MIT AI Lab Tourist Policy
TOURIST POLICY AND RULES FOR TOURIST USE OF ITS MACHINES
It has been a long standing tradition at both the Laboratory
for Computer Science and the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
at MIT to allow non-laboratory people to use the laboratories'
computers during off hours. During the early days of the
laboratories' existence a non-laboratory person (such people have
come to be called tourists) could gain access to one of the
computers by direct personal contact with a laboratory member.
Furthermore, tourist access was controlled because access to the
laboratories' computers was de facto achieved through on site
terminals. A tourist sponsored by a laboratory member would
generally receive some guidance and tutelage concerning
acceptable behavior, proper design techniques for hardware and
software, proper programming techniques, etc. The expectation on
the laboratories' part was that a large percentage would become
educated in the use of the advanced computing techniques
developed and used in our laboratories and thereby greatly
facilitate the technology transfer process. A second expectation
was that some percentage would become interested and expert
enough to contribute significantly to our research efforts.
Tourists in this latter group would at some point in time
graduate out of the tourist class and become laboratory members.
In actual fact a number of former and present staff members and
faculty earned their computational wings in just this fashion.
The proliferation of home computer terminals and computer
networks has changed materially the number of possible tourists,
and their means of access. Furthermore the impersonality of
telecommunication access has resulted in a perceived (if not an
actual) diminution of the benefits tourists provide. The
laboratories would like to take advantage of both the benefits of
computer communication and the benefits afforded by personal
contact between laboratory members and tourists. Realizing that
we cannot turn back the clock and that the interpersonal
relationship between sponsor and tourist will not likely be as
close as it was in an earlier time, we nevertheless wish to make
them closer than they are today. Therefore the laboratories are
at this time setting up a more formal tourist policy which is as
A "tourist" is a person who is so designated and
allowed to log in to an ITS machine on a restricted
basis. Tourists are expected to contribute to MIT's
sponsored research objectives. An "account" on an ITS
computer means a username (login name) and associated
password, which will allow a person to log in to the
Unfortunately, we must reserve the right to terminate
tourist accounts for any reason, although we hope this
will not be necessary. The most likely reason would
be if a tourist or tourists were to interfere with the
laboratories' research objectives, i.e. do not
interfere with other people who are using the system.
The ITS computers are not an infinite resource and we
must establish priorities for their use. Their
primary purpose is to support faculty, staff and
students in their endeavor to carry out MIT's
Sponsored Research. While tourists are expected to
contribute to MIT's research objectives, they are
unlikely to be in the mainstream of the on-going work
and should therefore consider their role and use of
the MIT ITS machine a privilege. A tourist should at
all times conduct himself or herself with this in
mind. The most important principle is that tourists
should not interfere in any way with a laboratory
member's use of the machine. This means that a
tourist should not do anything which annoys other
users, and also that he should not use the computer
resources when a laboratory member needs them.
Tourists are limited to "off hours" so as to minimize
interference with laboratory members' use of the
machine. This means, at present, that, on weekdays
between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 midnight Eastern time,
tourists should avoid connecting to an ITS machine
unless they have received prior permission to do so
from their advisor (see item 5 below). Remember that
just connecting to the machine uses resources even if
you do not log in.
If a machine is loaded, no matter what the hour or
day, tourists should not attempt to log in. What
constitutes "loaded" will vary from machine to
machine, but if a tourist receives a message from any
AI/LCS member or from the SYSTEM OVERSEER or GUNNER,
asking him or her to log out, he or she should log out
as quickly as possible (within a minute or two, which
should be enough for a clean-up of what he or she was
Each tourist will receive an account on an MIT ITS
machine, depending on his (or her) interests and the
load. The tourist should not connect to other ITS
machines without prior approval of his or her advisor.
If the machine on which he (or she) has an account is
down, he (like all local laboratory users of that
machine) will have to wait for it to be back up.
Tourists should not let others use their account.
Each tourist will be given an "advisor" who is an
AI/LCS member. The advisor will be the tourist's
contact with MIT, and in general is the person to whom
the tourist should direct questions or problems. If a
tourist runs into a problem, he or she can request
help using the :LUSER program, which informs certain
other users that he or she needs help.
The first time a tourist logs in he will get a
reminder to run the :INQUIRE program, so that he can
fill in his entry in the on-line register of ITS
users. A skeleton entry is made when a tourist
account is granted, but it is the tourist's
responsibility to finish filling it in. INQUIRE
entries stay around without any attention, but if the
information changes (for example, if a tourist moves),
then he or she should run :INQUIRE again to update the
The message at first log-in will also give the names
of on-line files containing additional policy
statements for responsible use of the system.
Tourists should read and follow them.
Every file on ITS lives on a "directory", and each
directory has a name. A tourist will be given space
in a directory to keep his or her files. This
directory will be used by many other tourists, so each
must use his or her login name as the first name of
each file he or she creates. We do not have much disk
space available, so please do not create very many
files or very large files. If you have an application
for a large amount of data, discuss it with your
The MIT ITS systems have no file protection, hence it
is incumbent on all users to exercise great care when
exploring the file system. A tourist should not
delete or modify the system files or files belonging
to other people.
Tourists should not disturb other users of the machine
while they are working, or engage in any activity
which interferes with other users of the machine or
with the operation of the machine. It requires no
great cleverness to find ways to crash the machine.
It is each user's responsibility to make sure that he
does not. Some lab members do not like to receive
unnecessary messages and consider them an annoyance.
To make sure you do not annoy any one, don't send a
message to another user unless he has expressed a
willingness to receive one.
Because mailing lists can affect the allocation of
disk space and processor time in ways that are
currently not well-understood, tourists should not
create or modify mailing lists unless given the ok to
do so by a lab member. Modifying mailing lists safely
is harder than it looks; an innocent-looking change
can cripple the mail system.
A tourist account does not imply that the tourist has
free access to the laboratory premises. If a tourist
wishes to visit the laboratory, he or she should
coordinate the visit with his or her advisor.
Any use of the MIT ITS machines for personal gain,
profit making enterprise, or political purposes is not
a legitimate use of the Laboratories' computer
These specific statements of policy give a minimum of
how a tourist ought to behave to be a responsible user
on the MIT ITS system. They are not a complete list
of all the ways tourists should or should not behave.
Just because some particular anti-social behavior is
not listed does not mean that it is acceptable. What
a tourist should do is cultivate a good attitude: make
a positive effort to anticipate and avoid actions that
would interfere with other users. If you cannot tell
whether a certain course of action can interfere with
any one, find out from someone else before trying it.
Unfortunately the ITS systems do not have complete on-
line documentation. The INFO system provides access
to most of the existing documentation. It will be
very useful for us if you suggest improvements, or
write additional documentation for poorly documented
parts of the system. However, please do not install
such documentation without first submitting it to your
advisor and getting his or her approval.