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/tmerk'/ The Tech Model Railroad Club at MIT, one of the
wellsprings of hacker culture. The 1959 "Dictionary of the
TMRC Language" compiled by Peter Samson included several terms
that became basics of the hackish vocabulary (see especially
foo, mung, and frob).
By 1962, TMRC's legendary layout was already a marvel of
complexity (and has grown in the thirty years since; all the
features described here are still present). The control
system alone featured about 1200 relays. There were scramswitches located at numerous places around the room that
could be thwacked if something undesirable was about to occur,
such as a train going full-bore at an obstruction. Another
feature of the system was a digital clock on the dispatch
board, which was itself something of a wonder in those bygone
days before cheap LEDS and seven-segment displays. When
someone hit a scram switch the clock stopped and the display
was replaced with the word "FOO"; at TMRC the scram switches
are therefore called "foo switches".
Steven Levy, in his book "Hackers", gives a stimulating
account of those early years. TMRC's Power and Signals group
included most of the early PDP-1 hackers and the people who
later bacame the core of the MIT AI Lab staff. Thirty
years later that connection is still very much alive, and this
dictionary accordingly includes a number of entries from a
recent revision of the TMRC dictionary (via the Hacker Jargon