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Institute Historian T. F. Peterson

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

Titles by This Author

A History of Hacks and Pranks at MIT

An MIT "hack" is an ingenious, benign, and anonymous prank or practical joke, often requiring engineering or scientific expertise and often pulled off under cover of darkness—instances of campus mischief sometimes coinciding with April Fool’s Day, final exams, or commencement.

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.