The Forgotten Years of Omaha 2600:
from the unknown beginning until to 2007
A Historic Narrative by bungfish

What follows is the history of Omaha 2600 from the perspective of bungfish. All attempts at accuracy have been made but as humans are fickle and forgetful creatures, mistakes and oversights are to be expected. Corrections and additional information can be sent to Omaha 2600.

I started attending Omaha 2600 in the winter of 2002. At that time, the meetings were run by a guy that went by the name of "Warren" (not his real name). I had just moved to Omaha and was looking to network with fellow hackers and to see what occurs at a 2600 meeting.

The 2600 magazine archives show the first publicized date of the Omaha 2600 meetings was in the Spring 1998 issue (Volume 15, Number One). The original meeting location was the Oak View Mall Barnes and Noble at 6:30 PM on the first Friday of the month. For those of you whom are unfamiliar with the layout of Omaha, the Oak View Mall is in the far southwest of town, definitely not a convenient or centrally located meeting spot. The mass transit system in Omaha is poorly run and includes a dose of social stigma associated with poverty. There are no trains and cabs are as expensive as they are in New York City (seriously!). If you live in Omaha, you need a car for spontaneous transportation or you will be trapped in your area, a prisoner in your own neighborhood.

For some time, Warren and I were the only members that met up at the B&N and we were lamenting the low and inconsistent attendance. I convinced Warren that maybe the Crossroads Mall, near the center of town would be a better draw being closer to the college campus and it is a major bus stop on 72nd and Dodge Streets. By the Spring 2003 issue of 2600 magazine (Volume Twenty, Number One), we had moved the meeting location to the Crossroads Mall Food Court. There, we existed in peace and our numbers grew accordingly. Attendance was variable but growing, anywhere between four to fifteen people would attend Omaha 2600. Most of the attendees were college kids from the University of Nebraska-Omaha sharing their programming projects and talking about security with us working schmucks trapped in a meaningless work environment surrounded by morons and idiots who would have preferred a typewriter with carbon paper and a rotary dial telephone to a computer terminal and multi-line PBX phone. Many members of Omaha 2600 were also members of OLUG, the Omaha Linux Users Group and GNMUG, the Greater Nebraska Macintosh Users Group. Warren and the UNO crew would eventually graduate and move out of the Metro area to lands beyond and fates unknown.

Another member, whom I shall call M, took the reigns of Omaha 2600 and scratched together a following of us. We would go out after the meeting an enjoy an evening of continued hacker banter over sushi, barbecue, pizza, Italian, or anything that struck our fancy. In August 2006, M left for the Great Panacea of the West (i.e. California) to stake his claim in the professional hacking circuit. I took it upon myself to take the lead and forge ahead, my first attempt at organizing and orchestrating a group of any kind. I noticed that the Crossroads Mall was starting to decline and with it, the number of Mall security. I decided to take the Mall for our own, to totally invade it and do whatever we wanted. Each month, I would trek down to the Crossroads Mall with a laptop, a pair of computer speakers, and an LCD projector and we would watch videos on the blank wall near the bathrooms. We watched everything from archived Defcon and Blackhat talks to the broken to Systm to random documentaries and videos found while scouring the Internet. We received many strange looks and laughs from mall rats but it was our mall and we loved it. For one evening a month, the mall was ours. We could do what we wanted and did so without much hassle from the highly trained mall security detail. Life and Omaha 2600 was good.

All of that changed in February of 2009. We could no longer ignore the obvious and the dying Crossroads Mall drove us from its pitiful presence. The entire second floor of the Crossroads Mall was deserted and many of the main floor stores were closing. When we first moved to the Crossroads Mall, there were five out of eight food court vendors in the food court. When we finally left for the Westroads Mall in March of 2009, there were two. A few months later, I went to buy some capacitors at the Radio Shack in the Crossroads Mall and discovered there were only about ten stores left in the entire mall and the food court was completely shut down. (Known stores left in the Crossroads Mall as of September 2009: Radio Shack, Barnes and Noble, Bath and Body Works, The Hat Store (They only sell hats! WTF?!?), Sears, Target, and a few kiosks.) The writing was on the wall. We needed some new digs.

With a heavy heart, I moved Omaha 2600 to the next closest mall, the Westroads Mall near 100th and Dodge Streets. There was to be found a bounty of eateries but an epic wasteland of wireless. Not one access point could be found and the ones that did exist were locked up with encryption (one could tell by their SSIDs they were POS terminals and other mall related networks so we didn't crack them because smart people don't crap where they eat).

The future is bright but the road ahead of us is as rocky and difficult as it always was. We have proven ourselves worthy to serve in the corp of the Omaha hacker underground striving to make Omaha more than just a haven for telemarketing outfits and slaughterhouses. If you're in the area, please stop by! We love company! Just look for the black t-shirts with laptops. In the future, I plan to lead expeditions (i.e. hacker road trips) to neighboring 2600 meetings to foster goodwill and afford networking opportunities to our hacker friends around the Midwest. Come hack with us!

Oct 28, 2009