etymology Lane.

Old English Hacking: Chop Chop

The word “hack” has been in use for at least 500 years. Speakers back then basically defined it as we sometimes do today: “to cut with rough or heavy blows,” as when chopping wood.

According to dictionary.com and similar sites, earlier versions of the word are tōhaccian (Old English) and hacken (Middle English). It’s of Germanic origin.

Hacking at MIT: Making Mischief

According to a writer for MIT, a new definition involving trickery was coined at the university and first written in the minutes of their Tech Model Railroad Club, recording the words of graduate student William Eccles. This happened in April of 1955, sixty years ago this week.

Apparently “hack” was slang for any tech-based practical joke. In 1959 it was noted, “Hacks was the term applied to all manner of technology-based practical jokes at MIT, such as thermite welding a stopped trolley car to the tracks on Massachusetts Ave.”

Oh, sure,.. the ol’ thermite welding gag.

The practical jokes from 1955 sound a bit Mr. Burns-ish, but MIT students’ “hacks” from the 1960s are more relatable. In one example, students tampered with phone systems to assign long distance charges. From there it’s easy to imagine the word evolving to apply to computer hacking, whether as a practical joke, for malicious purposes, for curiosity or even the general good.

Hacking at Modarri: Modifying Toy Supercars

Here at Modarri headquarters, “hacking” involves artistic and scientific toy car modifications. Straight from the box, our cars can be built millions of ways — but what if you thought outside the box?

Add LEDs here, a motor there, a 3D-printed convertible top… Now we move from millions of options to infinite potential. Stay tuned for maker tutorials!

Art can be hacking too. Professional artists have contributed some very cool modified Modarris to our toy car museum. For example, Doug Ross wrapped a custom aluminum car body around a Modarri X1 Dirt Car. It’s shaped like a banana slug, which is our local university mascot. Another example comes from Laurel Bushman, who added fierce teeth to an amazing Modarri Tiger.

How would you hack a Modarri? Check out our online shop and drop us a line!

Thanks to Colby Phillips for giving us some very cool Modarris! Colby and his father sell their skate & surf graphics at jimbophillipsstore.storenvy.com.