A Leet

According to WordPress and other services, the number 1337 is important. It is not important for obvious reasons, like, say, reasons that are important, but for more obscure, talismanic ones.

Almost from the start, the online world has been something of a secret handshake society, but a democratic one, in which one and one’s friends can come up with a new secret handshake, and a capitalistic one, in which some secret handshakes become more popular, trendy. Elite. Or, “1337.”

Going back thirty years, users of programming language and speakers of everyday speech started to find places where the two collided. Going back thirty years, teenagers were passing messages to kids in the next aisle by typing on their calculators. Remember doing that? Certain numbers look like letters upside-down, so when one types 0.7734 that is also saying, “hello.” Here is a list of 250 such calculator-words: 250 Words You Can Spell with a Calculator.

I have had only one problem with this from thirty years ago to today: 0.7734 has never looked like “hello” to me. I just do not see it. I was the friend across the aisle from you in school who, when you showed me a secret calculator message, inadvertently said out loud, loud enough to attract the teacher’s attention, “What?”

I also do not see hidden anythings in “magic eye” posters, other than pretty fractals and colors, so I am just a generally all-around evil human being and no fun at all.

In the early days of the internet, in the era of bulletin boards and relay chat, the era in which someone typing on a keyboard in a movie was the height of real drama, those sorts of calculated calculator misspellings became a short-hand way of demonstrating one had inside knowledge about a topic at hand. Some of these terms have entered the culture at large, like newbie or pwned, and many have not.

For all of my life, I have felt like an outsider gazing in at a world of secret handshakes. Further, I am at my most uncomfortable when I try to look like I think I belong with you. Thus, when the kids in school in the ’80s who were “into computers” made it look like a secret society, I lost interest in programming. (Your loss, gaming community!) When the secret handshake society’s special vocabulary filters into the larger society and becomes a trendy lingo for a month or two or a couple of decades, it makes the world look like how I feel when I am trying to bluff my way into fitting in.

(Amusingly, I am composing this rant in a WYSIWYG in which I write my own simple HTML code and do not use a visual editor, a habit dating back to my newspaper work and a blog I started writing [now long lost] in 1997.)

1337-1xWhen one achieves 1337 of anything on a website, it is worth noting because 1337 is a lot of anything. In the case of The Gad About Town, it reached 1337 likes on November 26, when someone liked the column, “Gratitude Week.” In old-school hacker lingo, being an elite member of the community was designated by referring to them as elite, or a leet, or 1337. Again it’s the upside-down calculators that I have never looked at without saying, “What?”

Thank you to my readers and especially those who make the effort to express that they like some of the things I do. You have liked me more than 1337 times so far in ten months, which definitely makes me feel like a member of an elite.

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The WordPress Daily Prompt for November 28 asks, “Today, publish a post based on unused material from a previous piece—a paragraph you nixed, a link you didn’t include, a photo you decided not to use. Let your leftovers shine!”

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8 comments

  1. angloswiss · November 28, 2014

    I often wondered what that number had, why it was so special. Now I know, I have a lot of anything anywhere, especially in WordPress.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. genusrosa · November 28, 2014

    Thank you for answering a question I had (but never asked). I am not a numbers person, so I don’t know which is worse: not understanding the cultural reference to 1337, or not having the faintest clue if I have achieved it, or not. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • genusrosa · November 28, 2014

      I’m going to reply to my own comment, which may be the unlooked-for result of finally understanding the ‘1337th-ness’ of life…or perhaps I should have played more with calculators upside down when I was a kid…but guess what? I did some checking and I do have 1337 likes and counting! Now I know what I have. And yes, congrats to you, I can now say. :o) You deserve it, as you post such fascinating articles on a wide variety of subjects.

      Like

  3. thereluctantbaptist · November 28, 2014

    I didn’t know about secret handshakes. I didn’t know there was a number 1337 that had significance, I didn’t know I was clueless, I didn’t know I was on the outside not even looking in. Thanks a lot. Except I like it out here. Oh and congratulations.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. wscottling · November 28, 2014

    I only picked up a few words from l33t speak… w00t! being the most prominent. My son was pretty proficient in it.

    I also can’t see those magic eye pictures. Ever. I never have, and probably never will.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. GadareneDream · November 28, 2014

    Congrats! I didn’t know 1337 was a thing. Now I’ll be watching for it, for sure! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. rogershipp · December 27, 2014

    My 1337 education is now complete and I still don’t understand… I never was that good a hidden messages in posters either.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. dreamwalkeramrita · December 28, 2014

    I confess that I feel sometimes feel ‘excluded’ when faced with incomprehensible trolls and memes.
    And I will never get the hang of Internet lingo (can someone tell me what swag really means?).

    By the way, I love your blog! Your posts are thought-provoking and well-written…I can see why you got 1337 likes! 🙂
    Happy holidays!

    -Amrita

    Liked by 1 person

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