A History of "31337SP34K"

by StankDawg

First of all, I am not going to write the entire article in "elite speak."  It defeats the purpose and is annoying beyond belief in this context.  What I am going to do is enlighten the new generation of hakkerz into what "elite speak" is, where it came from, and when (and if) to use it.  It has become commonplace in the hakker community, but I think everyone should understand its origins.

Long before Internet Explorer was even thought of, and when Netscape was still a wet dream, the Internet existed.  Most people reading this article know that the Internet is not the same as the World Wide Web, but for the novices, it's imperative to point this out.  Back then, we used to communicate through earlier aspects of the Internet, some of which still exist today.  Some of the most prominent are email, newsgroups, and Internet Relay Chat (IRC).

Let's start with email.  It is the most obvious and widespread in use.  Its use has exploded since back in the early day.  Back then, we used emoticons to convey emotions, not to decorate our email with pretty pictures.  We didn't come up with the word "emoticons" - that was some media bullshit label made up to be cute.  We used them for effectiveness.  Using emoticons could convey in a couple of keystrokes what might take several sentences.  Keep in mind that back then, we had to keep our messages short and sweet.  I used a 300 baud modem (the coupler kind that you had to put the headset into) to get dial-up access.  Broadband was never heard of in this low bandwidth world, so messages had to be brief.  Think of how telegrams work today, where there is an incentive to be brief (telegrams charge per word).  To that end, we would simply use the letter "Y" instead of typing the entire word "Why."  We used "R U" to shorten the phrase "are you."  These are only a few examples.  The drawback to this was that people who are not used to it may get confused and wonder if "Y" means "why" or 'yes."  It could of referred to either of these.  It was only after practice and reading for context did people become accustomed to using this new "shorthand" to communicate.  But this was only the beginning of the language.

"Elite Speak" really took off with the onset of newsgroups.  The net was growing, bandwidth was increasing (I was now up to a 1200 baud modem), and newsgroups were becoming more popular.  Newsgroups allowed people with common interests to have a central area to communicate with one another.  In this medium, the same shorthand used in email was continued and expanded.  But an additional problem arose.  The server administrators felt the need to control the content and censor speech that they found "questionable."  They would regularly filter the database to delete posts containing "objectionable material" just like the content filtering software of today.

What this meant was that you either got your messaged deleted by the administrators or you found loopholes to outsmart the filters.  That is what hakkerz do.  I get a lot of flak from n00bs who don't understand why I say "hakkerz" instead of "hackers."  The reason is simple.  Since "hacking" fell under the "objectionable material" category, we had to intentionally misspell the word to avoid getting kill-filed.  O.K., so they added "hakker" to their filter.  But what about "H4ck3r," "H4kk3r," "Hax0r," and so on?  We kept adapting the language (and don't think this is any less of a language than Ebonics) until the censors finally gave up.  We could make every word adapt and change to avoid being blocked.  It got to the point where we started intentionally misspelling words that didn't even have the potential to be kill-filed.  Words like "Kool" and "rokk" began to be added and it fit with the pattern of our other words while stilling maintaining meaning.  Eventually, they realized that it was impossible to block a polymorphic language, and they gave up.

The final transformation of the language was built purely on ego.  That's right, there is an aspect of simple ego involved of trying to look "kool" and it came about mostly on IRC.  Those of us who have been online for the genesis of the language communicated like we always had, using the methods mentioned above.  It was mostly out of sheer habit.  This led to inevitable questions from n00bie Hax0rs and non-hakkerz alike asking why we "can't spell" and asking what we were trying to say.  Nubies picked up on the language, but they began to pervert it.  Because we used words like "h4kk3r" which used both letters and numbers in it, it made the word appear to be in mIXeD CasE (because using a fixed font, numbers are generally bigger than letters).  This caused many people to start using "mIx3d c4Se" just for the sake of making words look like the traditional "elite speak."  Quite frankly, it did look kind of kool when not used to excess!

So with all of these things creating and modifying the language, you can see why we have such a beast.  It grew out of necessity.  The new generations of hakkerz pick up and learn the language as it is today, but they don't always understand and appreciate its roots.  Hopefully now they understand the history and the beauty of the language.

Where does it go from here?  This is an ever-evolving language!  It is, by no means, set in stone.  Currently, it is accounting for multiple languages (Spanish, "Spanglish," Portuguese, etc.), adding current slang speaking terms ("wasssssup," "pissed," etc.), and remnants from many other languages.  The most complex addition is the integration of actual source code and symbolism into the language.  In the beginning of this article I said that the World Wide Web is not the same as the Internet.  More than likely, had we been talking online, I would have said "WWW != Internet" just like I always say that "Hakkerz != Criminals."  Hopefully, with all of this newfound history, you will not only understand the language, but you will also appreciate it, and use your new power wisely.  Use it with other hakkerz, but don't annoy people who don't or can't understand it.  0n1y t#en ‘//!ll j00 +ruly b ‘1337!

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