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Our oral history is a repository for members' recollections of Noisebridge's formation and growing pains.
Noisebridge has been holding meetings and what not since the beginning of time. 83c Wiese Street was rented on October 1st, 2008. If my memory is correct, the lease for 2169 Mission Street was signed some time late July, early August. The lease started September 1st, but I think the landlords were nice enough to let us in early so we can start building out sooner. The official 83c to 2169 move was held on the 3rd weekend of September (folks had a problem with the date 9/11 being the official move date).
On the 31st of October in 2008 we threw a party to show off in house projects and also get new folks into the door, we gained a small number of members and patrons that way.
On the 2nd of October in 2009 we threw a rather large party (one of our biggest I think) as an open house and grand opening of our new space. Several hundred people showed up and it was a "big" thing (we got Laughing Squided and I think landed on a couple other SF tech blogs). We had some musical performances, demos of cool shit, and an all around good party. At the end of it we gained a lot of support, recognition and many new members.
Anyways, Noisebridge's birthday isn't something that can be documented as a particular date, since the concept of it went through a few iterations in different people's heads before the weekly meetings happened. But, I do think October 1st is a good arbitrary date to stick onto it.
The first meeting where we used the name "Noise Bridge" was on March 3, 2007. Jake registered the domain and set up a mailing list the next day, March 4.
2007 is poorly recorded; we had several meetings over the course of the year, but nothing reliable. We moved over to Mailman and the -discuss mailing list in November. Several of us went to 24c3 in Berlin in December 2007, where Lars and Jens gave a "Hacker Spaces Design Patterns" talk -- http://events.ccc.de/congress/2007/Fahrplan/events/2133.en.html which I, at least, found electrifying and inspiring.
After we got back from Congress, we pretty reliably met every Tuesday in 2008; Shannon found us 83c in August, and the rest is history.
UPDATE: I was a one evening guest at Noisebridge in August 2013.
The experience was a re-affirmation of all that Hackerdom stands for. Noisebridge is not just a place where people get together with neat things, It's a place of MAGIC being made real. I casually walked up to a group hacking on EEG gear and suggested using the Scroll Lock Led on the keyboard as a debug indicator. We made it work in a short time. That same project in other groups might have taken hours. Such is routine at Noisebridge.
Along with Bre Pettis (who started NYC Resistor) and Nick Far (who started HacDC), me and Jake were inspired by the Hackerspace Design Patterns at Chaos Communications Camp 2007 (August, 2007 -- outside of Berlin, Germany), as a result of encouraging each other during Camp, we all went home knowing we would start hackerspaces in our home towns. When we got home in September, me and Jake emailed everyone we knew, talked to everyone we knew, and wouldn't shut up about starting a hackerspace. We started meeting every Tuesday at various cafes. Without a name yet, I started a google group for everyone I knew who was interested. At our third meeting, Jake suggested "Noisebridge" as our name -- we all loved it -- and a few of us went to Jake's apartment and talked more (excitedly) about hackerspaces while Jake created our wiki and email list on his server within 3 and a half hours. Noisebridge.net was born (https, of course)! We've met pretty much every Tuesday since. Our numbers quickly grew, and we started meeting at Rachels huge loft space. Once we started talking more and more about structure and corporate governance, our numbers dwindled. Once we started doing and making things again (starting with the Brain Machine Workshop) our numbers grew again. We decided to become a 501(c)(3) tax exempt educational member non-profit California corporation, and paid $2,000 to Carol Gee, a lawyer who specializes in setting up non-profits, to do this for us. We were granted the tax exempt status shortly after moving into our first space at 83C Weise on 1-September-2008. We outgrew 83C within 3 months. After extensive searching by dedicated Noisebridgers, we signed a 3-year lease at our current space at 2169 Mission on 1-August-2009. A buildout team formed itself, and, as is the case with everything at Noisebridge, with no leaders, and our one (and only one) rule (Be excellent to each other), people self-organized to create a plan for how to lay out the room, created plans for buildout, and within 30 days, fixed up the empty (and grungy) space (that used to be filled with people sewing garments) into a beautiful space that we could, and did, move into before our move date of 1-September-2009. Our numbers have continued to grow steadily, with a big jump after the Maker Faire in May-2011. Hundreds of people (most of whom are not members) go through Noisebridge each month. Our most popular night is Monday night, when Circuit Hacking Mondays happens, along with Python class, and other people who come because Monday nights are so hopping with people exploring and doing what they love.