Thursday, August 30, 2007

Top Ten Reasons I Love MIT #7

"Signed, Rebel Scum"

IHTFP - Interesting Hacks to Fascinate People
(one definition among many)

Before I begin, you should know that I feel sort of overwhelmed simply by trying to write this entry. Hacking is a long and storied tradition at MIT, and yet I'm only a freshman - who am I to write about this sort of thing?

And the reality is, I really can't. Yes, I've been to some interesting places around campus; yes, I've started to meet people who can legitimately be called hackers. But I, myself, am not a hacker by any means. Not yet, anyway.

Funny story: I first ran across the word hacker when I was about six, and I had no idea what the word actually meant, so I did what any good six-year-old would do and asked my mom about it. She replied, understandably hesitantly, "Why do you want to know, Paul?" To which I said, "Because I think I want to be one."

Ah, the innocence of youth.

But back to business. What I want to talk about right now, you see, is not the great hacks that have been pulled in the good old days of hardcore yore - because although I've heard of them, and read books about them, I don't really know about them.

What I do know, what I feel qualified enough to talk about, is the hackers themselves.

No names will be named.

The first thing you need to realize is that hackers break stereotypes. Like MIT students in general, they have traits in common, but they aren't clones. Some are social and some are shy, some are serious and some are hilarious. Some have green or purple or rainbow hair, some have brown or black or blonde or red hair. Some wear riot gear, some wear trenchcoats, some just wear dark T-shirts. Some tell stories, some make their own stories. Some are in the UA, some are bloggers, some do UROP or IM sports or hundreds of other activities. Some are from the East, some are from the West, some are in fraternities and sororities and independent living groups.

I'll say that again, because it's important - hackers are from the East, and the West, and the FSILGs. Don't forget that.

But hackers do share many things in common. Creativity, innovation, unconventional attitudes, a unique sense of humor, a code of ethics, a love of rooftops and tunnels and enclosed spaces, a certain disregard for the rules...just to name a few.

They are, in short, a great group. I'm still so incredibly grateful for all the experiences I've had with them. After all, it's not every club that trusts freshmen (and even some pre-frosh), yet the hackers do. They're just cool like that, and I hope to get the chance to do the same, a year or two down the road.

I said before that being at MIT feels like coming home.

Going hacking feels like coming into an inheritance.

Some informative links: IHTFP Gallery, MIT Admissions, Wikipedia, The Jargon File, Where the Sun Shines, There Hack They


Anonymous said...

Yes!! Thank you for writing about these people - they're my favorite people at MIT and I don't even know who they are! =) Yet...

JKim said...

commenty commenty commenty.

Anonymous said...

Nice simile with the coming into inheritance bit. (I will basically need to come into a literal inheritance if I get in to MIT! lol )

Anyway...thanks for telling us a little about the hackers. I've always wondered about the individuals behind MIT's infamous hacking tradition.

Anonymous said...

So how easy is it to get involved in hacking? I've always assumed it was some crazy, secretive thing that I would never be able to be a part of, but it seems so cool... could any freshman really get involved in it?

So did you have anything to do with the last great dome hack? Cuz that would just be awesome!

Anonymous said...

@star - If he did, he wouldn't be at liberty to say. =P

Anonymous said...

That's a very good point. Well then I'll just asume he did, because it makes me feal special that I... uh... read the blog of a hacker? Yeah, I'm a little weird like that. But hacking is just that cool.

Paul said...

Star, I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you. :P

Seriously though - although I wouldn't call becoming a hacker easy, the current hackers are surprisingly open about their secrets. I learned quite a bit about them during CPW, and even more during the past few weeks - although I'm pretty sure there's much much more that they aren't telling me. (Or are leaving for me to find out for myself. :D)

As for whether or not freshmen can be involved in hacking - yes, they can. If you do come here, as I hope you do, just pay attention during'll figure out pretty quickly what events (or, dare I say, Tours) you'll want to go on. Beyond that, it's a matter of willingness, creativity, and dedication. :)