Whilst the term seems relatively new, hackathons have been around since 1999. In the world of technology that equates to a lifetime. A portmanteau of the words “hack” and “marathon” – ‘hack’ used to refer to collaborative programming – hackathons bring together likeminded technologists for short,intensive periods with the typical objective of creating innovative software (or in other instances for educational and social purposes).

Hackathons attract a range of enthusiasts from coders to graphic designers, entrepreneurs to project managers who singularly or in teams (sometimes competitively) work towards a specific goal depending on the focus of the organiser.  

According to the Disruptor’s Handbook Big List of Hackathons in Australia, hackathons are incredibly popular with numerous events taking place every month. The types of hackathons listed are varied.Some are small community events whilst others are organised by large corporates and attended by thousands. Some hackathons run over a few hours, whilst others can last a week and are held simultaneously across the major cites of Australia.

Organisers of hackathons include small, medium or large enterprise, government departments and agencies, education providers and not-for-profits each seeking to innovate in a creative and highly productive way.

In a 2014 presentation A Brief History of Hackathons, hacker historian Jon Gottfried spoke to the origins of the hackathon. Gottfried credited the American hobbyist groups of the 1970s for inspiring the peer group, collaborative nature of hackathons. The most recognised hobbyist group in technology circles was the Homebrew Computer Club (1975-86), an informal group of technology enthusiasts, boasting membership from the likes of Apple Computer founders Stephen Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

However according to Gottfried, not until the introduction of standardised computer platforms and development environments did hackathons emerge.

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