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Model Railroading > Model RR Hackers!


Date: 12/18/14 10:22
Model RR Hackers!
Author: hogheaded

While channel surfing lat night, I came across a show entitled "We are Legion, the Story of the Hacktivists". You younger guys know all about "Anonymous" hackers and their "V" masks.

At one point, the show laid open the steamy underbelly of model railroading. It claims that a group of M.I.T. model railroaders (apparently bored with the hobby) essentially were the first hackers! How do you like that?

This raises all sorts of questions, doesn't it?

Where does the NMRA Secret Service interrogate suspected hackers?
Is my new Genesis that GP9 barks like a dog actually infected with a virus?
And speaking of dogs, was it model RR hackers that saved the world from that Sony Kim Jong Un movie?
And so forth...

E.O.
wx4.org - The Dome O' Foam



Date: 12/18/14 10:37
Re: Model RR Hackers!
Author: kdrtrains

Well thats just great, now I have to worry about them stealing my locomotive numbers!



Date: 12/18/14 11:23
Re: Model RR Hackers!
Author: funnelfan

As they say, necessity is the mother of all invention, and as model railroaders we sure find needs for all kinds of stuff. I find it fantastic that the MIT students are able to put their creativity toward model railroading in inventive ways.

Ted Curphey
Cheney, WA



Date: 12/18/14 12:03
Re: Model RR Hackers!
Author: MDH

penncentral74 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> M.I.T. has an extensive history of Model
> Railroading involvement.
>
> While trying to find a way to support automating
> their campus model railroad, they invented the
> programming language BASIC (Beginners All-Purpose
> Symbolic Instruction Code).
>
> I think that was in the early 1960's.

While that sounds neat, where did you hear this "history"? A quick google search gives results that all support a different story (example quoted)

"Invented by John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, BASIC was first successfully used to run programs on the school’s General Electric computer system 50 years ago this week–at 4 a.m. on May 1, 1964, to be precise. The two math professors deeply believed that computer literacy would be essential in the years to come, and designed the language–its name stood for “Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code”–to be as approachable as possible. It worked: at first at Dartmouth, then at other schools."

Looks like they did some neat and cutting edge stuff, but "inventing BASIC" was not one of those things:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tech_Model_Railroad_Club



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/18/14 12:07 by MDH.



Date: 12/18/14 13:00
Re: Model RR Hackers!
Author: nicknack

The Tech Model Railroad Club was responsible for the technical term "hack". It still exists today in the Library building and contains their own home grown multiple-cab system, which is an offshoot of cab systems but taken to an advanced computerized conclusion.


http://tmrc.mit.edu/

http://tmrc.mit.edu/hackers-ref.html






Date: 12/18/14 14:31
Re: Model RR Hackers!
Author: 41

It MAY be because the TMRC in those days had a switching system patterned after the phone co, which had a growing problem with people 'hacking' its systems to make free phone calls and stuff.

An interesting book about this called "Exploding the Phone" by Phil Lapsley, mentions the TMRC early on.



Date: 12/18/14 21:56
Re: Model RR Hackers!
Author: pullmanboss

I was a member of the TMRC from the time I entered MIT as a freshman in the Fall of 1954 until my college career crashed and burned in the Spring of 1957. "Hacks" was the term applied to all manner of technology-based practical jokes (certainly an inadequate term) at MIT, such as thermite welding a stopped trolley car to the tracks on Massachusetts Avenue. I believe TMRC member Jack Dennis is credited with applying the term as we now use it, but he was certainly abetted by fellow graduate student and roommate Bill Eccles. I remember each of them shouting HACKER in the club room whenever someone did something questionable - and they were particularly quick to shout it at each other. Often for no reason.

There was a telephone-type switching system in place that could be switched from "Acquisition A" to "Acquisition B". The former ostensibly had something to do with operating the layout, the latter allowed free access to the telephone system. At least once a night we would call the campus radio station located in the basement of the Ware dorm ("This is WMIT under Ware") to request a playing of the original (pre-Kingston Trio) version of the MTA song.

I don't think any of us thought what was going on at the club would be looked back on as something significant. Just a bunch of technology geeks looking to see what we could get away with. That, after all, is the sole purpose of a hack. I make no claim to being anything but an observer, but those activities captured my interest in a way my studies never did, with predictable results. In March '57 I did what all young men did back then when college didn't end well - enlisted in the service. The USAF and I got along quite well, and upon being discharged in 1960 I joined Bell Telephone Labs in Murray Hill, NJ, for what turned out to be a 33+ year career. In retrospect it all worked out remarkably well - with my military obligation completed and a high tech job in hand I escaped Viet Nam.

Sometimes we choose the path, sometimes the path chooses us....

Tom Madden



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/18/14 22:04 by pullmanboss.



Date: 12/19/14 03:12
Re: Model RR Hackers!
Author: hogheaded

Well, life is a strange place. What you guys have described is sort of a butterfly effect - a bunch of nerds goofing around eventually leading to a stream of hurricanes like the Sony storm. Mere participation in the technological age seems to set up people as sorcerers' apprentices. No wonder some people choose to live in wigwams.

Thanks for the illumination, guys. This stuff is a natural for my website, when I finally get around to adding a model RR section.

-E.O.
Wx4.org - The Dome O' Foam



Date: 12/19/14 06:17
Re: Model RR Hackers!
Author: penncentral74

My source was a college professor that was a model railroader, also. Sorry for relaying inaccurate information, but I recall reading the MIT/Model railroad thing somewhere else. BASIC is so popular that I think many would want to take credit for it.
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