Mom: Wasn’t DEFCON the hacker event you went to when you were 15?
Mom: How did we allow that?
Me: You didn’t know because I didn’t tell you.
I went home to VT this past weekend to visit my parents and pick up this insanely cute kitten.
Over dinner my father mentioned that he had heard an NPR story about DEFCON earlier that day. I was a part of the crew that put on DEFCON for 10 years, and I’ve been just an attendee more than a few times.
I had been at Purdue studying CS the summer before my senior year of High School. Ostensibly, it was to see how I liked the program, but I had hacker friends there and I mostly wanted to hang with them and read about the intricacies of the TCP/IP protocol.
I read this cover to cover that summer.
So that explained how they didn’t know that I went to Vegas. But then the question: how had I paid for the plane ticket. It took me a few minutes to remember; I sold t-shirts.
To finance my trip I created a t-shirt with two quotes.
Front: In this age of digital darwinism some of us are ones, you’re a zero.
On the back across the shoulders like a players name on a jersey, it said: 31337
Which is Leetspeak for elite.
It also had a quote from the “famous” hacker Erik BloodAxe: I only hack for money
I borrowed enough money from a friend to print a run, and then sold them at DEFCON. The proceeds were enough to cover my trip, and it was how I met the organizer, Jeff Moss, and became a Goon for the next 10 years.
I hadn’t thought about this in so long I had almost completely forgotten.
I still have that t-shirt in my drawer!