When I was an engineering student at MIT in the 1980s, a quarter century seemed like an eternity. College students focus on the here and now — a class, a grade, a night out — not on what they might be doing at 50. (Believe me: The idea of a regular Globe column was far from my mind at the time.)
To no surprise, the years that have passed since I graduated in 1986 feel shorter when glimpsed in a rearview mirror. But the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that has emerged in coverage of Aaron Swartz’s suicide is hard for me to recognize. The school, remembered by many alumni for its encouragement of the creative and unconventional, is said to have taken a hard line toward Swartz, an activist for digital freedom, who used the institute’s facilities to download millions of academic journal articles.