Rick Huber '70 (firstname.lastname@example.org):
Random Hall was first opened as an MIT dorm in 1968. It was supposed to be available at the start of the 1967/68 school year, but there were construction problems (I seem to remember some sort of strike that slowed things down) and it just wasn't finished. Those of us who had signed up to move to Random were "parked" elsewhere for the fall semester of 1967. Many of us shared apartments in Eastgate, which had just opened. Others were in a building on West Street. Unlike the later reopening which seems to have mostly freshman for residents, we had a fairly normal mix of people from the then-current classes. There was a lot of crowding in the existing dorms at the time, and many of us were quite willing to take space in a new dorm to keep from being doubled in rooms designed for one person in the current dorms. Also, the kitchens and living rooms on each floor were unique in the dorm system at the time.
Random actually opened at the beginning of the spring semester in 1968. The building was dedicated on February 29, 1968. We had our one-halfth birthday party on March 1, 1970. We planned to call it Random House, but the publishing company of that name threatened to sue so we settled for "Random Hall". The official sweatshirts had the definition of the word "random" taken (I believe) from the Random House dictionary. The first floor of 290 held Russian House.
Before MIT converted it to a dorm, the building had been a rooming house. In the past, it apparently had a few tenants who were destined to become famous. At the dedication party, Louis Smullin (then head of the EE department if I remember correctly) said that he had lived in the building while he was a student, and I believe he said Claude Shannon had lived there as well.