We think hacking was invented in the 1960s. And maybe that’s when the word came into common use to mean “inventive workaround.”
But inventive workarounds predate hacking; take this example from The printers’ handbook of trade recipes, hints, & suggestions relating to letterpress and lithographic printing (surely a precursor to the O’Reilly books with the same spirit) on the subject of how to make accented letters from scratch:
Soldering on the top part of a colon with a small blowpipe: blows my mind. The closest I’ve ever come is using cabbages as a stand-in for brussels sprouts.
Apologies for the raft of letterpress book snippets; I’m plumbing the depths of Google Books and finding an amazing – at least to me – collection of letterpress books from the 1800s.