Considering MIT’s reputation, it should come as no surprise that computers are everywhere on campus. The large number of computer labs (commonly known as “clusters”) don’t even include the various “quick stations” (one or two computers primarily used for checking e-mail) set up all around campus. The network, known as Athena, was designed in the mid-1980s, long before network computing was commonplace. Today, students use public workstations to check e-mail, download music, finish papers, analyze data, and much more. Finding an available workstation is usually very easy, although you should avoid the main clusters the day before large computer science classes have projects due and around finals time. In fact, it’s always good to know where a few of the smaller clusters are in order to avoid crowds.
Although Athena has everything you could possibly want, you should bring your own computer, mainly for convenience. MIT students have strange hours and habits, so having your own computer allows you to do your work when and how you want. Most of main campus has a reliable wireless network, so it’s a good idea to consider buying a laptop. That way, you can work or surf the Web on campus, outside, or even during class. A laptop is also convenient for those students whose homes are far away, so not only can you take all your files with you when you go home for vacations, but you also don’t have to worry about hauling your monitor to storage. However, as with all valuables, just make sure you’re careful with your computer, as laptop theft does occur now and then.