/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 scram
switches 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 File).
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