To truely appreciate the hacker ethic I reccomend you read the book Hackers by Stephen Levy. It's an excellent documentation of where the hacker ethic was born and developed.
To quote a more eloquent author:
"What I mean by ``hacker'' is a feverishly dedicated programmer, a
person who enjoys exploiting computers and generally doing interesting
things with them. This is in contrast to the common denotation of
``hacker'' as a computer wrongdoer or outlaw."
M. Welsh, Author, Linux Installation and Getting Started
Also check out the The Compendium of Hacker related jargon or The hackers Corner from which I hacked the above quote.