Thursday, September 19, 2013

MacHack was the strangest and best conference ever

Once upon a time, every year from 1986 to 2004, there was an amazing annual programming conference called MacHack.

Some of the key features of MacHack were:
  • It took place at a crappy Holiday Inn in Dearborn, Michigan. There was little to do but hack.
  • The conference started at midnight with a keynote, and the keynote always lasted several hours. I was part of one that ended at 6:50 AM.
  • Every attendee, technical or not, was encouraged to create a hack. All hacks were presented at a hack show on the third night of the conference.
  • Hacks didn't have to involve technology. One recurring hack (executed by +Adam Engst) was to hide a wooden stake in the hotel so well that it would still be in the same place the following year.
  • Hacks were supposed to be cool but impractical. When someone presented a practical hack, the audience derisively shouted "Useful!" .
Conference program from guess which year
One of my favorite MacHack moments took place in 2003. I was in the conference lounge around 3:00 am, eating dinner and trading instant messages with +Chris Page. Chris was at home in Silicon Valley, and I was giving him a hard time because he didn't come to the conference. I went to sleep for a few hours (even though MacHack's motto was "Sleep is for the weak and sickly").

I woke up around 8:00 am and headed to the lounge for breakfast. As I sat eating my sugary cereal, I glanced to my left and was astonished to see Chris Page himself ambling into the room. Somehow he had traveled 2300 miles in a few hours in the middle of the night. I tried to say something, but all I could do was laugh. Chris smiled and started laughing too. He had just pulled it off: he hacked MacHack.

If you want to know more about MacHack, you can read this article I wrote about the 2004 conference.

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