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MIT student blogger Chris M. '12

A Brief History of Hacks by Chris M. '12

Unfortunately I couldn't get Stephen Hawking to narrate.

I was out meeting a friend and some of her friends that I didn’t previously know last night, and the topic of school came up.

(SIDE NOTE: that was the most difficult and awkward sentence I’ve typed in a long time. I think the problem stems from not having a good word for “friend of a friend”. In the interest of furthering the human language, I propose we adopt exponential notation to denote level of friendship. I.e. A “friend”, or “root-level” friend is one that you personally know and like. A “friend^2” would be a friend of a “friend”, a “friend^3” would be a friend of a “friend^2”, etc. That would make things so much easier, for example:

“I was going to go to that convention with my friend, but a lot of friend^2s and friend^3s were there, so I felt like I wouldn’t fit in. Plus I don’t have a pair of cat ears to wear.”

See? Isn’t that so much easier? Not to mention your most special friend, or “friend^0” is “the one”. But I digress.)

Anyway, we’re talking about school and I mention that I go to MIT and one of the girls asks:

“Do you participate in the annual prank?”

Relative frequency and vocabulary aside, I was a bit impressed that this girl knew about our hacks, because she was in an entirely different social sphere than MIT. The rest of the girls were a bit confused, so I explained to them what hacks were and began sharing a few of my favorite hacks throughout history, incuding the (in)famous police car on the dome, and the Caltech Cannon.

Then this morning, I saw this slideshow of some of the more well-known hacks and figured it’d be worth sharing:

(SIDE NOTE: If you’re a web developer, please please please, don’t make slideshows where you have to click to load the next page for a single image. Every time you do, Richard Stallman thinks about doing away with the GPL. Use a gallery.)

Some of my personal favorites that I’ve seen are the music notes on the dome, the solar-powered T car (STILL more reliable than the red-line, even though for the first day it was broken) and of course, the upside-down-lounge.

I can’t wait to see what the hackers will come up with this year!

9 responses to “A Brief History of Hacks”

  1. Hehe, I’m liking that exponential friend notation – quite clever!

  2. Really great post! I too liked the exponential notation of the level of friendship.

  3. Piper '13 says:

    People interested in reading about more hacks can also visit It has lots of photos and descriptions going back to the 1980’s smile

  4. '12 says:

    Is “friend” greater than or less than 1? If friend > 1, you might want to set “friend of a friend” = (friend)^(1/2), and so on. That way “friend of a friend” Is “friend” greater than or less than 1? If friend > 1, you might want to set “friend of a friend” = (friend)^(1/2), and so on. That way “friend of a friend” < “friend”

  5. '12 says:

    That way “friend of a friend” is less than “friend”

  6. '12 says:

    Then again, if 1 = “the one,” then friend Then again, if 1 = “the one,” then friend < 1, so you were right :D

  7. '12 says:

    then friend is less then 1, so you were right all along :D

  8. Sohaib says:

    lol… friend^0…. “the one” :D… exponentials notation for friends is the way to go.
    I remember talking about hackers with my interviewer last round of admissions. He shared a few from his time at MIT. Particularly the one with a pirate flag on the great dome.
    But I have to say that the upside down lounge is the best. The level of detail with the pool table is just awesome. Everything from a working lamp to a billiard table… just perfect… that aside,
    Did u ever participate in a hack?

  9. i says:

    Hey, is there a way to contact you ?email or msn