Dr Who’s Tardis on roof of Birger Hall. Photos: courtesy hacks.mit.edu.

Fans of British cult science-fiction TV series Dr Who were in for a treat recently when the iconic TARDIS police box, through which the aforementioned doctor takes his time- and space-traveling journeys, made a brief appearance in Berkeley when on a surprising journey of its own.

The blue kiosk was photographed on the roof of Birge Hall on the UC Berkeley campus on January 29.

Berkeleyside’s on-campus spies climbed to the top of Sather Tower yesterday to try to see TARDIS, but reported that it has disappeared.

According to MIT’s online Hack Gallery, the illuminated TARDIS (which stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space) has popped up at MIT in Massachusetts and at CalTech in Pasadena. Fans and geeks alike should keep an eye on the Hack Gallery to find out where the famous box might turn up next.

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

Join the Conversation


  1. @Daniel M. re “But seeing so many hacks constantly in the same locations makes it seem like MIT purposefully turns a blind eye to these shenanigans.”

    Two part answer. First, yes, but not always:

    http://tech.mit.edu/V127/N66/hacking.html (an article where an attempted hack resulted in an arrest and felony charges that were later dropped)

    Second, they don’t have a lot of choice:

    I doubt things have changed since the generations before my time and since my time at a similar but different school: What you see on sites like the Hack Gallery, and all the repeated hacks at MIT — those are what I would call the underground “introductory” courses. The practice runs much deeper. The famous kinds of hacks that get done a lot serve, in part, to let people get a taste without getting too deep into it. For most, that is appropriately quite enough, thank you. The bottom line is that neither the schools or the police have the option of stopping the harder core parts of the material covered in the “upper level” courses. Which is rather a large part of the point. What the harder core parts do tend to have in common with stuff like MIT’s banner hacks and dome hacks: an honor code. The police may not be able to stop a bad actor “student” but, the more senior hackers often can (another part of the point).

  2. Thanks for illuminating us! Too bad we didn’t spot the Doctor as well, reportedly shooting in the U.S…..
    : )

  3. Not to be a stickler for detail, but TARDIS stands for “Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space.”
    Leaving out the word “Relative” breaks the acronym a bit.

    They could have definitely been a bit more subtle about the safety strapping. Thinner metal rope ties would have been just as strong and not been so prominent.

  4. Part of what makes it a good hack is the proudly prominent use of appropriate safety lines. “Do no harm.”

    @Rob, shoddy probably because “lightweight, portable, and disposable” are all likely functional requirements, unlike the BBC prop. It’s a roof / dome hack: Installation and removal are supposed to be by stealth and, ideally, petty crime such as lock-picking or theft (borrowing) of keys. Risk to public safety and property is supposed to be just about as close as you can get to “nil”. It looks decent enough from the expected viewing distance. Or, perhaps you’re right and perhaps this isn’t the Doctor at all, but rather the Master trying to pull one over on people.

    Hacks are a neat, well, hack. Isn’t it interesting that at all the big engineering schools there is a decades old tradition of underground teaching of stuff like lock picking, safe cracking, evading the police, con artistry, forgery, surveillance, petty theft, pickle electrification best practices, light explosives, heavy explosives, cheating at casinos, urban spelunking, drug dealing and use, applied elevator control system reprogramming, how to mentally overwhelm typical “rent a cop” security, and so forth? At MIT where this TARDIS hack started they also
    (quite a long time ago) had a local special offerings underground course in how to harass the CIA who had moved into Tech Square with a laughably flimsy cover. (The course ended when an embarrassed and arguably illegal stealth field office soon moved back out again.)

    I guess that last example helps to illustrate why engineering schools have an underground tradition of hacks: The best engineers are, ideally, not tools.

  5. It’s a pretty shoddy looking copy. I mean, OK, not bad if some frat boys made it one weekend while drinking some beers… but not entirely that great, either.