Revisiting Little Brother – the l33t novel

April 18th, 2014 § 0 comments

L1ttl3 Br0th3r

1’m 4 s3n10r 4t C3s4r Ch4v3z h1gh 1n S4n Fr4nc1sc0’s sunny M1ss10n d1str1ct, 4nd th4t m4k3s m3 0n3 0f th3 m0st surv31ll3d p30pl3 1n th3 w0rld. My n4m3 1s M4rcus Y4ll0w, but b4ck wh3n th1s st0ry st4rts, 1 w4s g01ng by w1n5t0n. Pr0n0unc3d “W1nst0n.”

Inspired by the gaming culture of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, the novel has been rewritten in basic l33t speak by the Bash agent ‘sed’, replacing A by 4, E by 3, I by 1, O by 0.

L33t was invented by hackers in the 80’s to prevent their websites from simple keyword searches. It was widely spread by online gamers afterwards. Phrases such as ‘I am elite’ became common place, and somewhere down the line l33t speak crept in, reforming the phrase into ’1 4m 3l1t3′ in order to demonstrate that the speaker was a hacker and someone to be feared. L33t speak became so succesfull that the use of it now is cliché.

Our Bash agent seems to confirm the cliché: it only takes a oneliner of less than 50 characters to turn an entire novel into the perfectly legible retro-language, and this, in less than a second. As a reader it raises a question to ex-users of L33t: could the experience of reading the novel in the different degrees of l33t-complexity be compared to reading it in Old English, in Shakespeare’s Early Modern English or in Chaucer’s Middle English?

The oneliner:

$ cat Cory_Doctorow_-_Little_Brother.txt | sed ‘s/[aA]/4/g ; s/[eE]/3/g ; s/[Ii]/1/g ; s/[oO]/0/g’ > novel.txt

Read more about this project: 1984 Little Brother Git
You find more versions of the novel on this blog and on gitorious.

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