Defcon’s badge from hell

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

Las Vegas (NV) – When it comes to convention badges, Defcon certainly takes first place.  This year’s badge is practically studded with blinking LED lights, batteries and even an SD card reader.  As always, attendees are encouraged to hack the badge and the best contraption will win prizes.

The front of the badge has a TV B-Gone emitter and a series of LED lights that can be programmed to send and receive data.  The back of the badge has solder leads for the attachment of a USB header.  In addition, there’s an SD card reader and a CR123A battery to power the whole thing.

Joe Grand, the badge designer, talked to a packed crowed about the trials and tribulations involved in manufacturing and programming the badge – a badge that’s basically a small primitive computer.  The badge is composed of several parts soldered onto a circuit board, parts that were delayed by both manufacturing problems and Chinese Customs officers. In fact, one box of parts has been stuck in China for five weeks.  At one point, Grand said he was about to start volunteering people to manually solder all the parts onto the badges.

Of course all these parts make the badge cost almost $10, but Grand doesn’t mind.  “Most conventions wouldn’t spend $10 on a badge, most would probably spend 10 cents,” Grand said.

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