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There is a demonic side to hacking at MIT

(Editor's note: The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to The Boston Phoenix.)

A recent B.A.D. article on "Nerd Humor at MIT" mentions a "hack" in which an Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority streetcar was welded to the tracks by MIT hackers.

If memory serves me right, I once saw a photo of that streetcar. The photo was published sometime in 1955 or 1956; the streetcar in question was situated in front of Northeastern University on Huntington Avenue, and the hackers used thermite to do the welding.

I know of one hack that was not included in the annals of MIT hackers. It happened my freshman year at MIT. Several freshmen got together and did an old-fashioned demonic mass at midnight in the MIT Chapel.

They did the mass with such scholarly distinction that the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston banned the saying of masses in the Chapel at MIT for over a decade afterwards.

I wasn't a member of that group, but I knew two of the chief perpetrators, both of them mathematicians, because they were residents of my dormitory and lived near me.

They were characters out of C.S. Lewis, harassing other students, leading dormitory riots as undergraduates, and getting into various forms of social mischief.

For some reason, I kept crossing paths with one member of the ring after I left MIT. He showed up at one of my early summer jobs, and later occupied an office in "my" building when I was a professor of computer science at Purdue University.

So, there is a demonic side to hacking that is assiduously hidden by the MIT administration. I last heard of the black mass perpetrator when he had become chairman of a computer science department in a midwestern state university. (He had never used a computer in all the time I knew him.)

I warn people that, if they say a black mass in MIT's Chapel, they'll end up as chairmen of computer science departments.

Victor Schneider PhD '62->

(Reprinted with permission from The Boston Phoenix.)