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Interview meme, part two.

haibane_rachan has an interesting meme going on, and I've decided to be a part of it.

Ask away, minna.

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( Read 6 comments — Leave a comment )
meagenimage
Mar. 25th, 2004 02:21 am (UTC)
How did you get involvet in computers and hacking?
brentdax
Mar. 25th, 2004 10:14 am (UTC)
You'll have to bear with me here, because you just essentially asked for the story of my life.

My involvement in computers goes back virtually my entire life. My father is a programmer, trained at UCI on the PDP-10, one of the greatest machines of all time.

He and Mom eventually started a chain of jewelry stores, and computerized the operation extensively, so when I was born, I was born into a house with an Apple IIe (practically a Mac, but with a color screen) in one room and a monochrome yellow-screen computer in another.

I don't really remember what I did with that Apple, though I'm fairly sure I played games on it. I do remember that Mom composed shopping lists on it (and her doing so is probably my earliest memory).

Eventually, the disk on the Apple crashed. Dad said it had "gone south", a statement I didn't understand, but I did realize that the blue screen with odd, flashing white characters on it was a Bad Thing. (I couldn't read yet, but I could tell the difference between the sort of letters we used every day and the odd runes that showed up on that screen.)

Eventually the business collapsed. The bank had been involved in something illegal, and the government took it over; they denied my parents' company the line of credit the business depended on, so my parents had to sell the stores. Turns out that jewelry is a losing business most of the year, but Christmas is incredibly profitable, so you basically need to be able to borrow all year and pay it back in January. I didn't know any of this until a few years ago; at the time all I knew was that the stores had to close, and maybe if I made a sad face at some of the passersby, one of them would stop, ask me what was wrong, hear that my parents' store right over there was closing, buy something, and they wouldn't have to close it again. You can imagine how well that plan worked, considering that the stores were all in malls.

In any case...Mom started writing, and Dad started programming for other people again. Another set of early memories--probably around seven or so here--comes to me at this point; these are of me watching him work at night. I could read by then, and he was using a syntax-highlighting editor (an editing program which colors your code to make it easier to read), so I could sorta get what was going on. Kinda. Didn't stop me from watching him work for hours, occasionally asking a few questions.

In fourth grade, I started drifiting away from my long-time best friend, Kristen Berglis, who lives across the street. The split was for a very simple reason: she liked to be active after school; I didn't. For me at least, there was no trauma in the loss of a close friend--it just kinda happened.

That would be irrelevant to this story, except that in the last half of fourth grade, we got the first computer I was allowed to use. It was a Packard Bell with a Pentium 100, Windows 3.1 (in 1995--to this day I don't know what Dad was thinking), a 14.4 modem, and Prodigy. This was a time when Prodigy was an AOL-like service that put a "friendly face" on the Internet.

1995 was also the year Star Trek: Voyager was launched, an event I have vivid memories of, but which I won't share here because I've been on too many tangents already. Suffice it to say, Trek drove my Internet usage--I appeared in chats as "DrBashir" (you could change your "screen name" without getting a new account on Prodigy) and spent loads of time on startrek.com, downloading and saving pictures for some strange reason.

[Continued. Damn, this ended up being long.]
brentdax
Mar. 25th, 2004 10:15 am (UTC)
It was probably a year or two later when I noticed a book in Mom and Dad's room--Creating Cool Web Pages with HTML. It was, at the time, HTML 1.0, although it described all those nifty Netscape extensions my browser didn't support. My parents let me keep it, and I tore through the thing, learning by reading instead of by example. (This was to become a pattern with me--I did the same thing with Learning Perl later, reading the entire book on one cruise where I didn't have access to a computer.) I experimented with some cheesy sites...

...and just went back and found one from ninth grade. Don't laugh. My design tastes have matured somewhat since then, although even then I could hold to a theme. (It was just a hideously ugly theme...)

In any case, fast forward to 1999. I got my own computer, which I kept in my room. I fought with my parents over dialup (I tied up the business line every day after school). Mom sold her books, which led to two interesting things happening:
1. My first Web design job.
2. AOL.

That's right, the dread internet service. She decided that she needed to keep in contact with her fans, and that her fans were probably on AOL, so we looked at the plans they offered and found one that allowed you to dial into another ISP and use AOL over the Internet. So that's what we got. I never had to experience AOL's dial-up modems, so my experience on the service wasn't too horrible.

Basically, I spent an entire summer on AOL, "simming" in two Trek chats, Spacefleet Academy and Spacefleet Boot Camp. Eventually I joined a couple ships, both as assistant science officer. I also met Darci (AgentDNAS at the time--insert an A at the appropriate time to see where the name comes from) through these chats. But at the end of the summer, I lost interest.

1999 was also the year I started high school, and one of the classes in my first semester was Web Site Design. This was mostly a straight HTML class, except for the last month or so, which was CGI in Perl. I'd already known all the HTML stuff, of course, but this true programming of Web pages absolutely fascinated me.

The final was to write a site for Krusty Burger (from The Simpsons) in two hours; I implemented mine as a CGI/Perl app, which mostly worked. I'm pretty sure I got an A in the class.

Next semester was C++, and the year after was Advanced Placement Computer Science. By the end of tenth grade, I had finished every computer class the school offered. Tenth grade was also when I found out about the Perl 6 effort, and started following the e-mail lists. Finally, tenth grade was when I got my Palm (and used it to read the Perl 6 e-mail instead of paying attention to my teachers). The end of tenth grade was the end of my involvement with normal high school; I switched to an independent-study program, which I stayed with through twelfth grade.

The final event I consider significant was in 2001. I knew that Dan Sugalski (the internals designer) and Simon Cozens (the first pumpking (release manager) had been working on the first basic pieces of Parrot for a few months; on September 10th, Simon released Parrot 0.0.1. He also put out a call for a Configure script, a program that would examine the system and figure out some things about it Parrot needed to know, to be written in Perl.

I took it as a challenge, and drew upon all my Perl skills to write one by two AM. Simon and I tossed a couple versions back and forth, and by four AM the first version of Configure was committed and I was being told to go to bed.

At seven, Mom woke me up with something incoherent about planes crashing into buildings. I woke up to 9/11. What a way to wake up.

There was some squabbling over Configure later that week, and when I called for a patch freeze while I sorted some things out, it was a shock to me that people listened. That was how I found out that I was the Configure pumpking.

[Almost done.]
brentdax
Mar. 25th, 2004 10:16 am (UTC)
So, the Cliff's Notes:
1. I've been exposed to computers my entire life, and both my earliest memory and one of my most cherished childhood memories involve computers.
2. I really got into them in 1995, browsing Star Trek sites on Prodigy.
3. I started writing Perl in 1999.
4. I started hacking on Perl in 2001, right before the planes.

Jesus Christ, that was long.
haibane_rachan
Mar. 25th, 2004 09:31 am (UTC)
You knew I'd ask..
What is it you've got on your HD and why do you feel you can't tell me what it is?
brentdax
Mar. 25th, 2004 10:21 am (UTC)
I knew you'd ask...
...and I knew what I would answer.

I'm holding some valuable data for someone on my computer. My computer shares a network with an Internet-accessible server. That server is as secure as I can make it, but I'm not a professional, and it has the tools on it necessary to access my hard drive remotely. So I'm taking additional steps to secure that data.

Beyond that, it isn't my question to answer, because it isn't my data to talk about.
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