gregbo (gregbo) wrote,
gregbo
gregbo

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it's a time for joy, a time for tears

Yesterday was graduation day at the 'tute. I remember the day I graduated, about 20 years ago. In my living room, I
have a picture of myself about to shake Paul Gray's hand. I was smiling, so I guess I was happy, or at least relieved.

It sometimes surprises me that I graduated because there were times when I thought I wasn't going to finish. In
particular, in the summer between junior and senior year, I was convinced that I would withdraw. I was very discouraged
at the time, mostly because in the previous semester, I had switched from CS to EE and was regretting it. (This was
before I learned about computer network modeling and analysis.) I realized that I didn't want to take electromagnetics
or the other stuff the EEs were required to take. I wanted to take abstract algebra for CS majors (now known as 6.042,
which is more of a discrete math class), compilers, and so forth, but I didn't have a lot of confidence in my abilities.
Instead, I was just going to leave and get some kind of hacking job at the 'tute or in the immediate area. I knew
several people who'd left and done just that, so I had some justification for wanting to do so.

I spent a fair amount of time that summer on the ninth floor of 545 Tech Square, which is where some AI Lab hackers'
offices were. I had a lot of conversations with people up there, during which I'd explain my reasons for wanting to
leave the 'tute and asking their advice. One of the people I met, Marty Connor (figmo, do you remember
him?) told me a lot about his background, and how he came to be at MIT. He was a student at the University of Maryland,
I think, where he used to program in assembly language a lot. Someone introduced him to ITS, which he became hooked on,
enough to move up to Cambridge and get a job supporting ITS and MIT-OZ, their new TOPS-20 system. Hearing what he had
done gave me some encouragement, so I volunteered to write some documentation and do a little bit of hacking on MIT-OZ.
It was an interesting time -- exciting in some ways, being around people who were very passionate about hacking.
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