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Great Hacks and Pranks Of Our Time

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the you're-all-slacking-at-work-anyway dept.

It's funny.  Laugh. 315

Luther Blissett writes "There's a history of pranks and hacks in the year-end issue of the Economist, including MIT hacks, the Bonsai Kitten, and the Pentagon hack by my favorite, Abbie Hoffman." From the article: "At Harvard's neighbour, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 'hacks', as the MIT crowd calls them, are more serious. So serious, in fact, that in 2003 the institute's best hacks were assembled in a 178-page book, 'Nightwork'. The pranks at MIT tend to be feats of engineering. They are positively encouraged, because they teach students to work in teams, solve complex problems and, sometimes, get a message across. Mr Peterson's book includes an 11-point code for pranksters: leave no damage, do not steal, do not drop things off a building without a ground crew, and so on. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, at least, student pranks have become an establishment activity."

cancel ×

315 comments

prank, you say ? (3, Informative)

rfinnvik (16122) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359624)

*cough* check links *cough*

Re:prank, you say ? (1)

greginnj (891863) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359648)

Why, I've never been so insulted in my life! I'll SUE! How *dare* you defame me with that libelous material!

-- The very dead Abbie Hoffman

Re:prank, you say ? (2, Funny)

nizo (81281) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359658)

Probably a mistake. Now if it had popped up a page with a goatse picture on the other hand....

Re:prank, you say ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14359696)

Now if it had popped up a page with a goatse picture on the other hand....

I'd be in hog heaven..

Frenchisms (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14359832)

France has neither winter nor summer nor morals. Apart from these drawbacks it is a fine country. France has usually been governed by prostitutes." Mark Twain.

        "I would rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me." General George S. Patton.

          "Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without your accordion." Norman Schwartzkopf.

        "We can stand here like the French, or we can do something about it." Marge Simpson.

        "As far as I'm concerned, war always means failure." Jacques Chirac.

        "As far as France is concerned, you're right." Rush Limbaugh.

        "The only time France wants us to go to war is when the German Army is sitting in Paris sipping coffee." Regis Philbin.

        "The French are a smallish, monkey-looking bunch and not dressed any better, on average, than the citizens of Baltimore. True, you can sit outside in Paris and drink little cups of coffee, but why this is more stylish than sitting inside and drinking large glasses of whisky I don't know." P.J. O'Rourke (1989).

        "You know, the French remind me a little bit of an aging actress of the 1940s who was still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn't have the face for it." John McCain.

        "You know why the French don't want to bomb Saddam Hussein? Because he hates America, loves mistresses and wears a beret. He is French, people!" Conan O'Brien.

        "I don't know why people are surprised that France won't help us get Saddam out of Iraq. After all, France wouldn't help us get Hitler out of France either" Jay Leno.

        "The last time the French asked for 'more proof' it came marching into Paris under a German flag." David Let! terman.

        "Only thing worse than a Frenchman is a Frenchman who lives in Canada." Ted Nugent.

        "War without France would be like ... uh ... World War II. The favorite bumper sticker in Washington now is one that says 'First Iraq, then France.'" Tom Brokaw.

        "What do you expect from a culture and a nation that exerted more of its national will fighting against DisneyWorld and Big Macs than the Nazis?" Dennis Miller.

        "It is important to remember that the French have always been there when they needed us." Alan Kent.

        "They've taken their own precautions against al-Qa'ida. To prepare for an attack, each Frenchman is urged to keep duct tape, a white flag, and a three-day supply of mistresses in the house." Argus Hamilton.

        "Somebody was telling me about the French Army rifle that was being advertised on eBay the other day -- the description was, 'Never shot. Dropped once.'" Rep. Roy Blunt (MO).

        "The French will only agree to go to war when we've proven we've found truffles in Iraq." Dennis Miller.

        Raise your right hand if you like the French ... raise both hands if you are French.

        Q. What did the mayor of Paris say to the German Army as they entered the city in WWII?
        A. Table for 100,000 m'sieur?

        "Do you know how many Frenchmen it takes to defend Paris? It's not known, it's never been tried." Rep. R. Blount (MO).

        "Do you know it only took Germany three days to conquer France in WWII? And that's because it was raining." John Xereas, Manager, DC Improv.

        The AP and UPI reported that the French Government announced after the London bombings that it has raised its terror alert level from Run to Hide. The only two higher levels in France are Surrender and Collaborate. The rise ! in the alert level was precipitated by a recent fire which destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively disabling their military.

        French Ban Fireworks at Euro Disney
        (AP), Paris, March 5, 2003
        The French Government announced today that it is imposing a ban on the use of fireworks at Euro Disney. The decision comes the day after a nightly fireworks display at the park, located just 30 miles outside of Paris, caused the soldiers at a nearby French Army garrison to surrender to a group of Czech tourists.

Re:prank, you say ? (4, Informative)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359863)

Interesting. For reference, here is the original text and links (from before the article "went live", as seen by subscribers):

Luther Blissett writes "There's a history of pranks and hacks [economist.com] in the year-end issue of the Economist, including MIT hacks [caltechvsmit.com] , the Bonsai Kitten [snopes.com] , and the Pentagon [mjt.org] hack by my favorite, Abbie Hoffman [wikipedia.org] ." From the article: "At Harvard's neighbour, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 'hacks', as the MIT crowd calls them, are more serious. So serious, in fact, that in 2003 the institute's best hacks were assembled in a 178-page book, 'Nightwork'. The pranks at MIT tend to be feats of engineering. They are positively encouraged, because they teach students to work in teams, solve complex problems and, sometimes, get a message across. Mr Peterson's book includes an 11-point code for pranksters: leave no damage, do not steal, do not drop things off a building without a ground crew, and so on. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, at least, student pranks have become an establishment activity."

And of course (4, Informative)

nizo (81281) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359634)

Like lemmings we click on the bonsai kitten link to find out more. The snopes bonsai kitten link is here [snopes.com] .

Re:And of course (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359673)

Same problem with the Pentagon hack link.

Is Zonk asleep at the wheel? Perhaps a new game is being 'reviewed' while bad links are getting through unchecked.

Re:And of course (1)

jpetts (208163) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359688)

None of the links is correct. Perhaps the submitter thought he was perpetrating a really cool hack. Anyway, it shows yet again that the editors aren't editing.

Waste of time...

Re:And of course (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359732)

And the real bonsai kitten page of course:

http://www.bonsaikitten.com/ [bonsaikitten.com]

I bought a bonsai kitten a couple of years ago, I'm a completely satisfied customer. Cute, unique, conversation starter.

Re:And of course (1)

coolgeek (140561) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360189)

Bonsai Kitten is way up there on my list of all time best pranks. I was surprised so many "animal activists" took the bait and ran with it.

Re:And of course (4, Informative)

coshx (687751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359820)

Actually, not like lemmings [snopes.com] at all.

The Moon! - A Ridiculous Liberal Myth! (5, Funny)

heauxmeaux (869966) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359638)

It amazes me that so many allegedly "educated" people have fallen so quickly and so hard for a fraudulent fabrication of such laughable proportions. The very idea that a gigantic ball of rock happens to orbit our planet, showing itself in neat, four-week cycles -- with the same side facing us all the time -- is ludicrous. Furthermore, it is an insult to common sense and a damnable affront to intellectual honesty and integrity. That people actually believe it is evidence that the liberals have wrested the last vestiges of control of our public school system from decent, God-fearing Americans (as if any further evidence was needed! Daddy's Roommate? God Almighty!)

Documentaries such as Enemy of the State have accurately portrayed the elaborate, byzantine network of surveillance satellites that the liberals have sent into space to spy on law-abiding Americans. Equipped with technology developed by Handgun Control, Inc., these satellites have the ability to detect firearms from hundreds of kilometers up. That's right, neighbors .. the next time you're out in the backyard exercising your Second Amendment rights, the liberals will see it! These satellites are sensitive enough to tell the difference between a Colt .45 and a .38 Special! And when they detect you with a firearm, their computers cross-reference the address to figure out your name, and then an enormous database housed at Berkeley is updated with information about you.

Of course, this all works fine during the day, but what about at night? Even the liberals can't control the rotation of the Earth to prevent nightfall from setting in (only Joshua was able to ask for that particular favor!) That's where the "moon" comes in. Powered by nuclear reactors, the "moon" is nothing more than an enormous balloon, emitting trillions of candlepower of gun-revealing light. Piloted by key members of the liberal community, the "moon" is strategically moved across the country, pointing out those who dare to make use of their God-given rights at night!

Yes, I know this probably sounds paranoid and preposterous, but consider this. Despite what the revisionist historians tell you, there is no mention of the "moon" anywhere in literature or historical documents -- anywhere -- before 1950. That is when it was initially launched. When President Josef Kennedy, at the State of the Union address, proclaimed "We choose to go to the moon", he may as well have said "We choose to go to the weather balloon." The subsequent faking of a "moon" landing on national TV was the first step in a long history of the erosion of our constitutional rights by leftists in this country. No longer can we hide from our government when the sun goes down.

Re:The Moon! - A Ridiculous Liberal Myth! (3, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359850)

Oh come on mods, reposting an email classic relevant to the discussion of hoaxes isn't exactly flamebait. At worst it deserves to wallow in un-moderation. At best it could earn a +1 funny.

The great whopper fiasco (5, Funny)

OYAHHH (322809) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359645)

I have no idea how relations are today, but at The University of Alabama in the mid 80s people who lived in greek houses and those that lived off-campus were constantly at odds over who should be elected to student council.

Usually the Greeks banded together and block voted their person into office against a normally fractured off-campus crowd.

So for this particular election season a particular popular off-campus person was running for student council president. He was likely to be elected.

The ensuing rivalry from all accounts was as bitter as had been witnessed in a long time. Spying, dirty tricks, etc. were frequently reported.

The student newspaper had withheld judgement but it decided to print a negative article about the greeks' candidate the day before the election.

All was fair about this, it had been done plenty of times before...

But, this particular issue of the paper was different.

It had something incredibly desirable in it. That will be revealed a bit later...

So the day the paper was printed came upon the campus. The paper was delivered in the night to all the free locations all around the campus.

Now that particular day two intrepid mates of mine had a very early engineering class, something insane like 6:30 am, maybe 7am at the latest.

Irregardless of the eaxct early time, my friends went off to their class. While waiting for their class, that took a look at the paper.

Low-and-behold there was a coupon in it for two whoppers and two frys for two dollars at the local BK. Now that was great in and of itself, but what made this coupon incredibly desirable was that it didn't have an expiration date.

So, in a pure stroke of pure genious, my friends skipped class and rushed from building to building around campus grabbing all of the newspapers and stuffing them into their light blue rambler.

By all accounts they managed to grab a fast majority of the newspapers which had been distributed earlier that morning. And they did it without being detected.

Personally I knew none of this, I had no idea what my two friends had done.

By midday the fury of the off-campus people was at a boil. Obviously the greeks had stolen all of the newspapers. It was a conspiracy of the grandest nature.

Of course the greeks were at a loss over the entire matter.

The news of the greeks supposed theft traveled quickly and the next day the off-campus candidate was easily elected.

The bad feelings went on until the next year when the greeks probably took back the presidency, I don't remember. I just remember it took a long time for the bad feelings to go away.

A couple months after the election I happened to be over at my friends apartment and I was offered some BK coupons. I gladly accepted and was lead into one of my friend's bedroom. Lining the walls of this bedroom was the most awesome collection of the campus newspaper I had ever seen. Every wall was lined/stacked from floor to ceiling with newspapers.

I was personally provided a five foot high stack of papers.

I ate whoppers off of that stack for easily a year.

After six, or so, months it was funny to walk into the local BK and they would look at the coupon, see the correct address, and they would ask where I got it from since they hadn't seen one. High-turnover you see. This was before the days of laser printers, etc.

As far as I know this story has never been told in a public forum, but it actually happened.

Re:The great whopper fiasco (0, Troll)

jpetts (208163) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359707)

Guess you weren't studying English :-)

Re:The great whopper fiasco (2, Funny)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359777)

Hey, irregardless of his spelling, grammar, and punctuation, low and behold, he still managed to get his message across. ;)

That happens (4, Funny)

Mille Mots (865955) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359801)

Unlikely as it seems, that happens in a 'fast majority' (sic) of /. posts.

Re:The great whopper fiasco (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14359883)

Regardless of what you think "irregardless" means, well, it doesn't [m-w.com] .

Re:The great whopper fiasco (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14360131)

YHBT. And you missed "low and behold". *points and laughs*

Re:The great whopper fiasco (1)

Wescotte (732385) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359805)

Every time I hear (or read) the word "Irregardless" I instantly think of the short film "The Parlor" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0296134/ [imdb.com]

I'm sure you can google it and find a copy online as well. This being slashdot I'm sure you'll all get a kick out of it.

Re:The great whopper fiasco (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14360040)

Ah, "irregardless" - a pointless portmanteau of two synonyms, "regardless" and "irrespective"...

Re:The great whopper fiasco (4, Funny)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359855)

I have no idea how relations are today, but at The University of Alabama in the mid 80s people who lived in greek houses and those that lived off-campus were constantly at odds over who should be elected to student council.

Ah a prank before our very eyes. A UNIVERSITY in ALABAMA?

A talking unicorn would've been more feasable.

You kid... (4, Informative)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359958)

You kid, but yea, the University of Alabama in Huntsville [uah.edu] (the UA he speaks of is in Tuscaloosa) is actually an excellent engineering school. Huntsville is the home of one of the 2nd largest research park in the US (fourth in the world), huge missile and space access R&D occurs here (Marshall space flight center, Army Aviation & Missile Command, Strategic Missile Command, Redstone Arsenal [where I work]) ... we're #4 on the hit list if nuclear war ever breaks out... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huntsville,_Alabama [wikipedia.org]

-everphilski-

Re:You kid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14360120)

Wow, what a weird coincidence. I was at U of A in Tuscaloosa when the papers were stolen. I always thought it was the Greeks who stole them. ( I was one of the GDIs.) AND I graduated from the Univ. of Alabama in Huntsville. (I transferred back to UAH after spending too much time studying the consumption of fermented beverages in Tuscaloosa.)

Not A UNIVERSITY (1, Flamebait)

BigChigger (551094) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359965)

as you type, but THE University of Alabama. You unwashed illiterate heathen hoards should cow in shame.

I'm not a graduate of UA BTW.

BC

I'm sure the university is glad to be off the hook (1)

Doctor Memory (6336) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360077)

heathen hoards [sic] should cow [sic] in shame

Lemme guess -- math major?

Re:Not A UNIVERSITY (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14360145)

I'm udderly moo-ved by your comments.

You hit the nail on the hoof.

Bully for you.

funny... (1)

csmacd (221163) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360014)

Same sort of "paper chase" happened in the mid-90s. Would explain a lot!

Re:The great whopper fiasco (2, Funny)

deacent (32502) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360017)

Something a bit similiar to this happened at my college, NJIT. The campus, located in Newark, NJ, has a very diverse student population. There is a large number of students from outside the US, as well as a number of students from the suburbs and the local cities. While the diversity can be enlightening, it also creates a challenging environment for harmony.

During one semester, when the atmosphere had become particularly tense, a friend of mine had an opinion piece published in the October edition of our school paper. The letter was about the religious background of Halloween and showing tolerance towards people who have different beliefs. I was lucky enough to get a copy of this edition untouched, but before noon, every copy of the paper left the bins had the letter cut out of it. Naturally, it was thought that someone had taken offense to something in this letter and there was a lot of grumbling about censureship. That evening, I saw my friend and asked him about it and he started to laugh. He explained that his roommates were the ones who had taken all of the papers, cut his letter out of each, and returned them to their bins. They had taken the copies of the letters to wallpaper his dorm room with them. Every last square inch.

Re:The great whopper fiasco (1)

Stroman Rebar (567206) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360099)

We did a similar thing we Subway coupons. Two for one 12" subs from Sophmore through Senior year. Ah yeah. Unfortunately, our thef... collection of the various papers didn't coincide with the student presidental election, but what are you going to do.

Matt Cushman
Alumni - University of Missouri Rolla

Re:The great whopper fiasco (1)

adslmaster (882246) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360114)

Makes me think of a prank that I did while high school that was the most random thing ever. My friend and I photocopied pictures of hardcore gay porn and put it up on car's windshields on a couple of streets. Then in the morning we watched people's reactions from a roof with binoculars... Priceless!

Irregardless?? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14360187)

Irregardless isn't a word.

mod troll

aroo? (0, Offtopic)

hamburger lady (218108) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359647)

what is this, april fool's day?

Re:aroo? (1)

c0n0 (901224) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360233)

Actually, in Argentina it's on Dec 28th, still late one day but close.
Keep playing!!

The best hack mentioned in the article... (5, Interesting)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359668)

... has to be the Harvard "WE SUCK" prank. It's there for everybody to see, it's during the Yale-Harvard football game when everyone who cares about Yale-Harvard is out in force, it requires a non-trivial amount of planning and good execution, and, last but not least, it is self-inflicted. An absolute thing of beauty. I wish people would do that at a Raiders or Yankees game. Although that might end in a brawl. Which would make it even better. :D

Re:The best hack mentioned in the article... (3, Funny)

squidfood (149212) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359856)

Actually (quoth the article "Even Adolf Hitler claimed to have been a prankster in his youth."), my favorite was the invasion of Poland.

Re:The best hack mentioned in the article... (1)

dpille (547949) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359990)

A message below mentions the "Caltech Rose Bowl prank" which is of course a lot like the Harvard "WE SUCK", and earlier. I'd maintain, though, that the Harvard instance is superior due to the direct rivalry. I'd see the Caltech prank as one where they simply altered someone else's card show and visibly took credit for it. If the cards had read "PIZZA" instead of "CALTECH" there would not have been any effective difference- I doubt the Huskies fans even cared about that school after the prank let alone before.

On the Harvard side, though, part of the beauty is that nobody needed to explain or take credit for it. Not to mention that the Yalies got people who would otherwise have done nothing to actively perpetrate the punch line on themselves.

Caltech and the Rose Bowl (5, Interesting)

ScaryFroMan (901163) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359669)

I think the best of them all still has to be the Caltech rose bowl prank. [museumofhoaxes.com] Nothing I've read about even comes close to the level of skill and amazingness that they pulled back in the sixties.

Re:Caltech and the Rose Bowl (1)

SoCalChris (573049) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359745)

I would love to see video of that, does anyone know if there is video available of it online?

Re:Caltech and the Rose Bowl (2, Funny)

gcauthon (714964) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359938)

no fucking cookie?

Re:Caltech and the Rose Bowl (1)

gcauthon (714964) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360065)

Forgot to include the riddle. If he changes his sig, then that last comment won't make any sense . . .

61 30 20 73 68 28 78 31 61 36 20 28 30 30 78 31 33 (A cookie for anyone who decodes that.)

No shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14360006)

I was gonna post this if you didn't. Reading the submitted article almost made me sick with all the glowing references to MIT and how they are the masters and we should all bow to them. They truly got their asses handed to them by Caltech in the most spectacular prank of all time. So let's quit drooling over MIT already. Caltech has been known to pull a hack or two.

Re:Caltech and the Rose Bowl (2, Informative)

BlogPope (886961) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360159)

Nothing I've read about even comes close to the level of skill and amazingness that they pulled back in the sixties

Skill? They mislead a cheerleader into giving them the code. Audacity, yes. For skill, see the 1984 prank where they remotely hacked the electronic scoreboard. As I recall they had to invent stuff to pull that one off.

Caltech pranks (4, Interesting)

Kelson (129150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359703)

Caltech has a long tradition of pranks as well. Not sure if they still do it, and even these stories are second-hand, but senior ditch day was a tradition in which seniors would go off campus and booby-trap their rooms, while underclassmen tried to break in. Depending on the fiendishness of the defenses, the underclassmen would carry out various levels of pranks upon entering the room.

One example: Someone once poured a concrete barrier behind his door. An underclassman, catching wind of it, messed with the mix beforehand so that it wouldn't set properly and was easily removed.

My favorite, of course, is the group that disassembled a car and reassembled it inside the room, in working order.

Re:Caltech pranks (1)

soundofthemoon (623369) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359880)

The concrete barrier thing was part of Senior Ditch Day, the most wonderful day of the year at Caltech. Ditch Day activities are centered around "stacks", not the usual pranks (called "RFs"). RF stands for either Royal Fuck or Real Fun or whatever other phrase you can find that fits.

This Wikipedia blurb on Caltech pranks [wikipedia.org] mentions some of the more well-known RFs. And of course, when it comes to Caltech vs MIT [caltechvsmit.com] in pranks, Caltech rules!

Re:Caltech pranks (1)

hkgroove (791170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360113)

My favorite, of course, is the group that disassembled a car and reassembled it inside the room, in working order.

Was this before or after the person was made King of the Winter Carnival?

John Titor? (0, Offtopic)

darth_MALL (657218) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359737)

There are still people riding this one.
[johntitor.com]

Good read though.

Re:John Titor? Links (1)

darth_MALL (657218) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359763)

Meh - sorry bout the linky:
Here you go [johntitor.com]

Have fun! [wikipedia.org]

No mistake (0)

prismra (938590) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359748)

It's not a mistake. The links are a prank, get it?

Re:No mistake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14360024)

What links are you guys talking about? they all seem to work for me...

It's a shame... (3, Interesting)

TheOneAndOnlyOzzy (876070) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359765)

It's a shame that so many schools discourage pranking. At my college, a big prank usually resulted in kids getting booted out. My highschool started expelling kids who pranked after my physics class turned all the trophy display cases into fish tanks.

But, I understand that a lot of pranking can easily get out of hand... still it's a shame.

Re:It's a shame... (4, Interesting)

Alex P Keaton in da (882660) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359814)

My experience with colleges/universities (I went to 4- 2 undergrad, one masters, one Doc) has always been that (for non felonies) uniqueness is what gets you kicked out. For example, getting drunk and hurting someone (fistfight, whatever) won't get you kicked out... underage drinking wont get you kicked out... Common things.
But urinating off the top of a 4 story dorm will get you booted.
They have to boot some people out to set an example. But they cant boot you out for something common, because they need the tuition....

Re:It's a shame... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14359945)

...expelling kids who pranked after my physics class turned all the trophy display cases into fish tanks.

Well, there's your problem. You pranked the sports trophy cases. If you would have stayed with the math and spelling trophy cases then everyone would have had a good chuckle. Otherwise, you were making a statement about academics being more important than the school's sports programs. They had no choice but to quash those who had stumbled onto the truth.

MIT Hacking (4, Informative)

Xeth (614132) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359811)

They are positively encouraged, because they teach students to work in teams, solve complex problems and, sometimes, get a message across.

Not really.

The recent MIT administrations have a very two-faced policy toward hacks. While they pretend to extoll the virtues of such creative acts (sending out a picture of the Wright Flier hack as part of the alumni literature), they also discipline any students involved harshly (As in the aformentioned Wright Flier case). I suspect that this is one of the reasons that the hacking culture has gotten weaker lately.

Re:MIT Hacking (2, Insightful)

tktk (540564) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359892)

That just teaches one of life's most important rules-

Don't get caught.

Positively encouraged? (4, Interesting)

Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359812)

The pranks at MIT tend to be feats of engineering. They are positively encouraged, because they teach students to work in teams, solve complex problems and, sometimes, get a message across... and how to run from the authorities.

The recent Wright Flyer hack - the same one that gave the university much positive publicity [mit.edu] - resulted in severe consequences [mit.edu] : the students have a mark against their permanent record, and were fined $50. They were about to change the fine for being caught on the roof to a maximum of $500, but the students succesfully petitioned to change that to 10 hours of community service [mit.edu] - because students said that if there was a possible $500 fine, hackers would be more willing to run and seriously injure themselves than risk getting caught by the police.

Of course MIT has the legal responsibility if someone falls from a roof, but there ought to be a way to cover that without punishing the same hackers that the university celebrated. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

Re:Positively encouraged? (0, Offtopic)

greysky (136732) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359906)

Maybe the administration is trying to teach the students not to get caught.

If it's approved, it's not a hack (2, Insightful)

snowwrestler (896305) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359918)

...It's a school project.

The whole point is to do things that are mildly wrong and get away with it. If you're allowed to do it, what the heck is the attraction? Of course you might get caught, but good hackers know where the line is and stay within it (e.g. no destruction, no injury, etc).

$50 and a warning is, let's face it, a tiny slap on the wrist. I'd question whether anyone so concerned with their "permanent record" really has the stomach for pranks in the first place.

Re:If it's approved, it's not a hack (1)

Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360078)

$50 and a warning is, let's face it, a tiny slap on the wrist.

Unfortunately, MIT agrees with you [mit.edu] . They've taken the $50 through some crazy inflation calculator to say that they might fine students up to $500. Definitely not a slap on the wrist anymore. And these are college students at fairly expensive school - they have much better places to be spending $500 on.

Ever heard the phrase "chilling effect"?

Chilling effect? Or... (2, Interesting)

snowwrestler (896305) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360205)

...escalation? After all if you're risking $500, it better be one hell of a hack. Maybe harsher penalties will just bring out the real hardcore pranksters. :-)

Think different (1)

Tei (520358) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360007)

I disagree with you. This hack has been done before, and its boring. I think can be cool to try something new and forget the roof area for a while.

Re:Positively encouraged? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14360022)

What do you mean by "Of course MIT has the legal responsibility..."

I don't see why?

Re:Positively encouraged? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14360202)

MIT doesnt really have the legal responsibility to stop an obviously dedicated group of people from doing something wrong.

basically there is no possible wasy to stop people with repelling harnesses from changing signs.

Where the Sun Shines, There Hack They (4, Informative)

xacting (810789) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359841)

In this video [mit.edu] , MIT's Samuel Jay Keyser discusses the culture and history of hacks at MIT; he's for them. You can read excerpts from the Nightwork book on the MIT alumni [mit.edu] site.

Good prank (4, Funny)

joeytmann (664434) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359854)

One of the best pranks that I ever heard of was one done by a bunch of my cousins friends in high school. Now, he graduated in the late 70's and the lockers all had external combination pad locks, by the time I got there 10 years later all the locks were mounted in the doors. What they managed to do was to steal the master key for all the locks(this part of the story left out as there is too much lore into how and where he lost the janitor), hideout in the school until everyone left for the night. Then the few hiding in the school opened up the doors for the rest of the group and then proceeded to take the locks off and switch them....not just one or two down, but from one locker bank in one part of the school to a locker bank on the other side of the school. Oh yeah, all done at the start of finals week in the spring. Good prank, and they spent the summer sorting out locks as punishment.

Re:Good prank (1)

AdamTrace (255409) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360021)

Um... that's a horrible thing to do to other students, _especially_ during finals. Locking people out of their own lockers? Not so harmless, ironic, or funny.

Re:Good prank (1)

joeytmann (664434) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360045)

Well I did fail to mention that the locks were removed by the janitors shortly after. So they did get into their lockers just took a little time. If I recall was done on a friday night, so most students had their books at home to study over the weekend.

Y2K (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359878)

Although it wasn't really a prank, it could be up there with the all-time hyped events that had little or no climax to them. People thought that on January 1, 2000 all the electricity and communication grids were going to shut down and the world was going to turn into the Planet of the Apes.

"You see, they wrote all this software and to save space, they put 98 instead of 1998. So I go through these thousands of lines of code and, it doesn't really matter. I don't like my job. I don't think I'm gonna go anymore."

Re:Y2K (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359933)

Yeah - I remember laughing my ass off in a machine room while all the PHBs who had "concerns" were partying their asses off. I still chuckle when I think about it to this day.

Re:Y2K (1)

Pope (17780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360227)

Did you ever stop to think that the reason "nothing happened" was because of all the work done to prevent such a thing from happening?

I mean, duh...

Re:Y2K (1)

jbohumil (517473) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360242)

As a programmer who actually worked in IT in 1999 I can assure you the reason Y2K wasn't a disaster is because people like me spent a lot of time fixing code. It *did* matter in many many cases that the old code only had 2 digit years.

i must have missed the (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14359894)

boat for a sence of humor. All i see is someone desperate to make himself feel better about himself *at the expence of others. like most "humor", there is someone not laffing. please don't think, 'you can't laff at your self, that's what your problem is'. laffing at oneself is a fine and fun thing to do. however i see that he was 'pranking' others NOT HIMSELF! so the wonderful "tradition" of human nature* is contuinued and celaberated.

mod down please, no need to make people think!

As the submitter ... (5, Informative)

LutherBlissett Dec05 (942099) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359908)

Don't fix the links! Doh! It's a serious part of the post, not just a prank or hack. And it's not like I didn't warn them. Here was my original submission, for posterity:
[EDITORS: IMPROVED VERSION! CLICK THE LINKS! Possibly the most inspired post ever ...] There's a history of pranks [economist.com] and hacks in the year-end issue of the Economist, including MIT hacks [caltechvsmit.com] , the Bonsai Kitten [snopes.com] , and the Pentagon [mjt.org] hack by my favorite, Abbie Hoffman [wikipedia.org] . They end with an invitation: "... we invite readers to nominate their contender for the finest prank in history, explaining in 750 words why it deserves the title." Slashdot readers, can you hack the contest?

LOLS @ submitter! (1)

1992 Called (893858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359947)

What? David Lee Roth could submit a better article!

Re:As the submitter ... (0, Flamebait)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359995)

Question, why did you submit the lemmings story as bonsai kitten?
(I liked the Lemmings game, btw... altho reading that lemmings story made me feel bad about the poor rodents)

Re:As the submitter ... (1)

X_Bones (93097) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360058)

Slashdot readers, can you hack the contest?

no, but the editors can...

A history of MIT pranks (4, Informative)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359919)

Can be found here [mit.edu] . Unfortunately it ends in 2004...

One of the favorite ones that I witnessed firsthand was the police car on top of the MIT dome [mit.edu] .

I also get a kick out of all the hacks that MIT has pulled off at the Havard/Yale football games. One at least one of those occasions the local papers stated that MIT had won the game. (In fact I seem to recall they DID win, technically, by hacking into the scoreboard and changing the score during one game)

Where are the computer pranks? (1)

Pedals (758888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359944)

I once impersonated President Bill Clinton on a military hospital computer system. This text based system (CHCS) has an email system and I responded to one message, typed several blank lines, and then typed in a fake message from the President congratulating us on our good work. Quite a few people totally bought it. I was identified as the prankster the next day.

Longstanding Prank -- Georgia Tech (2, Interesting)

n00tz (926304) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359954)

ever heard of George [wikipedia.org] P. Burdell? [gatech.edu]

Plenty of pranks have happened at the account of this name. You might even check your employee database for existence of him. He almost made Time's Man Of The Year 2001, before Time found out about the ficticious character.

Moral of the Story: Ramblin' Wrecks from Georgia Tech are Helluva Engineers, and are VERY creative.

The Austin Seven van on the roof: what if? (3, Insightful)

SnappingTurtle (688331) | more than 8 years ago | (#14359982)

So... suppose that, in the course of getting a heavy vehicle down off the roof, a member of the Civil Defence Force had fallen and died. Would it still have been considered a great prank? Same actions, different outcome.

When I was a teenager some friends and I climbed up onto the roof of the local high school, just 'cause, y'know, it seemed the thing to do. One of the janitors, wanting to catch us, so he climbed up on the roof. He did indeed catch us and, seeing as how the cops also showed up, we followed him back down off of the roof. As we all climbed down, I realized that this not-too-coordinated janitor could easily tumble down the rickety drain piping. I had visions of having the book thrown at us because some janitor was as stupid as we were.

Pranks are great, but I would personally avoid anything that might incite people to climb or move large, heavy objects. In general, I would avoid anything that someone else has to repair.

Roadworks (5, Funny)

jamesots (214246) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360005)

When I was at Warwick Uni I heard about this prank which supposedly happened a few years earlier, although I can't confirm it:

There were some roadworks going on near the Westwood campus, so the students phoned up the foreman and told him that some students, dressed up as policemen, were going to come and try to stop them. Then they phoned the police and told them that some students, dressed up as workmen, were digging up the road.

And as they say, hilarity ensued.

Re:Roadworks (2, Interesting)

Leontes (653331) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360093)

When I was on Slashdot.Org I heard about this prank which supposedly happened a few years earlier, although its a marvelous urban legend [snopes.com] . Believing something as true makes it a much better story, admittedly, but it's very interesting how the urge to believe leads us to retell rumors and stories as if they were true. Human nature fascinates me. Are the best pranks we can come up with ones where we have to invent and personalize the story?

The more underappreciated prankster of our time (4, Interesting)

F_Scentura (250214) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360015)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joey_Skaggs [wikipedia.org]

He's pulled some *GREAT* hoaxes on the media and general public.

Much lesser known (0)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360041)

In my sophomore year (1991) at Oregon Institute of Technology, we had a problem with Navy jets from nearby Kinsley Field buzzing campus (their "floor" was set a mile above sea level- campus was only 680 feet below this). A group of laser students and Software Engineering students conspired to find an old 1980s frequency for Soviet Air-to-Air missile radar- and built a laser pointer on that frequency. For a couple of weeks in there if you looked up at just the right time, you'd see a pair of Navy jets buzzing campus- and then suddenly one of them would go evasive for a split second and recover. Took them about two weeks to take the OIT campus out of their flight pattern. Don't know if anybody was ever caught- or if the Navy ever figured out what was causing the error in their friend-or-foe systems.

dang, too bad I wasted my mod points (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14360094)

that's a cool prank.

I guess you have to have a certain... (1)

IAAP (937607) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360051)

sense of humor for this stuff. If some of those pranks happened to me, I'd be really pissed.

Why not use that creativity to start a start-up while in school? There's no bigger joke on the jocks than becoming a millionaire in your Junior year. Even if fails, the experience while you're young and very little reponsibilities would be invaluable. If you look at the histories of all of the multi-millionaires and billionaires, just about all of them were getting started somehow in there late teens or early twenties.

In soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14360059)

In soviet Russia, prank drops you!

Greatest Prank Ever??? Apollo Moon landing!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14360063)

How could the greatest prank of all time not be tricking the whole world into thinking we actually landed people on the moon??

My Yale prank (4, Interesting)

kongjie (639414) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360074)

It was in the early nineties, on April Fools' Day. Warning: a bit of explanation is required.

Like most grad students in liberal arts, I spent an inordinate amount of time in Sterling Memorial Library. A wonderful building but at that time still fairly antiquated: the electronic book database didn't extend to pre-1975 titles, there was no air conditioning in the stacks (meaning book rot was even more accelerated) and there were two systems a book could be indexed under: Library of Congress or the "Yale system," a maddening combination of letters and numbers that was sure to send you in the wrong direction.

If I recall, and it has been a while, the library has 6 floors accessible by elevator and within those 6 more "between-floors" accessible only by twisty staircase. You would find your book's call number on the main floor (especially since the few computers within the stacks were either malfuctioning or being used) and then delve into the stacks.

To guide you on your way, there were one-page charts posted throughout the stacks and in the elevators that indicated which floor your book could be found, based on its call number. It was a common sight to see a confused student looking at the chart, then at the paper in their hand, then back at the chart, ad infinitum.The library also left a handy stack of these guide charts by the front desk for students to take.

I took a chart home and set about changing the floors for about half of the call number groups on the chart. Since this was way back when I worked off a grayscale Powerbook 520 with no Photoshop etc., I had to use exacto knife and photocopier.

I printed off a shitload of the fake call number charts and then, first thing in the morning on April 1, replaced every posted chart in public areas throughout the library, including within the two elevators. Then, for good measure, I replaced the helpful "take one" stack with my own version.

I left a few clues on the chart--for those who had looked for their books and then returned to look again, more carefully--indicating that it was a prank. By April 2 all the bogus charts had been replaced, but I had gotten a good laugh out of it, even though it was a subtle prank that didn't have a large, noticable payoff.

Cornell Pumpkin (4, Interesting)

Big Bob the Finder (714285) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360086)

I'm a little surprised nobody has mentioned the Cornell Pumpkin [cornell.edu] story yet.

I had a co-worker that was at Cornell at the time, and claims to know the perpetrators. Further inquiries were met with vague comments about the statute of limitations.

My fav Candid Camera prank (2, Funny)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360132)

While not high on the complexity level, my favouite segment was when they asked some people to deliver a large box (which was actually empty) to a specific office. The box was sized to just make it through the office door. The delivery people were distracted while they were in the office, and a small addition was made to the door jam so the doorway was just that much smaller. The delivery people were then told they had the wrong office. Hilarity resulted when they tried to get the box out the same door that they had just entered. They *knew* they had just come in that door, but couldn't figure out why the box wouldn't fit any more.

Give credit where it's due (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14360147)

The Yale "We Suck" prank was much funnier back in 1961 when it was originally done at the Rose Bowl (in a much more clever way) by Caltech.

Some of the best pranks are the simplest ones (3, Funny)

HikingStick (878216) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360155)

My favorite was taking a screen shot of the open Pegasus mail program (at full screen) and then saving it as the desktop wallpaper. The student council president, who approved the purchase of this first computer for the 2-year college's student senate, could not figure out why he could not open his messages, or close the program!

It stayed that way through the entire second semester. He even mentioned his disappointment with the computer during his final address to the senate. After he left the room, the rest of us all looked around in shock--most people figured it out rather quickly, but our poor president never used the email program all term...

I wonder if anyone ever told him.

>;}

One of the best ... (1)

Durandal64 (658649) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360174)

One of the best I've seen was Alan Sokal's experiment with cultural studies [nyu.edu] . Sokal is a physicist at NYU who wrote a completely ridiculous paper entitled "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" and managed to get it published in a reputable social science journal. While hilarious, the prank has a very serious message. The cultural studies fields are far too preoccupied with making themselves appear scientific rather than actually following the scientific method.

Best prank at LSU (1)

engagebot (941678) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360183)

My roommate and I were infamous for our pranks at LSU. My roommate and I set up a girl who was having a bunch of other girls sleep over (church group deal). We got another friend to put on a dickie's jumpsuit and knock on their door. He asks if they're having trouble with their air conditioner, and the girl says no. He says they'll be working on it, so if it goes out for a while, don't worry about it. She says ok and closes the door. We then proceed to walk downstairs and shut off their A/C then leave laughing. 20 girls in one apartment all night, in 100-degree Louisiana summer.

Re:Best prank at LSU (1)

montreal!hahahahah (880120) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360201)

That story isn't true at all, is it?

one of my favorite pranks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14360196)

http://www.ebaumsworld.com/takeaway.html [ebaumsworld.com]

its not really a 'hack' but its funny.

My Favorite Prank (3, Funny)

aquatone282 (905179) | more than 8 years ago | (#14360237)

A co-worker thought he found blood in his stool and went to the Air Force clinic. The doc told him it was probably nothing, but to be sure scheduled him for a lower gastrointestinal at the big Air Force hospital at RAF Lakenheath. For the next two weeks we heard nothing else from this guy but how much he was dreading having a camera inserted into his rectum.

When the big day arrived we were all treated to a graphic and minutely-detailed (and hilarious - the guy was funny at least) account of having his bowel snaked by a nonplussed female buck sergeant medical technician.

After my co-worker left for the day (he worked day shift and I worked swing-shift on my own), I realized an opportunity existed that simply could not be passed up. Back in the day, we used large sheets of back-lit plexiglas and grease pencils to track the status of our aircraft and ground-support equipment. One section of the plexiglas board was reserved for phone messages. In this section I wrote:

SSgt W: Lakenheath hospital called - problem with your test results call ASAP to schedule new test 293-1033

I didn't say anything to the mid-shift controller when he came in and had almost forgotten the whole thing when I arrived the next afternoon for my shift. As I entered the building SSgt W was leaving our workcenter. When he saw me he rushed me and threw me into the nearest wall.

"You son-of-a-bitch! I can't believe you did that to me!" he yelled and then began laughing. He told me when arrived that morning and saw the message he thought it had to be a joke. But nobody knew anything about it so he began to think maybe it was true - maybe the there was a problem and he would have to go through the terrible experience of having a camera shoved up his butt again.

He refused to call the number for two hours, instead accusing everyone around him of setting him up. The other day shift workers told me he became quite frantic. Of course, nobody knew anything about the message but me. When he finally did call the number, he got the Burger King that had just opened at RAF Lakenheath.

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