leroy-is-here 4 days ago

Is there a second part to this article? It felt like it ended only part-way through. What happened after being invited to the space? History I suppose.

Engaging writing in any case. So engaging that I thought there should be more lol.

  • ecliptik 4 days ago

    It's an excerpt from the book Space Rogue: https://books2read.com/spacerogue

    • leroy-is-here 4 days ago

      Thanks, I missed that somehow. I went back and checked the article and, sure enough, I just have banner-blindness. If it doesn't look like text in a <p> tag I just ignore it.

ilamont 4 days ago

I'm also a BU grad from that era. Loved reading this. Don't know the author, but I did know many of the places mentioned. Not sure where the loft was located, but it sounds like the area around Fort Point channel which used to be an artists colony (and also near the site of the infamous Channel nightclub) which is now one of the most expensive pieces of luxury real estate in Boston, the "Seaport" district.

One observation about 80s and '90s tech communities: it's fascinating how groups of people would coalesce around interests, schools, small businesses, or whatever.

In Taiwan, my landlord's eldest son eagerly showed me "Yamnet" which was a local BBS and hacker group he belonged to, I think through his college. I was listening to "How I Built This" podcast interview with one of the founders of Alienware, and his group in Miami was included a lot of second-generation Cuban Americans who got into 90s LAN games and building custom PCs. Even my hometown had a little group of teens who gravitated to the local indie computer store, "The Bit Bucket," to hack on TRS-80s, Commodore-64s, Apple IIe's and early PCs.

These communities seemed to be everywhere, even if they were largely invisible to most people.

  • mtalantikite a day ago

    > Don't know the author, but I did know many of the places mentioned.

    I was too young to be involved at this particular point in time, but my parents would bring me to that Au Bon Pain and The Garage as a kid in the late 80s/early 90s. I totally know that pizza spot the author mentioned. It's funny to think that not too long after, as a teenager in the late 90s, I'd be aware of those hacker handles, completely unaware that they had been gathering in those places too!

    When I finally was allowed to roam Cambridge by myself (late 90s) I remember I'd make my friends stop off at the newsstand in Harvard Square near The Garage to pick up copies of 2600. Really interesting to fill in a little of that history with landmarks I'm familiar with.

hereforphone 4 days ago

I'd like to post my perception since I was a 90s hacker.

Inclusivity is arbitrary here - no one in the scenes that I was familiar with were excluded because of race or sex - it's just that certain demographics weren't attracted to that 'scene'. Those like me, ADHD, awkward, and not extremely socially capable at the time, were however sometimes excluded. There were still the cool nerds and the lame nerds. I was pretty involved in the scene, being a staff writer of 2600 (several articles published under various handles, my name listed in the cover for a couple of years), and spending some time talking to "famous" people.

Later I grew up, spent 4 years in the military, then used money I earned to finally go to college, graduating eventually with an engineering Master's in my 30s. As I grew up I realized that the whole 90s / early 2000s hacker scene was mostly just a social clique. I learned that many people who were revered had marginal skills. I learned that the paranoia and self-aggrandizement ("The FBI totally monitors #2600 to learn our skills") was really just immaturity. The whole thing eventually seemed lame as I grew into an adult. I realized 2600 was really just a money machine and a manipulative scheme. Phrack went downhill quick, sadly (I also published there).

Still, this was a classic and wonderful time. Even I made friends - some that I talk to now, 20+ years later. I learned a lot. I got started on a tech path that took me very far and into regions of tech I'd never learn about otherwise like radio and telephone. I'm still a hacker, but legally. I don't miss the "scene" at all, but I do wish I was more included in it at the time. As this article illustrates it must have been great.

  • bink 4 days ago

    I generally agree, but some of those claims were true. It wasn't entirely immaturity. I was part of the group at the 2600 meeting near the Pentagon that got raided by Secret Service dressed up like mall security. They conducted some busts a few weeks later based on things illegally confiscated from that raid.



    • hacknewslogin 2 days ago

      Thanks for sharing these links! I just got to the part in "The best of 2600" that goes over this.

    • aYsY4dDQ2NrcNzA 4 days ago

      Strange that you should mention this of all things. I have a few questions about this particular bust at the mall.

      Could you please ping me at herbivore.dragster@dfgh.net? Much obliged.

  • sambull 4 days ago

    The FBI did monitor #2600 irc.. it wasn't to learn our skills. But they most definitely ran a bot logging it - they showed me irc logs, asked questions about specific other people I was hanging out with in the SF scene at the time and warned my dad I was in with the bad hacker crowd. This was after a Red hat 6.2 box I built was owned by some php vuln and the person I did it was taking credit cards via email on that same box. He basically pointed at me and said I must be in some l33t hax0r gang stealing his customer credit cards info.

  • aestetix 4 days ago

    It sounds to me like part of your growing up was realizing that the people you looked up to were human, and it shattered some illusions you had.

    In truth, pretty much every social "scene" has a small core of dedicated people surrounded by a much larger social clique. This becomes more and more true as it grows in size. There will always be the "talkers" who are good at communicating but have "marginal skills," but I'd argue everyone has different strengths. For example, there are some absolutely excellent hackers who are terrible writers, and other people who write quite well about hacking, but cannot hack themselves. We need both types.

    While quite a lot of the worry about government monitoring might actually be paranoia, I'll simply note that Snowden's relevations showed that a lot of the fears were justified. Perhaps there are tradeoffs in privacy that you are willing to make, which others refuse to make.

  • EvanAnderson 4 days ago

    I was on the periphery of the 90s "scene" and this rings true to me. One year at DefCon I ended up (somehow) tagging along w/ (some of?) the Cult of the Dead Cow crew and friends to a dinner. I had a decidedly "Wow, I'm sitting at the cool kids table..." kind of feeling.

    Age and location had a lot to do with it, too. I was in rural Ohio versus in Boston, Chicago, NYC, etc. I also did community college versus moving away. There were fewer opportunities for face-to-face hacker interactions when you might be the only person in your county into that kind of stuff.

    I still lean on my telephony knowledge from back then. It's amazing how much of it is still relevant even in the world of VoIP.

    • sokoloff 4 days ago

      dildog joined the same company I worked at for a short time and I met some of the cDc folks through that. It was a good continuation of my life education on “no matter how good you thought you were [with computers], someone is better.”

  • myself248 4 days ago

    > many people who were revered had marginal skills.

    Yeah, socially organizing and motivating people doesn't rank very high on technical achievement, but it's often the difference between groups you've heard of and groups you haven't.

    And guess who inspires more young people to go learn?

    • nikanj 4 days ago

      Nerds are upset social people do not respect technical skill, proceed to bash social skills

max182 4 days ago

Once I make my money I dream of opening a 90's esque hacker space like you see in movies like Hackers.

Dark warehouse, neon lighting, The Protegy playing in the background, a place where hackers can bring there machines, talk tech and rage. Coffee in the mornings, bar at night.

  • LeoPanthera 4 days ago

    That's funny, I've always wanted to open 90s-style Internet Cafe here in the bay area. Maybe not so much Prodigy, but now that my generation is all in their 40s and 50s, I figured it would be fun to combine really really good internet access with retrocomputing resources. I don't know if anyone's done that before. And I doubt it would be profitable. But I'd enjoy it.

    • almost_usual 4 days ago

      I’d totally go to this. I miss the 90s era Internet cafe.

  • buzzert 4 days ago

    Why hasn't this happened yet? Serious question. There are a LOT of Hackers fans here (as evidenced by the Hackers night at DNA Lounge), and a LOT of rich nerds. And the DNA Lounge is close, but it's still not Cyberdelia.

    • LeoPanthera 3 days ago

      Because Hackers fans are all in their 40s and 50s, and a location like that would live or die based on its ability to attract the young, which it would not.

      • buzzert 3 days ago

        Why wouldn't young people want to hang out at Cyberdelia?

        • LeoPanthera 3 days ago

          They can't afford it.

          • buzzert 2 days ago

            I don’t know, I get the feeling people did not have to pay to hang out at Cyberdelia.

  • dig1 4 days ago

    Jamie Zawinski [1][2] (Netscape/Mozilla/Emacs/XscreenSaver fame) is running something similar called DNA Lounge [3], and has a blog with all sorts of stuff [4], from automating things with perl to running a night club business.

    [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamie_Zawinski

    [2] https://www.jwz.org/hacks/

    [3] https://www.dnalounge.com/

    [4] https://www.dnalounge.com/backstage/log/

    • LeoPanthera 4 days ago

      DNA Lounge is a great nightclub, and it does have a Hackers-themed night most years, but I wouldn't call it "something similar". It's a nightclub. A very very cool nightclub - but a nightclub.

      (PS. If you click these, and your browser correctly forwards the refer(r)er URL, you will get a "funny" image, as jwz blocks links from HN.)

      • myvoiceismypass 3 days ago

        When I moved to the Bay Area a decade ago, I went to DNA just assuming that it was going to be that Hacker (movie)-esque space _all the time_. Like, I just pictured that in my head many many years ago and never bothered to actually correct it, until I got there.

        Delicious pizza @ DNA Lounge!

    • dboon 4 days ago

      Man, I love JWZ’s landing page for traffic from HN. He’s living the dream

      • EricE 2 days ago

        Love a lot of his content - find it a bit disturbing he's still pushing masks and the vaxx. Guess he's not paranoid enough yet.

        • jrnichols 2 days ago

          agreed. he has been and continues to be way over the top about it, continues citing fringe/extreme "sources" and still has "the pandemic is not over" as a headline. he's one that covid hysteria absolutely broke.

    • quickthrower2 3 days ago

      2022, and writing Wordpress plugins. Love it. Ignore all the hype and code what you need.

  • wkat4242 4 days ago

    You could do that but it takes a ton of space, and it's a pain in the ass to work in. Image finding the screwdriver you dropped in a pile of junk when the lighting is nightclub style.

    We used to sit in the dark sometimes in our old makerspace but it would really know work if everyone used a computer and nothing else. In makerspaces this is rarely the case.

8f2ab37a-ed6c 4 days ago

I miss the more genuine and naive world of 90s hacking, or even something as simple as local LAN parties with people dragging their giant CRTs with them to be in a sweaty room with a bunch of other early PC gamers. I suspect those worlds aren't making a comeback.

  • dasil003 4 days ago

    As a teenager at the time, there was a palpable feeling of being part of a counter-culture that was on the bleeding edge of an inevitable future which adults simply could not grok. That world definitely ain't coming back, in large part because global internet connectivity has rendered quaint the very notion of counter-culture.

    On the other hand, retro computing and nostalgia for the era has never been stronger or more accessible: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3NQQ7bPf6U

    • b800h 4 days ago

      I predict that your second sentence will be thoroughly disproven by the next generation, who will go offline en masse to find reality once AI makes the entire Internet inauthentic.

      • mindcrime 4 days ago

        who will go offline en masse to find reality once AI makes the entire Internet inauthentic.

        I've been thinking about this a bit lately, albeit from a slightly different angle. I think people will begin looking for a different "reality" due to the homogenization of everything due to AI. That is to say, it's not "inauthenticity" as such that I think people will react to, but lack of originality and creativity.

        I mean, when ChatGPT is writing all new books, screenplays, whitepapers, business plans, etc., etc., it seems to me that everything is going to collapse to one boring, homogeneous, "everything is the same as everything else" state. If my theory is right, the currency of the future might simply be "novelty" and human creativity.

        This is, of course, all based on the idea that (current) AI's are, as Emily Bender put it, "stochastic parrots"[1]. All they can really do is spew up a somewhat randomized pastiche of human reality circa 2021 or so. So far they don't really have any innate creativity as such. That said, I don't see any reason in principle to think that AI won't also eventually be able to be creative is the same sense that we are today. What happens then is a whole other question.

        [1]: https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3442188.3445922

        • wkat4242 4 days ago

          > I mean, when ChatGPT is writing all new books, screenplays, whitepapers, business plans, etc., etc., it seems to me that

          ChatGPT needs humans to learn from though. It's very good at combining human knowledge and existing ideas. That's totally its thing.

          Creative thought and new inventions? Not so much.

          > everything is going to collapse to one boring, homogeneous, "everything is the same as everything else" state.

          That's probably true. Like the circles you get in now when you try to Google something. Try to tweak your query and you keep getting the same shit back like it's the only few sites in the world. Really creepy, and probably the result of some overbearing algorithm or too many paid results.

          It reminds me of this ST:TNG episode where one character is In a collapsing bubble where everything keeps disappearing.

      • Jensson 4 days ago

        They wont be able to go back to their childhood programs because they wont exist any more, so nostalgia computing wont be a thing for them even if they wanted it.

        • NovaDudely 4 days ago

          Computer nostalgia is neat for a little while and emulation is making it easier than ever.

          As for the next generation - They won't go back to what we had but move forwards onto something completely different and new. Hopefully we will understand it, or just be the old folks yelling at clouds and children about how the world has changed!

          • RGamma 4 days ago

            *Big-eyed wide-mouth filter face pulls up, 10s of Top10 song in the background* Hey guys! *5 seconds of grimaces* Today we lick toilet seats and find out whether you can drink pee (doesn't actually do it). Please download Raid: Shadow Legends Infinite *10 cuts in 5 seconds* Please like and follow and leave a comment below if you would drink pee.

            50 million views, 100k advertising dollars.

        • b800h 4 days ago

          I'm thinking a bit more broadly than that. It'll be about real-flesh experiences, learning physical musical instruments and playing with others, experiencing real physical peril, a thorough rejection of transhumanist ideals; essentially a reiteration of the Romantic movement which led to things after the Industrial revolution like the Kibbo Kift: By their very nature, things which can't be ingested by an AI and monetised.

          Of course, after that you'll have a synthesis of the two ideas emerging. That's too many steps ahead for me to predict, but there are passages from Iain M. Banks' Culture books which might be on the money.

      • ragnot 4 days ago

        This is an insight I'm going to remember for a while.

    • RGamma 4 days ago

      You know, being part of any culture (and not just leftovers) would be nice these days...

    • hammyhavoc 4 days ago

      LAN parties aren't dead, but the people that used to attend them got older, had kids, and now will probably get judged by their spouse for going to one. Younger generations most definitely have LAN parties. Now that computers are once again becoming less popular and more appliances have taken their place (smartphones, game consoles etc), the people who are into PC gaming are becoming a more tight-knit and like-minded demographic.

  • joshvm 4 days ago

    LAN parties grew into eSports and once the internet took off, local network gaming became a bit redundant (outside couch play on consoles). Still a thing at nerdy conventions, too - with all the sweat. ETH Zürich still has the PolyLAN society which is alive and well [0]

    [0] https://polylan.ch

legerdemain 4 days ago

Meanwhile, here in South Bay, an activist board member (who is a senior lead at Tesla by day) just fired our longtime hacker space director with zero days notice because membership wasn't growing fast enough. Now our events are struggling and members are leaving because of this cavalier display of leadership.

It is almost impossible to find tech-adjacent countercultural spaces in the Bay that aren't fully co-opted by a self-devouring corporate mindset.

  • weld 4 days ago

    The L0pht had no leadership. Only partners that paid rent and utilities. You had to pay to cover your share of expenses but also contribute with sweat equity. We ended up kicking out a couple of people that ceased to contribute to the common good even if they paid.

    • ValentineC 4 days ago

      > We ended up kicking out a couple of people that ceased to contribute to the common good even if they paid.

      As a member of a hackerspace myself who's always wondering how to get rid of bad eggs: how does this "kicking out" process happen for the L0pht? Who gets to quantify their sweat equity and decide?

      • ta988 4 days ago

        Kicking people out can be tricky depending on the structure and bylaws of a given place. I've seen different kinds and you'll always have a part of your members that wilm think it is too much and others not enough. In the end what caused 99.9% of the issues I saw in the hackerspaces I've been part of wasn't the people kicked out arbitrarly or too lightly, it was that abusing people were allowed to stay for too long. The reasons were multiple. But in the end if you want to keep the culture alive you have to remove the elements that work against that culture. Or start/find a new place if the whole culture shifts with the majority of the members.

      • weld 3 days ago

        It was unanimous except for the person getting kicked out. The violations of rules or lack of effort was given ample warning to be corrected.

  • throwawaaarrgh 4 days ago

    Leave the bay area, or go find some artists with a warehouse and give them some cash to let you keep some machines there

  • goodpoint 4 days ago

    > It is almost impossible to find tech-adjacent countercultural spaces in the Bay that aren't fully co-opted by a self-devouring corporate mindset.

    HN being a prime example outside of SF.

    • legerdemain 4 days ago

      A news website run by a VC firm that is also a startup accelerator? "Countercultural"?

      • goodpoint 4 days ago

        Not at all, I'm saying that HN is coopting the word "hacker".

      • renewiltord 4 days ago

        Yeah, but the website community is decidedly anti-startup so that does make it countercultural in the local culture.

        • capableweb 4 days ago

          I've heard a lot of strange things on HN but this one absolutely ends up in top-ten. How in the world is HN anti-startup? Sure, there is some anti-startup sentiments in the comments usually, but there is also comments anti-anything in the comments. HN is very much a startup-centric place if anything.

  • medion 4 days ago

    Counterculture in general seems scarce, everything and everyone feels so hyper normal these days.

    • ljf 4 days ago

      There is heaps of counter culture both online and in the real world - even in my small English town. And so much of what was counter culture has been co-opted into general culture now too.

      I'd say things, ideas, opportunities and ways of being/thinking are even broader now than they were than when I was a teenager in the 90s.

    • ta988 4 days ago

      There is a ton of counterculture. You just need to stop looking for large and noisy groups that are taking most of the attention space. It is just that the hum of the crowd got louder. The signal is still there, it is just the noise that got stronger.

      • medion 4 days ago

        I'm not looking for counterculture, I'm quite happy doing my own thing in relative obscurity. I'm merely being nostalgic for when it used to be a lot more visible (physically). Punks, weirdos, hackers, oddballs, flâneur's, were in plain view - their associated shops and hangouts (record stores, counter culture book stores, etc), rowdy pubs, etc. Perhaps they're all just at home on computers now. Or gentrified/normalised. I don't know. Merely anecdotal.

      • legerdemain 4 days ago

        Modern counterculture (for the sake of argument, defined as non-commercial and deeply personal crap produced by marginal individuals) has shifted to mostly online and mostly to expressions that I'm not interested in: most particularly, furries. Furry software, furry art, furry music, furry meetups.

        • jrnichols 2 days ago

          maybe it's because I'm a bit older, but I noticed that too. also noticed that "counterculture" went extremely far off into covid-19 hysteria and has never come back. Seeing anime cons demanding proof of vaccination and strictly requiring masks in April 2023 is just bizarre to me.

    • icelancer 4 days ago

      There is a pretty strong reason for this; deviancy from the norm is punished heavily on social media. No one wants to be the main character when they have 300 followers and they're just posting their opinions.

      • anthk 4 days ago

        Mastodon, Gemini and the 2007-reborn Gopher.

        But yes, you are right. Back in late 90's/early 00's Linux and Unix desktop were trully different and unique. Fluxbox had zillions of different themes. 3D, black, retro, flat-ish, metal-ish, Java styled, Gnome styled, KDE-alike, Gaudi, childish, Bohemian, alien looking... every style was fine for anyone.

        Ditto witht the icons. One day I felt technical and I switched into the Slick theme being "workstation/highend" themed with a gray color scheme, and the next day I felt nice and cheerful and switched into Noia with a blue Keramik theme.

        Now everything looks bland, flat and everyone looks afraid on having an style.

        • dilznoofus 2 days ago

          It's pretty annoying that Gnome themeing tools, rather than developing and becoming better/more cohesive, were made totally irrelevant

          I can't quite understand how "Linux GUI, make it look how you want! Personalized OS!" became "Linux - this one unchangably bland tablet UI on your desktop!"

          I know that other WM/DM exist, but Gnome is incredibly popular, often the default, and was so close to being what people saw as the ideal Desktop.

          • anthk a day ago

            Not just tablets. Every single theme now in /r/unixporn at Rddit looks the same. Either i3, i3-gaps, some catpucchino/nord theme and Gnome/KDE cloning Mac. And, yes, we even tried to clone OSX even from Fluxbox and FVWM, but we had a bunch of several other themes.

    • RugnirViking 4 days ago

      social media, especially but not limited to social media revenue models for content creators, demand regression to the norm. When every interesting idea for a video/song/blogpost gets literal orders of magnitude less views, when a clickbaity video with only the most surface-level engagement with whatever "topic" is your usual fare gets far and away the biggest numbers you've ever gotten, its no surprise there is less counter culture.

      Take a look at for example the youtube creator dashboard for an established creator, how it directly compares your videos against each other, trying and pushing you to get more numbers, entirely uncaring for anything other than eyeballs.

  • rolph 4 days ago
    • sacnoradhq 4 days ago

      Old and outdated lists.

      The best thing to do is find some cool rich peeps, go in on a small commercial/industrial space to make it sort of like a college dorm, and keep the membership invite-only and tiny.

      • weld 4 days ago

        My space in Cambridge is not on the list. It’s hastypastry.net. Been there for 20 years. It’s private so no need to advertise. I think it’s good to be on these lists so people know hacker spaces exist

      • rolph 4 days ago

        yes old and outdated, but breadcrumbs... finding the trail and the desired endpoint is often an effective filter for prestige accounts [hey, im on 31l337h4X0r space] that dont have the properties of "adept hacker"

        900913 maps is probably anathema to some thus they dont show up.

        its best to look thru a span of search engines with different DNS providers, you can dive deeper past the search bubbles

    • legerdemain 4 days ago

      The closest one to me on the map is something called "the fifth space," but I can't find any online presence at all for it (it shares a name with an interfaith org in India, which is what most results are for).

      The consortium lists spaces in SF, Oakland, and father out. This could be a major motivator to move to SF.

      • rolph 4 days ago

        not all of these are considered active, some may have gone gray in presence, but still exist in some form.

        • legerdemain 4 days ago

          I appreciate your well-intentioned effort to help. Thank you.

  • dannyobrien 4 days ago

    you may wish to visit Noisebridge someday

    • legerdemain 4 days ago

      I'd need to move from South Bay to SF first to make repeated visits worthwhile. Over an hour each way is... yeah.

      • dannyobrien 4 days ago

        well, not loading this on you, but many Bay Area hackerspaces started after people spent time at noisebridge or another related space, and then realised they could work with others to build one somewhere nearer to them physically or ideologically: Ace Monster Toys (now Ace Hackerspace), Queerious Labs, Double Union, Sudo Room, Mothership Hackermoms. It's not hard if you find likeminded people, and the best place to look is just dropping by casually to a hackerspace not-so-near you..

        • legerdemain 4 days ago

          Not a criticism of your response, but you'll notice that every space you mentioned is either in SF or in Oakland. I have been looking for and trying to build community in South Bay for almost a decade now. The conclusion I've come to is that the people who might populate a healthy hacker space don't live here in sufficient numbers, and the people who do live here have very different interests, goals, and community needs.

          I've obviously been to Noisebridge. It didn't become a part of my life because it is at least an hour drive away, and often much longer during the times of day when I can reasonably go there.

          • dannyobrien 3 days ago

            fair enough: I've lived in the South Bay too, and it's certainly hard to pull such community projects together. I meant to add Biocurious, which is in Santa Clara, but I don't know what it's like these days (I assumed from your description that the space you were initially describing was HackerDojo, but I'm a bit out of the hackerspace drama grapevine these days, so maybe it's Biocurious?)

            Are you far from San Jose? I can see a way to get there from there, as it were. Redwood City has some of the right dynamics; I can also imagine something adjacent to the Computer History Museum. Again, not belittling your efforts over a decade (and I realise this sounds a bit like those drive-by health comments that say something like "have you tried taking vitamins?"), but I have some experience in this myself, and you've got me vaguely problem-solving around it now.

            • legerdemain 2 days ago

              I appreciate the response! (As an aside, there's also Maker Nexus in Sunnyvale.) I didn't mean to aggrandize my efforts, which have been largely personal: trying to organize groups and projects on topics that I care about. I have not been running a failing hacker space for a decade!

              I've mostly been active around Palo Alto and Mountain View, which is ultimately my biggest mistake. The long and the short of it is, people from the larger companies generally don't seem interested in "extracurricular" activity, and students at local colleges don't stick around in the area. The most enthusiastic hackers here are growth hackers, which I am not and don't care for. I also get a lot of individuals who feel like they're washing out of their profession, but that's not the same mindset as tech enthusiasm.

              I agree that fishing in San Jose proper is likely to turn out more students, recent grads, and other kinds of people who are more about exploring and trying things.

  • ornornor 4 days ago

    Who is sick enough to put KPIs on a for fun hobby?

  • kurthr 4 days ago

    Come on you're just holding it wrong, Zero to One is the most important thing! One to zero is next.

    Really, how did he become a board member? Donated money or self-important resume? The rest of the board let him do it so it's a bigger problem than just him. Get the email list of membership and start a real space... there's lots of empty office space now so you might be able to get a donation since they get to write it off at old pricing, but it's a huge amount of work for very little return (unless you like running these sorts of things).

    Sorry for your situation.

    • legerdemain 4 days ago

      Yeah, I'm not incorporating and ponying up $30k to get an office lease. There's commitment, and then there's commitment.

      Our hacker space has had tons of leadership drama over the years, from misuse of funds to a co-founder trying to get a trademark on our name to do a hostile takeover.

      Basically, if your hacker space exists because some tech people made big money in company stocks and decided to buy a personal playground, you're constantly subject to their whims and caprices.

  • thrown123098 4 days ago

    So start one that's completely toxic to the current mainstream culture. People forget just how unpopular tech was in the 90s/00s. Or that counter cultures are always reviled by the majority.

    • myself248 4 days ago

      This was something that blew my mind when I visited out there. Visited every space I could, and the startup/commercial culture was just incredibly pervasive. Couldn't talk about a cool idea for more than a minute or two without some tech bro trying to monetize it.

      Maybe that's someone's jam, but I just wanted to hang out with some nerds that reminded me of back home. Everywhere else I've traveled, I could visit the local hackerspace and get my fix, but the bay area was..... different.

      • weld 4 days ago

        In the 90s the L0pht was not commercial and was funded as a hobby. Nearing 2000 we wanted to make it our day job and not a hobby and transition from to jobs we all had working for someone else. It was the beginning of my journey to entrepreneurship but this transition was very rocky. Manu didn’t survive. It was a huge learning experience documented in Space Rogue’s book.

      • escapecharacter 4 days ago

        Part of why I moved out of the Bay Area and to NYC!

        I'm not anti-monetization by any means, but so often I'd end up in conversations that the other partner wanted to be a startup pitch, and I wanted to just talk about something cool. There's so much premature optimization of monetization out there.

        • lasermatts 3 days ago

          +1 for the New York tech scene. I spent a few months going to Meetup events around Manhattan and Brooklyn and the people were so friendly and full of ideas. Really great environment.

      • thrown123098 4 days ago


        • gtirloni 4 days ago

          That's a false dichotomy. You don't need be sexist, racist, transphobic or smell bad to be interesting.

          • Jensson 4 days ago

            Depends on how strict your definitions for those things are. The kind of person who works hard to not be sexist, racist, transphobic or smell bad is often very boring. A person who cares less about those things will have more interesting things to say and opinions, and about the smell thing a person who doesn't dare to smell differently will constraint their hobbies and activities.

            For example, you have probably heard people say they don't want to do X since it would make them sweat. That makes them more boring than a person who would just do it without caring that they might smell a bit afterwards.

            • atleastoptimal 4 days ago

              > The kind of person who works hard to not be sexist, racist, transphobic or smell bad is often very boring

              Most smart people don't need to "work hard" to not be any of those, it's a bare minimum and takes barely any effort.

              To think that avoiding smelling bad or being racist is some sort of mental drain that leads to people becoming boring is a silly notion. It romanticizes a kneejerk contrarian misanthropy that's just as boring.

              • Jensson 4 days ago

                > Most smart people don't need to "work hard" to not be any of those, it's a bare minimum and takes barely any effort.

                That was exactly my point, those things doesn't take any effort. But if you put in a lot of effort to get as far away from those things as possible then you will be boring. And such people will often accuse others of being racist or sexist even when they weren't, thus forcing the entire environment to become boring.

                If I didn't agree with your here I wouldn't say "depends on how strict". But of course you here is too strict, since me even talking about that made you judge me. Thankfully this website is pretty open and not very strict, so interesting opinions are allowed here, while you seem to want to shut down interesting discussions even when they aren't racist or sexist.

                > It romanticizes a kneejerk contrarian misanthropy that's just as boring.

                How is diversity ever more boring than monoculture? I support diversity and therefore I am against monoculture. The important part here is to not judge people. Traditional internet forums were full of feminists etc as well, they weren't mono culture, it was very rich.

                • atleastoptimal 4 days ago

                  > you seem to want to shut down interesting discussions even when they aren't racist or sexist

                  I'm not shutting down the discussion, I'm adding to the discussion by offering my opinion. You're adopting a persecution complex when there isn't one to the extent you're implying.

                  I do agree there are the normal people who are honest about their biases but generally try to treat people fairly, and the "hyper-PC" people who make it a game of being the most "on the right side of history" to the extent that it becomes all they care about. I know those people and they are just as annoying and vitriolic as those who are openly sexist. However my point is generally that isn't not a simple "both sides" issue. The golden mean isn't a medium amount of sexism and transphobia, it's a neutral yet accepting attitude, which by default isn't anything phobic, thus leans more towards not being either than being either.

                  • Jensson 4 days ago

                    > I'm not shutting down the discussion, I'm adding to the discussion by offering my opinion. You're adopting a persecution complex when there isn't one to the extent you're implying.

                    I guess you just didn't read what I wrote, that is fair, I make such mistakes all the time. If you read it you would notice that the thing I said is basically exactly what you said here, and since you disagreed with that it makes sense that I thought you wanted to shut down interesting conversations.

                    The anti-"isms" have a large mottle and bailey problem, so when people say they don't want you to ban racists or sexists they mean that they don't want to force everyone to tiptoe around sex or gender, it doesn't mean that they are fine with racism or sexism.

                    I think the level of racism and sexism on HN is roughly optimal. It isn't enough to drive people away, but discussions are still allowed. Too much and you create a racist/sexist monoculture.

                    • tptacek 4 days ago

                      You will be flagged dead, rightly, and eventually banned from the site if you engage in racist and misogynist tropes on HN. The community here isn't tolerant of it in any meaningful titration. What little of it survives here is couched, hedged, and obscured to the point of plausible deniability. If you like HN's culture, as I do, you like a culture that rigorously pushes this form of "interesting" thought out.

                      • Jensson 4 days ago

                        Nothing you said there disagrees with anything I've said though. HN is much more accepting of sexism and racism than most parts of reddit for example, and that makes HN much more interesting. I don't think that HN would become better if we moved more towards reddit style mono culture.

                        For example, I would have gotten banned from most subreddits for what I said here.

                        • atleastoptimal 4 days ago

                          > sexism and racism than most parts of reddit for example, and that makes HN much more interesting

                          My point, in my first post in this thread, was with this point, which is what I identified as what you were implying in your first post. You have a mentality that accepting racism/sexism is what causes HN to be interesting, or at least more interesting than Reddit. Your general mental frame seems to be "Reddit is always tip toeing about racism and offending people, which neuters how interesting/dynamic their discussions are, while HN explores the full range of thought and doesn't trivialize itself with those matters"

                          You are claiming that accepting racism/sexism causes things to be more interesting, but I'd wager it's a symptom of the general difference in culture, not a cause.

                          It's still possible to have a very interesting culture of discussion without racism or sexism, it just slightly narrows the scope of discussing not what is racist/sexist, but what simply appears racist or sexist. At what point, however, would discussing the history of development in nuclear physics, or compiler libraries, or any technical topic, be more interesting if racism/sexism were tolerated vs not tolerated?

                          I think the few cases where things which may be considered racist/sexist being tolerated making the site more interesting are cases where HN discusses caste discrimination, or the causes of the discrepant gender ratios in the tech world, or certain aspects of human behavior. But even so, what makes those discussions interesting isn't the subset of the discussions that may be sexist or racist, but rather the general analytical and investigative culture this forum has borne out of the more libertarian edge of 2000s silicon valley and internet culture.

                          My gripe is that a lot of people think that the capacity to tolerate sexism/racism is an inherent strength, an inability to be phased by the squeamishness and hall-monitoring style policing that affects most people, when in reality it's just their ability to justify their normal human biases with their intellect.

                          • calderknight 3 days ago

                            Traditional "hacker" culture is anti-authoritarian. Freedom of speech is an aspect of that. And therefore the acceptance of the expression of racist, sexist, and transphobic ideas is too. It's not that "accepting racism/sexism" is a symptom or a cause of the general difference in culture. It just is the culture. A logically necessary aspect of the culture. Remove it, and you've lost the culture.

                            And it generalises to intellectual culture as a whole. If you have a culture of loving knowledge, you simply can't have a ban on discussion of these vast swathes of serious theories about the world. The two can't go together.

                            • tptacek 2 days ago

                              None of this is true; it's just something that people who enjoy racist and misogynist jokes say to rationalize the behavior.

                              • calderknight 2 days ago

                                My point is that freedom of speech is crucial to a great intellectual environment, and that you can't have freedom of speech and ban the discussion of vast swathes of theories about the world.

                                You claim that this is just something that people who enjoy racist and misogynistic jokes say. That is absurd. Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, John Stuart Mill, etc. - are these people all just racists and misogynists?

                • PhasmaFelis 4 days ago

                  > you seem to want to shut down interesting discussions even when they aren't racist or sexist.

                  No one has tried to "shut you down." They're just disagreeing with you. Isn't that what you wanted? A vigorous, diverse dialogue? You can't praise diversity of opinions and then claim oppression when someone's opinion diverges from yours.

                  • Jensson 4 days ago

                    I assumed he argued that we should shut down such conversations. I am perfectly fine with people disagreeing with me, otherwise I wouldn't post these things. In fact, the whole reason I post these things here is that I know people will disagree with them, I don't post in monoculture forums.

                    • PhasmaFelis 4 days ago

                      > I assumed he argued that we should shut down such conversations.

                      Perhaps you shouldn't assume things that were never said.

                      • Jensson 4 days ago

                        Well, he said that the strictest versions of anti-sexism and anti-racism are very easy to adhere to and should be enforced more or less. Because that was what he argued against. However later it turned out that he didn't really read my post, meaning that he really agreed with me from the start.

                        So yeah, although he never said it he strongly implied it. And then we resolved the differences later. Anyway, the whole point is that people go extremely hard on you, so they misread what you say and take it you are racist or sexist etc for basically nothing, that is why these things results in so boring communities. And his post is an example of such a missunderstanding, in a less accepting community I would have been banned there and never be coming back.

              • t2hrow 3 days ago

                Taking a shower is easy, but performing mental gymnastics 24/7 not to be have a sexist or antisemitic thought would drain my energy.

                • bigbillheck 3 days ago

                  Why do you think you have so many sexist and antisemitic thoughts in the first place?

            • asveikau 4 days ago

              > The kind of person who works hard to not be sexist, racist, transphobic or smell bad

              Agree with the sibling comment to say this isn't hard work. Generally speaking you're saying basic requirements to be a functioning human in society, which also involves a certain amount of emapthy.

              > is often very boring.

              I don't understand the correlation here. There are plenty of sexist, racist, smelly transphobes who are also boring.

              • Jensson 4 days ago

                > Agree with the sibling comment to say this isn't hard work.

                Read my first sentence: "Depends on how strict your definitions for those things are."

                Or do you think that the strictest versions of anti-racism and anti-sexism are easy to adhere to? If not you agree with me.

                • cafeinux 4 days ago

                  Maybe a more appropriate term would have been "pedantic" instead of strict, to avoid the miscommunication? I think I understand what you mean. I am nor racist nor transphobic nor <insert-minority>-phobic (at least I hope so), yet I think that the debate about, for example, biologically male people in female sport competitions ought to be (whatever my opinion on the matter might be) and that alone could flag me as transphobic to some people. But I'm not sure they are more "strict anti-transphobe", I just think they are more pedantic, that's all.

                  Anyway, in the end of the day it was clearly a miscommunication, not necessarily a divergence of opinion. Words are hard.

            • sprkwd 4 days ago

              > The kind of person who works hard to not be sexist, racist, transphobic or smell bad is often very boring.

              Yeah. That’s a weird hill to die on.

              • Jensson 4 days ago

                Do you agree with "racism and sexism are bad for all definitions of racism and sexism"? I disagree with that statement, I don't think it is wrong to disagree with that. But lots of people agree with it, and then define racism and sexism to be whatever they don't like and you get a boring monoculture.

                That is why I hedged my comment with that it depends on how strict you are. Depending on how you define racism and sexism all of those things will change. So blanked statements that we need to ban them without properly defining exactly what we are banning is really bad, but that is what happens almost everywhere in discussions.

                • throwaway173738 3 days ago

                  I think you’re painting a lot of people with a really broad brush and you should cite some specific examples of category. What, exactly, is an example of racism and sexism that shouldn’t be banned? Why?

          • thrown123098 4 days ago

            Then why are all the most anti-ist people dull as dishwater and working in hr? If you have no opinions that mainstream culture finds repulsive then you're not done much thinking.

            There's even a pg essay about it: http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html

            • alexvoda 4 days ago

              Or maybe you can have opinions that mainstream culture finds repulsive without being "sexist, or racist, or transphobic, or smell bad".

              Just because the US media landscape has split the people into 2 camps engaged in culture war does not mean that most people neatly fit into one of those categories. Many are a combination of both categories, with opinions on one subject matching one camp and another subject matching the other camp. With your comment you are merely repeating stereotypes we already know are just that and therefore inaccurate.

              All humans are flawed and we should not use positive traits to justify or excuse negative traits. There is no net total of a persons personality.

              Why do you engage in trying to associate the traits you listed with being interesting and their absence with dullness?

              • calderknight 4 days ago

                I don't see any of those as negative traits.

                Beliefs that are labelled as racism, transphobia, and sexism are often sensible beliefs. Combined with smelling bad, they imply to me in a person a prioritisation of sincere intellectual pursuit over popularity and financial success/social success more generally.

                Pretty much every interesting person has at least one proscribed but sensible belief. Sure, it doesn't have to be one of those listed, but it will be socially indistinguishable from them. If you don't allow the expression of such beliefs you lose every interesting person who is in the habbit of speaking his mind.

    • wkat4242 4 days ago

      I see a lot of similarities with VR actually. A lot of people tell me the tech is in no way there, nobody wants it and it'll never find a purpose.

      I always compare this with the grumps back in the day who thought computers were worthless. And all have a smartphone in their pocket now of course.

      We could see where it was going, and as well as that the journey there was just a ton of fun. Tech doesn't have to be perfect to be worth the time.

    • nikanj 4 days ago

      Rent for a suitable space is one umptillion bucks per month. You need to be corporate-friendly to score a sponsor for the rent

  • sacnoradhq 4 days ago

    Hahah. Yep. Is that Hacker Dojo or some shitty place like that?

    Corporate, BMW SUV-driving assholes who think of themselves as "liberals" but are ready to turn on anyone for any reason and excommunicate them without the possibility of fair treatment.

    • electrondood 4 days ago

      You clearly never spent any time at Hacker Dojo.

adam_gyroscope 4 days ago

I had accounts on ATDT East & The Works, and ran a Wafflenet BBS on the south shore of Massachusetts. I was .. 14? 15? And would travel up to the 2600 meetings as often as I could convince my parents to drive me to the T stop. One memorable night I was invited to go to the l0pht and go trashing afterwards. It was awesome, I got a copy of the Nynex dental plan which I gave to someone on The Works who asked for it. No idea why they wanted it. I also met Lemon (later Lady Ada) at the 2600 meetings. I had no idea at the time how big a deal l0pht was, I was just happy older kids tolerated me.

oldstrangers 4 days ago

My entire identity growing up was L0pht, cDc, 2600 magazine, defcon, etc.

Even the "original" Hacker News was ran by a guy from L0pht.

Fond nostalgia for that era.

flatiron 4 days ago

I remember getting local admin on my high schools nt3.5 box with l0phtcrack just to setup a http proxy so I can read wwf.com at the library. Fun times.

sacnoradhq 4 days ago

This is a hilarious revisionist history labeling a "hackerspace".

That Wikipedia also calls w00w00 a "think tank" when it was a social forum for teenage / college students is laughable too.

narrator 4 days ago

I was around in the early 90s on BBSs. One of the things that amuses me about people asking AI how to do bad stuff and all the handwringing about AI safety is that one of the popular things that was available for download on some of the less reputable forums in the early 90s were various "text files" that would give instructions for doing various illegal or morally dubious things.

There were hundreds of these and it was a practical thing to share back when 1 megabyte took an hour to download. One that cracked up to no end that I still remember vaguely was "How to be a gigolo.". Apparently, you have to move to South Florida and wear a sport coat. I don't remember anything else from it except it was hilariously written. Good times.

Also, since BBSes required a lot of technical knowhow to get into, it was this back channel for all the extreme teenage geeks in the local calling area. It was this phenomenally fun secret club that I met some exceptionally weird people through, but also lifelong friends. There were some great magazines of the time like Mondo 2000, and the ethos was real techno-libertarianism, information wants to be free, and all that fun stuff. Everyone was coming off the high of the Soviet Union falling apart and believed that now human liberty would flourish everywhere.

  • bink 4 days ago

    Shout out to Jason Scott and textfiles.com


    • RGamma 4 days ago

      This feels appropiately oldschool, thx

    • totetsu 4 days ago


      • zozbot234 4 days ago

        Hindsight is always 20/20. What matters is that we live in a much freer and more open world today than in the 1980s and information of all kinds is vastly more accessible, often available for free. So these early predictions have basically proven quite accurate.

        • wkat4242 4 days ago

          I don't know about that. In many ways the 80s felt a lot more free. Sexual morals were much more open, there was much less government- and corporate espionage on citizens. I liked society a lot more back then.

          Edit: Speaking about the Netherlands specifically. As I only left the country for the first time much later so I didn't have experience with other countries. Things were still pretty good in the 90s but after 2000 it feels like it got a lot more conservative.

          I can remember a few mainstream movies from the 80s like Flodder and Turks Fruit which would be classed as porn today.

          People also have become a lot more materialistic.

          Everything feels so "rubber tile" these days. Maybe this is because things are much more easily controlled and moderated online, I don't know.

          And of course the 80s still had since influence from the hippie era, which happened later there than in the US (pretty much everything happened later :P )

          • kQq9oHeAz6wLLS 4 days ago

            I disagree about sexual morals. We live in a time where everything that was kept locked away from "polite society" in the 80s is now celebrated and held up as morally correct and right. The only people deemed depraved today are those who adhere to a more traditional view, and that was absolutely not the way things were in the 80s.

            • wkat4242 4 days ago

              I suppose I was never really part of 'polite society', being from Amsterdam in the 80s.

              I assume you refer to things like homosexuality which were already totally normal there back then. Transsexualism was a bit less common back then but I imagine this was also because the medical tech wasn't at the required level yet to really make a transition possible.

              But I wasn't really talking about those things. More about sexuality in general being a taboo in the media and popular culture.

              • itsinertia 3 days ago

                “Transsexualism was a bit less common back then but I imagine this was also because the medical tech wasn't at the required level yet to really make a transition possible.”

                Transsexualism/trangenderism was indeed a bit less common then (or at least more hidden from the public sphere), but that wasn’t so much due to surgical tech. Gender affirming surgery in the form of vaginoplasty was performed as early as 1922. Gender affirming hormone replacement therapy and other procedures also date back decades.

                Of course, the availability of these procedures have increased over time, but I don’t think the technology has been the primary barrier to trans people’s public existence. The trans movement’s progress has had far more to do with advocacy and activism increasing cultural tolerance. And also creating a broader cultural awareness, which in turn allows even more closeted/questioning trans people to put a name to their experiences, and learn about the possibilities available to them.

                For perhaps the vast majority of time prior to the mid twentieth century, most trans people had no trans role models, and often no awareness that other trans people even existed, much less that medical procedures were available to help them. That’s all, mostly, thanks to the many trans people who fought (and died) for things to improve.

                Surgical tech advancements have definitely helped, but they aren’t as central to the growing numbers of trans people coming out. Our social, legal, and political changes have been hard won, and we are constantly fighting to preserve them—see Michael Knowles recent call to “eradicate transgenderism” to a crowd of applause at CPAC: https://www.rollingstone.com/t/michael-knowles/

                Surgical tech does us little to no good if our public existence is outlawed and violently suppressed.

              • ladzoppelin 4 days ago

                Wow I have never thought about the technical aspect of the current Transsexualism movent before but it makes sense. Interesting.

          • ElfinTrousers 3 days ago

            > I don't know about that. In many ways the 80s felt a lot more free. Sexual morals were much more open

            ...unless you were gay. I'm old enough to remember how casually homophobic 80s society was. (At least in the USA).

            • Clubber 3 days ago

              Yes, I remember gay people getting beaten to death just because they were gay. There was a lot more crime too, the peak being in the early 1990s. Now it's not so much criminals we have to worry about (we still do), but out of control cops and government.

          • dghughes 4 days ago

            Yahoo video chat in the late 1990s was pretty wild for sexual openness.

            • wkat4242 4 days ago

              True the 90s weren't bad either. It was only then when things started changing.

      • bsuvc 4 days ago

        To which specific type of human are you referring?

      • DANmode 4 days ago


      • seneca 4 days ago

        What an absolutely bizarre way to interpret them. It shows that the internet was accessible to a very small segment of the world

        • aww_dang 4 days ago

          Is it bizarre? It seems like the new norm. Everything is filtered through this lens, no matter how inane.

  • mytailorisrich 4 days ago

    I got onto the internet in the second half of the 90s and as a rebellious teenager I, of course, started by downloading the various 'cookbooks' (anarchist, phreaking, etc) that were very easy to find through Alta Vista just to play cool and boast to my friends.

    I would not ask Google about those stuff today and I would certainly not dare downloading them for fear of triggering so many alerts and red flags. Today it would probably be possible to be jailed (in the UK) just for having this material on your computer.

    • 0xGod 4 days ago

      Why is the UK full of so many weak nannies and wannabe tyrants that your state can tell you what you can and cannot read over there?

      • pjc50 3 days ago

        The US response to terrorism was directed overseas, while the UK one has for a longer time been directed at "enemies within". The UK press is entirely behind all these restrictions, sadly.

      • InCityDreams 3 days ago

        Pretty sure if you download the anarchists cookbook i the usa, it'll probably get flagged.

        • crimsoneer 3 days ago

          why would anybody do that? To flag every nerdy 15 year old? What would you possible achieve?

          • jstarfish 2 days ago


            It puts them on your radar, so when you're later investigating a pipe-bomb mailing spree and come across them again, you know better than to believe the "he would never / but he's such a good boy" you always hear from the parents.

      • nonethewiser 4 days ago

        The baffling thing is how it’s defended.

        • 0xGod 4 days ago

          The ones who defend it are the ones who believe they would benefit from remaining in control once systems of enslavement and thought control are built and deployed.

    • holoduke 4 days ago

      Really? Is it that bad? You cannot google what you like. I ask obscene questions all time. Just out of interest. Whats wrong with that?

      • mytailorisrich 4 days ago

        At least in the UK I believe that your search history over the last 12 months is accessible by the police. So if for whatever reason you become under investigation it is sensible to ask yourself what the police would think about what you searched...

      • crimsoneer 3 days ago

        No, it isn't. You can ask google whatever you want, and no "red flags" are being raised, this isn't the Bourne Identity. Police barely have capacity to arrest criminals these days, nobody is checking if you download the anarchist cookook ffs.

        If you get arrested for child porn, will police get your google search history and check you haven't googled bad things? Sure.

        • Nextgrid 2 days ago

          > Police barely have capacity to arrest criminals these days,

          Unless you piss off the wrong people that is. Selective enforcement is very much a thing.

    • Cthulhu_ 4 days ago

      One Rumour I heard is that the ones about making bombs was actually written and published by the CIA and intentionally wrong.

      • mytailorisrich 4 days ago

        Well, I was sensible enough not to try so I cannot say!

      • nonethewiser 4 days ago

        I always assumed it wasn’t that hard to figure out how to make a bomb. That’s not to say it would necessarily be efficient or easy.

      • ganoushoreilly 4 days ago

        Given they did this with terrorist literature, it wouldn't be surprising.

    • nonethewiser 4 days ago

      As I recall the anarchist cookbooks aren’t that bad. Stuff like how to make napalm (gasoline and styrofoam as I recall).

      • jstarfish 4 days ago

        As I recall, there were quite a few about how to mix poisons and improvise explosives.

        Arguably "tame" but not something you want to be associated with today.

      • jon-wood 3 days ago

        Also that recipe for napalm didn’t actually work.

        Or so I’ve heard from, ahem, some people during the early 00s.

  • samstave 4 days ago

    >>"Also, since BBSes required a lot of technical knowhow to get into"

    HA!!! I ran a BBS Warez Site out of my North Tahoe High School CAD lab on an everex step cube on a 9600 baud modem in 1991

    I was 14.

    I was grounded for a MONTH for calling long distance into a BBS in San Jose CA in order to play "The Pit" and "Trade wars" and the phone bill was $926 and I failed to buy all the wheat in the galaxy and accidentally SOLD all my wheat failing to corner the market, but flooding it...

    Yeah, that was on a 286 with an amber monitor that I convinced my dad he needed a computer for his business... and then a 2400 baud modem was important... so I could play Populous with a friend over modem.

    • mackraken 3 days ago

      Similar experience here. “Trade Wars” was amazing for the time and place. I’ve often wondered what happened to it and why someone hasn’t ported it (has it been?!)

  • thrwawy74 4 days ago

    1) I'm against restricting things behind technical know-how to select for "the right group of people" on principle. I'm not talking about then, but now.

    2) I wonder if this magical period was only possible because it was reachable by a few, and this knowledge was not largely abused because of the entry fee.

    3) AI is lowering the barrier to entry. The great equalizer, to see what we do with valuable insight ~ Politicians should fear computers more than disgruntled citizens.

    4) I hope we don't see export laws changed to cover AI models like encryption was.

    • raverbashing 4 days ago

      I kinda agree but technical know-how is probably one of the more "honest" ways of self-limiting something if only because freeloaders usually don't have the patience for anything too complicated

      And punishment for abuse is mostly non-existent

    • nonethewiser 4 days ago

      I think people don’t build bombs because they don’t want to. Not because they don’t know how.

  • bane 3 days ago

    I remember those days fondly as well. Compounded with growing up in a fairly rural area, the BBS world was an escape and exposure to people and ideas that would have never been considered where I grew up.

    There was also this feeling at the time that I'm finding hard to express or even really understand. There was of course the corporate tech world, exemplified very nicely by various magazines and shows like Computer Chronicles. But there was this other world of real techno-culture that seemed to be growing and compounding on itself. There was literature like the Cyberpunk genre, music like early techno and what we now call IDM, BBSs, periodicals like 2600 and Mondo and countless zines. Wired launched sometime in that era. Linux was the work of a single disaffected hacker. The early piracy and demoscenes seemed to give other artistic voices to this counterculture. Technomages were concepts on popular tv. Early ftp and gopher sites (pre-WWW) felt like the work of super l33t nerds. The USSR had just fallen, information wanted to be free, and communicating with people across the planet became something we could do daily, helping us find more of us. It felt like we were building towards something -- billions of minds were about to be unlocked by the commoditized availability of information, computation, and communication and making money was a secondary thought.

    And then there was a shift. I don't know when it was, but it felt like the shift onto the WWW allowed the Computer Chronicle watching corporate world to buy up, buy out, co-opt, and extinguish all of it. That nascent tech-culture of the BBS era wholly was unable to truly pivot to Web. Instead of connecting and growing us, it stole, fractured, and repositioned us away from those passions. The corporatists realized that we would never pay for things at the revenue they wanted, and slowly raised the temperature like frogs being boiled, with free services for advertising and entire generations of possible techno-culturalists were diverted from counter culture into optimizing ad placement. Instead of challenging people with new information and ideas, the populace was encouraged to build information echo chambers through which propaganda could be injected and money extracted. What we're becoming was not Hiro Protagonist, Y.T., or Case, but the cautionary "Fitless Humans" from Wall-E.

    I'm writing this on a site called "Hacker News" which uses the word "hacker" in a way that I would not recognize back in the 80s and 90s, to drive discussion about hyper growth startups.

    I think I'm going to go outside now.

  • samstave 4 days ago

    MONDO 2000 was Amazing!

    Its wear i learned the first of Jaron Lanier and UI/AI/etc whatever he was talking about at the time.

    Was later a long time subscriber to WIRED before they got too smug.

    • narrator 4 days ago

      I've bumped into R.U Sirius a couple of times. Whenever I do I always congratulate him on Mondo 2000 and being so far ahead of the curve at the time.

      • samstave 4 days ago

        Whats nuts is that my middle school Lake Tahoe Bus Station sold MONDO - and for a middle schooler, it was pretty expensive... I Think it was ~$7 or maybe $5.99 - regardless, it was NUTS in 1989/1990 F I cant even recall the time...

        But the sold it in LAKE TAHOE. IN 1990-ish!

        UHM, was also a subsccriber of 2600 and a total phreak (built blue/black boxes that fit into film canisters, and had an official captain crunch cereal whistle when it was released)

        We used to troll 411 (in the early US, you could call "411" for "information" and it would connect you to operator who you then ask "Connect me with [BUSINESS] or [WHAT IS THE TELEPHONE NUMBER WITH PERSON X IN CITY Y]

        So we wou;d have contests on how long we could keep the 411 OP online, and social engineer where they live, where work, how big call center, etc... we were like 14 years old and just doing this for laughs in 1988 or such.

        I also pulled the famous 'packing tape on dollar bill' hack (theft) to play video games ;

        So there was this 'hack' where you put a strip of packing tape (folded over itself such that the sticky parts are together) - you put them on a $1 or $5 bill\

        You put the dollar into a vending machine at the post office to buy stamps.

        You buy the cheapest amount of stamps, then you YANK the dollar-in-packing-tape from the machine...

        You receive the stamps, the change from the yanked bill, take the change to the Safeway (grocery store) next door and you play the video games they had in them ; Defender and Contra.

        It took us $25 in stolen quarters from the post office machine vuln to this attack to beat contra.

        My buddy who I did this with is now EVP at Blizzard.

  • dstroot 4 days ago

    I was only “hacker curious” back then. I always wondered - was it pronounced “loft” or “low fat”? I know dumb question but I always wondered…

    • lagniappe 4 days ago

      pronounced as "loft heavy industries"

    • abudabi123 3 days ago

        I always wondered - was it pronounced “loft” or “low fat”?
  • TacticalCoder 4 days ago

    > ... various "text files" that would give instructions for doing various illegal or morally dubious things.

    I was there in the BBS era too. I remember one such text file explaining a simple mechanism to light up a bomb without leaving much trace of the mechanism used to delay the bomb blowing up: it consisted of lighting a cigarette in which a small hole was drilled. Then the text file was going into details, explaining which type of cigarettes to buy so that it wouldn't consume too fast / not get blown by the wind / etc. It was totally hilarious too.

    • nonethewiser 4 days ago

      I feel like the concerning thing is that someone seemingly had direct experience with this. But you just reshared the information and no one cares. The info itself just doesn’t seem that terrible.

    • 867-5309 4 days ago

      can't forget the Terrorist Cookbook - that thing must be as old as the internet

  • spiritplumber 4 days ago

    I miss that spirit, how do we get it back?

    • narrator 4 days ago

      The problem with the tech incubators and hackathons and so forth of today is that it's only tangentially about having fun.

      Back then it was 90% fun and maybe a few random guys were trying to figure out how to start some sort of tech business. It was mostly hobbyists just screwing around. That sense of play and screwing around is what made it so magical.

      The last time I felt that kind of magic was when I attended an event called BIOcurious (Note the 'O' in previous word) where they showed complete novices how to use a minION device to sequence DNA with pipettes and reagents. It's the kind of thing that you need to be physically present for. The tech is not easy, but crazy powerful. With biotech gear getting cheap enough to be prosumer, maybe there will be that kind of extreme hobbyist thing forming around biotech? In a similar way, in the 80s computers went from things only big companies could afford to prosumer and even consumer devices and so all these people were getting involved just to see what they could do with these new magical devices.

      • toofy 4 days ago

        i think this is exactly it. the internet of old was mostly hobbiests. even the early blogs were mostly hobbiests whi just wanted to share their info and didn’t care at all whether it made them money.

        the profit motive creeping in changes the dynamic completely. btw i think this seems to happen with everything, i don’t think it’s limited to just technology—it happens with anything that transforms from fun hobby. this always seems to sap the energy from many of the most passionate.

        • RugnirViking 4 days ago

          This is something ive been thinking for a long time. It always annoys me when people say stuff like "content creators wouldn't exist without ad revenue" like dude no it would be different for sure, much less polished but less bland, people would absolubtely still make stuff for fun & to be cool not to make money. Theres a reason the culture of the internet today is still so influenced by stuff like newgrounds, because that kind of expression for its own sake is where creativity thrives

          • Clubber 3 days ago

            I agree. The comment section is a wealth of knowledge and people don't get any type of revenue except "karma," and last I checked, I couldn't buy anything with it.

        • alwayslikethis 3 days ago

          In addition the data collection projects made it dangerous to have too much fun on the internet. Sadly, this will never be the same again with ubiquitous surveillance.

      • Vespasian 4 days ago

        We have a local hackerspace that regularly holds gamedev meetings and once or twice a year holds a weekend long Gamejam.

        I love those because it's 2 days of challenging yourself to actually finish your project and do something crazy if you like. These constraints make it fun.

        Our regular meetings are a good mix of hobbiests, professionals and the very occasional idea guy to allow great discussions and feelings of community.

        Obviously there is no corporate sponsor and no prices besides the appreciation of your fellow hackers.

        I also participated in "local government" sponsored Hackathon and while those are nice to meet people and encourage the bueocracy to embrace the modern world it's almost always about some social goal like accessibility, open data etc. These are important and interesting topics but the projects are never that "fun".

      • TigeriusKirk 4 days ago

        The last time I felt that magic was the BarCamp scene. People would give presentations on whatever they wanted, and it ran more on the fun side of things than the useful knowledge side. But even that was almost 15 years ago now.

      • spiritplumber 4 days ago

        Was it in SF? I was there with a very derpy bioprinter that was basically a Solidoodle 2 or 3 with peristaltic pumps instead of an extruder :)

        • legerdemain 4 days ago

          Maybe it was Counter Culture Lab in Oakland, which is a maker space with a focus on microbiology.

    • myth_drannon 4 days ago

      You can't bring it back because it exists only in the memories of your youth. That spirit is created in the minds of many young people at this moment and in 20 years they will ask the same question (bring back the spirit of bitcoins, 4chan, Reddit, or whatever).

      • alwayslikethis 3 days ago

        No, there is something decisively different about today's internet. I'm not from that time, having been born after the turn of the millennium, but I also feel a sense of excitement when I read these things from the past. This spirit is not present in today's corporatized, sterile internet. Everyone is trying to build a business on the internet now, so much so that there is no place left for fun anymore.

        • icedchai 3 days ago

          I grew up with the 90's internet. I was a young teenager when I first got online back in 1991 or so. Part of it is looking at those days through rose colored glasses. The other part is that as the internet become commercially viable, enough to go mainstream, the "spirit" simply got diluted as more and more people came online. Most of the users of the early Internet were academics, hackers, nerds, and various weirdos. Today, it's everyday people. There's still plenty of weird stuff out there, it's just a much smaller percentage of the content.

        • mgdlbp 3 days ago

          You might find these perspectives interesting:

          - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27495517

          - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26mkK7s--I0 — not the video, the unexpectedly sincere description. Excerpt:


          (retvrn to Konata)

          Hey if I’ve been pretending it’s 2011 for the last decade so can you.

          (le verboten maymay arrow)you will never watch “Haruhi Suzumiya Episode 1- Part 1” for the first time ever again

          Or were you more indie, and instead hit up “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya English Dub Episode 1 [1/3]”?

          God what I’d do for my exact watch history from 10 years ago…

          I think I jotted down the date and time, down to the morning I discovered Miku, at least I have that…

          Miku lead to MMD (tutorials), which lead to Caramelldansen (heh), the top results after searching that were Haruhi (naturally), and then some time later I was led back to Haruhi. What good times…


          I think the most profound think I’ve realised in life, after endlessly trying to recapture so many emotions, is that it’s not just a matter of being in the same place, with the same devices, watching the same media, at the same time of day, during the same season, it still won’t be the same.

          Even with the same old friend group, it’ll be different, because not only are they all different people to who they were at the time, so are you.

          You can never be that person again, and you can never experience it the same way again. That’s why nostalgia’s such a blessing, you can still feel things the same way, not by experiencing it again, but simply by remembering it.

          I was talking to a friend, they said they got really into LOTR when they were in their late teens, read all the books cover to cover, absolutely loved them, and that they know damn well they’ll never read them again.

          I think they understood the same thing.

          Truth be told I think I’ve only watched all of Haruhi through three times, Yuki-chan maybe twice, Disappearance twice, and Lucky Star once, and those viewings of Haruhi have been spread pretty evenly over the last decade, I’m not sure I’ll watch them again for a while.

          But I know I will watch them again.

          Preferably from the rooftop of an apartment complex in Nishinomiya…

          • myth_drannon 3 days ago

            Thanks! The first link is a deeply profound description of the feelings.

      • Lapsa 4 days ago

        the spirit of 4chan - I like the sound of it :D

    • jon-wood 3 days ago

      Find your local Hackspace, it’s probably populated by the same sort of people, building things for the love of doing something fun and interesting. (Unfortunately it’ll also be populated by the sort of antagonistic nerds you’d quietly leave a bar to avoid, but that was the case back in the 90s as well)

  • jamesfmilne 4 days ago

    Yup, I remember the Anarchists Cookbook, telling you how to make mortars, and napalm out of polystyrene & petrol.

    • nonethewiser 4 days ago

      I feel like this isn’t so taboo though. Google returns a featured snippet for napalm ingredients. And you literally just told everyone how to make napalm right here.

      I think the edginess comes from the implication that there were people out there actually doing this. And perhaps that people read this when they were 14.

      • alwayslikethis 3 days ago

        There are plenty of videos about women doing this in Ukraine to support the war effort.

  • ghaff 4 days ago

    From about the mid-80s to the mid-90s, after grad school, I was active on another 617 area code BBS (Channel 1). It was a mostly aboveground thing though pretty much all BBSs had dark corners you could peer into. Quite a few of the regulars on the main board ended up getting together semi-regularly in real life.

  • ilrwbwrkhv 4 days ago

    Same. I also remember totse which was such a fun read and there was this book on how to be a professional assassin. It was riveting. Now everyone is on the internet so I guess those days are never coming back.

  • rco8786 4 days ago

    Jolly Rogers Cookbook comes to mind

  • strictnein 4 days ago

    Bouncing around BBSs late at night in the 90s was just a blast. Sitting in the basement, hoping the parents wouldn't find you up at 3am yet again. Seeing what random "stuff" was available. Playing door games (TradeWars, LORD, etc). Finding a list of other local BBSs and calling into those and repeating the process.

    • alwayslikethis 3 days ago

      I wish I had a chance to do that, but I was born too late. By the time I had consistent access to the internet (and learned English), the internet is mostly ruined already.

  • joshxyz 4 days ago

    Shit man okay now add that to my list of legitimate fears, AI getting their hands on works by the Paladin Press, haha.

    • zoklet-enjoyer 4 days ago

      My teen years were spent reading books from Paladin and Loompanics and browsing totse, erowid, and bluelight

  • illwrks 3 days ago

    The anarchist cookbook...

    I remember downloading it and putting it on a floppy disk, I'm not sure I ever even look at it :D

  • Convolutional 4 days ago

    > There were some great magazines of the time like Mondo 2000, and the ethos was real techno-libertarianism, information wants to be free, and all that fun stuff. Everyone was coming off the high of the Soviet Union falling apart and believed that now human liberty would flourish everywhere.

    Louis Rossetto had this viewpoint 20 years before he launched Wired, and was smart enough to focus on the tech and tech people and tech business for the most part. The right-libertarian philosophy was doled out lightly and cleverly. Wired did try to make it seem that Silicon Valley was just a right-libertarian utopia, and made it seem everyone was of this mind - more than was the case.

    R U Sirius had similar ideas. I think it made things seem different than they actually were.

provenance 4 days ago

Manifesting an angel to sponsor a low key hackspace on Oahu. Plz email rapht at nshkr.com


wkat4242 4 days ago

Is this the same l0pht that wrote l0pthcrack, the legendary Windows password brute force tool from the 90s? I used that a lot though these days it's long been replaced by hashcat of course.

antiterra 3 days ago

> BBSs were all text all the time — no graphics, no icons, or avatars to go along with your posts and musings.

ANSI/ASCII artists might beg to differ a little?

Of course you couldn’t plop down reaction gifs or a quick photo of something you saw. However, BBSs were often distribution paths for demos/intros/cracktros which contained plenty of rambling musings in their scrollers.

hunter2_ 4 days ago


Ah. Brings back memories of talking Hayes commands directly to my modem via HyperTerminal, or maybe VB5.

  • StanislavPetrov 2 days ago

    Same here! Although I also thought of ATDP (the bad old days of pulse dialing).

StanislavPetrov 2 days ago

Brings back memories. Going to 2600 meetings in the early 90s at the Citicorp center (in the food court, near the pay phones) and playing "spot the fed".

One clarification, though. He says:

>BBSs were all text all the time — no graphics, no icons, or avatars to go along with your posts and musings.

In fact ANSI art was huge on BBS's back in the day. ACiD, UAA and a variety of other groups all created spectacular "graphics" that virtually every BBS (especially "elite" boards) featured on their splash page.

Thorentis 4 days ago

Just to be pedantic, he said that the BBS could only accommodate 8 char usernames, but that he picked "Space Rogue" - 10 chars without the space.

  • weld 4 days ago

    He used spacerog

  • ttmb 4 days ago

    To be extra pedantic, he only said that "early systems" had that limitation, and that that drove username culture.

hker999 3 days ago

When I was younger, I wanted to be part of it. Now, I realize that most of the leaders in this community are just petty dictators that at the time, had no power.

Now that their political party is in power, most support suppression of free speech, total government overreach like forced vaccinations, and especially suppression of their political enemies, and war. Everything they rallied against during the Bush era.

Hacking then also took a moderate amount of skill. Encryption was virtually non-existent and finding security holes was easy, especially when companies didn't patch anything.

It made me realize they were never hackers, just activists in hackers clothing. I lost all respect for the leaders of the hacker community from that era. Covid brought out the true colors of many.

PaulDavisThe1st 4 days ago

Whenever I read stuff about BBSs, I always feel so glad that I skipped this entire subculture by being on initially Bitnet and then Usenet plus a bit of IRC. Most of the descriptions of BBSs make them sound like an entirely different place, and although maybe more "hacker intensive", certainly less cordial. But then again, maybe that was just the bit of Usenet I was on.

  • ghaff 4 days ago

    There were definitely different cultures within the BBS world. I was on a fairly small-time but professionally run BBS that wasn't really part of the warez/hacker community. One thing that was different a lot of the time from Usenet was that, given you were dialing up from home at a time when telephone calls were expensive, if you were into BBSing, you tended to get a subscription to a local board, so it was fairly natural to form a local community around the main board.

    I guess Usenet had some local forums but my Usenet experience was that it was mostly locationless. (The bigger BBSs like the one I was on had relay boards like Fidonet but there was definitely a local vibe on the main board.)

    There also just wasn't a lot of overlap between BBSs in their heyday and the people who had access to the Internet from school or work.

  • jeffreygoesto 4 days ago

    OMG the Bitnet. 91 there were about a hundred machines from which people came into the relay (chat) and we thought we knew them all... Had to press Enter every once in a while on the IBM 3270 terminal to see if somebody wrote in the chat. If there was a sudden storm of answers you got really busy reading and answering...


    That was before all those people started to shuffle into IRC even...

    I also remember getting the "Datenschleuder" where you could read how to build your own 300baud acoustic coupler...

    • PaulDavisThe1st 4 days ago

      I was using Bitnet in 1986, and my main memory is the way the "hottub channel" would get busy as the USA headed into nighttime (east coast first, later west). It was amazing how lascivious people could be with just text! :)

Slix 4 days ago

Are there any online/remote hackerspaces? Seems like a good idea. Being physically together is too much time and energy sometimes.

  • wkat4242 4 days ago

    I've never seen any. It feels like it goes against the grain of the very idea of a hackerspace.

    In ours we didn't even do this during the pandemic. We just kept going except during the strictest lockdowns.

matt3210 4 days ago

I remember this stuff going on but I was very young (8) and just starting out with my ISA breadboard at the time.

paulpauper 4 days ago

A way back, I went to school with someone who fit this stereotype. Like out of The Matrix: trench coat all-black attire, sunglasses, good coding skills I presumed, smart, fast typist, always had laptop.

anon25783 4 days ago

Those whom this interests should check out the Tildeverse

bilekas 4 days ago

this was a really cool read. Written really well too but is there more ?

Maybe it's just me but the end seemed too abtupt.. i want more!

spiritplumber 4 days ago

I'm glad I caught the tail end of this.

abksa 4 days ago

Fun times. Anyone here remember Altos?

H4ZB7 4 days ago

> something something privilege

> text only i'm a big guy now

> no indication of what this group actually was unless i perhaps read every paragraph

> i liked the thing because of camaraderie

now you know why the hacker scene was always garbage. and internet forums. it's all mediocre people who are just there for camaraderie and jerking each other off over these false virtues.