The Odyssey of HackBus

Regional caravans are part of conference traditions, and the trip can be an adventure in itself. This history of Hackbus originally appeared in the Toxic BBQ History Zine. PacBell was the first hacker In could find that drove a city bus from Oregon to Vegas in the early days of DEF CON. EvilMoFo and Fpenguin followed suit in 2007.

The HackBus was a 1956 GM PD 4104 bus delivered to Public Service Coordinated Transport in New Jersey. A quick vacuum and some old couches allowed it to make the trip from San Fran to DC15, but it didn’t return home until October. A laundry list of repairs, including a new engine, kept it on the road year after year.

Those who rode it to DEF CON said it was one of the most entertaining, if sweaty, ways to get there. Bay Area hackers worked on it together to add amenities like 16G internet (4 carriers x 4G each!), pirate radio stations, and sometimes-functional AC. In addition to the road trip to DC, the HackBus ferried legions to Toxic BBQ, and it also rescued The Minibosses when their van broke down on the way to the EFF party.

Due to Fpenguin’s interests outside DEF CON and EvilMoFo’s role at Scav Hunt, they kept the bus home after DC23. Sadly, the HackBus was destroyed in the 2020 North Complex Fire. Apart from pictures and memories, the front license plate and metal DEF CON Jack are the only mementos that survive.

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