An MIT "hack" is an ingenious, benign, and anonymous prank or practical joke, often requiring engineering or scientific expertise and often pulled off under cover of darkness—instances of campus mischief sometimes coinciding with April Fool's Day, final exams, or commencement. (It should not be confused with the sometimes non-benign phenomenon of computer hacking.) Noteworthy MIT hacks over the years include the legendary Harvard–Yale Football Game Hack (when a weather balloon emblazoned “MIT” popped out of the ground near the 50-yard line), the campus police car found perched on the Great Dome, the apparent disappearance of the Institute president's office, and a faux cathedral (complete with stained glass windows, organ, and wedding ceremony) in a lobby. Hacks are by their nature ephemeral, although they live on in the memory of both perpetrators and spectators. Nightwork, drawing on the MIT Museum's unique collection of hack-related photographs and other materials, describes and documents the best of MIT's hacks and hacking culture. This generously illustrated updated edition has added coverage of such recent hacks as the cross-country abduction of rival Caltech's cannon (a prank requiring months of planning, intricate choreography, and last-minute improvisation), a fire truck on the Dome that marked the fifth anniversary of 9/11, and numerous pokes at the celebrated Frank Gehry-designed Stata Center, and even a working solar-powered Red Line subway car on the Great Dome. Hacks have been said to express the essence of MIT, providing, as alumnus Andre DeHon observes, "an opportunity to demonstrate creativity and know-how in mastering the physical world." What better way to mark the 150th anniversary of MIT's founding than to commemorate its native ingenuity with this new edition of Nightwork?
Institute Historian T. F. Peterson has spent many years lurking in the corridors of MIT picking up gossip and monitoring hacks in progress.
Following the success of The Accidental Billionaires and Moneyball comes Console Wars—a mesmerizing, behind-the-scenes business thriller that chronicles how Sega, a small, scrappy gaming company led by an unlikely visionary and a team of rebels, took on the juggernaut Nintendo and revolutionized the video game industry.
In 1990, Nintendo had a virtual monopoly on the video game industry. Sega, on the other hand, was just a faltering arcade company with big aspirations and even bigger personalities. But that would all change with the arrival of Tom Kalinske, a man who knew nothing about videogames and everything about fighting uphill battles. His unconventional tactics, combined with the blood, sweat and bold ideas of his renegade employees, transformed Sega and eventually led to a ruthless David-and-Goliath showdown with rival Nintendo.
The battle was vicious, relentless, and highly profitable, eventually sparking a global corporate war that would be fought on several fronts: from living rooms and schoolyards to boardrooms and Congress. It was a once-in-a-lifetime, no-holds-barred conflict that pitted brother against brother, kid against adult, Sonic against Mario, and the US against Japan.
Based on over two hundred interviews with former Sega and Nintendo employees, Console Wars is the underdog tale of how Kalinske miraculously turned an industry punchline into a market leader. It’s the story of how a humble family man, with an extraordinary imagination and a gift for turning problems into competitive advantages, inspired a team of underdogs to slay a giant and, as a result, birth a $60 billion dollar industry.
When Jay Keyser arrived at MIT in 1977 to head the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, he writes, he "felt like a fish that had been introduced to water for the first time." At MIT, a colleague grabbed him by the lapels to discuss dark matter; Noam Chomsky called him "boss" (double SOB spelled backward?); and engaging in conflict resolution made him feel like "a marriage counselor trying to reconcile a union between a Jehovah's witness and a vampire." In Mens et Mania, Keyser recounts his academic and administrative adventures during a career of more than thirty years.
Keyser describes the administrative side of his MIT life, not only as department head but also as Associate Provost and Special Assistant to the Chancellor. Keyser had to run a department ("budgets were like horoscopes") and negotiate student grievances—from the legality of showing Deep Throat in a dormitory to the uproar caused by the arrests of students for anti-apartheid demonstrations. Keyser also describes a visiting Japanese delegation horrified by the disrepair of the linguistics department offices (Chomsky tells them "Our motto is: Physically shabby. Intellectually first class."); convincing a student not to jump off the roof of the Green Building; and recent attempts to look at MIT through a corporate lens. And he explains the special faculty-student bond at MIT: the faculty sees the students as themselves thirty years earlier.
Keyser observes that MIT is hard to get into and even harder to leave, for faculty as well as for students. Writing about retirement, Keyser quotes the song Groucho Marx sang in Animal Crackers as he was leaving a party—"Hello, I must be going." Students famously say "Tech is hell." Keyser says,"It's been a helluva party."
This entertaining and thought-provoking memoir will make readers glad that Keyser hasn't quite left.