While many of us use an online moniker that is a version of our real name, there are plenty of sites, services, and video games that require another name: The Screen Name. We tend to use the same one across multiple platforms, and they’re uniquely us—provided you’re not 14 years old, in which case 69 or 420 will probably appear somewhere in the string of numbers and letters.

Screen names are unique identifiers that we use to protect our identities as well as represent ourselves. We indulge in CrEaTiViTy101. The screen name allows us to be both clever and anonymous when we chat with others.

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But screen names existed before the screen. In the 1960s and ‘70s, Baby Boomers and their parents used CB radios to communicate with others. It was long before the days of the internet, cell phones, and instant messaging, and the radio waves were a quiet space where you could just flip on a channel and listen in for someone to say hello. But privacy was still important, and the Federal Communications Commission warned users to create “handles” to obscure personal details—essentially a screen name.

Even though social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook emphasize the use of real names and the sharing of personal information, the tradition of and inherent creativity in anonymity lives on with websites like Reddit.

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What was your first—or, even better, most embarrassing—screen name? Drop ‘em in the comments.

I think… there… 4a.m. AMA

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DISCUSSION

Jack Burton doesn’t need no CB handle.

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