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Ask HN: How did you get started in tech and/or Linux?
171 points by indigodaddy 9 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 152 comments
I’m happy to be able to directly attribute my livelihood to Linux, which is kind of a cool thing to think about.

Would love to hear other anecdotes as to how others got into tech/Linux.

I’m 44 and got my start in 2009, after doing a myriad of other things, like carpentry, aircraft catering, etc.

After an injury, I was basically ruled out of any jobs that required consistent physicality, so I hunkered down and decided to just focus in on Linux full-time (I was already somewhat of a Linux hobbyist, but knew I had a lot of learning to do). After about 6 months of self study, I decided I wanted to work for a webhosting company, and that I really wanted to work in the hosting/server/datacenter/Linux environment. So NOC Technician is basically where it’s at for that sort of thing to get a foot in the door.

I was hanging out in an IRC channel for a local Linux user group, and lo and behold, there was a guy who worked in a local datacenter/hosting company. I got the manager contact from him, and basically called and emailed and bothered the hell out of him until he relented and said OK come work as an unpaid intern. I worked hard, learned and incredible amount there (they hired me on after a few weeks, albeit very cheaply of course)— DNS/network/webserver/troubleshooting, all the fundamentals, and there were incredibly smart and brilliant people there that I learned from. Those were very cool days.

From there I kept learning and have done fairly decently for myself. Good amount of luck on the way probably, sort of right situation/right timing... have worked at two very large ISPs/telecoms in Systems and Server Operations since then.

Wanted to share this maybe to also give encouragement to people just to keep trying and working hard and it can work out. Potentially also a good message in this hard time of the Coronavirus.

Would love to hear some other foot-in-the-door stories.

It was 1993 and I was homeless, living in a squat, working for bands by selling T-shirts at their gigs - I'd hitch hike to where they played to get paid £20 for the night before sleeping rough nearby. During this I collected names and addresses of their fans so that if the bands got new T-shirts there was the potential to contact the fans and let them know.

One of the bands - Elastica - wanted to shoot a music video and needed 100 fans to be in London in 2 weeks time... the band asked me if I could send a letter, I had 2,000 names and addresses and I got a few friends to volunteer and we hand-wrote 2k envelopes in 5 days and posted them with a phone number to call if you wanted to be in the video... then we went to the management company and manned the phone. They got their 100 fans and had a waiting list of another 200.

The band management company asked how we did this and whether they could put us on a retainer to do it in future as they had big plans for another band - Blur - and I pointed out that it was infeasible to write so many envelopes so often. But I believed a computer could do this, so if they bought me a computer and covered postage and packing, I would build a way to keep in touch with the fans of their acts.

They bought me an IBM 30386 and I had it in the upstairs of the squat. There was a hole in the roof so this part of the room was covered in tarp, and we stole the power from another loft as the hole in the roof granted crawlway access to other lofts. I had never used a computer before as I came from poverty, but I got a book from a library, a reference book on basic, and used that to programme a simple database based on text files, with index text files that I could then mail merge into envelope labels. Scaled that slowly up to be a full database (single user of course), and then a stock control system as staying in touch with fans meant we expanded into selling T-shirts mail order - which produced a surprising amount of revenue.

That was the start... and by then it was 1994 and a lot of the bands that were nothing were about to be something.

That's a fantastic story, really. Thank you. Please do write up a long form of this and post it somewhere where it will last, so it can inspire others. If there ever was a 'hustle' story on HN this is it, much better than wanna-be growth-hackers and marketeers who are mostly selling themselves rather than their accomplishments.

How could you stop there? I would continue reading this story for the rest of the day.

He was going to keep writing but the loftmate unplugged his power.

Was Damon Albarn was Justine frishman of elasticas boyfriend at the time?

I remember Dave rowntree of blur also wrote some Linux drivers

Yes. And Damon used to come to the Elastica gigs, but because Parklife had suddenly made them mega famous he always had to sneak in the rear doors of venues or climb drain pipes to get into dressing rooms to be with Justine.

Dave did graphic design and 3d work as a hobby but this was much later.

Haha, amazing!

There might be a book in there.

I'd watch a film of this story.

Total Legend! Honestly, I listen to loads of British bands circa 1990-1994. And from Stone Roses at Spike Island 1990 to Oasis first gig at Glastonbury in 1994, there is a veritable time capsule of those epic days on YouTube. I concur with the sentiment here that if you ever wanted to Kickstart a documentary I believe the response would be tremendous ;)

I think you may have sent me a letter.

This one of the best stories/things I've ever read here in Hacker News and I don't say this lightly. Really amazing and inspiring story! :D

This should be in the top HN news article. Thank you for brightening my day after getting some shitty news.

Such a story! this is very inspiring and I would like to read what happened next!

This was the best post I’ve ever read on HN. I hope you write more!


Please share anymore stories if you have them, this was a fantastic read :)

Wow, that's an incredible story! Write more please!

You human, are inspiring!

A girl I fancied in school used Linux (various distributions, installing new ones to try out was a hobby of hers). I had been meaning to try it out anyhow, but being able to impress her with Linux skills was the trigger to actually get into it. Also Python; she was also into Python and so I started on learning that as well.

Took me a few months to get settled, initially using Linux Mint, but I never looked back. I actually tried going back to Windows when buying a new laptop and the latest hardware just wasn't supported at all, figuring I'd just modify and tweak it in every possible way, but it is just too cumbersome and inflexible now that I'm used to Debian.

As for the girl, the impress-her part worked well enough I think but sadly we never got together and ended up losing touch. Sometimes I wonder if she's alive: accounts on all social media are inactive since years and while she didn't seem unhappy, she was an unusual person and didn't easily fit in with society. I hope she's okay.

Knowing Linux and Python are invaluable skills for the work I do now. If I hadn't started then, I would have had to catch up later or maybe ended up in a more standard tech job, so a head start there was definitely good to get a foot in the door at places that use both extensively in pentesting.

I had a very unusual childhood. I learned to read at only 4 years old, which opened so many doors for me. By the time I was 7, I had read the "Black & Decker's Guide to Home Wiring" so many times, I bought some parts at Walmart and built a working electric lamp from the book. (And, to the shock of my family, an electrician later inspected it and said I had done everything correctly and it was completely safe to use.) By the time I was 9, my focus had switched to computers and building apps that ran on them. I downloaded a copy of Visual Basic .NET Express and (on a different track) got an Arduino UNO from my family for Christmas.

After some time building Windows apps and seeing that was not the future, I switched to learning PHP and downloaded my first Linux distro - Ubuntu 11.04. I got my first client at 14 freelancing software development. Later, I learned Laravel and re-wrote that app in a proper, cleanly-developed framework. I'm 19 now, finishing my AA degree, and the client is considering hiring me long-term instead of the occasional freelance project. I'm still open to new stuff though. :)

What is interesting, looking back, is about how much has changed since I learned programming. I really started with websites when I was around 10-11 years old, and everything was PHP, JQuery, WordPress, MySQL, Apache, the like. Windows XP was still quite common and my main development PC. Even though I still use those technologies, it is truly amazing how much has changed. Node, Express, MongoDB, Laravel, Redis, Linux Mint... they all didn't exist yet. It feels like web programming has changed completely, and I'm not that old!

>"It feels like web programming has changed completely, and I'm not that old!"

I wrote my first web program sometime in the first half 90's I think. It was native custom HTTP server that would generate HTML and little bit of JavaScript as it was not all that powerful back then. Fast forward 25 years: it is still native servers but instead of rendering HTML they send JSON data and JavaScript does all the rendering and interaction. So not much change at all.

The fundamentals change much more slowly. Like http has hardly changed at all until 2.0 showed up. So you can take that knowledge to Laravel, Rails, Express, whatever. I've always felt digging a little bit and getting down more into the core of things can really help with the fatigue of tech always changing.

Yes but recruiting becomes harder. There is practically no way to recruit a motivated person today for classic Atlassian SDK plugins (jQuery, Velocity/Soy templates, and then classic Java. Spring is handled for you as Atlassian set it up, so not much to learn technically). I’m having the time of my life on these tools, creating plugins that customers around the earth hear about and come to Confluence for, but I can’t expand.

A girl broke my heart, I dramatically (I was 22) plugged "Why aren't nerds popular," into Google, found PG's essay (http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html), read the other ones, and decided to become a Lisp Jedi.

Oof - that article brings back a lot of memories of Slashdot and being a geek back in the day.

This is possibly one of the most infamous of all Slashdot threads - it was a collection of emails detailing how it was to be an outsider in the days after Columbine.


If the stories in this post are interesting to you, a book to consider would be Geeks, by Jon Katz.


Has the situation changed?

Yes it has. Sort of. These days, every high school has an overachiever clique. These students get great grades, but also run the various student clubs, have interesting hobbies, are into activism, are usually charismatic and good looking, etc. And they're usually popular and envied by people.

This group isn't exactly the nerd clique of the 90s. Motivations of this group are driven by status-seeking, both among peers and college admissions officers, unlike the pure passion motivation nerds of the 90s are known for. But this group offers a realistic path of a 90s-style nerd to popularity.

> Yes it has. Sort of. These days, every high school has an overachiever clique. These students get great grades, but also run the various student clubs, have interesting hobbies, are into activism, are usually charismatic and good looking, etc. And they're usually popular and envied by people.

That's not a change. That clique existed in 1990s high schools. They were known as "preps" back then, and were the opposite of "nerds". "Jocks" were preps who played sports.

It's a work in progress. :)

I became a programmer because Travelocity couldn't hire competent front-end developers. I was hired on October 2007 as a designer. They had plenty of designers. After 3 months of doing very little work I was reassigned to a developer position and told to figure it out. I figured it out because I wanted to remain employed so that I could continue to pay my rent and feed my children.

In hindsight this experience has proven problematic. Many people who perform front-end development never seem to figure it out. They are dependent upon a collection of tools to do large portions of their job for them. This is incredibly frustrating because it exposes a very extreme and immediate sense of dependency that quickly leads to insecurity, which is a polite way of saying hand-holding possibly infantile. That is a wildly different perspective that often results in friction and sometimes hostility.

> Many people who perform front-end development never seem to figure it out. They are dependent upon a collection of tools to do large portions of their job for them.

Do not feel bad about it. This practice applies as much to the back end development, the whole of programming, and human experience in general. There is only as deep as you can go. I would never be able to build a computer from electronic parts and bootstrap even a simple operating system from scratch.

If I understand you correctly is what you probably mean is that many developers approach their job mechanistically, without getting into understanding of the parts of the knowledge that would allow them be much better at what they do.

To that I say - it is because of immense and fast growing demand and the fact that FE development sits on the very top of one of the most complicated infrastructure stacks in human history.

I got a thinkpad when I was 10 years old, found my first use for it when world of warcraft was released a few weeks later.

Recovering from World of Warcraft addiction at age 12 (having spent the time fully immersed all day every day) caused me to read B.F. Skinner's research.

I was quite shocked reading about the Skinner boxes and felt empathy for the mice after having been trapped in one myself.

By coincidence I went with a friend to a lecture at the local university at this time... some guy called Richard Stallman was speaking about computers.

I came home and installed Linux, I have been learning what I need to participate in this fight ever since.

Originally I just wanted to be free from manipulation, so I put in the hours to protect myself.. but now I want everyone to be free from manipulations so I try to find out which kind of software I should contribute and maintain to move us closer to that dream.

Question: do you still play games? If so, how much? I absolutely love gaming, but I can really lose myself in it, and also sometimes think about what I could do if I would spend these hours on for example learning (I'm a web dev). Sometimes I think about quitting gaming entirely and spending that time on programming projects/learning entirely for fun. At the same time I like gaming, but I have a hard time not getting immersed in it.

Similar experience for me, played all through my teens and early twenties. Something has clicked in the last year, that I want to spend my time more productively

What's worked for me has been using a blocker. For example "cold turkey" I'm using ATM. I normally set blocks of 1 month or so, then end up binging a gaming weekend when it becomes unblocked, then go again

Seems to be working pretty well. Considering just setting it away for 3 month blocks, but I'm still hanging on to there being a nice middle ground :)

That's awesome! I really like the idea of setting blocks, and still playing once in a while.

Tried playing less before, but never succeeded for long.

Just not playing at all will probably suit me better. Especially when I know I will be able to at the end of the block.

Starting with it from now! Thanks for sharing :)

Glad it's helped, good luck on your journey to reclaiming some extra hours back!

I've been struggling with something similar. Where I've landed (for now at least) is to ask, "What does this game give me? Will I be happier/better when I'm done? Is there nothing I'd like to do instead?"

If I have good answers, I'll let myself play the game. "I've been programming all day and my brain needs a break," is fine. But if it comes out that I'm playing because I just want to fill time or am procrastinating taking the next step on a project, I put it down and do something else. Doesn't have to be the thing I was procrastinating, just something that won't automatically expand to fill all available time.

Not really no, I am kind of fed up with electronics tbh.

I still LOVE games though and I think in terms of them all the time. However I prefer physical games with good design, there's something about having a small enough statespace that it fits in your head but a vast enough posibility space to encourage replay that tickles me.

Nowadays I want to design some games but I want to do a lot of things, so we'll see what happens...

I'm 41, and have been using it for over 2 decades.

It's always been a hobby. I work in a non-tech field, I have just liked it better than alternatives, and like the tinkering bit.

It started about 1993, as a freshman at Bronx Science. The school's internet terminals ran AIX (IBM X Stations with these nice big 21" CRTs). Senior year, a friend gave me a CD from Walnut Creek. That was Slackware. Started playing with it, and liked it. I was using a custom built 486 I bought at a computer show. However, things were far from easy as documentation back then was hard to find.

From there, first year of college (1998), I moved to Red Hat (at 5.1) and with the help of a guy on IRC got the Sound Blaster drivers compiled, X running, and everything else I needed. The college computers at the time ran VAX (not so Unix-y) and Digital's OS/F, so again I felt right at home with a Unix-like OS.

From there it was a wrap. Haven't touched any proprietary system since. In between there's been periods of using BSD, and a lot of "distro hopping."

Twenty three years later, I'm almost back where I started - Fedora. Still a hobbyist, still tinkering.

A walnut creek CDROM? Well look at the mr. millionaire here, I could not afford a CD drive at the time :) My first slackware install took like 5 hours of flipping floppies (40 or so) and haphazardly answering questions like "Do you want to install Python? Ruby? Guile? I don't know, do I?!?". I messed something up and the root password was not set properly. All I could do was spend another 5 hours reinstalling it and hope this time it would go right, so I did. I think on the same day I first ran vi, couldn't figure out how to type anything, or exit for that matter, so I ctrl-alt-deleted the computer :) I had just 4 megs of ram too, basically all the computer could do is boot to a shell so I could enable swap. Starting X swapped the hell out of it. Good times.

I honestly don't know if in this day and age I would take up Linux. Back then I did because I was bored, hungry for knowledge and was soaking in anything computer-related I could get my hands on. Linux provided so many new technologies to tinker with. With the cornucopia of freely and easily accessible knowledge that we have today... I don't know, maybe I would choose a different path altogether.

Not sure what my exact "start" was... My mom was a computer programmer in the 70s, and on days where my elementary school was out but she had to work, she'd bring me in to work with her, and plunk me down in front of a terminal to her work mini-computer. I remember playing the original Adventure, as well as some other simple games that kept 7 year old me busy all day.

When I was in 5th grade, my teacher was taking classes for her masters at the local university, and was given an apple II to take to her classroom. I stayed after school every day for the month she had the computer, and worked on projects in Logo.

In middle school, we had an Apple II clone (Franklin Ace 1000), and I would type in games from magazines. That's how I learned to program. I was a terrible typist, and would always have bugs that I had to figure out. I eventually started modifying the games on purpose, and doing that became more fun than actually playing the games.

When I was in college in the late 80s / early 90s, I idolized our CS department sysadmin, who sat in a dark office, listening to cool music, and porting BSD to weird computers (DG Aviion). I was hooked, and decided I wanted a job like that. I bailed out of an MS degree program to take a sysadmin job. A few years later, I moved to a job as research staff in the CS department, where I got to write device drivers for high speed network cards and eventually got paid to port FreeBSD to the DEC Alpha.

My story is so bland and boring it's not worth bringing up. But this friend of a friend of mine has the single greatest "how I got onto tech" story I've ever heard. He needed to save soldiers' lives in Afghanistan.


Antoine, wherever you're at now, you're still an inspiration, dude.

I was a web developer in 1999. It was my first job after school. The business owner was a diehard Windows enthusiast, but after a streak of problems with our customer-hosting IIS/ASP setup he asked me to "look into Linux, maybe it'll work for us".

We had a set of old unused Mac Quadras in the office that I were allowed to tinker with, and I came upon either Linux-m68k or Slackware for 680x0, cannot recall which. I had never been in direct contact with anything Unix or Unix-like. Despite having programmed computers since the early 1990s, and being very stubborn with getting things to work, my memory of installing and trying to use that Linux distribution was something along the lines of "created by mad scientist, for other mad scientists"; a complete lack of user-friendliness and severely deficient documentation. I gave up.

Some weeks later a friend recommended me OpenBSD. It was a night and day difference. The installation was simple, clear and mostly intuitive, and documentation was top-notch. Within a single day I had both a working desktop environment and an Apache web host environment with Ms Access + ASP capabilities (through something called ChiliASP I think), and account-based FTP access.

I've been using OpenBSD ever since, and just a couple of years later I moved from Windows to Mac OS X as my primary desktop system because of growing so fond of the power and versatility of Unix-like environments.

In 1983 a friend got a ZX Spectrum, and I found a magazine for it which had game listings in it. So for my friend and I it started on a Saturday afternoon spent typing code into a ZX Spectrum.

A year or two later my dad would let me play on his PC at work on Saturdays. Found myself in a large bookshop around then and picked up a book on GW Basic which had listings in it for things like text boxes, sort/search, input/output, COM ports and so on. I was hooked.

In '89 I was consripted and wrote some software to order incoming messages by priority and recipient or something. Wrote that up in my first resume and was hired after my first interview in '90.

Since then I just kept wanting more, and so I worked my way through stuff like tariffing and billing for cellphone operators, building a frontend for online banking, and so on, which led to a job at Microsoft, then Nokia, and on and on... until today.

It was around 1986 and my Mom purchased a secondhand Tandy Color Computer that had been upgraded from 16K to 64K. She gave it to my brother and I along with several books. When you turned the computer on, it said, "OK" and waited for instructions in basic.

My brother and I spent hundreds of hours in front of that machine copying games, fixing typos, and being amazed by our creations. I was hooked.

I'm 44 now and I still write code everyday. I also created a book called Splash of Code and published it on Amazon. It teaches JavaScript programming in a similar fashion.

When I was in middle school my brother started playing half-life 1 followed by counter-strike. This got me into playing counter-strike, and then eventually damn near all other half-life mods. This just generally helped my computer literacy as eventually I would learn how to mod existing mods.

Slowly I started to come to terms with the idea that I too could build things like the half-life community had done. I bought myself a huge book on C++ and went through it about 3 times. Then bought another 2 C++ books and started making small projects (tic tac toe, pong, game of life, tetris, etc).

I decided that I'd probably enjoy doing it as a career. I went into web development because that seemed like the path of least resistance. I always had a peripheral understanding that Linux was a thing, but I tried out Ubuntu briefly in 2012 and ended up breaking the install due to my unfamiliarity with it.

In 2013 I was applying for jobs and one of them had a requirement for you to download a git repo, make a few changes, and then submit a pull request. While doing this my laptops hard drive died. Fortunately my laptop had two drives -- one was a 20 gig SSD which housed Windows (this one died), and one was a 500 gig drive which housed all the data. I had a deadline by which I had to submit the change, so I decided to install Linux (Mint this time) on the working drive and continued from there. I ended up liking Linux Mint a lot, it's what all my devices still use today.

As stupid as it sounds, my first introduction to programming and "hacker" culture was AOL chat rooms, people used "scrollers" which would paste ascii art into AOL chat rooms at the press of a button and I wanted to know how that was done so I learned some Visual Basic with the functions AppActivate and SendKeys. I was 12 and in 6th grade at the time.

After being kicked off of AOL for that and other DoS related crap related to these silly "progs" I was making, I had to get a different local dialup ISP and find a new way to chat (IRC).

People used to send the IRC CTCP "VERSION" command to see what IRC client you were using, and the folks in the leet haxor chats such as #2600 would make fun of you for being a newb if you were on mIRC (and thus Windows) and not Linux or *BSD.

So I had to figure out Linux so I could be cool, which was kindof a pain in the ass in 1997 still. Hardware support for things like ethernet and video cards often required recompilation of the linux kernel just to get it working etc. I learned a lot from that and often stayed up until 6 in the morning much to my parents concern and dismay.

But luckily for me, who did poorly at school for lack of interest and didn't go to college, the computer/coding thing turned out OK for me. I'm 36 and work at one of the big companies and make a pretty good living as an SRE. Somewhat ironically, I work at Microsoft now.

As a kid, I think it's in my blood to do something technical or systematic. We have a lot of males in my family and a lot of mechanics, engineers, handy people. Out of 4 siblings they've had a combined number of 5 boys and no girls. Only in the 2nd line do the girls start appearing. Just an observation. The line before that on my fathers side was 3 boys and 1 girl. All boys became some type of engineering profession later, before computers took over.

We were poor though, all it took was my mom working as a nurse at the hospital and the hospital had a subsidizied computer leasing program for all their workers. It was a contract thing that renewed after 2-3 years so for 3 periods their leasing computer was my only computer.

Before that my older brother had left his c64 with me but I only knew how to play some games on it.

First leasing computer I gamed on and let my older brother overclock for me. 2nd one is when I discovered script kiddie stuff, cracking programs, pirating. 3rd one is when I first installed Linux and got hooked. That was around 2000, i was 15.

Later in life I've described myself as a control freak and Linux gave me control and insight into things I was fascinated by.

By chance it also gave me a wonderful career where my knowledge is so valued that I can work where I want, when I want and can say no to anything without feeling fear for my job.

Being from a so-called "developing" country my contact with computers was highly limited. Like, I used one for the first time when I was 11-12 years old and had the very first one until I was 17, and it was an Acer Note Light that had Windows 95 - but we were in 2005.

At my school, which was actually a "social project" of a school for rich people, they lent us the computers they no longer used for us to learn how a computer worked - at that time they were old b&w Macs and some years after Win95 pcs (they had the then-new iMacs but lent us only for one class; I recall the "wow" factor was so much I even thought the round mouse was cool).

After school I went to try to study electronic engineering but was a total failure, I ended at graphic design that is what I do for a living now. But at that time on a little show the cool kids were toying with PCs running several flavors of Linux, and showing off Compiz and that stuff. They gave us an (original!) Ubuntu 5.10 CD, which was the thing actually blew my mind off - a whole free OS! How that was possible?

Tried to install it in my PC at home (I could afford a crappy clonic when I got into uni) but, as usual, deleted all my stuff I had in my hard disk. That didn't put me off, though - we hadn't internet at home at that time, until some years after, but eventually I could manage to install it. Some years after using Ubuntu, pulled the trigger and installed Gentoo. That was in Jan. 2009 and hadn't distrohopped ever since, did my whole graphic design degree using FOSS and now in what I do for a living. Can't see myself using privative software.

Interesting, I'm wondering if you can share your favorite tools? Photoshop is pretty much the only thing I miss from the proprietary OSes, never managed to match the workflow with Krita or Gimp.

I got started in tech when I found a book about making your own computer games in my elementary school library. It was a little old even then: we had a 486 running DOS 6 and the book was, I would guess, 10 years old. It detailed how to save your work to what appeared to be an audio cassette and I'm quite sure it wasn't written in a DOS-dominated world! I figured out how to use QBasic and I started building things from what I had learned in the book. My Dad (mainframe engineer) and older brothers (who had done it in high school) saw, and started chiming in with tips and help, and showing me new things that weren't in the book. I got Turbo C++ for my 12th birthday, and in high school we finally got the Internet, I discovered forums, and Java and PHP and many others, and the rest is history. I got a job in tech out of high school and paid for college in a few years.

I had tried to get into Linux all through high school but my family was completely unsupportive of that (still are, weirdly). I bought an old machine (wiped) and a book about Mandrake Linux at a garage sale, but I couldn't figure out how to get Linux on there. I had a copy of Fedora on CD, but didn't know enough to get a CD drive working successfully. I tried Linux From Scratch on floppy disks, and the PDF was an interesting read, but I never got that computer very far. When I could afford my own laptop I had a problem within weeks and Microsoft support managed to brick the system remotely. I decided to go all-in. I spent a few weeks trying various free *nixes. Ubuntu was brand new, but it worked well enough to get me to never go back (though I have often explored BSDs and other distros). By my senior year I was working exclusively on back-end Linux stuff. Now I would say I have an exceptionally successful career and I haven't touched a proprietary OS in 9 years!

I was at a summer thing for two weeks when I was 10, learning how to draw comics and illustrate. There was at the same time a course on making websites with MS Frontpage and publishing them on the city council's hosting service so I stumbled on that and ended up spending a few days putting my drawings online. After that, I played around making computer graphics for a year or so before we had a HTML course at my school.

That was kinda it, I ended up spending time with free webhosts and visual page building tools. This was around 2003 or so and after that I started to learn how to use FTP tools and and make websites from scratch.

From 2003 to 2007 I made a ton of basic sites for a ton of different projects like counter strike clans, tutorials, video game cheats etc. In 2008 I set up my first WordPress site to write reviews about electronic music and that kind of blew up and I outgrew my shared web hotel pretty fast with over 100k daily visitors and 1tb monthly traffic so after that I had to learn how to self-host on Linux VPS servers and how to build lighter sites with less db queries to keep up with the demand.

My site got hacked twice due to bad plugins and not understanding basic web security so in 2010 I moved into static site generators and separating file hosting (as that was 99% of the traffic) and the website. I finally ran the site down in 2013 because I lost interest in the music scene due to it changing too much.

These days I'm doing mostly client work, but I'm self taught so I have to be careful about the projects I pick as I'm not a stellar JS dev. I can do most basic operations from hosting and Linux server admin to frontend development and web design but most my of contracts are these days in UX design and usability studies and less on the technical side.

I'm 45. I got started by books when I was about 8: The little public library near my home had translations of the Usborne BASIC guides and Tim Hartnell's game books and I devoured those without having a computer to try them on. Then my uncle bought an Spectrum 48k and I spent every Saturday morning going to his place, playing some games and typing some code from one of the books, or modifications I had concocted in a notebook during the week. My parents bought us an MSX, probably by 1986 and I kept doing some BASIC (but mostly playing games).

Then came an hiatus, from 1988 to about 1993 I became the stereotypical teenager, so motorcycles, booze and girls seemed way more interesting. I always regret it a bit, because I feel I could have learned a lot during those years.

In 1993 I started Physics at college and my parents bought me a 386 PC. That thing must have costed like $3000. I did little Physics, but sure gamed an awful lot on that thing. But I also taught myself C.

Then in 1995 I discovered a little room in the Physics department that had two unsupervised old PCs connected to something called the Internet. I was hooked instantly and squatted that room for hours every day with a bunch of similarly inclined students. We downloaded NASA pics, connected to chat rooms and MUDs and hacked into the mail server to steal unused email accounts for ourselves. One day someone from that room handed me a bunch of floppies with Slackware Linux on it.

I switched to CS the next term, and finished it, but on the side: by 1996 I had a web dev job.

Most of the jobs I've held have been pretty full-stack: from sliding the servers into the rack to whipping up a decent logo in Gimp and everything in between. I keep doing the same and I love being self-sufficient, but sometimes envy people that are really really good at something. But I never found anything I would leave all the rest for.

Back in high school. I had a Thinkpad running windows (I'm in my early 30s today), and 2 days before an assignment was due, my brother knocked it off a table, it hit every step down to the ground floor. The board was pretty much done (it was an old Thinkpad) and I had to figure out a way to salvage some of the data, so I did some research online.

I ended up downloading Ubuntu, created a bootable USB and managed to fish out my documents from the disks. Fast forward to today, and I'm part of an Ops team running and developing software to manage around 10K Ubuntu servers across several colocations.

I don't have children (yet), but for the parents out there - push your kids to tinker with technology, don't just buy a new one when it breaks. For me it started out with breaking and assembling back almost every toy my parents bought me, to understand its internals. Please nurture this instinct.

My dad gave me a screwdriver and an old typewriter for my 3rd birthday. The rest is - as they say - history, I only learned how to put stuff back together again around the age of 15, software was mostly a budget hack (because electronics parts were a continuous drain where as software was re-usable parts to me).

I never thought I'd be a programmer. I actually took HTML in grade school (late 90s) and C++ in high school, but they didn't stick. (Of course now I wish they did!) I originally went to school for TV production, which I had worked in at a local news station all through high school, but wound up getting into a band, took some time off to try that out, and then went back to community college for music.

I started hacking around with windows mobile circa 2006, not really programming but taking the OS apart and making custom ROMs and whatnot. A while later I decided to take a networking course as an elective, because I had been getting more interested in tech. The teacher was all about networking as a field that you didn't have to get more than a two year degree plus some certs for, and I thought hey, I like this enough, they'll be plenty of jobs, and it's not much school. So I changed my major.

The next year my mom (who teaches at a college) said "Go see if they have any internships", so I did. The lady at the department checked what she had and said "Here's something at (a major media company) as a web producer, is that applicable to your major?" "Sure!" I half-lied immediately, because it sounded very cool. The internship was great, but beyond just CMS/production stuff, they throw Javascript/JQuery at me. I got hooked immediately. I guess I was always a tinkerer and problem solver, but I hadn't realized how much fun solving all these little problems and getting to see what I built come to fruition was for me. I bought some books, started teaching myself web dev and Linux (which had always intrigued me, and by '08 I had a server running FreeBSD serving up my music collection for all my friends out of my parents' house. When I graduated with a network admin degree in '10, one of my teachers immediately got me a job at a liquor store doing web and IT.

The great postscript to this is that today, after working in a few different places across the spectrum of web and hosting, I'm back at the media company as a software engineer.

It's actually embarrassing. I used to be a full on Win/Mac user in various phases.

I had a coworker who was a contributor and we'd have healthy debates (promise!) about our choice of OS. I decided I'd one-up him, by learning all the finer points about the 3rd remaining OS well, I'd be able to render him speechless! So I installed Linux on a computer and started using it, settings up my dev environment, applications etc. It didn't take long for me to forgot about the original reason for doing it. I only remembered years later and I didn't forget to thank him sincerely for sending me down this path.

I never thought about OSS, freedom, etc, mainly because a premise of being in those closed ecosystems is to be brand loyal. But now it's become very important to me.

I had already dropped out of high school, and went back. Graduated and went into the workforce. Did stuff like working at a gas station and bouncing. Figured I was too smart to do retail for the rest of my life.

Then I went to college. 6 years later, graduated as a liberal arts degree with three majors during the Great Recession. Couldn't find a job, so started bouncing around doing marginally better-than-retail jobs.

Talked to a friend who was working at Amazon as an automation engineer. Asked him where he went to school. Turns out he didn't go to college, but taught himself Linux. Asked him the best way to learn Linux, and he pointed me to a website...

Taught myself Linux, got CompTIA Linux+ alongside AWS's Solutions Architect associate. 2 years later was hired by AWS.

It was around 2014, and I had just started secondary school (k-7 for primary, 8-12 for secondary) and I had no friends, I decided I wanted to build a computer and I ended up deciding to install linux on it (I had some previous experience running minecraft servers) and from there on out I was in. I never had many friends in secondary school and my mom was always working, and I didn't want to wander around town getting into trouble so I spent my teenage years alone working at the computer learning to sysadmin stuff. I'm in uni now doing a compsci degree so I guess it all worked out right? Still don't know what there is for me in the fog of the future but hopefully when it clears I will bask in the light of the sun.

My first taste of Linux was in 2002 when a classmate/labmate looked frustrated and installed Cygwin on my Windows computer. A year or so later, I built a computer from components I bought from NewEgg. No distros worked because I had bought a SATA hard drive and the drivers were not built in. Knoppix worked when booting from a CD though. I "wasted" about 2 weeks of my life compiling a kernel that had SATA drivers built in (not kernel modules), using Gentoo. Air quotes around "wasted" because I learned a lot and it gave me confidence. But I still get a "kernel panic" in my stomach while installing linux.

In 1996 I went back to college for an MIS degree. I was switching from technical entertainment, audio engineer mostly for TV, theatre, concerts. That fall I got a gig as a help desk tech for one of the medical school departments. Working IT with doctors in the 90's was, entertaining ... Very smart people that couldn't deal with the complexity of a pc and Windows 95.

The next summer a friend asked if I could get him an account on the University's VMS system. I didn't think that was a good idea so I went in search of an alternative. Several tries later and I have been a Debian user ever since.

In early 1998 I parleyed that gig into a staff sysadmin role with the department after I hired my boss. Used that to move states and started into my fastest career growth year, 1998, with a 347% pay increase over 4 roles. Ended the year as a network/server group supervisor and Solaris admin. It has been a fun trip since.

The foot-in-the-door moment was in the fall of 1996. I was in the lecture portion of an Intro to Computers required freshman course. This was my third go at college and things had changed since I went a few years before. The lecture was on the history of computing and the lab was how to use MS Word. I happened to have been reading a computer history book and was firing off answers to the Profs questions as quick as he could ask them. He stopped mid-sentence and asked me if I wanted a job. Luckily I followed up.

When I was 16 I had to redo my year in high school because I flunked 10 out of 12 classes that did not interest me (languages and economics, I only passed my native language course and sports). I was forced to change orientation and I chose electronics/ICT because "I spent a lot of time on the computer (playing games)" and that was the only computer-related orientation that was available. That year I discovered C++ and labview, figured out programming machines was my thing, suddenly passed all classes without having to study. Around that time (circa 2004-5) I got hold of those Ubuntu disks, messed up my only desktop machine trying to install it (wiped drives, broken Xorg, that kind of stuff), learned a lot trying to get everything back up and it snowballed from there.

Fast forward a few years to college, still passing classes without studying because I had to "understand it" instead of "study it". Moved on from Ubuntu to Gentoo and learned a lot more.

Fast forward 12 years and now I'm a freelance backend/devops guy working mostly for healthcare companies, trying to use my skills for good after I got sick of money-chasing in ad-tech companies.

Also, I was really lucky to have a couple of good senior mentors during my first 5-7 years of working. (Thanks @gbin if you ever read this). Now I'm mentor to some junior devs.

In hindsight, flunking all those classes in high school due to lack of interest was necessary for me to discover my true calling.

I got started in Linux when I was in my teens and played with amateur radio and Packet Radio (AX.25) in particular, some time around 1999. Back then I wrote a lot of small programs that helped me in my hobby so I almost never coded the for the sake of coding, but to solve real problems. That led me into a very happy career of EE and CS. If I had not started playing with CB radios some time around 1995 things would probably have gone quite different, as (before that episode) I was dead set on becoming a carpenter.

My brother was working on his engineering PhD and one of the things he always emphasized by his actions was a productive workspace. He loved owning his environment thus carefully designing his engagement with his ecosystem. Being the big brother that he is, he showed me some of the more tangible components such as his latex editing environment (he’s a bit of an editor junky), the simplicity of arch, and the power and brevity in nix tooling, Naturally, studying engineering forced him to pickup programming. He introduced me to project Euler as a means to learn the basics of programming.

At the time I had no marketable education. Using python, I ran through puzzles on project Euler and have progressively increased complexity since. Ultimately, I had the opportunity to finish a degree I had failed to finish 5 years prior. Computer science was the obvious choice. Fast forward some time, now I’ve worked at 2 of the bigger companies in the northwest over the last few years.

With the help of my brother, I found a new challenge I’ve since parlayed into a career at the corporate empire. I wouldn’t have done this alone. For the most part, none of my friends were really into tech or they were not well equipped to speak to it in an attractive manner.

So to all of you who try to spread your hobbies and interests to other people, thank you. You make the world a better place for anyone listening.

Cheers brother

In the mid-late 90's, our family got a computer. None of use really knew much about them, but Mom saw it for sale at some rent-to-own place and picked one up. It came with a free AOL trial and before you knew it we were on the Internet.

It was really cool to chat and meet people from all over. It felt like an exclusive club and I soon found myself addicted. It was common to occasionally get in little arguments with other users, especially other young teens. One of these incidents resulted in me being kicked offline by one of the users. When I dialed back up I asked them how they had done it and he was cool enough to show me how to use a punter - a program to 'punt' people offline.

From there I learned about other 'progs', programs that ranged from scrolling endlessly in chats to the more nefarious that allowed one to steal passwords. This intro to "hacking" led me to my first foray into programming with Visual Basic 5, so I could write my own progs.

Eventually I graduated from "hacking" on the AOL service and started reading anything I could find about real hacking. At the time it was believed you couldn't hack on Windows, so I _had_ to learn Unix. Started with some free shell accounts, learned some of the CLI and quickly got banned. I realized my own option was to run it myself. Found out about Redhat Linux and eventually got it to boot. I ran into so many issues that required constant troubleshooting. This sort of led me to fall in love with fixing things instead of just trying to break them. Just stayed with it for the next couple decades.

The first computers I used to program were probably BBC Micros .. which most schools in the UK had in the late 80s.

Friend's had ZX spectrums, Amstrad CPCs, Commodore 64s .. but my family didn't have the cash to buy any of these.

My Dad did have access to an Amstrad PCW, which was basically a word processor with green screen CRT built in. He'd bring it home for school holidays, and I was fascinated by it.

I'd borrow books from the library that aimed to teach kids how to program. This was the late 80s, and the books were written a while before and referenced earlier computers which weren't so common at the time .. TRS-80s .. VIC-20s.

The books had program code that you could type in to create simple games and demos. I'd spend hours typing in the code, only to learn the version of basic used wasn't compatible with the green screen word-processor my dad brought home.

As an introverted kid, I found the possibilities provided by a computer incredibly exciting and exotic.

Once I'd got the bug, I'd spend pocket money on computer magazines for years. The first time I encountered Linux was in the 90s, when I bought a magazine with a CD-ROM containing a slackware distribution. After installing it, there wasn't much I could do with it .. and I didn't really understand it's importance at the time.

I eventually saved up for a 486DX2 PC which cost me a small fortune at the time .. about £1600.

I switched to Linux full-time in about 2005.

A friend of mine was a sysadmin at a once massive internet company data center and was a Linux guy since being a kid. Sadly, he died. Then a couple of years later I was trying to hack a PSP to play free games. PSP hacking was dominated by 12 year old kids that had no idea how to document what they were doing, and it was a painful experience, but I was determined.

Later I got my hands on a second hand android phone, wanted to hack it, I did (and it was much easier) and then I decided to get my hands on a laptop. I wasn't going to have a toy without also hacking it, and I remembered my friend so I tried what he once tried to get me to do, I've never gone back.

Since then it is just a fact of life for me, the people around me use products and I use tools. They bend to the design of their products and I bend my tools to what I need.

Later I got into programming at a job, a boss asked me to do something over a week while he was out of town to test my capability, I had never programmed (besides doing some HTML as a kid out of boredom, I got pretty good at it and then lost access to computers for many years but that is a different story) and within a week I had taught myself a language and built a sort of predictive tool. He was impressed, and I began developing that tool full time and it was a core part of the department I worked in until I left.

Since then I've learned some other languages and built some cool things for myself. I no longer work in tech for personal reasons, but I still find building complex abstract machines with my mind and fingertips very enticing.

I was interested with computers since first contact in 1982. I had an MSX from 1985 on which I learned BASIC, then wrote my own assembler (because commercial ones were too expensive).

Some years later, having busted in University, I was an unpaid intern assistant sound engineer in the studio that recorded my band's album (we didn't sold it much). I've started working with digital audio (Sound Designer II, anyone? then Opcode Studio Vision).

At some point for some reason the studio started contracting development work. We were supposed to do the sound design and music for some interactive touch-screen kiosk systems (around 1994), and for some reason (maybe some failed contractor) we finally took care of the whole development, using Scala (not the same as today's Scala, but some sort of Macromedia Director predecessor) on Amiga machines, which I did.

Then I had my first contact with Unix when we developed an Interactive Voice Response program (those were all the rage in the mid 90s). We did the audio part, then the programming itself. It was running on a SCO Unix machine (1995) and the logic used some sort of weird BASIC.

Fast forward to 1996. I was working in TV still as an assistant sound engineer (but paid, this time). I discovered SGI IRIX and fell in love at first sight. I then installed Slackware Linux 2.x on a spare PC found at work.

We always had a computer at home growing up. My dad used it for tracking finances, us kids used it for games. My first program was probably a bunch of print statements on our C64.

Things changed when my dad bought a modem in 93 or so. We had Compuserve but it was expensive. Through Boardwatch magazine I started to try out local BBSes (916). Eventually a few like 24th Street Exchange and this BBS sucks became my online homes. 24th was particularly interesting as it was large (10s of lines), had Fidonet and possible Usenet feeds. Oh and it ran on a BSD. I learned a lot there.

Two key inflection points came:

1) I saw my first demo which made me want to learn to code in 94 (heartquake by iguana ; thanks guys!)

2) around 94-95 I heard about Linux and ended up with a Slackware disc from Walnut Creek.

In 1995 came full internet access with a whole new set of rabbit holes. Usenet, cipherpunks, IRC, etc.

Over times my interest varied as a teenager would. Upon starting college in 98 I had amassed a lot of experience - coding, graphics, graphic design (2d and 3D), web dev, Linux, building computers, etc. At the time I didn’t realize it, but this constant exploration and learning helped me build a huge set of tools that have served me well in my career.

In the end, the biggest lesson? Learn. Follow your curiosity. Roadblocks? find a way around, worst case, spot the dead ends and try again.

When I was in a junior high computer skills class (e.g., basic typing with Mavis Beacon =)), the teacher in that class introduced me to the high school teacher. I told him how I had learned to do basic stuff with C using a book and a copy of Visual Studios 6 (I think) my Uncle gave me. I must have seemed like an anomaly, as he gave me the text book on C++ they used for AP computer science.

Fast forward a couple of years and now I am taking classes with that high school teacher. I took classes with him every year of high school, now that I think about it. Anyways, he must have seen something in me, as he asked me if I wanted a job at a local school doing part-time system administration work. I was maybe 13-14 at the time and it was my first real job! He would even stay with me after school to help me understand topics I wasn't as familiar with (e.g., Windows Server 2003, AD, group policies, printer sharing, etc.).

I guess you could say that is what got me into IT, professionally at least. Probably around 10 years after that, I was still working in IT and I made sure to send him an e-mail thanking him for believing in me and inspiring me to pursue something I was passionate about.

As chance would have it, the e-mail I sent arrived at a particularly difficult time in his life (accident led to death of multiple children he mentored). He communicated with me about it and I believe my message may have helped him in some small way when he was going through a difficult time. I am sure I did not have nearly as much of an impact on his life as he did on mine, but I will always be grateful for having that teacher nearly 20 years ago.

I was not involved in tech growing up. In high school I was more interested in sports (XC/track, wanted to run in college) and science.

I did my undergrad in neuroscience with the intent of going to grad school and getting into research. After getting some research experience in undergrad (genetic research on DNA transcription patterns of certain bacteria), I realized that I didn’t really enjoy research. It might’ve been that the professor I worked for was an awful mentor and it might’ve just been the nature of the beast.

So I broadened my horizons and decided to apply to PA schools as well as grad programs. Wasn’t accepted to any of them, so I spent some time getting healthcare experience in nursing. I got a job in a critical care unit at a hospital. I disliked the job (for a lot of reasons, I like to think I’m not a terrible person for disliking it) but I learned a ton about working with people well, dealing with hard situations, and prioritizing what is important in crises situations.

Another round of applying to PA and grad school got me nothing even when talking to profs who were interested in my work and helping with theirs. At this point I was so frustrated I decided to go a different route. I was really good at stats so I started teaching myself “data science” and Python. I contacted the nearby university about what it would take to get into a masters program for software development with little to no prior experience. Thankfully they let me in and my life changed pretty dramatically.

In school I ditched data science and instead got interested in security. I got really interested in exploit development especially in kernels. My masters work actually was still a data science tool because I partnered with a local security company, but now I work in R&D at another security company and my current project involves developing applications with BPF in the Linux kernel.

I feel like I’ve come a really long way, but I gained many skills along the way that I noticed many of my coworkers don’t have. Namely, because of an academic history I’m better at starting projects from ground zero knowing little to nothing about a technology and I tend to have stronger communication skills. I have some ways to go to be as solid of an engineer as I’d like, but I’m very happy where I am in life and I’m happy to be in tech :)

Sorry for the essay! Hope someone enjoys it!

I came back home from a 2-week summer camp, at 13 years old, to an IBM PCjr. Was told "We spent a lot of money on this setup, it better not be collecting dust in a few months".

From there I learned DOS, Basic, general "administration". Got a job in late high school at the small company where my Mom worked, helping out with various office tasks (filing, running the postage meter, counting inventory). They had a few PCs, and a "main" computer system (some sort of Data General "mini" I believe). They had a PC consultant that would come in for various tasks, for $350 an hour. They quickly found out they could get the same work from me for $3.50 an hour.

Eventually, the company that supplied their central computer (with a bunch of ASCII terminals hooked up) migrated over to a Unix system (AIX on an IBM RT), I saw that the interface was somewhat similar to DOS but different, and went to town. Learned the vendor's app export functions, started producing custom reports using grep/sed/join/awk in shell scripts, became a "local hero", realized I have a hero complex, so I kept pursuing tasks that would help feed my ego -- further learned C programming, and the rest is history.

Today I'm a Linux systems/network engineer that does a lot of programming on the job (now they call it devops), and also filling in as a pinch hitter for some of the development teams whenever they need someone that knows system level programming and C. Also put out a few full-stack apps using node.js on the back end with plain html5/javascript on the front end (not really into modern frameworks, that is a hole I need to fill in).

When I was little my family was gifted a 386 that, when it started up, produced a C:\> prompt and nothing more. I taught myself to do small things and I learned that a thing called BASIC existed but I didn't actually have much use for it.

Then one day I heard that a command called "win" existed, so typed it in and suddenly - and I remember the absolute excitement of that moment as if it was today and I am getting giddy just writing it down - the black and white screen exploded into the colors that is the windows for workgroup startup screen. Suddenly the mouse that came with it made sense!

Pretty sure that is the single most important event that steered me onto the path I have taken.

Then later I had PentiumIII running windows2000 and from somewhere aquired an ISDN card, put it in, rebooted, installed drivers, shut down to go to sleep, remembered I wanted to read something, booted up, shut down again, went to sleep, booted again in the morning only to be greeted by a bluescreen, that I wasn't able to fix - I would have to re-install Windows.

But I remembered that I had bought magazine that had something called "NetBSD" on a CD, so I thought I'd give that a go, and since then I have used the odd binarblobdriver, but my operating systems have been thoroughly open source and I've grown up to be a programmer - probably seeded from trying to manually install all dependency of X11 before I learned that pkgsrc is a "package manager".

But that splash of color really impressed me, and I am continued to be impressed how a machine that basically only knows how to turn on or off tiny little lamps in a grid took over the entire world.

I got interested in networking trying to setup XBconnect to play Halo 1 over the internet. That led to using a Splinter Cell exploit to install Linux on my Xbox and then eventually installing Ubuntu 7.04 on my PC.

My first job was standing up a document management system on Linux servers which grew into virtualization, other sysadmin roles, and now a Product Manager focused in API integrations.

So, I too got my start thanks to Linux and have always been grateful for it!

I grew up with parents that used Unix and Linux, and so I probably heard about it at an earlier age than most would think about OSes. And that means hearing stories about punch cards and building basic computers too.

My first computer memories were using a TRS-80, DOS, and then Windows (from 3.11). But for Linux, it would be in that experimental college phase, building computers, getting compiz to work (and RAID, Wine, ...). I wrote about this recently (in the context of gaming as well) [1].

In short, I just like tinkering, hacking, making my computer my own. Linux is just fun for me, and I have been using exclusive that for several years now, having finally moved away from Windows for games (thanks to Steam and Proton especially, as well as more Linux indie games) and photo editing (thanks Darktable! [2]).

Now back to literate programming for my dotfiles with Emacs org-mode :-)

[1] https://boilingsteam.com/my-journey-to-finally-ditching-wind...

[2] https://9bladed.com/post/foss_photography/

In 2002 I installed widows xp and after 30 minutes of use I realized that Microsoft will never get their shit together. I'm on Linux ever since. Best Linux distro was Ubuntu 8.04, everything worked out of box, not even video tearing! It's downhill from back then but still good enough to stay. I'm using non mainstream wm so I'm not affected by fads anymore. I need to work, not change my habits on every os release.

I was a church youth worker in the mid 90s when my friend gave me his Dad's old 386 computer which started my interest in computing. I went on to buy a second hand 486 for £200 which was a big investment for my wife and I at the time.

My curious nature resulted in me upgrading my 486. I lost a night of my life trying to add a cdrom when I didn't know what jumpers were :-)

I left youth work and got a job in a local school as the photocopy guy. I grew in confidence and was going out at night and fixing people's computers to support my wife and son and daughter.

I was also studying part-time. I had just enough qualifications to become the school IT Technician when the opportunity arose. I went on to be the school Network Manager and grew the school network from 50 to 500 computers.

I left the public sector and joined a Saas company. I eventually became their infrastructure lead. By this stage I was managing a team running a Xenserver infrastructure spread throughout several data centres in the UK.

I created a website called https://freeperiod.co.uk when I worked in the school. A room booking system for schools. I left my job at the beginning of this year and was taken on to an accelerator program. So Freeperiod has become a company and I am also doing consultancy work.

Underpinning all this is a love for Linux. Faith is also important to me and I believe God has given me the desires of my heart throughout my career. Where there has been an interest I have moved into that field. I also understand now that employers need good workers. If you have a good work ethic you will enjoy your work and may do well.

In the late 90s, my brother gave me his old 486 machine. Around the same time, the Seattle Weekly published an April fools article[1] which mentioned a free operating system called Linux. I thought it was part of the joke, but on further research, I discovered it was real. Fascinated, I bought a CD with the RedHat 5.0 installer and put it on my 486. I quickly decided the 486 was too slow, and the excitement of learning more about Linux prompted me to build myself a much better machine.

Then I discovered there were many free operating systems available, such as FreeBSD. I installed it on my machine and started going to the local BSD users group meetings. I met a guy there who hosted weekly programming classes at his house. One of the people that went to his classes worked for a small web hosting company and helped me to get an interview. I landed the job, and that is how I got my foot in the door as a professional.

1. https://www.seattleweekly.com/news/microsofts-new-brain-proj...

Nice story, thank you!

I'm 31, when I was 12 my dad gave me his old Pentium 100MHz, because he bought himself a new PC.

I was hooked immediately - I wanted to make games so I stole(after getting a hard "no" upon asking) a few CDs from PC magazines from my dad and started installing any software that would catch my attention.

My first lines of code were a result of reverse-engineering a "family homepage" - something one could generate in the original Sims game - I think I made an image change its source URL on hover or something like that.

Unfortunately my potato PC had a radiator issue so any serious work could only be done in the middle of winter with the window wide open - otherwise after 20 minutes or so I would get random errors, restarts etc.

Later I got a floppy disc from school with the Logo platform and a book about Pascal + CD from my friend and a CD with MS FrontPage.

Having obtained these tools and with the radiator fixed I almost failed a year in school, because I already found my calling and homework was a distant second priority.

Looking back I regret I didn't have an internet connection until 2007 or so.

Tech, I got my introduction into computing with the Timex 2068, a Speccy clone, during the mid-80's, then followed up with a professional education during high school as computing technician, and finally ended up doing a degree in Informatics Engineering.

Linux, my introduction to UNIX was via Xenix during high school, where a PC tower was shared among the whole class, and we had to prepare our UNIX exercises on MS-DOS 5 computers.

When I arrived at the university, the campus was running mixing a mix of DG/UX and SunOS servers for UNIX programming classes. By accident I got hold of the the "Linux Unleashed" book during 1995's Summer, which made my life much easier by not having to travel 1h into the campus and wait for free terminals.

After my degree I actually spent most of the time with commercial UNIXes, then eventually went back to Windows as my main computing platform.

Still use Linux on the server and naturally as the kernel powering my Android devices, but not as heavy as during my engineering degree and UNIX related assignments.

How did DOS machines connect to the Unix box at that time? Or were they not connected, and you did it offline?

For those with money, they could use something like NetWare,


In our school it was a bit more low tech.

UNIX programming took place once a week, the teacher would bring in the UNIX (Xenix) tower from somewhere else, plug a keyboard and screen into it.

We would prepare our exercises in MS-DOS, only ensuring that it compiled (using stubs). There was hardly any testing possible, specially for exercises like UNIX IPC.

Then each group would take their turn at the tower, copy their prepared samples via a floppy, turn those stubs into proper calls, and finally testing that the application was actually able to run and if the exercise goal was met.

Naturally everyone having a turn pretty much depended on how well prepared everyone else was.

Sounds fun. :D

I used to admin Netware as well. It didn't have any overlap with Unix at the time, however, and IPX vs. IP. Although they did add IP support and integrate SUSE later I remember, but did that make it back to their DOS client?

Making Unity games with one of best friends. I have no formal CS background and I'm arguably at the pinnacle of my career.

My biggest tip to anyone who wants to get started would be to find a project you love and then build it. But be extremely realistic. There's no shame in building pong and then going to the process of releasing it on Android. If instead you want to build Tekken 8 super hitbox edition, you're going to find yourself quickly frustrated as you bump into limitations of a time and skill. The enemy of good is perfection.

I'll also say avoid getting involved in any projects where there's tons of team members but you're the only programmer, these people are going to ultimately end up thinking that despite not adding a whole lot they're just as valuable as you are and you'll grow to resent them.

My perfect side project team is generally myself as the programmer, and then a single artistic or business-minded partner. This partner will keep you grounded, and there's a ton of validation which gets delivered once you ship it to them . However when you start dealing with teams of 10 or 12 people you have a bunch of these people throwing out their stupid ideas about how you need to build the best thing ever which needs to implement what took Facebook you know hundreds of millions of dollars to build. You'll quickly get frustrated and you'll ultimately leave the project.

Finally remember to enjoy this s*, even if I was working at Starbucks I'd probably still work on games in my spare time. To be clear working on games in my spare time wow I was unemployed and dropping out of college is what led to my career today. Programming is a gift, oh yeah start with an easy language.

JS and Python being good choices. C# isn't too bad assuming we're talking about Unity and not traditional .net

Growing up in the early 1980s had many benefits.

The home micro revolution was one of them.

There were no rules yet. No walls, just encouragement, as much as you could take.

In university in year of 1997 there was few nix terminals and many Win boxes.

Because on Windows machines there was queue of people that waiting, nix terminals was mostly free because students was unexperienced.

So i take opportunity always to sit on "free" terminal and i start learning *nix. Soon i learn pine, pico, lynx, X and many other.

And today - 23 years later i never regret about this decision.

I built my first computer when I was in middle school so I could play video games. I thought the people who hung out on Slashdot were pretty cool, so I decided to learn Perl so I could build my own website, because that's what people talked about doing. It turned out to be harder than I thought. I never figured out how to actually build a CGI (and in retrospect, I was pretty far from understanding how the web really worked) but I managed to learn a little something about programming. I remember writing Perl programs to do my math homework for me. I gave up on learning more Perl because I was working through a book (llama book I think?) that had three chapters in a row devoted to regular expressions. I couldn't get through all three.

I got into Linux when Ubuntu Breezy Badger and I read that it was an "idiot proof" version of Linux. Spent way too much time copy and pasting commands from forums over the next few years but I remember having a lot of fun with Compiz.

The first programmable device I had was a Texas TI-55 calculator. "Programmable" is a stretch, but it was "automatable". It had no conditional branching and the only unconditional jump it could make was for step 0 of the program. Still, I managed to make it solve 2nd degree equations within its 50 or so available steps. It took me a while to do it because the number of steps available was insufficient and I had to invert a sign and jump to 0 in order to give the second result. This was early 80's.

From then, I was hooked. I briefly had a Sinclair ZX-81 clone (all Brazilian computers were clones back then), and quickly moved to a very nice Apple II+ clone with a "programmable" keyboard.

I had some contact with mainframes - an IBM 4341 - and some Unix in college, but it wasn't until 2004 or so that I decided to move my main desktop to Linux. Linux has been my daily driver since then (even though my corporate-issue computers have been Macs for quite some time).

Reading the comments here makes me feel old. I started with Linux over twenty years ago. Started as a teen. Continued to use it during my studies. Professional user during my PhD. Nowadays mostly at home.


Same here... I started using Linux in '98, for some uni project work.

In 1995, I was in engineering school and we had a lab with SGI workstations like Indy, Indigo. IRIX os on them was a joy to use. Before this I had only used Windows 3.1 and Dos. SGI machines were always hogged by final year students and we poor 2nd year kids had only 486s with win 3.1. A friends brother got us a Slackware distro on 10 or so 3.5" floppies. That was how I started.

Getting just the terminal or text mode was easy but getting Xwindows which was the GUI interface was a PITA at that time. Major issues was we had some generic monitors in the lab. There was this file xf86config that had the configuration for various monitors from different vendors. Noname Indian monitors were not there. I have fond memories of summer of 95 spending muggy afternoons changing frequency settings one slowly, save, restart cycles. Still remember the kick i got when i finally made it to work.

I was a bored 13 year old in the mid-90s who had spent too much time reading old issues of Phrack and C programming manuals. Linux represented a big, mysterious system and I had nothing but time. I got a job working at Erol's Internet when I was 14 and met some other (older) nerds there who were willing to let me tag along to 2600 meetings (and occasionally, raves) in Arlington and DC. I was active on bbs.l0pht.com and english.gh0st.net, and the folks I met on those boards genuinely helped point me in the right direction.

Eventually my interests shifted and I finally misspent my youth in my early 20s. Pushing 40 now and Linux and programming doesn't feel all that mysterious or exploratory or new any more, but it pays the bills. I wish I could recapture that feeling of rebellion, revolution, or of doing something new. I know though that it's just me who has changed.

I started going to 2600 meetings in the mid 1990s, which eventually lead to creating bots and similar tools for online chat platforms using VisualBasic 6. Then I switched focus from that to creating websites and launched a personal site on Geocities.

In the late 90s and early 2000s I started playing a lot of Quake 3 and built a gaming ladder with a friend (a free SAAS app basically) so groups of players can compete against each other. That kick started web development for me and even freelancing since it resulted in creating a lot of free (and some paid) sites for other gaming related things afterwards. Haven't looked back since.

My whole origins story is at https://gestaltit.com/exclusive/rich/nick-janetakis-it-origi....

I got a distribution from a computer magazine that was hastily packaged. It was a CDrom of a version of linux that runs under DOS with LOADLIN, had a filesystem called umsdos that s basically FAT (fat32?) with extra files for metadata. Unfortunately it seems the distribution didn't fit in the magazines' CDROM so they left out some directories, crucially /usr/man so most of the man pages were missing. It wasnt a linux magazine so there were absolutely no instructions.I didnt have internet access so it was impossible to figure out what to do. All the commands i could figure out were "cd" and "more" and "dir" (it was aliased to ls as i found out later). I somehow ended up finding some README files and similar and over time learned the basics. The rest is far less exciting to remember.

When I got started programming it was in the 80s, with a ZX Spectrum as was very common in the UK.

I wrote about it here in more length:


But the short-version is that we bought the computer, which came with a casette-player for loading games from. The casette-player was broken, so I started entering BASIC programs from the manual.

Later I hacked games for extra-lives, because I wasn't a good game-player, and that eventually lead to me becoming a programmer - assembly and C, then later scripting languages and more high-level work.

Once programming for money became less interesting I switched to doing it for fun, and evolved into a sysadmin (and nowadays I get called "devops engineer" which is a horrible title, but a lovely niche).

I knew a guy in high school (1997) who was talking about this thing called Linux. It was a super complex operating system and didn't even have a graphical interface. Our thinking was if we managed to install it we'd be geniuses or something. After a few days we got it installed on his PC, but i'd yet to install it myself.

Unfortuantly the only computer I had (not counting the family PC) was a laptop with 4MB of RAM (effectively less than 4). The installation required booting one floppy disk containing the kernel, then swapping and loading another disk containing the installer. And course the machine ran out of memory during this process. I spent days learning how to compile a custom kernel that excluded the things I didn't need, until it was small enough to fit in memory and succesfully install it.

I think that's when I got hooked.

I'm 33 now. When I was in 7th grade, the same friend who taught me how to build PCs (also my age) one day brought over a burned CD of Mandrake Linux. Back then Mandrake was a major distro like SUSE, Red Hat, etc. IIRC, it was the heyday of Windows XP. I can't remember whether I did dual-booting or just wiped my whole drive with Mandrake but after I installed it there was little going back to Windows... at least not until I got into PC gaming for a brief stint in my early high school years. Damn EverQuest and Morrowind.

I had already taught myself basic programming with VB6 at the time, so learning more and more about PC power-user stuff was very exciting to me. I remember KDE back then was a treasure trove of great software that just came for free, making Windows XP actually feel inferior. At some point around that time I watched Revolution OS, the Linux documentary. I think I heard about it on ThinkGeek. I must have watched that documentary at least five times then. I was hooked on open-source software and I finally felt like I had some direction in my life: I wanted to help out with the open-source thing any way I could. Suffice it to say, when I started my high school "webmastering" and Computer Science classes, I was closer to the teachers in knowledge than my peers.

I've been a full time Mac user since '06 for desktop use, however recently I've gone back to giving Arch Linux a decent try for my main desktop environment. Gotta say, Linux on the Desktop, particularly with KDE Plasma, is finally what I had hoped it would become. There was a stretch of time in the last 20+ years I've used Linux that every time I tried using Linux seriously there were some major software disadvantages that kept me returning to Mac such as ridiculous issues with Broadcom or Nvidia drivers, no modern-feeling text editor, generally clunky UX, etc. These days pretty much all the software I use is cross-platform, making it very easy make the transition stick.

I think the Linux for the desktop has a very bright future. Remember folks, authoring cross-platform apps that support Linux is very important!

My Dad always had a computer in our house, starting with some very early machine (pre Apple 2), then an Apple 2 then many PCs. I learned Logo and Basic. I coded, but very casually and just for fun.

It wasn't until many years later in college that I randomly stumbled upon a Visual Basic book my Dad had. I thought it was so cool you could drag a button onto a form, then double click the button to add an event handler. Been coding ever since, that was about 25 years ago.

As for Linux: I bought an internal dial up modem for my PC. The manual that came with it had a section on how to install it on Linux. It was pages of bash commands, compiling the driver, etc. I was fascinated. How could installing a modem be this difficult? Rather than being repulsed, it got me curious what this crazy Linux thing was.

Was born 1980, Started programming in the 80's - ZX Spectrum and later PC.

Friend introduced me to Linux around RH4 days so 1997 - was love at first sight and it became my primary OS by 1999 (when I got my own desktop) and has been ever since.

Programming wise I started selling code in 96, worked factories, trained as an electrician, worked retail for a few years doing stuff on the side for extra cash, someone I'd done work for recommended me for a job (though I didn't realise that it was a job interview, I just thought they wanted some development doing, true story), accepted that job worked my arse off and changed job ever 2-3 years until I was a lead developer where I'm happy (turned down management roles a couple of times over the years).

Funny path I guess.

Great question. My timing may be a little tad off because so long ago but here goes.

I was a natural tinkerer and enjoyed electronics and taking stuff apart starting around age 8. Read Byte magazine as an interest. Christmas of 1982 (I was 10) my mom had to take out a loan at work to finally get me the new IBM PC that I had been asking for. I took that sucker apart completely on first day I had it when my parents went to the grocery store and boy were they livid when they got home. Two days later I had it completely back together. I spent so much time on that PC - I'd read the manuals, ask to go to book store every chance I got so I could read more on it and other computer books they had, etc.

My spring of 1983 I had heard of modems that could communicate through the phone line to these BBS's and I could download cool programs/games/etc. I asked mom for a modem and again eventually got a new Hayes (my mom was awesome thinking back because all this stuff was expensive at the time).

When Wargames came out summer of '83, I was already doing stuff with BBS's but this movie introduced me to the concept of "hacking". I spent many nights and days mass dialing just like David did in the movie - Until my dad got the phone bill one month and took my modem away for a bit.

I just remember always being into tech/PC's/electronics and never tiring of it. It was so cool to download a game and have my friends over to play it. I was the "computer kid" of the neighborhood as everyone else just had an Atari. Used to have One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird tournaments on my PC for us all.

As I got older into HS and after I just never let go of my interest into tech. I could easily do it without feeling like it was work. Got into programming/installing cell phones into cars in early '90s to eventually a company that built custom PC's for businesses then got into IT support. Have tinkered with it all at different stages all along the way too - Linux, BeOS, Solaris, on and on. That progressed to Network support and eventually Network Consulting and all things tech.

Tech: There was some website where you could build your own portal, and so I did, with a bunch of JavaScript effects added because it was trendy. Remember that circling text around your cursor? Yeah. I would search for such scripts day and night. It became more serious when I started modding ioquake3 forks in C. My first programming language.

Linux: mIRC on Windows, then the cool adults on the network used Linux so I had to... My first Linux distribution was Gentoo. I met some random guy on this network who SSH'd into my machine, installed it for me, and taught me the basics. After that it was FreeBSD, and after that it was OpenSolaris, and after that...

I must have been around 12 or 13. I skipped school to pursue my interests in IT and philosophy.

Oh my God I remember so acutely the helpful folks on IRC that would SSH into my machine to help me out. Simpler times.

Started with an Atari 520 at 15. Then when I was a student, in 1995, I installed Linux for the free X server (free as in beer as I had not a lot of money), to be able to display softwares running on Unix machines on my PC.

In 2004, I created the Kaella Linux, a live-CD distribution based in Knoppix (a Debian-based distro). I maintained it during 3 years. The goal was 2 folds: learn how a Linux distro worked, especially a live one, and make Linux more popular among people not familiar with English, as the Kaella was basically a French version of the Knoppix (with added bonuses such as automatic scripts for ADSL modems which were a pain in the a*s to use at the time).

I am now working in industrial cybersecurity, I still have Linux at home though ;-)

Tried out Red Hat 5 from a CD in 1997 on the family Pentium 75 MHz. Couldn't get internet to work so it didn't get much use. Later when I was studying in 2005 the computer room in the school had these insanely restricted Windows computers where the only browser was IE, sessions got wiped when logged out.. so burned Knoppix to a CD and later some other similar "portable" distro (don't remember its name, something starting with "S" I think) on USB with persistence. That lead me to install Ubuntu on my home computer and haven't looked back, unless you count the fact that I've been using MacOS since 2015, but I do manage a large amount of Linux server in my job.

Regarding "tech", I got into programming on the Commodore C64 (Basic, MOS6510 assembler) at a tender age, and moved to the Atari ST 520+ (Pascal, C, Modula-2, Fortran, Forth). The former forced you to go into the weedly deeply if you wanted to use graphics programming, so I did. The latter was a beautiful machine to learn (32 bit linear address space!). I wrote my first game on the C=64, and my first compiler on the ST as well as a statistics package for a relative who used it for his quality assurance work at his job.

Back then, if you wanted information, you had to hang out in the magazine section of the local bookshop, where you would eventually meet other people buying the same magazines. Each issue contained software (games, tools) as BASIC or hex printouts that you could type in. We would dictate each other the hex codes, swap cassette tapes (a music medium repurposed for storing programs and data) and share what we had learned ("Try POKE 650,128 if the cursor flashing bothers you."). I still memorize the memory map of the Commodore (what is where in the 64k memory cells 0...65535).

To get hold of Linux as a teenager, I had to ask my mother to drive me to the nearest university in 1992, to be able to download 50 3.5" floppy disks worth of an early distribution (Softlanding Linux System (SLS)/Slackware). Because two disks were faulty, the whole process had to be repeated. I will never forget the moment the X11 logo appeared on my 33 MHz 80486 (4 MB RAM, yes that's "MB", not "GB"), which was especially purchased to run Linux.

At university, I learned Scheme and C systems programming on "proper" UNIX workstations (HP 9000s running HP-UX 9.03) with 21" colour CRTs. After working multiple jobs on top of full-time studies, I was able to buy myself a refurbished HP 9000/715-75, which occupied most of my 9 m² student dorm room. Unlike any PCs that my friends used, this box ran for 6 years with no single crash.

Today, I run an R&D team at a large international information company, where we conduct applied scientific research in machine learning, natural language processing and search engines.

I used to work as a technician for a telephony company. My job consisteted in unpacking phones, connect them and label them. Around 2000, Enterprises started replacing their PBX with VoIP While setting up some of those VoIP telephones I met a guy who was happily setting up things in a black screen in the same server room. He explained me that he was using Asterisk PBX project and how he was setting up VoIP and an analog PBx line just using free software. (Our solution was Mitel wchih was a custom BSD distro) I was able to download it and customize it, this requires learning a lot of Linux commands, eventually completed my degree in CS and move from Latam to Silicon Valley to work in UC research

QBASIC on windows 98 at school

my first linux distro was http://puppylinux.com/ which i ran on a intel celeron based PC that one of my uncles brought home from some sort of liquidation sale

Programming is only a means to an ends for me. I once took a summer course in C++. It was so boring, made me never want to program. But then in high school, I learned to write programs on my TI-83+ that could do my math homework and confirm test answers. I got into web development, but back then there was no CSS yet, and I also thought that was incredibly boring. After graduating college, I went back to it with help from a friend who had some freelance clients. Today, I get a lot of enjoyment learning the latest technologies in web dev and UI, as well as back-end (Node.js) because every year new things are possible!

My dad handed me a 2x4" newspaper cutout about this 'Linux' thing back around 1997.

I was already messing with computers and Windows around then as I was starting university, and from then it became a hobby, area of study, career. I've gone from running Linux servers to describing them in Cloudformation definitions! Still using Linux on my desktop.

Made a good circle of friends from the local LUG and associated IRC channel. I met my now wife whilst she was over from abroad studying, and the channel welcomed her joining the chat when she went home for her final year. We've all known each other for 20+ years now.

My mother was a teacher in computer science (called informatics here at the time). She brought the first computer into the house (8088) and even a "laptop" that was over 5 kilos (a sharp with lcd).

What got me into Linux was a little later in 1997. I was playing Quake and I found out that my ping times were 60ms lower over a modem 33k6 connection than with Windows. That got me sold. And I just had a knack for the command line.

During my student time I quickly found out that tech paid my bills a lot easier than working in a cafe. It didn't attract many girls though so I kind of tried to combine it ;-)

We got our first computer (an 8086) at home almost when it first came out. We were a PC/MSFT home (as was most of Europe). Didn't dabble with Linux until the late 90s, when I painfully installed SuSE. It was a hard time trying to get all your random devices getting to work on Linux back then. Let me tell you, it was a moment of bliss when ubuntu first came out. Aside of building and deploying docker files, I haven't played much with Linux in the last decade. The mac has the perfect blend of a great GUI with a Linux-y terminal and compiler tools.

Was a geeky kid, so I got sent on an "IT summer camp" where the organizers were coincidentally linux afficinados, and there I saw the power of the command line, shell scripting and subsequently programming for the first time, and it absolutely blew my little 12-year old mind. So I installed Linux on my home computer (with my parent's permission, of course), and started to learn C++, and the rest is history :) I'm now a full-time software developer, and worked on everything from research software to military GIS stuff.

Bottom line: Encouraging kids works!

In the early 2000's I was a teenager, I was fascinated with computers, mainly because my father worked in IT at the time, but I was stuck in the building and tinkering with computer hardware phase. One day my father gave me a copy of "Red Hat Enterprise Linux for Dummies" which included a Liveboot CD. He told me that if I learned Linux I would always have a well paying job. Man was he right. Looking back, that was a turning point in my life. That knowledge opened up so many doors and gave me such a leg up at a young age.

My dad was a pretty big factor. He worked for a series of tech companies in the 80s and 90s (DEC, Zoom Telephonics, etc.), so our home always seemed to be on the bleeding edge - we got DSL in 1997, Wi-Fi in 2000, etc. The 386 PC was part of the home since I was about three.

He rescued an old Compaq 486 for me out of a dumpster at work when I was seven. I got to "help" install Windows 3.1 off a SyQuest drive, and in the ensuing years helped install/configure staples like a Sound Blaster, a CD drive, a Super VGA card, and the like. I broke this machine _a lot_. Eventually, I started learning to fix it myself.

In 2001 he built a PC from scratch. This PC ran Mandrake 8.1, which was a completely new paradigm to both of us. Although he abandoned it, I was hooked - I'd go spend time in the basement just to tinker with it, even though I had my own perfectly capable PC upstairs. Eventually I got a discarded Pentium machine and installed a slightly newer Mandrake on it.

By 2008, I had several such discarded machines. I think at this point I was running Debian on them, Mandrake having become Mandriva (and generally awful).

In college, I was "that guy" who ran Linux in a VM, and could do all of the lab work remotely from my dorm with X forwarding off the big, beefy Solaris boxes. I even bought a tablet PC off eBay, installed Linux on it (I think it was Ubuntu), and got permission from many professors to sub out a TI-83 for MATLAB, again running via forwarding.

I got a job out of college doing at-scale release and infrastructure management, starting with just a bunch of shell scripts, eventually graduating to tools like Chef and Ansible, later Docker and later still orchestrators like Kubernetes. At my second job I learned way more than I wanted to about how the Linux kernel worked, due to a kernel bug that sometimes robbed us of about 400MB of memory.

I decided to switch to Linux (Fedora) full-time in 2015, and haven't looked back.

In short: - I was incredibly lucky to have a dad who cared about tech. - I was also incredibly lucky to grow up when discarded tech was still a useful learning tool. (Can a five-year-old tablet even speak modern TLS these days?) - I loved finding new ways to use and learn about Linux, and I grasped at many chances.

Got home PC with internet connection in 1995, when I was just 6 years old, and immediately fell in love with the machine. Started toying with QBASIC a couple of years later, read through Knut in middle school, the switches for math-oriented high school and implemented Mixx interpreter as a school project. Dropped out if uni and after several years as a game designer switched to engineering, which was a pretty easy transition.

Had a Linux as a main system couple of times, did LFS, but still don't consider myself very knowledgeable about it.

I broke my family's tax computer by trying to install Ubuntu alongside Windows and instead formatting the whole hard drive. I learned more I. The three days attempting to recover that computer than most my life. I thought everybody had these tech skills until I went to work for a real estate agency and ended up making more money fixing everybodies computers. I then made a series of lateral moves and now I'm managing databases, websites, and networks of a printing company full time. I love not freelancing.

was 12 yo. installed Windows 7 on our shitbox PC with 2005 tier hardware. but internet would not work (ancient ethernet driver for that chip with no updates for the changes that oocured with windows vista). I never knew how drivers worked. I just press install and it works. so I spent the next few years reading stuff. Now I understand a bit how these things work. and how operating systems work to some level.

Later on I got into programming because I wanted to impress my teacher with my visual basic.NET skills. (I had no prior programming experience at all and that course was in VB.NET). and then I discovered C++, C# (and what .NET actually is) and python. now I am a year away from graduating with a computer engineering degree.

I was introduced to linux through a friend. and used it for a bit and had it on some machines. and wrote some shell scripts to automate stuff. but I never fully embraced it. as I would only install it on machines struggling with Windows. either due to aging or faulty hardware. I know about what makes linux "better" and how one customize it to the kernel level. but Windows is simply a better workstation OS regardless of the great amounts of bazinga we hear nowadays. linux on server/embedded systems is greatness however.

Step Dad got a 286 in 1989. Spent lots of time on that DOS machine.

Linux in University and then again on/off during my last 20 years in my industry. Though I wonk at a windows place now I try not to think about it too much. The rest of the place and how awesome it is more than makes up for a poopy OS.

Linux at home finally a year and a half ago when my disposable income was up to the challenge of buying a state of the art machine. Wish I had done it earlier. It's a blast.

early 90s my dad brought home a 486 I think it was. I don't know how but I got my hands on a copy of Redhat Linux on floppy and tried (and tried, and tried) to install it. This is back when they literally made you build the entire kernel from source code. I was running gcc with all these flags had no clue what I was doing. Finally got it installed, I remember the day when I finally built X windows it was so amazing! I started networking PC's together in a LAN in my parents house.

We got a CD-ROM drive a few years later with Microsoft Encarta I remember it was like having the internet! Fast forward to BBS's. AOL, Prolog,

I spent 10-15 years out of the industry completely and finally got back into "tech" and building websites, installing VOIP systems (figuring that out), implementing backup systems for doctors, making intranets for small businesses, everything in between. Now I run a development house. Can't say the work I do is ground breaking, I tell people what I do is like the janitorial work of the internet: we do the work small businesses either don't want to do or don't know how to do. Not rich by any means but work for myself and make my own hours.

My dad bought us a commodore64 at a market. He did not get the tape drive, so it could not save any programmes. It came with a manual that demonstrated how to code in basic. I recall spending hours typing out code to get a ball bouncing across the screen. From there I convinced my dad to get us a computer. Never look d back since then! Funnily enough I got into Linux by picking up floppy disks with Slackware at a market as well!

in the 80ties i went to a high-school with technical background (electronics) and we had one and later two VAX 11/730 there (the cheaper/slower CMOS variant of the i think TTL-based VAX 11/780; connected via DECnet) using VMS version 4.something if i remember it correctly.

bought me an atari st in the mid 80ties ...

later at the university i was able to use various systems with different falvors of unix.

in the early 90ties - while working for an university-institute -, i had a spare server system - an ibm ps/2 model 8x (486er dx 33 MHz; 16 MB of RAM; 2 SCSI disks with a total of 1,5 GB) and i wanted to reuse it as a webserver ... with linux.

because of the PS/2 system i didn't manage to install linux at first try, but later i used a newer standard PC for this purpose ... at first "esprit linux" with a development kernel 1.1.1xx / later slackware 2.x with kernel 1.2.3 ... this was during 1994 :)

in 1995 i bought myself PC hardware to run linux at home - a self-assembled AMD 486/DX4 system with 16 MB of RAM and a SCSI 1 GB disc.

never looked back - i'm using linux since then for nearly all systems and also seriously on my desktop since 1996, the moment netscape navigator 4.0 for linux came out.

In 1999, I was a new staff member at our work and everyone was using Windows. The company however bought an IBM AIX RISC 5000 machine that was sitting idle because nobody knew how to use it. They asked me to play with it. I read the manual and worked my way. That was my first encounter with UNIX. Around that time Linux was picking up. My experience with AIX made it easy for me to mess with Linux a couple years later.

We had a computer in the house since the 80s, an IBM XT, to be specific. So that certainly planted the seed for me. In the early 90s I worked as a paperboy, delivering newspapers to houses in the neighborhood. I saved up for months and finally was able to buy my first PC. I first ran MS-DOS on it but eventually managed to get hold of Slackware around 1995. The rest is history, I guess.

Linux: back in 2006 Windows crapped out so hard, I lost some stuff that have been downloading for week and I remembered there's another OS called Linux and went to the local Linux user forum.

Tech work: dating programmers and hanging out at hackerspaces and open source conferences. Still have moments of doubt whether I'm the real thing or just a groupie.

Got my first PC in ~2001 Mainly used for playing games.

First contact to programming was through the computer course at school.

Decided that I want to pursue a degree in computer science and studied the same at university.

After getting the bachelors degree I applied for jobs and am happily employed now since 5 years.

So all in all the most boring 'foot in the door' story you could imagine.

I started learning R on my own in 2010 after a 12 year long stint away from the workforce. I wanted to get my statistics skills brushed up before applying to grad school for Economics. I was hooked from the first time I typed in a command and then did formal education with community college classes and later an MS in SW Engr.

Very boring: wiped windows from my laptop and installed Ubuntu. Didn't have another option but to use it afterwards.

It was 2005 and I was in high school. I used to play lot of video games on PC (windows os) and my elder brother was really stressed about it as I was not focussing enough on my education and instead wasting time while playing video games. So one day he decided to remove windows and installed linux instead .

Got a VIC-20 for Christmas in 1982, and the excellent Programmers' Reference Guide a few months later. Later, my high school had a partnership with a local university, so I was able to get an account on their VAX/VMS systems, and access to their labs and even dial-up access.

Worked odd jobs and travelled until I was 25. After a year trying stand up comedy I wanted to develop skills that were more 'tangible' and started looking into tech.

I originally intended to learn how to make Android apps but ended up going to a full stack web bootcamp and the rest is history.

Back in the days of Windows 98, I got tired of the "blue screen of death" that my computer was giving me most days.

I heard Linux was more stable, so I ordered a physical copy of red hat and got it running. No more blue screens.

I still use Linux today as my main driver at work and at home.

I had an old iMac G3 when I was a kid, and I was searching for a file or an app in Finder (I don't remember which), and I accidentally double clicked on an applescript file because it froze for a few seconds. The rest is history.

Someone gave me a copy of RedHat 5.2 one day, my only regret is that it should have come earlier. By then I was already hooked on MS products and it took quite a while to let them go and embrace the *nix way of life completely.

I started running UNIX at home with 386BSD 0.0 and used it pretty much until i was able to get UNIX Empjre (now Wolfpack Emoire) with Linux. Initially BSD had better networking and was just more complete than Linux.

I got my hands on “Computer Systems: A programmer’s perspective” and it brought together hardware, compilers and C programming language in context of Linux. That was it and I was hooked.

I thought the Gnome logo looked awesome in 98/99. I never used Gnome for more than a few hours, the terminal, mail and webservers where much more fun to play with.

1965, sixteen years old, learned FORTRAN at a summer Math Camp. Walked off the street and got a programming job with an insurance company in 1970 (Assembler).

You must have been retired already by the time Linus put his first line of code into the kernel ? ;-)

Well, my first system was ЭВМ ЕС-1033 (soviet clone of IBM S/360) back in 1988 and I was twelve. Me and a friend of mine we used to attend a local HAM radio club where we studied electronics, soldered radio receivers and other simple electonic devices (hoping to build an HF transmitter one day of course). For that we needed many electronic parts that were in great deficiency at that time. One summer of 88 we had been leaning around the city and decided to walk in to nearby multistorey building with "lots of air conditioners" stucking from its windows - the idea was to ask for used/discarded electronics which we can tear apart in search for required components (we looked for FET transistors mostly). We never walked into front door of such buildings, but rather sneaked into back doors instead. Once we got in, we immediately got caught by a woman in white robe who asked what we kids had been doing there. We told her that we are in seek of used electronics for our projects in the club. She got friendly, asked us about the club a little, then requested to follow her. Walking thoughout innumerous corridors, halls and elevators, finally she brought us into a huge room with walls made of glass, it was stuffed with different devices blinking lights of all kinds and it was full of people in white robes as well. She got us to a bearded guy telling our story. It appeared that guy was a chief of Computational Department (Вычислительный Центр) of the institution we intruded into. The guy also inquired about our amateur projects, then, before brining us to their storage of spare electronic parts, he led a brief tour around the machine room explaining things about terminals, CPUs, memory, tapes, disk drives and programs. In the end he told us to come back the other day, when he presumably would have more time to explain about computers, if we are interested. Of course I had been heard about computers before, we have had a couple of ATARIs in the club, also another friend of mine was soldering his own computer (Радио РК86), but that was the first time I saw a real machine. REAL! I was so much fascinated, so next day in the morning I was there again. I had been intruduced to a team of programmers, who mostly were very kind young women, and to some electronics guys. I remember I was asking lots of stupid questions and one gal handed me a heavy printout entitled FORTRAN, made on a peforated paper. Since than, electronics became my sencond point of interest. I became a very frequent visitor of the Department (I lived there I would say), two years later as I turned 16, I was officially employed as an operator, then as a programmer.

In 1991 the machine was dismantled and thrown away in favour of IBM PCs. So, I quickly learnt MS-DOS, Norton, etc, and began to programe in C/C++ (Borland C) and assembly. In 1992, I learnt what MODEM is, I spent lots of time surfing BBSed, and joined Fidonet, which made me abandon DOS in favour of OS/2. Using OS/2 I could run Fidonet node CM on my working PC (386DX2-66). In 1996, Internet came to town, so I learnt about networking and FreeBSD, which is my OS #1 till this day. I'm not fond of Linux at all, although I run Ubunut/Kodi on my home media center and I do a lot of programming for Linux based embedded.

I'm very much grateful to people at Computing Department for that they did not kick me back to streets in the beginning, for the time they spent on nursing me, patiently explaining very complex things an concepts, and of course for giving free access to the machine which I hung many many times erasing whole system from the disk. :-)

I'm still programming. I run a company selling graphics software, for Windows and now macOS.

There is no job more interesting than programming.

Replaced DOS/Win3.1 with OS/2 Warp in high school. Learned enough REXX and Pascal to be dangerous.

After working in all the other UNIX variants through the 90s and 00s, all road lead to Linux eventually.

Installed Ubuntu on my Thinkpad in 2008 and never looked back.

was in high school, hated my pizza kitchen job, talked to a buddy about how to install slackware from floppies during swim practice.. rest is history...

not good enough in abstract mathematics, got a programming diploma instead because I liked computer graphics

I had no money to buy Windows OS.

In my case, it was a series of fortunate events.

When I was 8-9 years old, my dad, who knew absolutely nothing about computers, decided to buy a computer "for himself". It was a 386 machine, which he never really used much, but I sure did. I learned my way around DOS and I also discovered QBASIC (which came with DOS, included a dev environment and a built-in manual!) on the computer and started learning it. QBASIC also came with the source code of 2 games, some snake game and "GORILLAS.BAS" (a scorched earth clone with 2 gorillas throwing bananas at each other); having access to this source code was extremely helpful. At some point one of my dad's friends also bought me a QBASIC book. At this point, I kind of understood programming, but it was still on what I would call a childish level. I also didn't know a single other person who knew how to program. My English was also fairly poor at this time, but using a computer helped with that, too.

The next important event happened when in 7th grade, a teacher asked me if I was interested in going to the computer science competition (we have competitions for everything here for schoolchildren and I was already going to the math one). You could use QBASIC, I went, the problems for 7-8 grade were very easy and I somehow qualified for the national finals which meant I got to spend a week for free at a hotel where they, apart from having the competition, had various workshops where they taught algorithms, the C language, using Linux, etc. I assume this was one of the very few places if not the only place in the country where someone would teach children stuff like this at a serious level (instead of dumbed down crap kids were and still are taught at school), so it was extremely fortunate for me to have access to this. Also the people organizing and teaching this were amazing, they weren't CS schoolteachers that knew nothing, they were experts. I placed well enough in the nationals to qualify for "camps" which are basically the same week-long "free vacation" twice a year with various workshops but without the competition part, and I would continue qualifying every year from then on. This meant that other from attending the workshops, I got to hang out with a bunch of incredibly smart and knowledgeable kids and made some friends who were all also into programming, some of them much further along the learning curve than I was, and some of these kids would also qualify every year. This gave my learning a massive boost since I had a network of people who were incredibly ahead of their time/age that I reliably got to spend 3 weeks a year with. In addition to knowledge sharing, this kind of environment is also very motivating so I spent a massive amount of time learning new things from age 13-18.

Whoever at Microsoft decided to ship QBASIC with DOS and decided to ship the source code of 2 games with it (I'm assuming in those days that would have been the same person) has my eternal gratitude. If anyone knows who this is, I would love to send them a thank-you email. :) Other than my dad buying the computer, Microsoft building QBASIC and including it with DOS along with the source code for games was probably the biggest contributor to my career ever happening.

80s: Dad bought me a Big-Trak and later a Commodore as a child, Mom an Intellivision, and I took to them all quickly. But, I used a computer rarely for almost a decade after that because it was so early.

90s: Had given up temporarily at community college because I didn't know what I wanted to do, i.e. was aimless and had no guidance. After getting laid off (with severance pkg) at a good hospital job I had by chance, I decompressed for a week or two and contemplated what to do with my life. Any medical industry advancement required a four-year degree, a no-go in the short-term.

At random chance, a catalog for the local "adult school" came in the mail with lots of "computer classes." I thought well, this stuff isn't going away, it just keeps growing every year, and imagined whatever office-drone job I ended up at would need "computer skills." Things had changed a lot, Commodores/TRS-80s were obsolete and everything was PCs and to some extent Mac. (I knew nothing about big-iron, War Games was my only exposure. :-) What the hell, let's take a class, shrug, couldn't hurt. Thankfully, it was study at your own pace, which I always loved. No dummies to hold you back, amirite?

A few days later a lightbulb popped up over my head... it was 9:30 pm and the school said it was time to shut down for the night. I'd been there since eating lunch and completely forgotten about dinner. It was perhaps the third night of the first week, pushing ~40 hours already. "Wait, what am I doing here?" Playing with computers all day and night. "Woah, I must love this stuff." Not too surprising from this angle, as I loved tinkering with gadgets and playing video games as a youngster.

In a year or so, I'd gotten a PC computer-repair certificate, a Mac desktop-publishing certificate, got Netware certified, hooked on multi-player Doom, all of which had taught me about "LANs" which were becoming the rage. Built computers from spare parts. I saw a magazine article and asked the teachers about Unix. One said he'd used it and it was "more elegant" than DOS. Intrigued, I downloaded a trial, maybe from a BBS (can't remember), I think it was a version of Minix, and kicked the tires for a few days. (Also, met a friend still in high school, as mentioned below.)

Mid 90's: Having exhausted the adult school, it was now time to get a job. I walked into my first or second interview at the Rockwell Science Center (think Space Shuttle) and talked about what I'd learned. Can you start Monday? God, I miss that. Now had a fun IT job with incredible resources at my disposal: PCs, Macs, Suns, SGIs, Crays, Networked printers, even a VAX held on tight by an old curmudgeon scientist.

It was a great time to be there—we were on the internet at work 24/7 via T1 with no firewalls. I was crushing my job and still running Quake servers on the side. Was a sought-after expert at loading DOS TSRs into high memory to get lab equipment working. Had a front-row seat to the rise of Mosaic, Netscape, Winamp, and Napster. First learned Linux from installing Slackware from tens of floppies, until a guy said, "Oh, I've wanted to try Red Hat."

Later, I became the resident Windows 95 expert as well, because my friend from school was providing me with the betas he'd signed up for. Once, we were having our weekly IT meeting with my boss (and boss's boss) and he was pleased we were getting an early drop on W95 as it was a big change coming.

"So, who is your friend? Is he some VIP at a big-company getting access?"

"No," I said. "He's a high-school student!" BWAH HAHA HA....

Not long after that I realized I liked programming too, and that it made good money. Went back to community college, this time with a purpose and got an AS degree in CS. Wish I'd continued because stopping there became an impediment later. But, I was making big-bucks at 25 and loving it, more school to learn theory didn't seem like a good deal. Also didn't anticipate degree inflation and hordes of "fakers." :-(

After XP I'd decided I'd had enough of Windows and moved to Linux and FLOSS full-time, though a few jobs have forced me to use it briefly. Lots more to tell, but that's good for now. ;-)

Ever play bzflag on any of those various systems/platforms you mentioned?

It looks familiar. I may have it confused with MechWarrior, hmmm.

Flash. Yup, the one that we all killed a few years ago completely.

I was in school, in my 12s or so, and was fascinated in those cool Flash animations and games on websites in early 2000s. Then a friend of mine showed me a very simple animation that he made, and I asked him how he did it. He showed me Flash MX (I think it was the version back then) and I quickly got the logic of keyframes, layers, and movie clips. I've also learned those things called "scripts" that we could attach to objects and write things like "gotoAndPlay(5)" to control the clip. Then I've realized that there are more, much of those scripts...

Then I got interested in "hacking" in high school and using a custom written IE close that redirects anything to Facebook or Hotmail (FB was just getting super popular and Hotmail was still much more used than Gmail) to my own server at home which I wrote to listen for any requests and log username/password combinations... which gained me access to about a total of ~100 accounts. There was also a day where I brute forced our high school's student information system (where students logged in to see their grades etc) to find out everybody's password, I told this to my friends all everybody was just asking me for their password instead of paperwork with school administration.

Then in college I got into a bit lower lever on the stack: sniffing our (back-then unencrypted/open) school's Wifi in monitor mode, or anonymously joining the network and using Ettercap to do MitM attacks to hijack people's, again, Facebook and a few other social accounts' sessions (HTTP was still the default and many people other than the 1% tech savvy would use Facebook over plaintext HTTP), successfully logging in as a few folks. It's unbelievable that we had a open plaintext Wifi on campus and most of the sites were using HTTP, so all the session data was literally traveling unencrypted in air, just 10 years ago.

Then my motivation shifted to more producive things like web development, and I was already very fluent in C# and got my first few real, paying jobs in ASP.NET development. Then I completely abandoned Microsoft stack and fell in love anything that is Unix-like, went into mobile apps, where I developed some iOS apps (also a few Android ones) natively.

Then there were a few brief moments of getting into cryptocurrency in 2013 (using school computer lab GPUs to mine Litecoin and Feathercoin (which was a thing at that time)), and writing simple market analyzers, trading bots and Telegram pump-n-dump watchers in the ICO hype in 2017.

And here I am now, still developing apps (though now I'm on TypeScript/React Native territory), I also design the UI/UX of the apps that I'm building from the blend of wording to pushing my technical limits into making cool animations/transitions etc... and I still feel the spirit of Flash motivation.

And if you ask whether I feel guilty for what I've done in terms of compromising accounts: Never. I'm so happy that I did them all when I could; I never harmed anyone and it was a great motivation to learn how networking worked in a lower level.

This is my humble story, and if there is only one outcome:

Motivation is everything.

I was a young programmer in the 80's, cut my teeth on CP/M and then Unix .. MIPS Risc/OS, when MIPS made pizzaboxen .. sufficiently productive to be able to afford my own home lab gear .. and in at work comes a brand new 386 system instead of the X Workstation I wanted, and which apparently 'solved the problems of the x86 platform' .. yeah, no. I found some respite in a Quarterdesk/Desqview configuration, multitasking DOS terminal sessions, but it was .. severely .. lacking in what I wanted.

So, at home, I got a copy of a similar 386 box set up, and did what everyone did at the time: got on USENET to find out what else could be done. GNU/Hurd was 'gonna happen any day now', and I'd already switched to using a bunch of gnu tools, but nothing was really working out .. which lead me to minix-list.

Which is where I read Linus' post about his little kernel project.

And, in the months and years to follow from that point, I became an avid Linux user. Not long after, I brought a bootable Yggdrasil CD into work, and turned my cruddy DOS 'workstation' into a viable X host, albeit after about 5 days of compiling ..

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