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MIT student blogger Jessie L. '07

Giving Laura an assist by Jessie L. '07

Laura had an interesting entry a little while ago about the Mario Bros. hack, and a subsequent one answering people’s questions. She answered a lot of questions, but she also got a lot of questions, and other comments, so I thought I’d help her out.

Dionysian said: “Why are you guys calling them ‘hacks’ when they seem more appropriately called ‘pranks’? Friends of mine were also put off by the use of ‘hack’ for real-world adventures and social-engineering, and they use ‘hax’ or ‘haxxed’ to denote the difference.”

Hey, we were using that term before computer hackers were! Decades before computer hackers were. For that matter, where do you think the computer world got the term? However, if you find it confusing, common phrases that are more specific to these non-computer hackers are “roof and tunnel hackers” or “building hackers”.

Also, hacks are a subset of pranks. Not all pranks are hacks. Not all hacking is pulling hacks, either – a lot of hacking is simply exploration, much as a lot of computer hacking is exploring the hidden ins and outs of computer systems and networks.

Michael said: “Hacking per se doesn’t get you in trouble — being on a roof or behind a door that is supposed to be locked does. however the policies change over the years.”

That’s not entirely correct. MIT policy is that all hacks, even if not in illegal areas, are unauthorized, and therefore forbidden (not that this stops people from appreciating the hacks when they get put up anyway). I know this because I talked with the MIT Chief of Police about it last spring.

Chris said: “Awesome. So is anyone ever going to update the online IHTFP hack gallery? I get the impression these happen on a smaller scale all the time, but no one’s sharing them with the outside world.” Laura replied to this with “As far as I know, the IHTFP gallery is maintained privately, meaning by one person who dedicated himself to the task. I heard through the grapevine that major updating was to be done soon but…who knows.”

Again, not quite accurate. The IHTFP Gallery, a.k.a the Hack Gallery, is maintained privately, but not by one person – it’s a volunteer staff comprised mostly of young alums. If you follow the link, you may recognize a few names that have popped up in my blog before…you’re correct, incidentally, that major updating is supposed to be done soon, though that’s been true for a while now.

Ryan said: “This is rather lame compared to the hacks of yore. The only thing that was even remotely cool was the mario coming out of the pipe. The rest of it looked like something in a elementary school.

Exploding blimp at havard/yale game = cool

This = lame.”

Graeme said: “That’s really weak. Paper cut-outs on the wall? Come on…”

Honestly? Grow up, guys. Not every hack is going to be [large object] on the Great Dome, nor should it be. You think hanging something into Lobby 7, or hanging stuff on the walls of the Infinite without being seen, or putting a flag on the Little Dome in ten-degree weather, or making the information kiosk play a video game, is easy? Picture a bunch of kids, with their finals coming up the next week, braving snow, icy winds, and Campus Police to put all this stuff, which probably took dozens of man-hours to make, up in the middle of the night when they’re already sleep-deprived, and then get back to me.

If you think you’re such a l337 h4Xx0r who could do so much better, then come to MIT and plan your own hack.

And finally, Big Dan said “You only get in trouble for a hack if you damage property or endanger people. The best hacks leave behind instructions for Physical Plant to remove it :)

How come so many people know about Jack Florey? I lived one floor down from 5th east when I went to MIT, has Jack Florey become a generic moniker??

Thanks Laura for the pics. Even though IHTFP I still miss it.”

First: Cool, you lived on 4th East?

Second: It’s not exactly a generic moniker. It’s used primarily to refer to the hackers of 5th East (my home). Sometimes it’s used to refer to anyone who leads Orange Tours, regardless of where they live (hence its popularity among non-hackers, who remember it from when they went on Tours). And sometimes, it’s just a convenient and widely recognized pseudonym, especially these days where most hacks are cross-group.

Third: A bunch of people have brought up the “Do you get in trouble?” or “What happens if you get caught?” question. And it’s not been true that you don’t get in trouble unless your hack is destructive.

When I was a freshman, this happened. I’m friends with most of the people connected to the situation, and it shocked and frightened a bunch of people.

Earlier this fall, a harsh new policy was announced.

I worked with administrators to get the harsh new policy replaced with this policy, which goes into effect next month.

I have to get off the computer and stand around in the living room for a family Christmas party. If you have questions or comments, feel free to send them! I hope you’ve found this entry and Laura’s helpful and interesting!

6 responses to “Giving Laura an assist”

  1. Adnan Esmail says:

    Wow, I didn’t know MIT coined the term “hack” before computer hackers used it! Your post was extremely informative, providing a background on hacks for most HS students who aren’t yet in MIT.


  2. Tom says:

    I was wondering, do you know anything about transfer applications? I am a sophomore in college right now and would like to transfer to MIT for their electrical engineering program but am not sure how many transfer applicants get in and what the admissions office is looking in a transfer applicant. Thanks.

  3. Adian says:

    How much will we be at a disadvantage if we come to MIT after going to a pretty crappy high school? I went to a very rural, very public school in the middle of nowhere. My school graduate only about 60% of its students; most people end up dropping out and working or joing the army. I was accepted early action at MIT mainly because I think of some of my accomplishments as a pianist but I’m still worried that I won’t be able to compete academically.

  4. Jessie, an excellent counter-proposal to the proposed disciplinary policy change! Well done, I’m glad to read of your success with this rational suggestion.

    MIT would not be the same MIT without hacks and pranks. And I say this as a parent of a student who lives on 5th East.

  5. jbeezy says:

    exciting and informative.. the brain must undergo something radical