The Dawn of the Internet
As the Internet was coming into its own, during the early 1980s, hackers that didn't want their websites, newsgroups, etc, to be picked up in a simple keyword search began using numbers to replace certain letters (mostly vowels) such as A = 4 or E = 3.
At this point, l33t speak was only known to a select few and only used when necessary. However, in 1994, id Software began to add Internet connectivity to Doom and Doom II, leading to a revolution in PC gaming and also to the rise of l33t speak.
As with any type of competition, 'smack' talk became prevalent in online gaming. Phrases such as 'I am elite' became common place, and somewhere down the line l33t speak crept in, reforming the phrase into '1 4m 3l1t3' in order to demonstrate that the speaker was a hacker and someone to be feared. It was further exaggerated by purposeful bad spelling and eventually wound up as something like this, '1 4m 3l33t!' and simplified to, '1 4m 133t'. Hence the name 'l33t speak'.
But eventually, l33t speak began to fall out of use because of the amount of time it takes to type, as well as the overuse of it by some, changing it from amusing to annoying.
l33t Hits the Big Time
l33t speak was still relatively unknown to the Internet masses at this point. It had almost disappeared from gaming entirely. However, a very popular web comic called Megatokyo brought l33t speak into mainstream with its infamous speak l33t? comic. These days l33t spea...