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Nightwork: A History of Hacks and Pranks at MIT Paperback – 1 Apr 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press (1 April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262661373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262661379
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 20.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 960,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A reminder that it is up to each generation to go where no man has gone before." Joanna Pawel New York Sun "Nightwork...shows that students just want to have fun, especially engineering and technology students." Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Institute Historian T. F. Peterson has spent many years lurking in the corridors of MIT picking up gossip and monitoring hacks in progress.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. Yogendra VINE VOICE on 20 Oct 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A high-context book where the pranks begin on the cover page.. The Amazon description says it is by TF Peterson. Well the cover says it is by 'Institute Historian T F Peterson'. This can be abbreviated to IHTFP, an acronym which stands for many things in MIT and not all will pass the editor's scrutiny for propriety. Many self-respective techies know that hacking is not a derogatory term in the trade, since its origins were not of malicious intent. The book introduces novices to MIT speak where a 'hack' is a practical joke with criteria such as nobody should find out about it, it should be removable with no permanent damages and so on. It chronicles witty pranks such as an MIT ball in the stadium during a Harvard game. Cambridge University in England has seen similar pranks but somehow hanging an umbrella on King's College Chapel pales in comparison with a police car on the MIT dome! Almost all of these pranks are preserved in the MIT Museum in Cambridge, Mass. The book gave me hope that there was a life beyond nerdiness in MIT and helped me decide to go to MIT. I hope it will put a few smiles your way. Highly recommended but DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME (or in your University).. 4 Stars because it may not have universal appeal.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 12 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Great book, but with a caveat. 31 Jan 2005
By Stacey Tappan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a terrific, fairly comprehensive book of the highlights from MIT's long tradition of pranks. However, if you have already read Journal of the Institute of Hacks, Tomfoolery, and Pranks, you'll find you've read most of this before, and in better detail, with better-reproduced photographs (in my opinion.) The good thing about Nightwork is that this is includes hacks from more recent years than the other book.

For me, the time they spent on the new stuff wasn't nearly enough to justify buying a whole new book, but on its own and to someone who has never read its predecessor, it is an excellent and entertaining history.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
And yet, the professor pulls off another Hack ... 6 Dec 2004
By Jorge Martinez - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I had a brief opportunity to read this book a while ago. There are plenty of stories about hacks that would make anyone go "why in the name of science these geeks wanted to do that?" And well, you are asking that about people that are pride of being considered geeks. But then again, with this book you will get acquainted with the all-time famous football game between Harvard and Yale where the winner was MIT (??), the 48 unit weight that "cracked" the dome and that the measure of the Harvard bridge is about 364.4 smoots + one ear

And for those of you lucky enough to have established contact with an MIT student/alum, ask them about the secret that lies within the Institute Historian T. F. Peterson and the "hack" that its right there in front of your eyes. Congratulations, you have been hacked.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Interesting Hacks To Fascinate People 14 Mar 2004
By roy christopher - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Massechussettes Institue of Technology has been host to the leaders of innovations in many fields: Artificial Intelligence, media and communication technology, open source development, and on and on. One of its lesser known areas of bleeding-edge innovation has been pranks and hacking. Well, Institute Historian T. F. Peterson is here to set that straight with Nightwork: A History of Hacks and Pranks at MIT.
Long before the term 'hacking' was associated with computers (and pejoratively by the popular press), it was an MIT institution. MIT undergrads used the term to describe any activity that took their minds off studying and stress. In Nightwork, the best of the best of the history of MIT hacks is documented, photographed, and explained in great detail.
Some of the best (and most visible) hacks at MIT involve The Great Dome. For instance, to celebrate the 2001 release of the movie The Lord of the Rings, MIT hackers made a gold ring around the dome with red Elvish script, "authentically inscribed with Tolkien's text." In the same spirit in 1999, two days before the release of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, the dome was made up to look like R2D2 (pictured below).
Nightwork covers these more obvious hacks as well as the long history of pranks at MIT dating back to the 1940s: Interesting Hacks To Fascinate People. And lest the reader think this is all just mindless fun, a collection of explanitory and philosophical essays is also included.
Even if you're not a hacker or a prankster yourself, hack your bookshelf with Nightwork.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
what about all the failed pranks? 21 Jun 2006
By W Boudville - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Here is an informal romp through decades of MIT pranks. Reflecting well on the ingenuity and craziness of the undergrads who devoted so much time and sweat to making these happen. Most of the pranks revolve around some high tech gimmick. As you follow the narrative, you might admire the unorthodox nature to which technology has been applied.

The only lack in the book is in anecdotes of failed pranks. These could surely comprise a much larger text.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Super humor from MIT! 6 May 2003
By Elaine C Craven - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Nightwork: a history of hacks and pranks at MIT" is a well-written documentation of the ingenious stunts engineered by the super bright, super creative students at MIT. The author doesn't lose any of the hilarity in his/her description of the student hijinks.
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