The M.I.T. Technology Hackers Association

Since I've been misquoted recently, I thought I'd through in something authentic:

"Let's see if we can find somebody, like this guy Charles Vest out in Michigan, and use our secret influence to make him President of MIT. That would be a great hack!"
-- Bryan Bentz (date unknown)

The Technology Hackers Association was founded in 1980 at M.I.T. It's purpose was to build a campus-wide, non-living-group based hacking group. It was pretty clear that groups come and go; T.H.A. was intended to remain in existence for a long time, to preserve records and knowledge over a period of years, to train new hackers, and to help existing hackers.

The initial group didn't know much about hacking, and learned carefully over time, documenting what new people needed to know. "Hacking" in this sense meant building exploration, group operations, deployment technologies, communications, security practices, and so forth. No one was particularly interested in computer "cracking".

T.H.A. had a hierarchy of officers, intended to guarantee that the main ongoing problems of hackers would be addressed. Members, found mainly by accident, were not divided arbitrarily (for example, there was no equivalent phase to fraternity "pledges" for new members). Once you joined, you were the equal of all other members.

T.H.A. expected loyalty, honesty, and responsibility from its members. It was not intended to be a collection of malicious hackers, nor to support illegal activities. It had a strong tradition of not hacking individuals, but might well try to ridicule their ideas if they were silly enough.

T.H.A. began quietly as a successor to the Freshman Defense Corps, a group of people who opposed the forced showering of Freshmen on the eve of the first Physics exam. Opposition was accomplished by organizing Freshmen into groups, and arming them with water weapons with which to hose down the perpetrators of the hazing.

The symbol above is the T.H.A. Octagon, which occasionally appears in in hacks. The symbol for the F.D.C. was basically the same, but with the crossbar running in opposite direction.

This was quite successful, and showed how much a little bit of voluntary organization could accomplish. It inspired a core group to build an organization which could engage in hacks of social commentary, technological prowess, or just plain amusement.

If you want to take a look at some MIT hacks, visit the Hacks Gallery.

There cannot at this time be a full history of T.H.A., for a number of reasons. This page is to be considered something of a reminder, and may in the future be augmented with a substantial amount of data. The list of T.H.A. hacks is extensive, and is probably best acquired from the MIT Museum.

Where T.H.A. went, and what it did, must for now remain hidden from view. At some future date I hope that the full history will be recorded and available.

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This page is maintained by bentz@ai.mit.edu.
Last update: 08/25/98.