Going to California

The Hacker Crackdown — Sidebar: Information Wants To Be Free

We had a saying: Information wants to be free. This wasn’t to stake out intellectual property with a proud pirate flag but a way to push back on the forces that seemed to want to draw a circle around everything and to charge money to look inside the circle — or simply to restrict it, for no good reason.

EFF-Austin was a separate group from the national EFF. I think the original idea was that individual cities would spin up their own Electronic Frontier Foundation. That didn’t end up happening, though the EFF very kindly let EFF-Austin go on, and they’re still going today. They’re even still using the logo I designed for them.

Naturally, the Steve Jackson Games offices were where the EFF-Austin meetings were often held in the early days. One of their earliest events was a crypto conference, and Steve was wishing he had t-shirts. I told him I’d design one, and maybe 20 minutes later I showed him on the screen what you see here.

I just dug this out of the bottom of my black t-shirt drawer. It is 20 years and one month old.

Bruce Sterling, when I showed him the shirt, read the white text, smiled, then squinted as he began reading the much fainter text in the background.

“Digital money for crypto-anarchy,” he said. “Data havens, privacy?” I’d pulled from my head a long list of fears and movements and dreams and designs that seemed to be spinning out of the larger conversation about encryption that faster and more widely available computers were making possible.

He shook his head and turned away. “I’m done trying to read the rest.” At least he was smiling.

And that was fine. Everyone approved it, and it was cool seeing them at the event. It was my first t-shirt, actually.

It is a little sad that these ideas are still unresolved, twenty years and nearly a month later. They probably won’t be resolved next month, either. I’m afraid we may not be done talking about them in another twenty years.

But that’s all beyond the point. I really just wanted to show off the t-shirt I found.

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