Found on the Interwebs: QR Stencils of Hobo Codes

by Tony Longworth on July 19, 20115 comments

A fine opportunity for Shenanigans using the most modern technology combined with the most Ancient of Hobo Traditions.

Ancient Hobo Glyphs

In the Distant Past (and some say the Almost Future), Transient Americans, or ‘Hobos’ to use their preferred term, were known to utilize a series of small glyphs to pass along secret messages to each other. Scrawled hastily on a gate or nearby telegraph pole, the ancient symbols would let other travelling kings know if a house or business was friendly or not. A top hat with a triangle signified ‘wealth’, for example, while a ‘spearhead’ image prepared fellow hobos to defend themselves. A half-moon symbol radiating wiggly lines warned that the house was occupied by a soul-devouring Lovecraftian horror, and that one should plan accordingly. If the half-moon had a top hat on, of course, the Lovecraftian horror was wealthy, and might be prevailed upon for a hot meal, and so forth.

Sadly, Time has robbed us of this elegant and useful method of communicating with each other. Today, how can you tell if your neighbour has a mass hobo grave in their basement? Beats me. Are the baristas surly at this particular coffee shop? Probably, but who knows? Does this bank accept bits of string as currency? I’m not gonna chance it.

QR Hobo Stencil

Now, Rejoice! The good folks at Free Art and Technology Lab have solved the age-old problem, and human beings can once communicate with their fellow “gentlemen of the countryside”. The finest FATL scientists have come up with a program that generates stencils of QR Codes. [A QR code is a 2D barcode that contains text, a web address, or other data. You scan it with your smartphone, and magic happens!] These stencils can be cut out manually, or used with a laser cutter. The code can then be sprayed onto any surface, and can be read by all smartphone-equipped hobos in the area. The free program is available, with licence and full instructions on how to make the QR Hobo messages, here. They, also, have a bunch of pre-made codes done up for important messages like: “owner gives to GOP”, “unexpectedly good coffee”, or “dangerous homophobes”. Enjoy!

An Important Message

Please note: The Paltry Sapien is not responsible for any mischief you may indulge in with these stencils. To learn more about Hobos and their fine traditions, visit your local Hobo library… which really, is just about any library.

Link Via TheCreatorsProject


Jeff Shyluk on July 19, 2011 at 11:14 pm. #

I highly reccommend “Dictionary Of Symbols” By Carl G. Liungman, first as a decent crash course in semiotics, second as a very thorough resource regarding the full encyclopedia of Hobo symbols and their meanings, and third as a comprehensive guide to all kinds of symbols, arcane, scientific, mundane, and ancient.

Ask nicely, and I will decipher the symbols they use as washing instructions on the tags of all your clothes.

Matthew Payne on July 20, 2011 at 8:57 am. #

Count me for the “Almost Future”! I’m afraid that neo-Hobos have problems paying smart phone bills, however. Might want to go with the low-tech solutions of their forebears.
PS–the number of chronically homeless in the US right now is pegged at 127,000 (a lower number than the “temporary homeless”–about 3.5 million) for 2007. Before the economic crisis.

Tony Longworth on July 28, 2011 at 5:28 pm. #

@jeff – i might take you up on that… i have a wine stain in my gabardine speed suit that will not come out.. the washing symbol is a pentagram with the number 6 in it.

Jeff Shyluk on July 30, 2011 at 1:47 pm. #

If the icon is ice blue, that means the stain will come out when Hell freezes over.

Tony Longworth on July 30, 2011 at 1:52 pm. #

@jeff – according to the lastest edition of The Necronomicon (the one with the foreword by Oprah), that looks like Thursday next….