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The History of Hackathons: A Digital Evolution  by@daniejjimenez

The History of Hackathons: A Digital Evolution

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Daniel Jimenez HackerNoon profile picture

Daniel Jimenez

Blockchain technology lover

When we see the word Hackathon, the first thing we think of is a group of malicious hackers trying to breach a system.

While the above perception was in fact the case at first, it later evolved into a powerful innovation tool that has allowed companies of all sizes to generate new products, business models and even spin-offs.

The term hackathon is a compound word, a fusion of hacking and marathon, where hack is used in the sense of exploratory programming, quite contrary to the alternative meaning as a reference to cybercrime.

Although not listed as the origin of the modern hackathon, in July 1929 in India a Design Contest was organized to encourage homegrown textile companies to come out and design a smaller, more portable spinning wheel — for many the concept of the origin of the modern hackathon.

The organizer, Gandhi, took the winning design to jail.

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OpenBSD: The Origin

The term is believed to have been coined by Niels Provos of OpenBSD in the 1990s during a community event on June 4, 1999 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

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This event thus became the first modern hackathon in history, where for two consecutive days a group of 10 developers got together in a house to find and resolve vulnerabilities in the standard framework to secure IP communications on the Internet, better known as IPSEC.

Within the week, these pioneering hackers had the first IPv6 and IPSEC stacks completely integrated into an operating system. Since then, a further 3–5 events per year have occurred around the world to advance development, generally on university campuses.

Sun Microsystems: JavaOne Conference

The OpenBSD participants decided to join forces with the Sun Microsystems marketing team a few days later to carry out a competitive event called the "John Gage Challenge" from June 15–19, 1999.

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In this event, hackers were challenged to generate profits by writing Java code for the personal digital assistant (PDA) on a Palm V using the infrared port to communicate with other Palm users and register it on the Internet.

The hackathon was funded by donations to the OpenBSD Foundation and was held in Calgary, Alberta-Canada, assisted by 18 developers in total.

After these first initiatives and with the entry onto the scene of the World Wide Web, this type of event began to become widespread. As Amazon Web Services and Ruby on Rails became open to the masses, hackathons grew rapidly.

2005: Super Happy Dev House

Also known as SHDH, it was the first in a series of international events originally organized as parties for hackers and thinkers.

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On May 29, 2005 SHDH began in Silicon Valley with 150 people meeting up in various places every six weeks to gather computer experts to develop a project for 12 hours.

The event expanded globally in 2008. SDHD is a non-exclusive event intended for creative and curious people interested in technology, a kind of early version of modern networking.

The SHDH was one of the first "Open Source Hackathons", where the community spirit reigned to collaborate and meet contacts without a financial incentive. This hackathon was a pure community event with no pitches, and demos focused on a particular technology.

Foo Camp 2003

Foo Camp began in 2003 as an annual invitation-only conference hosted by technology editor Tim O'Reilly.

The idea for the camp came after the dot-com crash, and is an invitation-only event held for the best hackers (computer experts) in the country.

What makes Foo Camp interesting, aside from its invite-only status, is that there is no specific agenda until participants arrive. Then invitees create a plan on Friday night on what lectures, demonstrations, and/or forums/discussions will take place.

For O'Reilly Media, part of the goal is to bring together some of the best minds in the computer and internet industry to solve problems (like trying to reduce spam).

Therefore the solutions are diverse and written in different programming languages, depending on the time where they have stood out.

With Foo Camp, the era of competitive community hackathons began in which the pitch was important, with prizes to be shared among the best.

Barcamp 2005: The Entry of Large Companies to Hackathons

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BarCamp gets its name from Foo Camp. In reaction to the exclusive event, stakeholders set up BarCamp.

SocialText, the former Palo Alto company that specialized in building wikis with social networking functions, organized the first Bar Camp in 2005.

BarCamp participants are diverse, although there are specific interests that unite them. In the broadest sense, anyone who builds or uses the Internet is part of the culture that drives BarCamp.

The rules are written on a wiki that anybody can change. The whole thing has the spirit of a temporary autonomous zone, and it's a far cry from traditionally organized, opaque, pre-scheduled industry gabfests that used to dominate the tech space.

In this version it was possible to present proposals such as Idee, an initial version of the TinEye reverse image search, a REST-based API, delivered over HTTPS in JSON Format, that can be used with any programming language.

2006 Yahoo! Hack Day

The 2006 Yahoo! Hack Day was the first of the so-called “Brand Hackathon”, where the award is the incentive to generate a community of hackers focused on developing solutions based on a brand.

On September 29, 2006, Yahoo, the great internet brand of the time, held an internal event where only engineers and developers from the company came together in one place (within the corporate campus) to generate useful applications around Yahoo.

The Yahoo! campus in Sunnyvale, California held this event with the purpose of getting about 500 people to participate in the “hack fest” to hack into the company's programs.

2007 Startup Weekend

With the era of startups booming, in July 2007 “70 founders created a company in a weekend”.

With this motto, some guys from TechStars (an incubator) organized the event to choose a winner.

Thus begins the era of the "Startup Hackathon": pre-incubator, not necessarily technical events and focused on more practical concepts.

The objective of this type of event is to create a product in a weekend. In this first edition, it was to build a startup called Vosnap.

Blockchain Hackathons

With the advent of the internet 2.0 and the use of modern programming languages such as Python, C/C ++, C #, HTML/CSS and Javascript, the development of hackathons around the world has had remarkable growth.

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Every year, companies from all sectors are hosting this type of event to achieve solutions focused on improving the experience of their products for the end user.

But with the entry of blockchain technology and Web 3.0, the use of state-of-the-art programming languages such as Rust and Golang, among others is becoming increasingly popular for building interactive web applications under the leading industry standards such as WebAssembly.

As a result, we are finding a large number of offers when it comes to Blockchain Hackathons during these months. Let's explore some options.

ParaState Hackathon

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ParaState was selected by the Xcelerator incubator with the University of California, Berkeley in March, 2021 and is committed to building infrastructure for the next generation of the crypto economy.

ParaState provides developers with a next-generation smart contract virtual machine to make any Substrate-based blockchain Ethereum-compatible while taking full advantage of the modern WebAssembly ecosystem.

ParaState is launching a two-month hackathon on Oct.16–Dec.15.

This event is co-organized with DoraHacks and will provide a total of 100,000 US dollars in rewards with tasks developers can complete and submit online.

All participants of the hackathon can participate in offline and online workshops hosted by the ParaState developer team. The first offline workshop will be launched as a side event at the Rust Conference in Shanghai around April 2022.

The submitted application must be open source and deployed on the ParaState testnet Plato.

Plato is the first production-ready public testnet featuring both EVM and EWASM.

ParaState is currently hosting the hackathon until 15th December with US$100,000 in prize pool up for grabs by contestants who are able to push the creative limits of its middleware through competitive innovation.

Bitcoin Bankathon

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The Bitcoin Bankathon challenges teams of coders, designers, and problem-solvers to build Bitcoin-enabled banking applications that can unlock access to improved financial services for the people of El Salvador.

Over the course of 3 weeks — starting virtually on November 19th and ending both online and optionally on-site in El Salvador on December 8th – developers will face any of the following 5 challenges: Build the next neobank, Redesign remittances, Battle climate change, Empower women and Empower merchants.

There are $150,000 in prizes to be distributed in BTC by the organizers of API3 and the Open Bank Project, under the auspices of the Bitcoin Alliance.

Cosmos HackAtom VI

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With over a million dollars in prizes in the ATOM token, HackAtom VI is the largest hackathon in Cosmos’ history.

HackAtom VI is a one-month virtual event with in-person side events covering seven different themes.

HackAtom VI lasts for an entire month online and is accompanied by in-person events in major world cities, including Lisbon and Berlin. This year’s competition is spread out over six exciting themes: Ethereum on Cosmos, Starport, Interoperability, DeFi, End-User apps, Gaming, and Earth Sustainability.

DevCon Ethereum

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Devcon is an intensive introduction for new Ethereum explorers, a global family reunion for those already a part of this ecosystem, and a source of energy and creativity for all.

Devcon is the Ethereum conference for developers, researchers, thinkers, and makers hosted by the Ethereum Foundation. Devcon is undoubtedly the biggest event in the blockchain calendar since 2015.

It is also considered the genesis of hackathons focused on the use of decentralized applications, especially those developed on the Ethereum blockchain network.

His next big event will take place in Colombia, next year.

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