A story

John Tapsell tapselj0 at cs.man.ac.uk
Fri Jan 4 11:23:57 UTC 2002

A little story for bedtime entertainment...  Its long and boring, and nobody 
cares, but ...

There was once a little boy, who we will call Flux, who grew up loving 
computers, and played and tinkered with them all day long.  He went to 
college to learn to program at the age of 12 - paying for it by doing 
gruesome paper rounds, such was his love of computers.  He played with 
computers many many hours of the day, doing many courses at college.  His dad 
was a good and kind man, but suffered from drink problems.  He grew concerned 
about the time his son spent on computers, and concern turned to anger.  The 
anger fueled a bitter life for both of them, and the boy dealt with it by 
avoiding his dad more and more.  And so the cycle just got worse.
With his dad angry at him all the time, few (if any) friends at school, a 
mother in hospital most of his life, and a 'misunderstood' brother who left 
home at 12, the boy seeked refuge in the peace and chaos of science and 
maths, and sought to make it by himself in the world.  Having no experience 
hindered him a lot, but he tried anyway - donning cheap suits from oxfam 
trying to get companies to hire him.  

He had no success until the age of 17 when he finished an a particulary 
advanced hardware NVQ course (in the evening) where he came across 2 things.  
The first was a thing called Linux.  The second was his teacher, who quickly 
realised that his student knew far more than he did.  The teacher hired the 
boy, and put him to work on many contracts.  The boy was young and nieve, but 
talented, and was ripped off a lot of money - but gained a far more important 
thing - experience.    Companies started comming to him, and flew him out 
across the world for technical advice on servers, and for security advice.  
Most memorable was a porn company.  By 18 he was gave a security talk to 
system administrators at UCL University.
There were still problems at home however, but paying his dad £100 a week 
stopped him being kicked out too much.  

The boy turned to look back on the world, and wondered at what he saw.  He 
saw a lot of great things in the world, and a lot of great people, and was 
unsure what to do with his life.  He loved learning, and loved pushing 
himself, but had to make a choice whether to go to university now that his 
a-levels were finally comming to a close.  He looked at Cambridge, but was 
not impressed with what he saw, and decided on Manchester, a university with 
good reputation and a what seemed a good course.

But a-level exams came and went, and he turned to work.  He worked on many 
projects for many companies, london underground fault reporting system, 
samsung, mouchel, government sites, military sites, and so on.  It was hard, 
but rewarding.  Within 2 weeks of the job he was taking home almost £1k a 
week.  Other companies were offering much much more for small contract work, 
and the boy was happy.

But 3 months quickly passed, and it was soon time to go off to University.  
Should he stay and work, or go off to uni?  He had always set his heart on 
uni, and so uni it was.  However, it was to turn a great disapointment.  Few 
had ever programmed, many had never turned on a computer, and the lecturers 
made many mistakes in what they taught.  Undanted the boy corrected the 
mistakes of the lecturers, and was quickly hated by many for doing so.  All 
thought him arrogant, and few talked to him.

It was a miserable first year, but he learned to keep quiet, and ignore the 
mistakes.  He scored well, and found a couple of a friends, but was very 

He started seeing more of the world, and started hating it more, yet loving 
it too.  Big companies were doing evil things, drug companies, computer 
companies, food companies.  Everywhere and everyone, controlled by money and 
a want for power.  He hated it, and vowed never to go that way.  Everyone had 
always said that 'when you're young you think you can change the world, but 
as you get older you realise you can't ', and realised that the complete 
opposite is true.

He started a few schemes up, such as helping primary schools with their 
networks, and trying to set up a scheme to help young geeks.  He worked for a 
research company developing free medical software for them, and helped out on 
irc, and wrote various howto's for the ldp.

And so we come up to present day life.  A not so young boy anymore, at 20 
now.  Happy with himself, but depressed at the world.  Looking for computing 
work during the summer (univerisity course requirement) he contacted RMS.

Hello, the boy said, I'm being hacking on many of the gnu tools privately for 
quite a while now, and could make many many cleanups, because the code is 
bad, and full bugs, here take a look at my CV and the projects I've worked 
on.  Oooo, says RMS, I see you have written some howto's - we can do with 
professional writters; come back when you've written some manuals.  No wait, 
says the boy, I just a low paying job - just to satisfy uni - and I can offer 
a lot coding skill and experience.  Sorry, says he, come back when you've 
written a manual.

And so, he is now unsure to whom to apply, and what to do.

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