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A History of Hacks and Pranks at MIT
by T. F. Peterson

The MIT Press
1 edition
March 2003
190 pages

Reviewed by Margarita Isayeva, April 2004
  (8 of 10)

The term "hack" exists at least since fifties, and at first it had nothing to do with computers, designating "any activity that lead to an interesting and unusual solution, or caused nondestructive mischief". "A History of Hacks and Pranks at MIT" uses the word "hack" in this broad term. It describes hacks performed by MIT students since 1920-s. Descriptions can vary in length from a couple of pages to a single sentence: "On a steamy August day in 1987, hackers erect a papier-mache snowman on the small dome." The writing style is rather dry, factual, and detached, which, frankly, makes dull reading. Other challenges include MIT proprietary vocabulary (hint: don't neglect "Glossary of MIT Vernacular" at the end of the book) and numerous "see ..." links, which do not provide page numbers, but send you to search the contents table instead. Yet another complain: big part of the hacks is classified as "visual", and it would help if you could really see an artifact, which is difficult with mostly black-and-white and often low-quality photos.

After so many struggles, I became a victim of the Stockholm syndrome -- I liked the book. Or, more accurate, I liked the content (to get some taste check Al Gore Buzzword Bingo or the Case of the Disappearing President's Office on IHTFP Gallery site). It would be great to have a new edition, in better print and with more editorial efforts put in it.

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