Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
It's funny.  Laugh.

Great Hacks and Pranks Of Our Time 315

Posted by Zonk
from the you're-all-slacking-at-work-anyway dept.
Luther Blissett writes "There's a history of pranks and hacks in the year-end issue of the Economist, including MIT hacks, the Bonsai Kitten, and the Pentagon hack by my favorite, Abbie Hoffman." From the article: "At Harvard's neighbour, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 'hacks', as the MIT crowd calls them, are more serious. So serious, in fact, that in 2003 the institute's best hacks were assembled in a 178-page book, 'Nightwork'. The pranks at MIT tend to be feats of engineering. They are positively encouraged, because they teach students to work in teams, solve complex problems and, sometimes, get a message across. Mr Peterson's book includes an 11-point code for pranksters: leave no damage, do not steal, do not drop things off a building without a ground crew, and so on. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, at least, student pranks have become an establishment activity."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Great Hacks and Pranks Of Our Time

Comments Filter:
  • prank, you say ? (Score:3, Informative)

    by rfinnvik (16122) * on Thursday December 29, 2005 @02:40PM (#14359624)
    *cough* check links *cough*
  • And of course (Score:5, Informative)

    by nizo (81281) * on Thursday December 29, 2005 @02:41PM (#14359634) Homepage Journal
    Like lemmings we click on the bonsai kitten link to find out more. The snopes bonsai kitten link is here [snopes.com].
  • MIT Hacking (Score:5, Informative)

    by Xeth (614132) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @03:07PM (#14359811) Journal
    They are positively encouraged, because they teach students to work in teams, solve complex problems and, sometimes, get a message across.

    Not really.

    The recent MIT administrations have a very two-faced policy toward hacks. While they pretend to extoll the virtues of such creative acts (sending out a picture of the Wright Flier hack as part of the alumni literature), they also discipline any students involved harshly (As in the aformentioned Wright Flier case). I suspect that this is one of the reasons that the hacking culture has gotten weaker lately.

  • Re:And of course (Score:5, Informative)

    by coshx (687751) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @03:09PM (#14359820)
    Actually, not like lemmings [snopes.com] at all.
  • by xacting (810789) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @03:10PM (#14359841)
    In this video [mit.edu], MIT's Samuel Jay Keyser discusses the culture and history of hacks at MIT; he's for them. You can read excerpts from the Nightwork book on the MIT alumni [mit.edu] site.
  • Re:prank, you say ? (Score:5, Informative)

    by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Thursday December 29, 2005 @03:13PM (#14359863) Homepage Journal
    Interesting. For reference, here is the original text and links (from before the article "went live", as seen by subscribers):

    Luther Blissett writes "There's a history of pranks and hacks [economist.com] in the year-end issue of the Economist, including MIT hacks [caltechvsmit.com], the Bonsai Kitten [snopes.com], and the Pentagon [mjt.org] hack by my favorite, Abbie Hoffman [wikipedia.org]." From the article: "At Harvard's neighbour, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 'hacks', as the MIT crowd calls them, are more serious. So serious, in fact, that in 2003 the institute's best hacks were assembled in a 178-page book, 'Nightwork'. The pranks at MIT tend to be feats of engineering. They are positively encouraged, because they teach students to work in teams, solve complex problems and, sometimes, get a message across. Mr Peterson's book includes an 11-point code for pranksters: leave no damage, do not steal, do not drop things off a building without a ground crew, and so on. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, at least, student pranks have become an establishment activity."
  • As the submitter ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by LutherBlissett Dec05 (942099) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @03:21PM (#14359908)
    Don't fix the links! Doh! It's a serious part of the post, not just a prank or hack. And it's not like I didn't warn them. Here was my original submission, for posterity:
    [EDITORS: IMPROVED VERSION! CLICK THE LINKS! Possibly the most inspired post ever ...] There's a history of pranks [economist.com] and hacks in the year-end issue of the Economist, including MIT hacks [caltechvsmit.com], the Bonsai Kitten [snopes.com], and the Pentagon [mjt.org] hack by my favorite, Abbie Hoffman [wikipedia.org]. They end with an invitation: "... we invite readers to nominate their contender for the finest prank in history, explaining in 750 words why it deserves the title." Slashdot readers, can you hack the contest?
  • by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @03:22PM (#14359919)
    Can be found here [mit.edu]. Unfortunately it ends in 2004...

    One of the favorite ones that I witnessed firsthand was the police car on top of the MIT dome [mit.edu].

    I also get a kick out of all the hacks that MIT has pulled off at the Havard/Yale football games. One at least one of those occasions the local papers stated that MIT had won the game. (In fact I seem to recall they DID win, technically, by hacking into the scoreboard and changing the score during one game)
  • You kid... (Score:5, Informative)

    by everphilski (877346) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @03:28PM (#14359958) Journal
    You kid, but yea, the University of Alabama in Huntsville [uah.edu] (the UA he speaks of is in Tuscaloosa) is actually an excellent engineering school. Huntsville is the home of one of the 2nd largest research park in the US (fourth in the world), huge missile and space access R&D occurs here (Marshall space flight center, Army Aviation & Missile Command, Strategic Missile Command, Redstone Arsenal [where I work]) ... we're #4 on the hit list if nuclear war ever breaks out... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huntsville,_Alabama [wikipedia.org]

    -everphilski-
  • by BlogPope (886961) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @04:00PM (#14360159)
    Nothing I've read about even comes close to the level of skill and amazingness that they pulled back in the sixties

    Skill? They mislead a cheerleader into giving them the code. Audacity, yes. For skill, see the 1984 prank where they remotely hacked the electronic scoreboard. As I recall they had to invent stuff to pull that one off.

  • Re:Caltech pranks (Score:3, Informative)

    by kf6auf (719514) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @04:16PM (#14360255)

    Caltech has a long tradition of pranks as well. Not sure if they still do it, and even these stories are second-hand, but senior ditch day was a tradition in which seniors would go off campus and booby-trap their rooms, while underclassmen tried to break in. Depending on the fiendishness of the defenses, the underclassmen would carry out various levels of pranks upon entering the room.

    We still do it, though we give them puzzles to solve now too, so they can chose whether or not they want to break in the old-fashioned way or high-tech way. =)

    We've done a lot of pranks in the past, and still do, but most of the recent ones tend to be within Caltech (or at MIT if we're bored) and don't get a lot of attention these days. It's sad that most cool things to prank now have security systems and assume you're a terrorist if you try bypassing them.

    Now go to bed, Ditch Day is tomorrow.

  • UBC (Score:3, Informative)

    by ces (119879) * <christopher.stefan#gmail.com> on Thursday December 29, 2005 @04:27PM (#14360314) Homepage Journal
    University of British Columbia and espcially the Engineering students are well known for pulling various pranks.

    A favorite target of theirs is the Lion's Gate Bridge across the Vancouver harbor. Two I've heard about were suspending a car from the underside and setting the marker lights to flash out a message in Morse code.
  • Re:Much lesser known (Score:5, Informative)

    by ltbarcly (398259) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @04:32PM (#14360345)
    Too bad your story is bullshit.

    1. Laser pointers were very rare in 1991.
    2. Laser pointers work in visible light, not Radar.
    3. You can't produce Radar with any sort of laser.
    4. Navy pilots aren't idiots, and they wouldn't freak out by being lit up over Oregon. They would just say "Hmm, something is up with my plane" or "Seems like something must be interfering with my radar detector.".
    5. Friend or Foe is based on codes encoded into the radar signal itself, and has nothing to do with frequency, especially since many many radars operate on any given frequency range.
    6. It is basically impossible to only hit a single plane in a formation with radar. It is simply not that directional.
    7. You suck.
  • Re:Cornell Pumpkin (Score:2, Informative)

    by dulles (86837) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @04:40PM (#14360386)
    Recently somebody attempted to repeat the prank, but with a globe / disco-ball thing. I don't think anybody could make it out too well, but I'm pretty sure it was a big disco-ball.

    Cornell had it removed, as this one wouldn't just "rot off" like the famous pumpkin of old.

    There's always talk around campus of how the pumpkin prank was done, and everbody's agreed that you'd need at least...

    a) a stolen key
    b) a pumpkin
    c) lots of rope
    d) lots of climbing experience
    e) balls of steel

    The details of the prank have never been recovered. Interestingly, the key is the easier part of this business... not that I would know
  • Re:Much lesser known (Score:3, Informative)

    by Krach42 (227798) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @05:33PM (#14360740) Homepage Journal
    There's yet ANOTHER reason it's BS...

    It's a comment that's posted to an article about pranks.

    The guy is pranking. I caught it at the laser->radar thing. At first, I was like "Did I read that right?" then "This guy is a moron", then "Lol, nice one, almost believable if you're guillible enough."

    Put enough scencerity and confidence in what you're saying, and some people are bound to believe you.
  • The irony of the parent poster's username should not be lost on the audience, esp. in context with the grandparent. In Norse Myth, Ragnarok starts three years after the wolves Skoll and Hati swallow the sun and the moon. Surt ("The Swarthy One") is the leader of the fire-giants who fights the harvest/fertility god Freyr with his sword that shines like the sun. Freyr, having given up his sword as dowery to the giantess Gerdh ("Resplendant") is forced to defend himself with a stag antler. Surt wins and slays Freyr.
  • Re:prank, you say ? (Score:3, Informative)

    by neil.pearce (53830) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @06:11PM (#14360952) Homepage
    "Luther Blisset" (the name of the story poster) is a former English
    football (soccer) star, whose name was picked (no idea why) by some
    Italian prank/stunt pullers.
    A quick google returns A BBC report on the matter [bbc.co.uk] and
    the offical pranksters website [lutherblissett.net]
  • by Pavan_Gupta (624567) <`pg8p' `at' `virginia.edu'> on Thursday December 29, 2005 @06:20PM (#14361007)
    But keep in mind, millions and millions of people were watching on NBC during the prank. The CalTech kids had altered the cards subtly (which requires a LOT more work), and at the end of the day, they were the first to do it. So, the Yale kids were definitely doing something cool, but they were unoriginal. It's a good prank, but nothing like what CalTech did.
  • So, where's CalTech? (Score:4, Informative)

    by techno-vampire (666512) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @06:48PM (#14361164) Homepage
    CalTech is so well known for pranks, that there are two books, Legends of CalTech and More Legends of CalTech about them. One of my favorites comes from the '30s, I think. In those days, on the rare occasions CalTech won a football game, the students would build bonfires in intersections. Needless to state, the Pasadena Fire Department took a dim view of this and put them out. Once, some pranksters put some asbestos sheeting down on the pavement, put some blocks of Calcium Carbide on it and built the bonfire on top of that. No problem, until the FD started hosing it down. The water hit the carbide and released acetylene. The resulting flames were enough to melt the insulation on the power-lines going overhead!

Why did the Roman Empire collapse? What is the Latin for office automation?

Working...