Hack History Part 5

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Last time we said that when the TX-0 was brought to MIT, a rule was to keep it running 24/7. The actual individuals going through the course would typically sign up only during the daylight hours. This left the computer relatively free throughout the night. The TMRC hacker group decided to drastically change their lifestyles in order to accommodate this and lay claim to whatever time they could. After all, who would be on a computer at 3 A.M.?

People like Sampson would hang around the room whenever they could and nothing would delight them more when someone forgot to show up for their designated time. Better “Make sure it doesn’t go to waste!” These late hours became referred to as “vulture time” and understandably so. The hackers even went as far as creating a network of informers. If a potential project wasn’t ready or a professor was sick, word would pass to the TMRC. The hackers would then appear outside the TX-0, out of breath and ready to cram themselves behind the computer console.

Though Jack Dennis was technically in charge of the operation, he was busy teaching courses at the time and preferred to use his free time actually writing code. He held the place of the “benevolent godfather” to the hackers. He would give them a brief hands-on introduction and let them dive into their crazy programming ventures. Dennis was not fond of taking an administrative role and was more than willing to have John McKenzie run the program. Being in the position, McKenzie realized that the interactive nature of this machine was an inspiring new form of programming and these hackers were the pioneers.

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