Skip navigation
Paperback | Out of Print | 190 pp. | 8 x 9 in | 125 illus., 16 color | March 2003 | ISBN: 9780262661379
Mouseover for Online Attention Data


A History of Hacks and Pranks at MIT


Before the term hacking became associated with computers, MIT undergraduates used it to describe any activity that took their minds off studying, suggested an unusual solution to a technical problem, or generally fostered nondestructive mischief. The MIT hacking culture has given us such treasures as police cars and cows on the Great Dome, a disappearing door to the President's office, and the commencement game of "Al Gore Buzzword Bingo." Hacks can be technical, physical, virtual, or verbal. Often the underlying motivation is to conquer the inaccessible and make possible the improbable. Hacks can express dissatisfaction with local culture or with administrative decisions, but mostly they are remarkably good-spirited. They are also by definition ephemeral. Fortunately, the MIT Museum has amassed a unique collection of hack-related pictures, reports, and remnants. Nightwork collects the best materials from this collection, to entertain innocent bystanders and inspire new generations of practitioners.

About the Author

Institute Historian T. F. Peterson has spent many years lurking in the corridors of MIT picking up gossip and monitoring hacks in progress.


“A reminder that it is up to each generation to go where no man has gone before.”—Joanna Pawel, New York Sun
“Nightwork...shows that students just want to have fun, especially engineering and technology students.”—Publishers Weekly