MIT tries to put the prank back in 'hacking'

In this the 25th anniversary year of MIT’s most famous student prank (known as hacking in campus parlance) the university has seen fit to formally remind its charges that a prank is not a prank if the prankster ends up being charged -- and certainly is not in the spirit of the school’s devil-may-care tradition if bystanders end up in a burn unit.

Killjoys.

According to this morning’s Boston Globe:

"Historically, hacks have been creatively and thoughtfully executed without injury, destruction of property, or public notoriety for the hackers or MIT," Phillip Clay, the school's chancellor, said in the e-mail.

Clay cited references to the hacking code, which is on display for all to see in the Stata Center, a campus building. "True hackers quickly identify themselves when they encounter the police, and they do not confront or evade the police," he wrote in the e-mail. "Hackers do not create public hazards."

MIT has had its fair share of public notoriety of late related to public displays by its students, including the recent transformation of John Harvard’s statue in Harvard Yard into character out of Halo 3; Star Simpson’s arrest at Logon Airport over “artwork” that alarmed authorities; the arrest of three students for breaking into the school’s faculty club; and, a so-called “sodium drop” into the Charles River.

MIT’s admonitions to take more care have not been well received by all on campus, as the public rebuke of Simpson prompted a few students to protest.

The e-mail reminder from Chancellor Clay comes just about 25 years after what was perhaps the most famous of all MIT pranks. From the university’s Technology Review

During the second quarter of the Harvard-Yale football game on November 20, 1982, a big black balloon with "MIT" written all over it suddenly emerged from the Harvard Stadium field. "The two teams were lined up when suddenly our attention shifted toward the sideline," remembers MIT Museum science and technology curator Deborah Douglas, who was there. "That's when we saw it. Everyone was trying to make out what was written on the balloon. Some of the Harvard police seemed to draw their guns. And then suddenly it exploded."

One can only imagine the carnage and repercussions that would ensue were the kids to reprise that act in this day and age.

Welcome regulars and passersby. Here are a few more recent Buzzblog items. And, if you'd like to receive Buzzblog via e-mail newsletter, here's where to sign up.

Verizon FiOS installation sparks ... nothing?

Edwards campaign mum on mysterious T-shirt flap ... but they did send me spam.

A defense against Photoshop funny business.

Fresh off video spy scandal, Patriots owners invest in "media discovery."

How much does the computer store owe this PC buyer?

The next 5 items that Google might buy from NASA.

'Hello, you have reached my iPhone.'

Rove resigning to spend more time with his iPhone.

When a cell phone goes through the washer.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Related:

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

SD-WAN buyers guide: Key questions to ask vendors (and yourself)