Frequently Asked Questions

Aren't hackers the people that break into computer networks?
Maybe to the rest of the world.
Many of us at MIT call those who break into (crack) computer systems "crackers." At MIT, a "hacker" is someone who does some sort of interesting and creative work at a high intensity level. This applies to anything from writing computer programs to pulling a clever prank that amuses and delights everyone on campus.
Who does these hacks?
Hackers pride themselves in making these kinds of things happen while leaving the MIT community guessing who did it and how. Consequently, one seldom knows who is responsible. Sometimes a "hacking group" will take credit for a particular hack.
Who are the hackers?
Supposedly, they are usually students (and sometimes alumni/alumnae) of MIT. Rumor claims that sometimes employees participate, too.
Does the MIT administration approve or support hacking?
No. Hackers who are caught may face legal penalties and fines. Still, this does not stop the administration from appreciating a good hack -- after the fact.
What is the significance of the letters IHTFP?
IHTFP has been the unofficial motto of MIT for many years. It usually stands for:

I Hate This Place

(If you can't reconcile the acronym, you're probably better off not knowing.) The IHTFP Hack Gallery name is based on the acronym:

Interesting Hacks To Fascinate People

Some people at MIT collect extensive lists of other interesting things that the abbreviation could stand for, some of which are rather obscene.
Why isn't my favorite hack in the IHTFP Hack Gallery?
Probably either because we don't have enough information about it yet, or because it happened before 1989, the period which is covered in Brian Leibowitz's book on MIT hacks. We plan to start including hacks from before 1989 in the near future.
Anything you can tell us about hacks that aren't in this Gallery would be greatly appreciated. It could also be the case that the hack is outside the scope of the IHTFP Hack Gallery. Check our inclusion policy for more information.
Don't the students have anything better to do?
Yes and no. Studying under the high-pressure conditions at MIT means students need creative outlets. Engaging in humorous and sometimes challenging pranks seems to be one such outlet.
I heard something about MIT hackers going to off-limits part of campus. What can you tell me about that?
It is true that some hacks appear in off-limits places such as on rooftops. The IHTFP Hack Gallery staff does not encourage trespassing, or any other illicit activity. Laws and rules exist to protect people, and breaking them can expose the would-be hackers and possibly also bystanders to dangers that neither may be aware of.