The Freshman Fishwrap / IHTFP Gallery

Grumpy Fuzzball

Location: Athena workstations all over campus
Date: December 11, 1989

When MIT students log onto an Athena workstation, they are normally greeted by the Athena Owl. At the end of the 1989 Fall Term, on the Monday of the last week of classes, they were met by a rather different character, the grumpy fuzzball. Many students commented the fuzzball resembled a burned-out owl and thought it was a fitting revision for the final week of classes.

Fuzzball login icon:

The Athena workstations ``spontaneously'' changed over to the fuzzball login banner around 8am Monday morning. For a few hectic hours on Monday morning, Athena staff examined the code responsible for the hack. They determined that the perpetrators had hacked well over 200 public workstations by hand, and that the hack was harmless. Indeed, at 4am Tuesday morning, the workstations reverted in an equally spontaneous manner.

Athena signs around the Institute were also modified to display the grumpy fuzzball in place of the Athena Owl.

Athena logo: Grumpy Fuzzball logo:

Ironically, former Athena network manager, Jeff Schiller '79, suggested the hack in his introductory talk to Freshman during the SIPB computer tours at the beginning of that term. During his traditional talk about ethical computer use and hacking, Schiller suggested that a hack on login screens would be harmless and amusing. Since the grumpy fuzzball hack, he has declined to provide specific examples during his talks.

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