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MIT Building Hack Ethos 77

The Boston Globe has a cool (but short) article on building-hacking at MIT. Timely, with April 1st coming up. Lesse at Hope I ... uh ... swore on the radio station! Woo-Hoo!
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MIT Building Hack Ethos

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  • Umm, You have any more information, like maps and such. I would like to take a group of friends to explore these reed tunnels. In fact, I am thinking about starting a a sorta quasi secret unofficial infilitrating kinda group :). Any other information for portland area schools, and hell, buildings and city and whatnot would also be cool. Like PSU, PCC, Lewis Clark,etc..
  • Is that anything like swearing on the bible?

    I spent most of my broadcast career swearing at radio stations

  • Well I just think this years aprils fools fools are going to really not be interesting. because:
    1. it is on the weekend.
    2. now that /. has posted many of us are aware that any really weird posting is a prank.

    well just thought I would add that in but remember the saying goes "aprils fools"!!! and not "april's fools day"!!!

    your pal
  • On the Orange Tour, the story given about the Tomb of the Unknown Tool is that apparently a student used it to study (presumably Jack Flory ;-) but he'd left his desk there. Physical plant could not figure out how to orient the desk such that it would fit out so they had to take it apart.
    It's anyone's guess how true that is but it's a great story.
  • > actually, the tetris hack has been discussed for years at MIT, but never accomplished. the building
    > targetted for such hackage is the green building, a 20 (only 18 accessible for normal people, i think)
    > story bulding with the lighting configuration very similar to tetris resolution. the biggest problem is that in
    > some rooms, one light switch illuminates two windows. also, if you could wire just one light individually,
    > light would spill out through the other window, and kinda ruin the effect.

    Why bother with the lights then? Just wire the shades. Especially if the building already has motorized shades.
  • um, actually, i believe the original term for hacking meant what the article is specifying. computer hacking came at a later date. this sort of roof and tunnel hacking has been around for quite some time, before computers were even around.
  • They make it sound like this never happens anywhere else. We used to cruise through the HVAC access tunnels up at Chico St. looking for the legendary tunnel that would take us to the library. My dad used to tell stories about trying to find old mine entrances out at UCB.
  • As I heard the story, (this wass back in Old Reed) a homeless, insane person brought the gnomes to the tunnels, and preached to them. I would go exploring the tunnels, but the school is already pissed at me for host the Cyberpatrol thing.

  • tunnel rollerblading :-) Seriously, all those steam tunnels have really smooth concrete, and they usually come out into random academic building basements. The best (and most fun) part is when you are nonchalantly skating around a corner and a campus safety (campus police) officer is standing there. Good thing you are on skates :-)

  • When I was in UASAF in Germany a friend of mine worked for "Inside Plant" (the on base phone sysems group). On a couple Friday nights after the SP's had been out parting late we would sneak into the tunnels in the basement of their barraks. We found he Bundespost phone closet and my friend had gotton ahold of a phone box key from a guy who worked for "outside plant" (another part of the on base phone systems group. Of course we opend the pone box and with the aid of a linemans buttset we explored the intracacies of the German phone sysem! :^) Fun stuff!

    On lunch hours it was fun to use test equipment with speed dialers on them to "re-route" friends on base phone calls to the OB/GYN clynic on base! :^)

  • OK, just show me ONE student at MIT (or Stanford, Harvard, CalTech, whatever for that matter) who enjoys SOLVING A QUADRATIC EQUATION....
    Yeah, I guess quadratics are a bit easy... perhaps a second-order non-linear differential equation would be more in order. Those are FUN!


  • This is one thing I never understood. You always see pictures of greenspeak, but is it actually done? If it is, how? The circuit breakers? Is there some sort of a system already existing for controlling all the lights from one location? Or does this require just a lot of time and/or people?
  • Here's your best source: []
  • The best had to be when they turned it into R2D2..those damn geeks.
  • "These MIT kids"?

    The word 'hacking' applied to exploration and practical jokes (with an engineering bent) predate computers by nearly a century. Hacks, called as such, have been a tradition at MIT for nearly all of its ~130 year history.

    The early computer hackers (many of whom were at MIT) just borrowed the MIT term in its engineering sense.

    >and yes, I have read the jargon file to get the
    >definition of a hacker. I just think that
    >prowler/sneak != hacker)

    Sorry, it was our word for 100 years or so before you came along.

  • It's not coincidence; the setting is a reasonably accurate MIT map.
  • >Seriously, has the term "hacking" become that generic?

    No one is paying attention... do you only *post* or do you actually *read* too? (Sorry, not just directed at you, Dear Poster).

    Hacking == Exploring/Pranks is the *original* definition. Not the new one. Computer Hackers borrowed the term from the roof and tunnel hackers, not the other way around.

    Cal Tech folks don't call it hacking because that word isn't part of their culture.


  • I haven't been an active roof & tunnel hacker in over 10 years. But I'll say this to other [more current] MIT folks who may be reading:

    Please don't elaborate. We don't want the attention. Real hackers don't brag, and if you do, two things will happen:

    1) More losers who 'w4nt t0 b3 c00l d00dz!' will show up and demand to be taken hacking. MIT is now in the news because an outside student was hurt hacking. A single example of such an incident could be enough for MIT administration to preemptively bend over and lube up for the national media again. Please don't give the media something juicy; they have no sense of balance, proportion, context or control.

    2) The more visible hacking is, the more the CPs will be charged to 'do something about it'.

    This is part of *MIT* culture. Sharing with the world is not a good idea and is very likely to end one of the parts of the MIT experience I enjoyed the most (and would like curious, responsible students to continue enjoying in the future).

    Rob, et al, I'd personally appreciate if MIT hacking stories don't appear on Slashdot in the future. I know your heart was in the right place, but MIT students lose becuase of the attention.

  • Cadets at the USAF Academy also used to skulk through the underground tunnels and shelters underneath the cadet area, but the leadership at USAFA decided to make it grounds for disenrollment. Some still do some exploring, but for most people the consequences are simply not worth the risk involved.

    Part of the problem of course is that cadets were going into the tunnels for illicit sex which is forbidden in the Academy facilities and grounds for rather severe disciplinary action. Some things never change...

  • Actually this has been achieved a while ago already in Delft, the Netherlands. See: .html You can see pics and download a movie of it.
  • 1. As a former fraternity brother 2. As an alumni of Tufts ('98) 3. As an ex-staffer of the Herald (those who know, know...) I say take the Globe, wrap its entire run up in fish, and burn it in a George Foreman Grilling Machine. If the Globe sucked any harder, it would create its own gravity. -cwk.
  • Too bad I can't "hack" my house :-( Why do MITers get to have all the fun?

  • The thing that impresses me most about these students is that they made up their own ethics, which the school "officially" doesn't approve of. They didn't let anyone tell them what was right or wrong, and they're not out to harm anything. On the contrary, it seems that they take a lot of care to make sure that no damage is done.

    While I would like to think that the reason so few get caught is that they are too good for the police, I don't think the hackers are facing too much pressure. Well, except for MIT making the hacking harder. But don't even pretend that better locks/security are going to deter them. That is precisely what the hackers want.

    I love this, and I bet the faculty and staff at MIT do as well. This is what makes MIT, MIT.
  • Oh....and "hacking" tunnels isn't nerdy?
  • It does look really funny []. I was couldn't stop laughing when I saw it.

  • Both of these hacks are documented in "Legends of Caltech", ISBN 2-15-000022-9, which you can get at the Caltech bookstore [] for $16. (There's also a second volume, "More Legends of Caltech", which I didn't think was as good as the first.) Unfortunately it looks like they only ship to on-campus addresses...

    The canonical books on MIT hacks are The Institute for Hacks, Tomfoolery & Pranks [] and "Is This The Way To Baker House?" A Compendium of MIT Hacking Lore [], which are both available from the MIT Press Bookstore. []


  • Back when I was an undergraduate, it was "the '60's" -- which actually began quite late in the decade. One day when I went to a near-campus leather handicrafts shop for some leftover leather to make a shield (I was an armourer in the Society for Creative Anachronism's Armourer's Guild,, despite my unfortunate femaleness), someone working in the shop complained about us "playing" when there was so much serious shit going on out there in the real world. Well, I thought about that. I had also "marched on Washington" and the state capitol and so on, but the fun stuff seemed essential to the "movement" stuff, somehow. Years later I read Havel's work and discovered he (playwright, later president of post-revolution Czechoslovakia) felt exactly the same way.

    The one thing that seems very clear is that intelligence is linked to playfulness, across species. Similarly, a long period of relative immaturity (as of the human infant) is essential to non-instinctual responses (that is, learning). I am sorry for you if you have the great privilege of an on-campus, full-time educational opportunity, and waste it on ONLY studying or completing assignments. The most important part of college is what happens between classes (although that may include research and conversation with inspiring teachers).

    Btw, I was a National Merit Scholar, graduated with high honors, and received a fellowship to go on graduate school.

  • Actually, I'm pretty sure there IS a Tomb of the Unknown Tool somewhere in the catacombs of MIT. If I remember correctly, it is an implausible little room with a small desk in it... just write for tooling in solitude. =->

    (PS. Just discovered a reference to the tomb in this article [] from The Tech [], MIT's newspaper.)
  • soooo glad that i didn't go to mit.
    ooooh lets crawl around in air ducts.
    fun times for all at mit.

    but really. and that guy commenting on beer.

    who drinks beer? we all know hard liquor is the way to go.

    so i say leave the "hacking" to mit'ers i'll you know sleep or something.
  • At UVa we called this "steam tunneling". Either the steam tunnels were the only structures that readily lent themselves to this sort of activity, or people just weren't that into it. I never heard of anybody climbing through the ceiling or anything like that.

  • I never did it, I just heard about it. The big danger is hot steam pipes. Some of them carry superheated steam (300-500 degrees F). Count on getting dirty too.

    Between the E-school and the Chemistry/material science building there is a long double-sidewalk walkway. If you're a toolie, you know it well. I seem to recall there were some entry points there, and I may have even seen some 'hoos emerging from them.

    I also seem to recall something about Monroe Hill. Before the school got all security conscious, you could walk through this area that had pipes and stuff in it, but it was an open area, and is probably still open to Monroe Hill residents. Supposedly, there is an even more pipey passageway somewhere around Monroe Hill. Lotsa luck, I never saw any indication of it. They've had haunted houses there for Halloween, and it's quite a trip.

    Doesn't the CD have archives online now? The CD (or maybe the UJ) ran an article about tunneling one time.

    If this fails you, just visit the stacks :). Lawn streaking season is upon us too. Thanks for reminding me of all this fun stuff.


  • I did a little more research, and discovered that in recent years, some of the tunnels have actually collapsed. So, I'd just forget about it.

  • Sorry. I guess I was a little confused. I looked it up and discovered that this particular joke did not occur on April Fools Day. Also, the dome became a beenie, not the clocktower. It's still funny, though.
  • Thanks for the info. I had a friend who told me about this one. He seemed to think it had been done. I'll have to talk to him... Also, couldn't you just leave all the switches on and wire the leads to each room through relays? That'd be a whole lot easier.

    I'd also like to point out the really cool fact that I got 42nd comment on a story about MIT. : )
  • Been doing that since elementary school.

    Too bad I wasn't doing it on computers then. It would be much more profitable.

    LostBrain []

  • The tunnels under the buildings at Columbia U (in NYC) were ripe grounds for "exploration" when I was there. Much of this ended when a certain individual (who shall remain nameless) was caught with the Uranium (!) he had pilfered from the physics building.
  • It's because MIT is awesome. I'm using this opportunity to boast about how I'm going there next fall. Woohoo!
    I'm going to "hack" every building on campus.
  • Wow. Painting the water tower. How original.

    You Canadians do know how to have a good time, don't you?
  • A more careful reading will reveal that the lights used were specially added at the top of the building. One-dimensional Tetris was implemented (granted, not much, but you can say it was done).

    The comments made about the difficulty of the two-dimensional hack are quite valid.
  • Given that next year's is the most selective class yet, congrats!

    But don't plan on hacking every building: focus on the under-construction "William H. Gates Center for Software Engineering" :)
  • In general, this is a valid point, and MIT has shown itself to be time-sensitive (i.e. writing "SOX" on the Green Bldg. when the Red Sox were last in the Series -- and getting it hacked to "SUX" when they lost). This article, however, was on a back burner for a while and printed now because of an unrelated event.
  • Go ahead: finish your assignments, do what you're told, live a boring life. And smile when you get hired as a lowly programmer for a company started by an MIT hacker who enjoyed {him|her}self. :)
  • Here [] is a better one. Who said there's no free beer?
  • Note that Infocomm was an MIT startup. Hmm, I wonder why it was so much like hacking...
  • I wonder if they publish maps to some of the choicer secret chambers.
  • The underside of the California Institute of Technology is also riddled with tunnels... and also has undergrads getting initiated to tunnel prowling. Funny thing, though. None of them have the hubris to call it "hacking".

    Seriously, has the term "hacking" become that generic? First "surfing", now "hacking"... what's next? "Yeah, yesterday, I went coding with Bubba and Boffo. We got all soaked, and Bubba tore his pants out sliding down that hill, but... "
  • When I was at University of Maryland a decade ago, we had a highly organized group of "building hackers" called "UPSET" (Unauthorized Personnel Space Exploration Team). We left markers (nondestructive) to indicate the deepest levels of penetration into buildings. My favorite one was the old campus cyclotron, which was shut down and gutted, several stories under the Physics building. Noone was ever injured in the slightest in our group, nor were we ever caught (or even challenged). I don't think anyone cared as long as we didn't damage anything.
  • This link suggests that MIT has done something similar to the Tetris hack, but that it had an automated light pattern:

    http://hacks dex.html []

    With the complex system they were using (creating a VU meter for the Boston Pops), I believe that an interactive game would not have been difficult to pull off.

    It was indeed done in the Green Building.
  • Anybody know of any of these goings on and care to elaborate? I'd like to know just what kind of stunts happen around there. Sounds fun actually.

  • When it comes to student "hacks," two done by California Institute of Technology (CalTech) students have become awesome legends.

    The first--and perhaps most famous--was one time a bunch of CalTech students managed to bamboozle an entire placard cheering section at the Rose Bowl so when the placard patterns were displayed during the football game, it spelled out "CALTECH"! Done before computers were widely available, that must have taken a huge amount of planning to pull off.

    The other one was one time some students managed to take over the electric scoreboard at the Rose Bowl and showed the score CalTech 38, MIT 21 (or something like that). I'd like to know how CalTech managed to pull off that stunt.
  • See if your university is on the list: /ctunnels.html []

    Maps page: s.html []

    I figure the tunnels are better in the areas with more colder winters - steam lines to warm buildings - so small and medium sized institutions like UCSB are just gonna be a bore. UCLA supposedly is good though.

    Let me know if anyone has any info for UCSB.
  • but back in High School some friends and I started exploring the steam tunnels in the school. Much more confined, not nearly as exciting.
    But the final act we did in our last year of school: broke in on New Years Day through a faulty rear door, went through the tunnels to the boiler room to lead to the rear hallway, and played Lazer Tag for a couple of hours.
    I was sooo jealous when I saw how nice the girls locker room was compared to the guys.

  • They did compare solving the quadratic to watching football. Which mindless exercise would you rather engage in?

    When I was in HS (lo these many years ago), I didn't write my name on math homework. Instead, where my name was supposed to be, I derived the quadratic formula from a general quadratic equation. I could do it in my sleep...
  • William H. Gates Center for Software Engineering

    Yeah, you can't miss it. It's just south of the Adolf Hitler Center for Cultural Sensitivity, east of the Mark Hamill School of Acting, west of the OJ Simpson Criminal Justice building, and north of the Jesse Ventura College of Political Science.
  • A fitting fortune at the bottom of the page just now: ``It is easier to get forgiveness than permission.''
  • Considering that I am a student at Caltech...I would have first hand knowledge.
    Yes, the underside of Caltech is riddled with steam tunnels through which you can get access to most buildings. I have been "tunneling" (we don't call it 'hacking') and have played a few pranks..
    But probably the best prank is when students at Caltech changed the Rose Bowl scoreboard to show Caltech vs. MIT. And at another Rose Bowl game they changed the card stunts for the University of Washington to spell out Caltech.
    Some of these pranks are mentioned here. []
  • actually, the tetris hack has been discussed for years at MIT, but never accomplished. the building targetted for such hackage is the green building, a 20 (only 18 accessible for normal people, i think) story bulding with the lighting configuration very similar to tetris resolution. the biggest problem is that in some rooms, one light switch illuminates two windows. also, if you could wire just one light individually, light would spill out through the other window, and kinda ruin the effect.

    these are just a few of the difficulties, but you can get an idea of how much time it would really take to pull something like this off. if you want it all remotely controlled, dont forget you would need to install transmitters in each light switch, as i do not believe lighting can be controlled from one source. so you would have to pick roughly half of all locked rooms to install such devices (all rooms have windows, but only half face one side - assumedly the side facing the charles river and boston). lotsa time, lotsa money. it could happen, but i do not put it past the hacking community.

    oh, and dont forget the Great Droid [] hack last year.

  • The Boston Globe article said that these people are not to be confused with people who vandalize computers. It doesn't really say that hackers are or aren't vandals at all. It merely sets people straight concerning the article, those people that don't know the difference between a vandal and a hacker.

    Chris Hagar
  • For those not aware of it, "tooling" is MIT slang for (approximately) studying to the exclusion of all else (such as exploring the university's inner space) and a "tool" is a person who does such things and little else. Thus the "toomb of the unknown tool" is a site where one might imagine a bookworm studied so hard he didn't notice he was being walled in by a building renovation. B-)

    The rhyme with "fool" is apparently deliberate, to give you an idea of the opinion of such activities held by the users of the slang.

    Or at least that's how I (who never went to MIT) understand it third hand. B-)
  • I'm actually a CMU student, but I have spent a fair amount of time doing roof and tunnel hacking at MIT. MIT makes it easy. For instance, at CMU all the locks are slide proof, making it much harder to get through locked doors, you have to pick the lock. At MIT 80% of the doors can be opened with a credit card.

    But the exploring kicks ass... gaining access to the roof of the green building (MIT's tallest building) is definantly a feat of good thinking more than of brute force such as lock picking. I think that publically posting the method would be against the hackers code, (I'm not sure) so I won't go into it.

    CMU buildings are boring compared to MIT's as well. Now I've managed to get into the attick and onto the roof of just about every building at CMU, (except wean, the crowned jewel) but never have I come across things like these shafts that exist in MIT. Just a huge empty shaft, that goes who knows how deep. If only I had had a rope...

  • Sigh. You'd expect that random podunkian journalists still don't know hackers from anarchists, but you'd think somebody from the Boston Glob talking to people at MIT who are explaining things to them in short little words could get the concept straight, at least for the duration of one newspaper article :-)

    vandalizing computers, indeed

  • During my days at the U.S. Naval Academy, we pulled off some pretty excellent hacks. Much of the same activity went on as MIT - especially the week before the Army-Navy football game.

    However, the best one by far took a year of planning and a huge amount of organization. We stole ALL of Army's mules and brought them back to Annapolis. A difficult feat considering they keep them ON their campus, unlike the Naval Academy.

    We definitely didn't want to get caught on that one, considering that Army personnel were subdued and impersonated, amongst other things.

    Stupid mules ;)

    Best regards,

  • There is an old story about how a bunch of people at Reed College filled up one of the steam tunnels with pilfered lawn gnomes. Many students made the pilgrimage to the Hall of the Mountain King that year.
  • Sorry URL should be: h.html
  • This is awesome! I didn't think others were interested in this kind of stuff the same way that my friend and I are.

    At my school we've found some crazy places, but our current challenge is on top of a tall smokestack. It's now unused, but taller then anything else on campus.

    Here's a tip that's not in that article:
    Become good friends with the custodial staff. As a grad student, I bullsh&t with the custodians for my office all the time. They are really cool, ...and... they're usually willing to open that locked door to the roof/steam-tunnel.

    -Let's /. effect the steam-tunnels!!
  • ...for the Slashdot hack, where some MIT student change the huge ten commandments plaque in building 51 into a giant Slashdot style top ten plaque.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 31, 2000 @02:34PM (#1158168)
    Two things that should be noted in the record before the flames get too high:

    1. Despite the conspiracy theories, neither MIT's administration nor its students desired the existence of the article in question. The Glob is.

    2. It is unwise for non-MIT-students to attempt to explore MIT's campus. The note about student IDs at the beginning of the article derives from the severe exception the campus police take to any not carrying them.

  • by Mike Van Pelt ( 32582 ) on Friday March 31, 2000 @02:29PM (#1158169)
    Many people here probably already have this bookmarked, but I'm astonished this link wasn't in the story:

    Mit Hacks Archive []

    (Strange... very slow to answer.... Has it been pre-slashdotted?)

    (Ah, there it is. I was afraid for a minute this was lost in the Land of Broken Links.)
  • Gosh that article took me back (to constantly coming with a hairs breadth of flunking out because of the nights spent roof and tunnel hacking -- I never said no if anybody wanted to go).

    I believe roof hacking (also called acrophilia in other places) predates MIT by centuries. It's just better at MIT than just about any place else could be.

    The main part of campus is essentially one humungous interconnected network. "Buildings" are really just part of a room numbering scheme -- numbers increase as you go away from the Charles River and all even numbered buildings are east of the Great Dome, odd to the east. Thus if I mention room 26-100 you'd have a pretty good idea of where the room is, even if you didn't know it was a major lecture hall. This system makes tremendously more sense than naming everything after some rich old fart. In the old core of the campus, as you pass from "building" to "building", mainly what changes is the room number prefixes.

    What is the upshot of this? Well if you are roof hacking, you get really good "air time", because everything in the central part of the campus is just one humungous, complex building of roughly uniform height, with enough barriers and height changes between to make it interesting. The western part of the campus is across Mass Ave are off network, as it were; the middling-old buildings at the east and north of the main campus area break the height uniformity. They're still worth investigating because the roofs frequently have interesting instruments or equipment on them.

    Many of the buildings that can't be travelled to along a roof are still interconnected by basement corridoors which are full of interesting detritus like mineral samples and curious old machines waiting to be carted off, or stuff that just wouldn't fit into somebody's lab. It used to be you could always find a thermos full of liquid nitrogen if you looked hard enough, although maybe the safety office is doing a better job these days.

    Furthermore, it is pretty clear that even the new outlying buildings on campus must be linked by a network of utility tunnels for things like telephone networks, power and steam ducts. Like the mythical primeval North American squirrel, who could travel from Atlantic to Pacific without touching the ground once, you <i>could</i> in principle get from any point on campus to any other point without traveling through a single space you are <i>supposed</i> to be in. Furthermore, it is all laid out to the logic of convenience -- which is to say in apparently incomprehensible fashion. The tomb of the unknown hacker(at least what <i>we</i> used to call the tomb of the unknown hacker) was an apparently arbitrary set of walls (perhaps some are load bearing?) that form a useless little space about the size of a small dorm room under one of the buildings.

    This underground network is complex and utterly user non-friendly and in places dangerous. It is not <i>meant</i> to be to be navigated, which is why it absolutely <i>must</i> be navigated. The more so because the newer buildings clearly break with the old architectural vision for the campus, that it would be a single, integrated organic whole and not a motley collection of independent fiefdoms. To the tunnel hacker, the break is only skin deep -- down underneath, the original vision still holds true.
  • by ronfar ( 52216 ) on Monday April 03, 2000 @03:50AM (#1158171) Journal

    Hey, am I the only one who recognizes this scenario from The Lurking Horror? The eerie underground tunnels, the Tomb of the Unknown Tool, all that stuff. (Not to mention the computer lab hacker who had keys on his belt to every door in the building.)

    Of course, in the Lurking Horror the building hacking was necessary to:

    1. Save the world from Eldritch Horrors.

    2. And retrieve a misplaced paper.

    Anyone, I think anyone who is into hacker culture at MIT would get a charge out of playing this old Infocom game.
    Moderation Totals:Offtopic=1, Informative=1, Overrated=1, Total=3.

    Hmm, seems some moderator I offended a while back had it in for me on this post. So, I'll re-post it with my plus two bonus. (You know, I'm trying hard to get my karma score down to a negative number. ^_^) Yes, I still like Ranma 1/2 []
  • by eagl ( 86459 ) on Friday March 31, 2000 @03:42PM (#1158172) Journal
    One of the traditions used to be unbolting the static display aircraft from their mountings in the cadet area, and rolling the planes to a new, more creative location. There were 2 incidents that sort of put a halt to that particular trick though. First, an F-4 Phantom "got away" from the cadets as they rolled it down the big ramp, and it almost made it all the way across a parking lot to a 60 ft drop onto the parade ground. They finally got it back under control, but it was a close thing.

    The event that finally caused the leadership to forbid messing with the planes was a classic though. The dorms at the Academy are organized in a series of open center "quads", with the rooms arranged around an open square. The quads are 6 stories high, some quads have grass inside, some have volley ball courts, etc. The cadets managed to squeeze an F-16 past the dorm support columns into the center of the quad.

    The next day however, nobody could figure out how to get the plane back out. The engineering department went out and measured everything, and the dimensions were simply impossible. To this day, according to cadet lore nobody really knows how they managed to get the plane inside the quad. The result was that a very large construction crane was brought in and the F-16 was lifted straight up out of the quad back onto the terrazo where the static displays are.

    Although the planes are still occasionally used as a backdrop or location for current pranks, actually moving them is now verboten. The consequences (potentially getting disenrolled thereby aborting any potential military career before it even starts) aren't worth any possible benefits from moving the planes anymore. Your kinder, gentler military at work.
  • by alexhmit01 ( 104757 ) on Friday March 31, 2000 @04:38PM (#1158173)
    The article (when I read it in the globe) was full of misinformation and inaccuracies. The Globe has been very anti-MIT for the past few years. This has largely focused on the fraternities (as a fraternity brother, I'm biased) but they have been extremely critical of the administration and the student body.

    Under sever harassment from the administration, they promised to present a more balanced image, and this is what they came up with.

    Hacking at MIT is part real, part imaginary. Hackers wandering through building late at night are real, although I haven't joined them since the Orange Tours (where they take freshmen around, including on top of the dome), they are a known portion of our campus. However, the impressive feats being common is quite exaggerated, although they may be slowly making a come back (R2D2 last year, for example).

    However, the Boston Globe article was the latest in a concerted effort by the Globe's editorial staff to paint MIT students as a group running amok. They are also trying to paint MIT as ineffectual in dealing with the students. They have been one of the forces behind demanding local governments take over the governing of undergraduates. (When a smoke bomb misfired in a classroom to advertise a fundraising Halloween Party at one of the fraternities, they were part of the media that misrepresented the story and called for Cambridge to press charges.)

    The situation with hacking, the campus police, and administration is an awkward one. MIT cannot acknowledge that they know what is going on, and this recent Globe article is putting MIT in a very bad light. Also, the comment about "I'm on my way to Baker House" is NOT part of hacking. During the Orange Tours, when, as freshman, you're relatively new, they want to make it seem more risky. As a result, they tell you that if CPs show up, they'll disappear, and you're supposed to act like a confused freshman and say "I'm on my way to Baker House."

    However, the Globe tried to present this as MIT students mocking the administration that is powerless to prevent it.

    I'm sorry to interupt this discussion of the MIT legend with a rant on the Globe, but I just want to put things in perspective.

    Alex Hochberger
    MIT CS '01
  • by m.o ( 121338 ) on Friday March 31, 2000 @03:19PM (#1158174) Homepage
    Moscow Inst. of Physics and Technology (MIPT) is pretty much the Russian analogue of MIT and have done pretty cool April 1 pranks in the past. I don't remember too many, but the few I do remember are pretty cool:

    - The amount of coordination required was amazing, but they did it! On the night of March 31 they added a new station "PhysTech" to the Moscow subway map. It was done extremely well, with exactly the same fonts, colors, and style. The task was enormous - each subway train has 8 or more cars with 3 or more maps per car ( and there are a LOT of trains), plus maps on train stations, etc., but this was done so well that the next day tons of Muscovites started calling the newspapers and radio stations and asking about this new stop. Moreover, at some later point a pocket-size map was produced by some publisher and it had this station...

    - Also on the night of March 31 (though very long ago) they went to a nearby railroad and covered one (!) of the rails with coal. Now imagine a train operator in his train seeing only one rail in front of him.... Obviously, he panics, tries to stop the train, etc.

    Pretty extreme - MIT doesn't even come close :)

    I'll add more if I remember more....
  • by Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Friday March 31, 2000 @02:06PM (#1158175) Homepage Journal
    Too bad the article didn't include any links to the Hacks page [] or any pictures [].

  • by Grant Elliott ( 132633 ) on Friday March 31, 2000 @02:13PM (#1158176)
    MIT students are notorious for this kind of thing. They're very good at April Fool's jokes especially. I can't wait to see what they do this year. A few years ago, they turned the clocktower into a giant beenie cap, complete with rotating propeller, overnight! That was probably the best one.

    At another school (Please tell me if you know which one...), the students rigged the electrical lines on one dorm so they could play Tetris: using the room lights as blocks.
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Friday March 31, 2000 @02:04PM (#1158177) Homepage Journal

    People interested in this, may also be amused by some of the stuff at [].


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