/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
, 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 switch
es 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. This dictionary accordingly includes a number of entries from the TMRC dictionary (via the Hacker Jargon File).