Right, getting that out of the way.
Yesterday I had a fun ride with a guy who owns his own cab service and we spent most of the ride talking about computers, since he was one of Michael Dell's first fifty employees back in the day they bought chassis from IBM and it was weird. I had my laptop and was trying to connect to my server to do a quick update using my phone and we talked about pretty much everything.
He was also kind enough to wait until near the end of the ride to point out how rare it is for women to be interested in computers and offered to introduce me to one of the Dell engineers and how did I learn so much about them anyway? And why?
Things you cannot explain easily, because there's no context:
"Well, I started writing fanfic and the Trekiverse archive hadn't been updated in like, years and was still hand coded (not that I knew what coding was) and so I had to get a page from geocities or all my fic would be in fifty pieces spread over PTF and ASC and ASCEML and everyone else had a webpage so I went to geocities and hated the templates even though I used it and while coding in In the Space of Seven Days Part IV broke formatting and was huge and weird and I couldn't figure out why so I kept staring at it until I figured out what all those little symbols meant. Then I learned to use them.
"Diebin in X-Men offered me non-commercial space on her domain, but it used this thing called ftp? And when I logged in there were like, ten million folders and I couldn't get anywhere and I kept losing things and getting disconnected. So I kept staring at it until I figured out what FTP did, what those folders did, why it was structured like that, and what it all meant. Then I and a friend bought a domain together.
"So this fic archive hadn't been updated in six months and I asked to have it. And it used this thing called css? And wtf was that about? So....
"So Livejournal paid accounts had customized CSS and isilya did my main page but I wanted my flist page to match....
"Because I didn't know it and I wanted to. Because I get bored easily and I need distraction constantly. Because I want to generate my own indexes, rip my own DVDS, repair my own tech, enjoy the journey of creation as much as I enjoy the results of it. Because everyone says linux is ridiculously complex for the non-professsional and command line is too hard. Because the guy I used to think was the smartest guy in the world and knew everything there was to know about hardware and programming always laughed at my questions and it's been thirteen years and fuck that shit, I can breakdown and rebuild your system with a blindfold and without a manual.
"Because two of the women I most admire are both in fandom and run the two largest women-controlled open source projects in the world.
"Because when I was twenty-three years old, I bought an HP that broke and they sent it back to me working and not fixed and then my boyfriend took it and it stopped working altogether and I decided my hardware would never be touched by anyone but me. When I was twenty-four years old, I bought my first Dell and did a full breakdown by hand without visual reference because I didn't have my handbook and back then I couldn't find it online, so I had to figure out how to make it work again by memory. When I was twenty-seven, I bought my second Dell and when I was twenty-nine, I broke it down and rebuilt it into a new chassis with a new hard drive and new board. When I was thirty, I broke down my first laptop and I upgraded it myself.
"Because three months ago, I sat down with a pile of parts and started building a customized physical interface between IDE and SATA because slimline DVD players are evil and chained up three types before I realized even sheer will couldn't fit all that into my laptop. Also, I'm pretty sure it would have started on fire. Which isn't actually a negative, come to think.
"Because I want a touchscreen on my mini and I will figure out how to solder without damaging the board if it kills me.
"Because two months ago, I decided I wanted to build my own server, and I spent weeks reading everything there was on sockets and processor compatibility and chassis construction and power sources and fans.
"Because a month ago, I went to Frys and chose all my own parts and sat in the living room and assembled them all into something that works. I cannot even begin to explain the moment I flipped it on and the lights came on, the motherboard diagnostics ran, and I was still bleeding from chassis cuts and a broken fingernail but I didn't cry but it was a very close thing, because this was all mine, every component I assembled and tested and worried about and put together to create something new. I had to reinstall Ubuntu Server four times before I got it right, but I finally got it right.
"Because jarlsberg71 sold me a RAID array enclosure and card and said he didn't think I'd have any problem handling it. Because he and durandal don't mind when my knowledge gaps seem ridiculously elementary because no one would ever explain it to me and I learn by doing.
"Because I get no one is nearly as weird as I am about the joy of building stuff, but no one should ever be afraid to do their own repairs and build their own systems if they want to, and I thought maybe if I wrote up what I did, it might make them want to try, too.
"Because you'd be amazed how many women in fandom write their own programs, learn entire new programming languages, install and configure software better than any professional, and jury-rig their own systems as a matter of course. Because there wasn't anyone for us to ask, and no one to do it for us, so when we wanted an archiving program, a domain, a server, a place of our own for our fic, for our vids, for our meta, for our academic and professional work, we had to learn to do it ourselves."
This is what I said:
"You know, around."
Just in case I forgot to say this, thank you, fandom. I have no idea what I would have done for hobbies without you.
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